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October 2, 2018 Tuesday Evening, Dharma Path Class
Q&A on Primordial Purity and All Ground, the Kayas
Aaron: My blessings and love to you all. I am Aaron. Welcome to all of you out there in blue dot land. I’m calling it “blue dot land” because at the base of the camera is a bright blue electric dot, electric light dot, at which I am to gaze. I am told that means I’m looking in your eyes. It doesn’t look like your eyes; it looks like a blue dot! I’ll take their word for it.
Tonight’s class will have two parts. First, to answer some questions that have come. In the small groups there have been discussions about the All Ground. What is the All Ground? What is primordial purity? About the kayas, and how they relate to All Ground and primordial purity. So we’ll spend some time with that first, take a few minutes to stretch, and then move onto the new portion.
Earlier, Barbara questioned me: would I not prefer to talk about the new portion first, while you’re fresh? But I think it’s important that we make sure you understand not the terms, as words, but the experience of these terms, as something to build on.
As an aside, here, I think— I’m struggling for the mathematical percentage—5/8 of you are coming to the retreat. And we’ll spend considerable time talking about these things there.
Your small groups are replicated at the retreat— those in attendance within each group. So, out of 10, anywhere from 5 of you to 7 or 8 of you in any group. We’ll have a chance to go deeper with this in your groups; in some cases, two groups of 5 mixed together. We will have two small group meetings during the week.
I am going to read this compilation of questions that came in to me…
“I don’t think I understand what the All Ground is, and what it’s relationship is to primordial purity.” The questioner then proceeds to explain it beautifully. So, clearly, that person understands. There is just a little bit off base, so almost clearly. “In my understanding, the All Ground is everything that arises into form…”
Yes, the All Ground is everything that arises into form, but it’s also the container out of which everything arises. “…Including direct expressions of the Unconditioned, such as joy, love, light, and spaciousness, and distorted expressions of the Unconditioned, such as contracted energy, fear, anger, and doubt, and all conditioned objects in relative reality.” Well, we could say the All Ground is the objects that arise, but more emphatically, the All Ground is the container out of which they arise and the objects that have arisen. The conditions are part of that package too.
So, we have the container. The nature of all conditioned reality, is that objects arise when the conditions are present for them to arise. Thus, the All Ground is both the container and the objects arisen from the container, and which in themselves serve as conditions for future arising.
There’s a Pali word papancha. I think of papancha as popcorn popping. This kernel heats and pops, creating the conditions for that kernel to heat and pop. Papancha sounds a bit like the word— pop, pop, pop! If the conditions are present— let’s take as one basic condition— not THE first condition; there is no first condition— but one basic condition: the existence of the All Ground. Then, because that condition exists, objects will arise out of it. And when those objects arise, they give rise to more objects. Everything popping up. The All Ground is the container, the base conditions, the expressing conditions, and the relationship – conditionality – out of which things will arise.
If things would not arise in this way, then the term “All Ground” would be meaningless.
“Everything that arises in the All Ground is, at its root, an expression of the Unconditioned, also known as the primordial purity.” Yes, I would say we could consider the Unconditioned and the primordial purity to be close reflections of each other. But I would not call them 100% synonymous. Why not?
The primordial purity is the radiant and positively polarized expressions. The Unconditioned is more of the nature of the All Ground. The Unconditioned simply is. It contains all seeming opposites, all seeming dualities. So, when you think of the Unconditioned, you generally think of the radiant and beautiful aspect of the Unconditioned. But the Unconditioned truly is the non-dual, containing everything.
So, I know it’s a bit confusing, but I would have to say the Unconditioned is both the primordial purity and the All Ground. The All Ground is the container. The primordial purity is the perfectly positively polarized expression arising from that container but also part of the container. Since there is no duality, even the negative is radiant and perfect, only it has not fully expressed that perfection.
