Lama Jigme Gyatso
In Buddhism, what is the“Unborn?”
In Buddhist literature
we sometimes stumble
upon the word “unborn.”
We are often told
that is a reference
But blindly accepting the teachings
does NOT, to enlightenment, lead.
So how do we connect the dots
between the ideas of “unborn”
and the notion of “emptiness?”
Two fundamental observations in Buddhism
are FIRST the pervasive nature of stress
and SECOND those which exacerbate our stress;
our physical impulses or cravings,
and the mental stories we tell about our impulses.
These stories are sometimes known
as our clinging.
Our physical impulses and our mental stories
are the mechanisms with which
we resist the perceptions, memories, and fantasies
that we experience in the present moment.
The essence of Buddha’s meditation technique
was FIRST to notice our present moment experience
in harmony with each inhalation,
and SECOND to let go of the present moment experience
in harmony with each exhalation.
He called the noticing “mindfulness”
and the letting-go “insight.”
It was said that Buddha taught for many decades,
and over the years his literal explanations
evolved into figurative explanations
for doing so speaks
to the oldest regions or our brains.
And so the literal instruction
to blend relaxation with our exhalation,
and to then surf the momentum of our physical relaxation
into the mental experience of letting go,
was enhanced with similes.
And he taught that by letting go,
it could feel like that which we noticed,
was as non-graspable as a vast, empty expanse,
like the infinite azure sky,
on bright and cloudless winter’s morn.
And that, my friends,
is how the experience of letting-go
with the metaphor of emptiness.
But wait, there is more!
We are only halfway there.
Now that we understand the association
between non-graspability and emptiness,
let us explore how that relates
to the so-called “unborn.”
The literal act of grasping
is fundamental to all primates
Even human infants:
weak, and slow, and defenseless humans
are born with the instinctual drive
to pull themselves up to their mother's breast
and begin suckling
as if their lives depended upon it,
for they most certainly do.
From birth, an infant’s grip is so strong,
that if you place your finger in an infants palm
they will grasp with such intensity
that you can lift them up by it.
That is how the idea of grasping and graspability
came to be associated with being born.
If you have ever felt an infant tightly grasp your finger
then you know what a visceral experience
this could be.
So if all that are born grasp
and the opposite of grasping is letting go
then the opposite of being born, being UN-born,
becomes a metaphor for letting go.
Now let’s tie it all up
in a big red bow.
All who are born grasp,
yet we who train in noticing and relaxing
taste the UN-born flavor
of letting go
as if the object of our mindfulness
suddenly became as non-graspable
as a vast, empty expanse
like cloudless azure sky
the color of Kun-tu-zang-po’s ,
body of light,
or like a Jawa vaporized
by the Mandalorian.
So when we read that form is unborn
we could understand
that although our body could feel very graspable
during our inhalation
our body could also feel far less graspable
as we relax during our exhalation.
This, my friends, is the essence
of Buddha’s path of meditation.
The fruits contemplation and compassion
thus, may we each
meditate like a Jedi.
Let us conclude
with a simple
call to action
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