The Discernment Factor


ii.26-27 Positive discrimination breaks the spell of samsara

2.26 Right Discernment is the means (upaya) of escaping the pain of samsara.

Positive discrimination does not bespeak the ravenous discriminatory mind that the Lankavatara Sutra so eloquently addresses—that is negative-discrimination. Rather, it is about developing the fine art (*Discernment Pro Arte ) of Right Discernment that properly distinguishes the true from the false. When the seeds of erroneous perception have burned-out, the stainless lens of a higher-perception reasserts its rightful position in the Unborn. This is akin to the Buddhist parable that states, “when the Tathagata is the Emperor, the Nirvanic Kingdom is harmonious and steadfast; when, however, the samsaric-skandhas usurp the throne, the kingdom descends into suffering (dukkha), misery and chaos.”

2.27 The Seven-fold Wisdom of Discernment

There are seven-factors of mind modifications that need to be discerned:

Yearning for gnosis: the drive for the inner-knowledge that leads one to freedom.

Longing for freedom: there is no greater ideation than the longing to be freed from the diurnal wheel of samsara.

Desire for blissfulness: once the nirvanic quest is initiated, one yearns for the joy of consummation.

Finding satisfaction in active service: when the Bodhisattvic Resolve dawns in the mind of the adept, thus empowering others to acquire the same taste and thirst for liberation.

Transcending sorrow: once one applies the Wisdom of the Four Noble Truths to the equation of Self-Realization, then sorrow is placed in proper perspective and no longer becomes a determinative agency.

Conquering fear: the greatest ignorance that needs to be overcome; in particular the fear-generating agency of an imagination run amok.

A question of doubt: along the way to spiritual fulfillment, healthy doubt concerning obstacles standing in the way can be a good thing. Yet, once the Self-Recognition dawns, doubt about it can become your worst enemy.

*This is coined from a Spiritual Discernment practice I used to offer on the web years ago. Recently I discovered that my service, “Discernment Pro Arte”, was described in a book about discernment back in 2000:

Discernment Pro Arte, a consultation service accessible through the World Wide Web, advertizes a “discernment tool,” an “Awareness Frequency Enabler, which will help you chart the course of your spiritual journey from your earliest recollections to present-day ventures.” This tool is used to “begin the process of selectively discerning what spiritual choices need to remain a part of your journey, and which ones you may need to shed to enable your Higher Self to be revealed.” (Discernment Pro Arte 1997) [Affirming the Touch of God: A Psychological and Philosophical Exploration of Christian Discernment, pg 4. Evan B. Howard.]

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4 Responses to The Discernment Factor

  1. Neti-Neti Yeti says:

    The greatest advice on wisdom I have come across in recent memory is not to try to make it one’s own. The yearning for higher wisdom can delude us. It has been a hard lesson for me to realize that wisdom has resided within the Buddha principle forever and that we, as beings, are inseparable from wisdom throughout our obscurations.

    Of all the paramitas, wisdom is what most puzzles me. That is, the _practice_ of wisdom. I find that when I let the mind settle down, and allow the radiant and effulgent light of being to transcend everyone and everything around me, there is a sense that my being, my body and mind, are almost breaking away, but joyously revealed. Perhaps this is wisdom of a sort, wisdom of self and non-self.

    Yet to be free, and I think this is foremost in my consciousness these days, it appears for now to be an unshakeable truth that the content of our minds is the primordial problem of existence. This is not to say we should become like a vegetable or non-being, to annihilate the self, but to use our time and experiences to break apart the obscurations and to allow the light of everything to radiate within and without.

    Doubt is indeed a troublesome factor, because the posture of non-knowing is useful to transcend the known and the many, infinite, traps of samsara. Yet doubt too is a two-edged sword because we can begin to doubt the peace-giving realizations of our practice and return to the object-driven, concept-grasping ordinary mind which forgets that the light of the universe, I would say even the very Buddha matrix itself, is faith.

    For this reason I am so grateful to this wonderful resource here, which stimulates the mind and opens new perspectives, while supportively and kindly expressing the same faith in a meaningful life, a wonderful existence, and the promise of genuine realizations along the spiritual path. So thank you, dear friends, thank you.

    • Vajragoni says:

      “I find that when I let the mind settle down, and allow the radiant and effulgent light of being to transcend everyone and everything around me, there is a sense that my being, my body and mind, are almost breaking away, but joyously revealed.”

      That used to be a familiar experience of mine back in the early ‘80’s which reinforced my decision to pursue a spiritual vocation. It truly is wonderful and the type of “aura” that surrounds all is truly a gift of blissful light. Thank-you for sharing.

  2. Neti-Neti Yeti says:

    Vajragoni, do you feel this aural sensation is a trick of ordinary mind or a sign of transcendence? or neither or both? I’m curious because you refer to this experience in the past. Does this mean you no longer experience an ambient aura while resting in mind, or now see it differently?

    I have noticed at times there are different auras for different people but this is very subtle, and not something I can consciously control. Sometime’s it’s just a feeling or a sense about someone, something hard to put into words. Certain people shine very brightly, often in surprising humble circumstances, and this is more common. Every once in a while I feel something very dark and repelling about certain people (sometimes just in a crowd), though I try not to let it stifle compassion or allow it to become aversion.

    As I recall in the baghavad gita there are described certain spectra of auras, depending on the karma of the person, but I have not really seen it this way, as a color — those filled with anger shine red, those with compassion light blue or white, those materialistic like gold and so on. I sometimes think I can perceive a color, but in this case I am pretty sure it’s an illusion of ordinary mind. It seems from the traditional zen perspective not much consideration would be given to such experiences.

    • Vajragoni says:

      It’s true, for myself these aural-sensations were dominant only for a time in my early 20’s—a period in which I was undergoing profound spiritual transformation which impacted the course of my life at the time. When we cover Book III of the Yoga sutras mention of the various siddhis, like the ability to perceive auric-outlines, will be highlighted. Your own experiences speak of the ability to read people’s energy-signatures—most of the time these will be very subtle and not overtly auric in nature.

      After those early kataphatic spiritual experiences, my own spirituality was primarily apophatic-based, hence my attunement with John of the Cross. And you’re right, these siddhic abilities, while fascinating, are worth only an honorable mention in all things zen. Zen is so totally beyond the siddhis, although I believe that these abilities can prove helpful in protecting one from those dark influences you mention.

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