Think of a swamp. Normally when you think “swamp” you think muck, mud, perhaps disease, snakes, and other creatures that you think of as unpleasant. And yet, if there were not swamp nor the conditions for a swamp, there could not be life. Swamp is water and change. Swamp is the water and earth element mingled together. Swamp is the fire element, the sun beating down on that mud and water and inviting growth. Swamp is the air element that blows across it. It’s all right there in swamp. So, is the swamp the All Ground, or is it the primordial purity? Can you see that it has to be both?
I’m going to go on. I will be happy to answer questions. Reading…
“I see the All Ground as a container in which all forms arise (the swamp), and I like the image that Aaron gave us of the primordial purity spring, bubbling up” — she says— “into the All Ground from the All Ground, and into the All Ground, both, emerging into forms which are pure expression of the Unconditioned, or are distorted expressions of the Unconditioned, shaped by causes and conditions. When the conditions cease, these distorted expressions will cease.” Perfect.
“Everything in the All Ground is an expression of the primordial purity. So the All Ground and primordial purity are not separate.” Perfect.
“Does the All Ground also contain the primordial purity, the Unconditioned/Dharmakaya, or just the expressions of the primordial purity, the Unconditioned, the Dharmakaya?” The All Ground contains everything, and the primordial purity contains everything. Their relationship is reciprocal. We can’t have one without the other.
We go back to the first verses of the Bible, which is really a wonderful metaphor. The Earth was without form, and void. We can’t say which came first, only, within that All Ground of the bare yet-to-be-expressed earth were all the conditions that were needed for the earth, the seas, the skies, the life thereupon, all to emerge. That which we think of as beautiful, and that which we think of as poisonous; that which we know of as wholesome, and that which we think of as unwholesome. Really, what is unwholesome? You might think of a poisonous snake as unwholesome. Is it unwholesome to its mate? Of course not.
Everything has a purpose and a meaning. Everything is a teacher. Everything is an expression of love, everything. But some are easier for the human to recognize as expressions of love, and others are more challenging. Stop trying to divide them into good and bad, and just get to know each expression as you experience it. Ask of each expression, what am I learning from you? You come as a teacher; what am I learning from you? Learn to say thank you for each expression. And, when the expression seems to be bringing up harm for yourself and others, then choose to release it. When the expression is sustaining yourself and others and bringing joy and what you think of as goodness, say thank you, and ask to better understand how to support that expression. But nothing is good or bad in itself.
Some of you are raising a question, there. We’ll come back to that statement later, if you wish.
“Is the All Ground contained within the primordial purity, the Unconditioned, the Dharmakaya?” Is it? Yes. And the primordial purity is contained within the All Ground? Circular.
“In Open Secrets, The Letters of Reb Yerachmiel ben Yisrael, the author (Rabbi Rami Shapiro) says, because it is God’s nature to manifest schlemut, divine wholeness and infinite possibility, infinite possibility must include yesh and ayin, form and emptiness. How do these new teachings on primordial purity and All Ground relate to this?” I would ask, here, that all of you who have a copy of Open Secrets bring it to the retreat, and we’ll spend some time working with it. It’s a beautiful book.
Available on Amazon in hard and e-copies:
Let me pause a moment, here….
I’m reading here from pages 4 and 5 Rami Shapiro’s Open Secrets…
“Some would argue that God is a divine spark inside each being. Others would argue that God is above and outside creation. I teach another position. God is not inside or outside. God is the very thing itself. And when there is no thing but only empty space, God is that as well. Picture a bowl, in your minds. Define the bowl. Is it just the clay that forms the walls? Or is it the empty space that fills with soup? Without the space, the bowl is useless. Without the walls, the bowl is useless. So which is the bowl? The answer is: both. To be a bowl it must have both being, the walls, and emptiness, the space. It is the same with God. For God to be God, for God to be all,” and you can substitute Unconditioned or any other similar term, “God must manifest as both being, yesh, and emptiness, ayin. Yesh is the manifestation of God that appears to us as separate entities— physical, spiritual, and psychological. Ayin is the manifestation of God that reveals all separation to be elusive. Everything is simply God, in differing forms. God is All, there is nothing else. This teaching is called schlemut, the completeness of God. To be schlemut, God must contain all possibilities and paradox. To be schlemut, God must transcend the notion of opposites and reveal everything as complementary. God must be both yesh and ayin, being and emptiness, simultaneously. Yesh and ayin both reside in and are expressions of God’s wholeness, schlemut. These three terms are crucial to understanding God” —Unconditioned, primordial purity— “and almost everything else. It is vital to everything we will discuss, that you understand these three words. They are the key to your spiritual awakening and tranquility. Learn them well.”
