Is it possible to see Being?
It’s an important question. Even just taking it seriously can lead to better understanding.
Being is nirvana, the domain of divine unity; Becoming is samsara, the domain of secular duality [see the post referenced below].
Since awakening is the direct experience of Being, prior to awakening we are bound to live in samsara. So it would seem that, prior to awakening, it is impossible to see Being.
Yet that is not the whole story. Why? Nirvana is samsara. Unity is duality!
This identity judgment, though, cannot be grasped conceptually; it is beyond what the mind is able to apprehend. Apprehension requires fully awake yet thoughtless consciousness. Since thoughts are judgments or conceptualizations, whatever is thoughtless is nonconceptual. Awakening is direct nonconceptual consciousness of Being.
This explains why it is impossible to conceive awakening; in fact, it’s counter-productive even to try to make judgments about it. Presumably, this is why, for example, the Buddha talked about it negatively as, for example, the Deathless. Such negative characterizations leave its nature open, yet to be ascertained.
The way to awaken is to let go of all thoughts, all judgments, all conceptualizations. This is the purpose of all spiritual practices such as zazen meditation.
On the other hand, some thoughts may be more fertile ground for awakening than other thoughts. It may be possible to align one’s thoughts in a way that fosters awakening. This is the purpose of all spiritual writings.
Aligning one’s thoughts requires disciplined practice. Attempting to do it is certainly no guarantee of awakening, but it is able to overcome conceptual obstructions to awakening.
Is there a guide to aligning one’s thoughts?
Yes, there are many. Which is the best?
The best I have so far found is A Course in Miracles. Despite its Christian jargon, it includes 365 daily exercises that can be effective for aligning thoughts.
To answer the question about whether or not it is possible to see Being, it’s necessary to clarify the concept of seeing.
Normally when we see something, we naturally take it to be apart from us. When I see that tree by the lakeshore, I see the tree over there whereas I am over here.
The problem is that, as adults, our perceivings are contaminated by our understandings (judgments, conceptualizations). I do not neutrally single out that object over there and then classify (sort, conceptualize) it as a tree; rather, after many years using the concept, I simply see it as a tree.
“Every thought you have makes up some segment of the world you see” (from A Course in Miracles). Actually, this wouldn’t be so bad if we realized it, but we don’t. We foolishly think that the world that we see is objective reality rather than a set of images we have made! In that sense, we do not see Being in the sense of seeing objective reality (truth, what-is).
Rather, what we see are effects of thoughts. This is why it is not necessary ever to think in terms of changing the world; in fact, it’s impossible to change the world! What is possible is to change thoughts, which automatically changes their effects, the world. What we see is an effect of what we think.
This is good news: if you don’t like what you see, change what you think! It is not as if you are ever trapped in the world; instead, you are only trapped in thoughts. Letting go of thoughts is required for freedom.
Do you really want to see Being? If not, you never will. If you never want to see Being, you may simply stay trapped by thoughts indefinitely. Instead of opening to what-is, instead of asking about what-is, you may stay stuck telling the world what it is.
How can you tell if you are able to see Being or not? It’s simple: do you always see objects as separate, by themselves and in themselves? As long as you are stuck thinking objects in the world are separate from one another, you will keep seeing objects as separate from one another. As long as you keep seeing objects as separate and disconnected, you may be assured that the world is not as it appears to you.
This is quite wonderful news! Why? It’s because separation is the cause of suffering. No separation, no suffering. If that remains just a thought, suffering will not diminish. However, as soon as you begin to see Being, suffering will begin to diminish.
To see Being is to have vision. Eyesight is not required for vision. “Real vision is not only unlimited by space and distance, but it does not depend on the body’s eyes at all” (from A Course in Miracles). So, as long as you are stuck just seeing, it will remain impossible to see Being. However, as soon as you develop vision, you will be able to see Being.
Can vision be developed? At least this much is true: it is possible, deliberately, to practice letting go of obstructive thoughts. This requires practicing open-mindedness, developing an appreciation for entities by asking rather than telling.
A Course in Miracles provides daily practice doing this. Since bringing Being to Becoming starts with seeing Being, step one is to see Being in beings. How?
Try this. Set a timer to go off every 20 or 30 minutes throughout your waking hours some day. Each time it goes off, look around you. Whatever you happen to see, think “Being is in ____” and repeat for whatever else you happen to see. For example:
“Being is in this tree. Being is in this stone. Being is in this hand. Being is in this shoe.” And so on.
Since you yourself are nothing less than Being, this is practice identifying with what appear to be other objects. Actually, they are not “other” at all!
Joining in this way with what you see is practicing seeing Being. It is realigning your thoughts to foster awakening.
Please don’t get hung up on words. If you don’t relate well to the word ‘Being,’ just use one of its many synonyms such as ‘God’ or ‘Mu.’ Select a word that works well for you as a signpost and stick with it as you practice.
What’s difficult isn’t practicing: it’s remembering to practice regularly. The ideal is not to separate from practicing. (Spiritual retreats are designed to make this easier.)
The more you look at the world in this way, the more familiar doing so will become.
The more you practice the old way of seeing, the more alienated objects will seem. The more you push objects away, the easier it is to hate them.
Conversely, the more you look at objects by identifying with them, the more love you will naturally exhibit. To manifest love is to overcome separation.
What a different social world it would be if we could see others as objects of identification and love rather than as objects of alienation and hate.
As always, if you know someone who might benefit from reading this, please pass it along.
Recommended post: The Bifurcation of Reality.
Recommended reading: A Course in Miracles.