Jennifer Warren

Chillin’ at The Zendo, by Jennifer Warren


I think I’ve said something like this before in a previous post, but I will say it again here. For me, Buddhist and yogic practices are better together, like peanut butter and chocolate. Or like a beef hamburger patty and cheese, which even my Jewish friends admit is divine. I know we’re all getting hungry now (sorry vegan friends)- just go with me on this. A person who can bring different flavors and textures together is called a chef or at least a cook. Likewise, a person who can synthesize the wisdom inherent in different spiritual paths is generally considered to be a mystic.

Yet for both the cook and the mystic the way can be perilous. There are are some differences among ingredients that on the surface are difficult to reconcile, and the novice who carelessly tosses them together, may find that they curdle rather than emulsify. Let me attempt to explain. Let’s start with the nature of reality…

Reality for the Buddhist seems very simple- everything is mind. According to one of the visitors in our mindfulness group reality is two fold. There is the relative truth having to do with the past and the future. When we get attached to relative truths, we suffer. There is also the ultimate reality which is all the phenomena occuring right now. All things, regardless of their impermanence, have their own essence or “suchness”. Recognizing and residing in ultimate reality is the path to liberation.

Of course, my faithful readers know I can’t leave well enough alone. What then, is the significance of the dream state in Buddhism, I began to wonder? After consulting all my Buddhist books and coming up empty, I asked my mindfulness teacher how about it. He said Buddhists don’t pay much attention as they are not “real”. Buddhists are generally ardent investigators of all phenomena, so I was a bit surprised by this dismissive attitude towards dreams.

When it comes to the yogic view of reality it gets a lot more interesting, IMHO. Yogic tradition says there are four layers or coils of consciousness, or ways of perceiving reality. The first three are dreamless sleep, the dream state, the normal waking state, which most of us regard as reality. However, they assure us that in this third state we are still dreaming! The trick then is to wake from THAT dream and arrive at the ultimate reality and discover who you truly are.


The yogi says yes you exist and you have a self, but you are not who you think you are. You are not your body, you are not your mind, you are not your emotions or circumstances. The idea is to sacrifice these small ideas of self to the Self, the Atman, a part of us which is permanent. So whatever perils lie ahead, the yogi is secure in the knowledge that he has a soul.

The Buddhist, on the other hand asserts there is not only no self to worry about, but no soul. Spiritually, he is like the trapeze artist who refuses the safety net. For him, the idea of a permanent Self in a world where everything changes makes about as much sense as a woman giving birth to a flea. We are after all impermanent, just like all phenomena, will one day cease to be.

Do we really cease to be, though? We become something else, don’t we? Isn’t that what science has been telling us for decades? The Einsteins and Sagans and Hawkings of this world have assured us that we are the stuff of stars and comets and will continue to be so long after we are dead. Even the atheist can take comfort in this fact. So why should the Buddhist have such trouble with it?

For now, the only way I can answer this is to cite one of the subtle ironies of Buddhism- namely that the truly enlightened do not cling to views, even Buddhist views. Just because he doesn’t use a safety net does not mean that the Buddhist doesn’t need an escape hatch ( ah, metaphors- what would we do without them?)

My path obviously involves combining yoga and Buddhism – it is my “middle way”. Personally, I don’t care what your path is. It doesn’t matter. The best Buddhists are phenomenal people. The best Christians are phenomenal people. The best Jews are phenomenal people, and likewise the others. After all, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, spiritually and otherwise.

On that note, I wish you all sweet dreams tonight (or, er, nocturnal mind produced phenomena, I guess…) and send you metta (loving kindness) from the Zendo…

Jennifer Warren #WF1092
CIW WA 807 Up
16756 Chino Corona Ord
Corona CA 92880

Categories: Jennifer Warren

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