No dualities. It’s as simple as that. All one. But what does that really mean? Not just an intellectual idea; what does it mean, that there are no dualities?
Onto another question being asked here: “Is the All Ground a container in which both form and emptiness arise?” The All Ground of course is both container and that which arises from the container. How could it only be the container?
Moving on to a different question: “I’m not sure I understand how Dharmakaya, sambhogakaya, and nirmanakaya relate to the All Ground and to primordial purity, except that I think primordial purity is the Dharmakaya. Can you explain this relationship?” Well, now that I’ve spoken, can any of you explain it. Does anyone want to give a try at it? Don’t be shy; there’s no wrong answer.
John: I can try. Perhaps we’re looking at the relationship between the 3 kayas and the All Ground and primordial purity, is that right?
Aaron: Basically, yes. The question here is, “…how the 3 kayas relate to All Ground and primordial purity, except I think primordial purity is the Dharmakaya.” Is the primordial purity just the Dharmakaya?
John: Okay, well, here goes! So, the Dharmakaya would be the All Ground, or maybe the nirmanakaya… The nirmanakaya… (pause) The All Ground would include all 3 of the kayas. The primordial purity would be the Dharmakaya. So, the All Ground would include the nirmanakaya, the Dharmakaya, and also the sambhogakaya.
Aaron: Which means they cannot be separated, yes?
John: They’re part of each other.
Aaron: We find ourselves in different places in relationship to them. Either in a deep place of the Dharmakaya, all the mundane world fallen away, sitting there in radiance, or off at the other end, caught in the mundane world, the nirmanakaya, with body sensations and mental formations that may be tense and contracted. Or, we find ourselves in that wealth body, sambhogakaya, touching both ends. But none of it can exist without the other. You only imagine you’re only in one place. Even at the furthest edge of the nirmanakaya, you’re touching all three. Even at the highest end of the Dharmakaya, you’re touching all three. Only your attention is not brought to the other parts of it.
Our living question, perhaps the primary question for this whole two years, is, how do we live from a balanced place of center that does not forget either nirmanakaya or Dharmakaya, but embraces it all. What supports that living.
Further comment, here?
Q: Wouldn’t all of the kayas also be contained in the primordial purity as well as the All Ground?
Aaron: The kayas are all expressing out of the primordial purity. So in that sense we could say, since they’re all going in circles, the kayas are also expressing out of, and are ground for. But, attention more often goes to the expression. We’re more aware of the kayas as expression of the primordial purity than we are of them as ground for the primordial purity. It’s harder to experience them as ground, except for within a very deep meditation experience with ego and body dissolution. There you can experience them as ground. I don’t know if that answers your question, Q, but knowing your practice, it may.
Q: Listening to you, it sounds like the kayas are experiences.
Aaron: No, the kayas are not things, really, Q. (Q: Okay.) First, the kayas are not separate. We can think of them as, “The Earth was without form and void, and then there was light.” If the light appeared, did it already exist? Could it appear if it did not already exist? (Q: No, it was there.) It existed. Therefore, it already was, is, and will always be. It is a direct expression of the Unconditioned, which always is, will be, was. All direct expressions of the Unconditioned are expressions of the primordial purity.
Now take it a step further. There was darkness. We don’t think of darkness as an expression of the primordial purity or the Unconditioned, but of course it has to be. Let me phrase it specifically—it is an indirect expression. The direct expression is light, but darkness is an indirect expression. The direct expression is spaciousness, and contraction is an indirect expression. Thus, we’re reaching from Dharmakaya to nirmanakaya. On the bridge, the sambhogakaya, both exist— light and darkness, expansion and contraction, love and fear, high vibration and low vibration. We cannot separate love and fear. Fear is a contraction of love; let’s call it that. Got it?
