Preparation for the Ascent


Contemplating Mind (Han-shan Te-Ch’ing (1546-1623)

Look upon the body as unreal,
An image in a mirror,
Or the reflection of the moon in water.
Contemplate the mind as formless,
Yet bright and pure.
Not a single thought arising,
Empty, yet perceptive,
Still, yet illuminating,
Complete like the Great Emptiness,
Containing all that is wonderful.
Neither going out nor coming in,
Without appearances or characteristics,
Countless skillful means
Arise out of one mind.
Independent of material existence,
Which is ever an obstruction,
Do not cling to deluded thoughts.
These give birth to illusion.
Attentively contemplate this mind,
Empty, devoid of all objects.
If emotions should suddenly arise,
You will fall into confusion.
In a critical moment bring back the light,
Powerfully illuminating.
Clouds disperse, the sky is clear,
The sun shines brilliantly.
If nothing arises within the mind,
Nothing will manifest without.
That which has characteristics
Is not original reality.
If you can see a thought as it arises,
This awareness will at once destroy it.
Whatever state of mind should come,
Sweep it away, put it down.
Both good and evil states
Can be transformed by mind.
Sacred and profane appear
In accordance with thoughts.
Reciting mantras or contemplating mind
Are merely herbs for polishing a mirror.
When the dust is removed,
They are also wiped away.
Great extensive spiritual powers
Are all complete within the mind.
The Pure Land or the Heavens
Can be traveled to at will.
You need not seek the real,
Mind is originally is Buddha.
The familiar becomes remote,
The strange seems familiar.
Day and night, everything is wonderful.
Nothing you encounter confuses you.
These are the essentials of mind.

As indicated earlier our interest in the two main spiritual treatises of John of the Cross concerns their “methodology” and not any element of a particular religious faith dimension. We will now begin to extract what is pertinent in the Unborn from his Ascent of Mount Carmel.

In order to enter into that most perfect and primordial union with the Unborn the adept must pass through a form of dark spiritual night. Firstly, what needs to take place is a series of purifications that, in actuality, positions all phenomenalizations of the carnal mind beneath a dark night of obscurity. This obscurity is an impenetrable one, thus leaving the Actual-Self—freed from all its skandhic defilements—in perfect juxtaposition with the Divine Light of the Unborn. The obscurity is like a dark-thread of emptiness which guides the adept into THAT which is devoid of all phenomenal abstractions and obstructions. Thus, what is left is Mind-Unbound to look at the Real AS IT IS in ITSELF.

As a psychophysical manifestation, the adept is made up of interior and exterior sensual faculties. These need to become void so that Divine Union is freed from all impurities. The self-emptying, therefore, can be accomplished in two fashions. The first is by the adept utilizing one’s own efforts, through the sheer exercise of the will; the second is through Divine-Primordial intervention, wherein the adept plays absolutely no part. With the Ascent we are concerned primarily with the dark night of the senses, or those interior and exterior sensual faculties. The dark night of the spirit will be covered later on when we examine and extract pertinent sections from his Dark Night of the Soul.

There are adepts on the Path of the Unborn who will never come close to this Divine Union. Many times their intellect and the rationale of reason will dissuade them from entering into this Dark Night. Others arrive at this union much later in life because they have not yet conformed themselves to the Unborn Will. Yet it eventually does come to pass when the Unborn Spirit and Will finds a foothold and leads the adept on this spiritual road of Dark Contemplation and its accompanying ascesis. When the adept first enters into this arid night of the senses, there is a great sensation of emptiness wherein nothing spiritually seems to be going right anymore. Many trials and temptations also rear their ugly heads. The immediate temptation is to drop this Dark Contemplation and return to more comforting and consoling moments in discursive meditation. At least there was some sense of solace, albeit a temporary one.

There are other adepts who work themselves to the point of exhaustion in their meditations, thinking that somehow this will empower them to achieve a breakthrough into Contemplation. This only serves to darken the waters further in no good sense. What they need to understand is that undertaking the dark night of the senses is their first and primary task. Yea, a thorough loosening of the skandhic prison bars. This will be initiated in our next blog. Spiritual Directors can be a great asset during these purgations. Yet the SD needs to be mindful of just what stage the adept is going through; this oftentimes is not a linear-progression, but rather a gradual maturation of going forward and then even falling backwards until such time that a particular action of the skandhas are sufficiently quelled. Pushing the adept forward before its time can be very detrimental; one needs to wait until the movement of the Divine-Primordial Intervention occurs and weens the adept out of old habit-energy.  Until such time there is no remedy. Whatever the adept does or the SD says will be inadequate.

John of the Cross issued a caveat at the end of his preface for the Ascent stating that he was not addressing the general populace, but only those members of the Primitive Order of Mount Carmel who were already detached from the general thrust of the world’s activities. In like manner, Ascending the Noble Mountain of Primordial Perfection is primarily meant for those who have some prior familiarity with Unborn Mind Zen as revealed through these many blogs. In such measure is one better attuned to the nakedness of spirit in Light of the Unborn. These present waters can only be  suitably navigated by the empowerment of this Self-Same Light.

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