We identify with what we look like, with our faces. We also identify with the conditioning of our minds, the ways in which we have been trained to think and feel, with values, with habits acquired in our lifetimes, and so on.
But, beyond the conditioned realm is the unconditioned, the unborn, the uncreated, something without form, quality, or quantity. This is where everything ceases, and our abilities to imagine and perceive end.
By speaking in this way, however, we still create images of the conditioned and unconditioned!
For most people the conditioned is all they ever really relate to, the unconditioned remains a kind of metaphysical belief, or some abstraction they might accept. And some do not even consider it. Even in metaphysical doctrine the unconditioned is given conditions. So, we give God attributes; we give God all kinds of qualities which are, of course, conditioned. An attribute, a quality, a quantity, is ‘born’, ‘created’.
We are all very involved with the realm of mortality and what is conditioned is mortal, subject to death, or cessation. At the end of our lives, we shall all inevitably experience death when the body stops functioning, when the heat element dies out and the body disintegrates. A reflection on life is that it is. We can describe life, write poetry about it, try to define it, but what is it? It is like this. Being able to breathe, being conscious, conscious breathing, feeling, is life.
Being involved in breathing, consciousness and feeling, until the body dies, is a lifetime, a human life span.
The tendency of Western materialism is to emphasize the importance of the death-bound conditions, even though we wouldn’t put it like that, would we? We would say we were emphasizing life — life is important. We want to live! How we live is also considered to be important; we feel we should be free to do what we want, to develop and have all kinds of rights, privileges and experiences. Life is the important issue. But life itself means death because we can’t have life in this realm without death. So we begin to question whether there is life after life, or a transcended form of life. Right now, however, what we are involved in is life on the feeling, sensory plane. This is what hits us during this life span, isn’t it? What we are constantly being confronted with is impingement from the conditioned realm. That is what eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, brain and nervous system are all about.
And yet, from the primitive to the present sophisticated forms of humanity, there has always been a sense outside of the senses, or an intuition that there is something beyond, something transcendent. And this is often speculated about, or believed in; we form metaphysical doctrines about, say, a realm after death, or transcendent truth, or the immortal, or the eternal, the infinite. Immortality is something that each one of us can realize but can never prove. We have no way of holding it up, of capturing it, preserving it, or proving it to anyone else. In other words, each human being is quite capable of realizing ultimate reality, immortal truth, and yet not one of us is capable of proving it to anyone else.
If human beings are not encouraged to realize this truth for themselves, they either go to some authority, or expert on the subject, and accept what they say, or they simply dismiss the whole thing as being totally irrelevant to their lives. So we can just dismiss the subject, and this is probably what most of us do. Instead, we get involved in other important social, economic and political issues that we devote our lives to….
…to be continued
Ajahn Sumedho, Direct Knowing