I want to advise all of you against being too intellectual with all of this. And I’m delighted that many of us will soon have a week of retreat together. And for those not coming to the retreat, I hope you will spend this next week doing a lot of meditation, trying to bring these ideas into a practice reality, so that it’s not just mental. You can understand these things best just in sitting, both with vipassana and pure awareness. The vipassana mind can understand how things arise and pass away, are impermanent and not self. And as everything begins to dissolve, awareness can simply rest in that space and understand—perhaps not an understanding you can articulate, and that’s fine. But feeling, knowing with your heart, this whole experience of non-duality.
(reading a question) “The three-part framework of Dharmakaya, sambhogakaya, and nirmanakaya, seems dualistic to me unless all three are expressions of the primordial purity, the Unconditioned, the Dharmakaya, .”
I would not say they’re all expressions of the primordial purity, because that’s too linear. I would say that they are the primordial purity, and the primordial purity is them. They do not just express from the primordial purity but they invite the expression of the primordial purity.
Now, how can that be? If the primordial purity is unconditioned, there is no place it has not been; it always is, so how can it be expressing from anything? Think how it is just before an idea emerges in your head. There’s a moment when you can feel the energy of the idea. The idea obviously already is. It pre-existed. But there’s a moment where there was no outer expression of it, and then whoosh!— there it is. So, instead of thinking in terms of linearity, this as expression of that, think in terms of circularity— everything supporting everything else. No beginning and no end. And yet, when we get off into the more contracted expressions, we do see that they are increasingly an end, running off the nirmanakaya end, and we back ourselves up onto the bridge. In this moment, where is love? Simple question— moving into contraction, moving into fear— in this moment, where is love?
One more question here. “I’m not sure I understand, in my experience, what being on the bridge, sambhogakaya, feels like. I think I’m experiencing sambhogakaya when I’m resting in spaciousness or compassion or love, and noting the arising of contracted energies. Is that correct?” Yes. Noting the arising of contracted energies but not caught in their stories. Then you’re on the bridge. But as soon as mindfulness is not present and you whoosh off into the stories and into the literal physical experience of contraction, you’re no longer quite on the bridge; you’ve slid off into the mud. As soon as mindfulness catches it, you can climb back up onto the bridge. And yet, you are always on the bridge. No paradoxes.
Okay, there’s one more question here, and then we’ll take a few minutes for questions, and then move on.
“Is mindfulness, a regular kuttara citta, able to perceive duality? And is awareness, or lokuttara citta, able to perceive non-duality? Or, put in another way, what type of consciousness perceives non-duality?” Yes. Don’t think of these as linear. Kuttara citta, mundane citta. Citta— let’s not get caught up in terms, and people saying, “Oh, I don’t understand these terms.” Citta is simply the Pali word for consciousness. We could simply call it mundane consciousness and supramundane consciousness; that’s fine.
Every consciousness takes an object. Mundane citta takes a mundane object. Eye, the sense organ eye, makes contact with an object, the hand for example (looking at the hand) , and seeing consciousness arises. Contact, sense organ touches object, and consciousness will arise. As long as there is contact, consciousness will arise.
Mundane consciousness can only observe mundane objects, it cannot observe supramundane objects. In order to observe the direct expressions of the Unconditioned like luminosity, nada, that high energy vibration, sound, these direct expressions of the Unconditioned, we must step back and observe them with lokuttara citta, supramundane consciousness, which in my vocabulary is synonymous with awareness. When I say supramundane consciousness— supramundane consciousness, lokuttara citta, awareness, all synonymous.
Here’s where it gets tricky. You cannot meditate simply with mundane consciousness and open with awareness to the Unconditioned. Maybe open to small expressions of the Unconditioned— a loving feeling, a little bit of high vibration, but not right out there in the Unconditioned. Because the narrower citta is predominant, the mundane citta is predominant, and it’s looking around for mundane objects. You cannot move into a powerful, huge experience of the Unconditioned and still be aware of conditioned objects, because you’re looking through the eyes of supramundane consciousness, and it can’t look through the eyes of mundane consciousness at the same time.
