No sentient being or object in the universe exists independently from its own side or under its own power. All functioning things depend for their existence on multiple causes and conditions, parts, and a mind that conceives and labels them. In other words, everything is dependent upon the mind. We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world.
Our basic problem is that we think everything exists inherently from its own side. This misapprehension causes us to have exaggerated opinions and judgements which lead to attachments and aversions, afflictive emotions and negative actions of body, speech and mind. These actions or karma keep us stuck in an endless cycle of suffering.
In an effort to really understand this and not just spout off some nice phrases I have tried to come up with some examples in my own life of how things do not have inherent qualities from their own side independent of my mind.
1) Brussels Sprouts. As a child I was forced to eat Brussels sprouts along with liver, beets and lima beans. Looking back it’s surprising I am semi-normal and able to function in society. I hated brussels sprouts. You could hide them in a casserole or cover them with chocolate. It didn’t matter, I loathed them. As it turns out, my wife, Juliet, loves brussels sprouts. I married her anyway. What this demonstrates quite clearly is that those obnoxious little green bombs do not have the quality of tastiness or yuckiness within them. It is entirely from the side of the observer.
2) Vinegar. I have always hated the smell of vinegar. I have no clue where this came from. Was it some horrible experience in early childhood where I was traumatized by vinegar or perhaps karma from a previous life? I can eat salad dressings but the smell of full strength vinegar drives me up a wall. Obviously, most others have no aversion whatsoever. This poses a small problem whenever I am at the Abbey. To my dismay they often use vinegar as a cleaning agent. Once again, there is nothing inherently nasty about vinegar. It is all coming from my mind. Attention Abbey folks. Please assign me vacuuming duty instead.
3) Pablo Picasso. Many people love this Spanish painter. This is an excellent example of the saying; “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” I personally don’t see it. His paintings remind me of someone who is strung out on acid. Yet people will pay millions for one of his original works.
4) And finally, our Prez. Our ignorant minds make us look at most things in a uni-dimensional way. Good or bad, black or white from its own side. There are many people in our country who view this man in a very good light. I happen to not be one of them. My mind wants to see him as evil incarnate. This is obviously a misapprehension on my part. I have set him up as inherently existent and then exaggerated all his bad qualities. I am sure if I think hard enough I will be able to find some good qualities. Maybe. But, seriously, we are all very complex beings with good and bad qualities and we all suffer from the same three poisons of ignorance, anger and attachment. And we all want to be happy and not suffer.
So, I have my work cut out for me if I am ever going to realize emptiness. These are four examples I can begin to work on. Maybe I will start with the easiest one first. Honey, let’s have brussels sprouts for dinner.