Thought and Light

In my night time dream I am engaged in a discussion about thought. A man appears who wrote a book on the topic, and he seems to conclude thought is something that can be reified: made to appear concrete and graspable. Being the Buddhist in the conversation, I suggest he try to grasp a thought and show it to me. He replies by telling me about his thought process in writing the book. I ask what would happen if he changed his mind. Where would those thoughts be? He insists they would still be there, but he would no longer believe them.

I ask him again to show me a single thought, to place it in my hand and reveal its substance. He looks at me like I am crazy. He says, “That would be impossible. Thoughts have no solid substance.” I respond by saying, “So, where is the thought?” He replies, “In my mind.” I ask him, “What is the mind?” “The mind is how we process information,” he says. I ask, “If thought has no substance, what is being processed?”

He now stares at me with a blank expression. After a few minutes, he says, “Nothing.” I then inquire, “Where is the one who processes?” He pauses for a moment and responds, “Nowhere.” I laugh with joy at his understanding and continue my inquiry. “Aha, if there is nothing to process and no-one processing, what is thought?” The man looks like he has an epiphany and states unequivocally, “The light of pure awareness.”

I wake up from the dream and experience a tunnel, a hole in my perception. At the end of the tunnel is a bright light appearing like a nebula. It pulses and changes shape. I feel like I am floating in space, inseparable from the nebula, when a thought arises. As I reify the thought, I lose awareness of the light.

Over the many years I have walked the spiritual path, this seems to be the common thread of all my explorations. We are none other than the pure light of awareness. But we lose touch with that luminosity as we reify our experiences into a sense of solid existence. The light does not change, only our recognition. Our only task while in this illusory body is to regain awareness of the light and notice this is how we recognize unconditional love.

Shantideva, author of The Way of the Bodhisattva, shared his insight about how the natural awakened mind seeks to express compassion:

Like a flash of lightning on a dark and cloudy night,
Which reveals its brilliant light for just an instant,
Every now and then, through the Buddha’s power,
A mind of compassion briefly arises to benefit people of the world. (1.5)

Compassionate insight, Bodhicitta, is encoded in the light of pure awareness. Our Buddha nature only awaits our recognition. 🎶 All you need is love, bam bam badda bum …  

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