When you’re on the bridge, you can start to feel both. You can hear the children crying. You can feel the sleet coming down. You feel the driving wind. You feel the achey-ness in your body, and you can feel the love and be aware of the radiance. This is the point where we want to become stable— being able to hold ourselves open to the mundane realm with its challenges, its pain, and to the supramundane realm by balancing. This is why so much of what we teach here is the balance of pure awareness meditation and vipassana, and how we hold it together.
So, let’s take about 10 minutes for questions, 5-10 minutes to stretch, and then move on to Path of Clear Light. Are there questions about what I’ve said? And for those of you coming to retreat, remember we’ll have time to talk about these things, and even more important, to meditate with them at the retreat.
Q: I’ve always seen mundane consciousness and supramundane consciousness as really one thing (Aaron: Good.), the difference being in what object is being perceived.
Aaron: Perfect, Q, because it’s what perspective you’re looking at it with. The very simple example. The picnicker will say, “Oh no— it’s raining!” The farmer will say, “Ahhh! All right, it’s raining!” It’s all the same rain. How do we perceive it? When we perceive it through the eye of contraction and fear, we push ourselves off into the nirmanakaya side of the bridge, and lose touch with love; contract and want to fix and change things in an unwholesome way, as opposed to attending to things with love.
But, the farmer who says, “Ahh, its raining!” and then looks around him and realizes neighbors’ homes are being flooded, he will certainly want to help his neighbors to move their possessions to higher ground. He can see the crops growing, and he can see the suffering in that rain.
Q: It seems like these terms are difficult to understand with the mind. And I am wondering how important it is to understand them with my mind.
Aaron: These terms are difficult to understand with the mind; it is not important at all to understand them with the mind. Understand them with your heart. But the question then is, how do you understand it with your heart? At a certain level, it’s helpful to have the mind participate. But the mind is servant to the heart. The mind is not the one in control.
Q: What is the bottom line of all of these terms? How will they most help us? Why do we need to know them?
Aaron: You don’t need to know the terms at all. But, because of the way the human mind works, you as humans seem to find it easiest to understand things first through the mind and then with the heart. With no vocabulary, it’s harder to articulate and then to carry that articulation into some deeper clarity. So, the articulation is helpful in allowing the heart to truly know. But if you truly know already from the heart, you don’t need the terms. The terms are servant to the heart. The mind is servant to the heart. But this is how the human learns.
Others, on the web, here?… Anybody? You all understand it perfectly already! I’m teasing you.
Q: We just need to be reminded.
Aaron: We’ll give you the quiz, as wood. We’ll build a bridge across the stream, let you walk across, and see how well-balanced you are!
Any other questions, comments?
Q: When I lived in New York City, I would practice in the subway. I would kind of go into meditation sitting down, and once I was connected to primordial purity I would look out at everything, at all the people, and I would try to see everything from that perspective. Is that sambhogakaya?
Aaron: I would say it’s one practice that can help lead into an experience of stability of sambhogakaya. Not a necessary one; we don’t all have to go to New York and ride the subway. But yes, certainly it’s one helpful practice. Thank you.
I think what you’re saying, Q, is, you came to a point where you saw the non-duality of everything. And that experience of non-duality is stably resting on the bridge.
Let’s take a 5 minute stretch break, and then we’ll come back and begin to work with Path of Clear Light.
 In Aaron’s book, “No Chain At All,” page 5, he says:
The second part of the circle, volitional formations, sankhara means all things that come into being as the effect of causes and conditions, and, in themselves are the causes and conditions for the arising of other phenomena. As used in the doctrine of Dependent Origination, sometimes this word, sankhara, is taken to mean only actions, words and thoughts that lead to reactions, in other words, that which creates adhering karma which keeps one captive to the wheel of becoming. I feel this definition is incomplete, and prefer the first, that is, everything that comes into being as the effect of causes and conditions, and in themselves are causes and conditions for new arising.