This monastic is asking, when the universe is destroyed, is this one destroyed or not? And Dasui says, “It is destroyed.” The question is what is this that is destroyed? He’s talking about the end of the eon, but why wait until the end of the eon? What about at the end of this life? What about the end of this day? What about in this very moment?

 

Photo by Nellie Buiri

 

As this moment passes, everything in it passes with it. Does this pass too? Is this destroyed? What is this? Our attachment to the self and to the self in things gives us a sense of possession and control over what we possess. We think we can slow down—if not stop—and manipulate the inevitability of things passing. This is a unique aspect of human consciousness. We see that there is life, that we have life, that we are alive. We perceive it as if we’re looking at something outside of ourselves. In recognizing that, we simultaneously recognize that it doesn’t last forever—there is the recognition of death. Therein lies the human drama and the fundamental question out of which all religion is born.

When we let go of all those attachments, the attachment to the self, the attachment to things, and realize that there is no abiding self, no own-being, then what we realize is that there is no arising and there is no passing away. Arising and passing away are aspects of an object. They are illusory, just as solidity is an illusory characteristic of an object. It is not the thing’s fundamental nature. Because it’s not its fundamental nature, it has an appearance that can deceive us. What we realize when we go beyond that and see clearly, with an unconditioned eye, is that which is neither born nor extinguished.

In the Pranja Paramita Sutra, Shariputra says that a bodhisattva is called a great being, an enlightened being, in the sense that he or she demonstrates or embodies the dharma. All the great confusion, wrong views, and delusions are given up. Views such as the assumption of a self, a being, a living soul, a person, of becoming, of not becoming, of annihilation, of eternity, of individuality, are given up. The moment the self arises—becoming, being, individuality, a sense of a soul, not becoming, annihilation, eternity—all the things we perceive, that we take for granted, that seem so self-evident, come into being. Our practice is to not live by assumptions or by other people’s ideas, but to discover the truth of things.

When we are no longer tethered to or buy into ideas about life, then we can live life. When everything has been “destroyed”—when all our ideas about life, about ourselves, and about reality have been illuminated—then what is it? Just this. There is nothing outside of it. There is nothing deficient. It never runs out. It can’t be improved.