Practice enables us to become aware of the causes of our suffering. When we start sitting we are very aware of thoughts and emotions, and in due course can see this as the manifestation of karmic mind, our personal karmic mind, which has its own way of suffering. It could be anxiety, dissociation, agitation, boredom, fear, it could be many many things.

It is completely understandable that we might want our practice to eradicate this noise, to void the mind.  But voiding the mind would be a small practice.  It is not our practice; it lacks dignity. It is a miser's practice.

The ideogram in Chinese for delusion looks like it has little legs.  The idea is that delusion is the little legs of our karmic mind. Taking us this way, this way, this way, and this way, ceaselessly.

On top of these little legs is the self. Practice is not to cut off the legs, but to unseat the self.

When seen in this way, the karmic mind is not our possession and is not our burden. It is the expression of the aliveness of everything. We can't reach that aliveness from a void.

We can't get to the heart by cutting.


When the Japanese coined the term satori: enlightenment, they rolled up into that one word three distinct ideas in Chinese Buddhism about enlightenment. 

The first was delusion and enlightenment; that is, through practice, we gain insight into our habitual being pulled this way and that by our desires, our habits, our karma, and when we realise this, we can stop.

The second is awakening. We realise that what we take to be real, our whole conceptual apparatus of self and world, is created by us. It's like a dream. But we don't wake up into another reality; we wake up within the dream.

The third and most important is practice realisation.  That is, we accept the Buddha's teachings. We then sincerely practice, and through practice we realise that those teachings are true.

And in this context, what we realise is true, is our ceaseless tendency to fabricate the self, to fabricate a world, to fabricate our lives.

In seeing that, even for just moments we can stop that karmic activity. The problem with satori is we think it's something else that we can acquire. But the whole point is that it's not about getting. It's about not-getting, losing, stopping, desisting.



When Bodhidharma went to China, he met with the Emperor. The meeting is usually recounted in this way:

The Emperor said to Bodhidharma 'I have built hundreds of temples, what is my merit? Bodhidharma answered, 'no merit'. The Emperor  then asked, 'What is the highest truth?' Bodhidharma replied 'Unfathomable emptiness'. The emperor then asked, 'Who are you?' Bodhidharma replied, 'I don't know'.

So in its usual rendering, the Emperor is portrayed as a self satisfied bumbler, being put right by Bodhidharma, fearlessly speaking truth to power.

But, in classical Chinese it is impossible to say if a sentence is a question or a statement. So we can look at this exchange differently.

The words 'what' and 'who' are synonymous with suchness, emptiness. So the Emperor is simply living his life as a Buddhist Emperor, acknowledging that his only merit is suchness. And because this merit extends everywhere, it is 'no merit'.

And the Emperor's final statement is not 'who are you?' but rather You are Who, that is: you are a person of suchness. And Bodhidharma's response is suchness isn't our personal possession.

Bodhidharma then left, going to Shaolin temple and sat facing the wall for 9 years.

What wall was he facing?

Whose eyes are seeing that wall?

Who are you?


From the perspective of the self, the body and the world are within the mind. In a spiritual practice concerned with gain, even though we try to lever ourself into a different  position, our head always gets stuck.

From the perspective of Buddhism, the mind is within the body. The body is within vast space. But if we do not make this vast space real, it is "Buddhism", and we're just back to the mind again.

When we closely examine our experience Now, isn't that experience like space? Likewise the body; balanced in space, like a windchime. When we experience our breath Now isn't it the dynamic interplay of space 'outside' and space 'inside'? In all these cases, melding, intermingling. They are not the same, and not separate. When we sit down to practice, the space which we occupy doesn't disappear. When we leave, the space does not reappear. We carry it with us. And it us.


Space is both the trope and reality of Buddhism. It makes possible freedom, expression, experience and unfolding.

When we start to practice, we can't find space anywhere. Our mind feels Ike a mass of disgruntled demons, packed into a cellar. One part moves, and the rest move, in reaction.

We might imagine space in Newtonian terms, or as an absence, but that's not what's meant.

It is both figurative and real. It is not absence. Even though there are many of us in this room, it is full of space: above our head, in front of our heart, behind us. The space holds us.

This space holds all things. But not as something there before being. If there was no space, there would be no life. If there was no life, then there would be no space. If all the fish go, the ocean vanishes. If all the birds go, the sky collapses.

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