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The Skeptical Buddhist: The Cat Yogi Prophecies
Submitted by Robert Colpitts on Sun, 6/24/2012, 10:10am
Good, you came. Probably for the cats, but that's ok, I like cats too. And, yes, I'll talk about cat yogis, but first I have to tell you about a meditation experience I had.
Yesterday, in a meditation class in Washington Heights, I came to an understanding about the nature of mind. I have found that meditation gives my mind space for contemplation, whether I have set the clear intention to contemplate something or not. The previous day, I had started working through Andy Carr’s Contemplating Reality again. In that book, Carr presents contemplations to work with during meditation and an explanation of how to work with them. While I hadn’t gone into the meditation class with any of those contemplations firmly in my mind, I know that I had a spontaneous understanding of one of those contemplations without me asking for it.
Karr quotes from Dzogchen Patrul Rinpoche’s Words of My Perfect Teacher in the first chapter of Contemplating Reality in order to show how “understanding is transformed into realization.”
“Through meditation, as you gain practical experience of what you have understood intellectually, the true realization of the natural state develops in you without any mistake. Certainty is born from within. Liberated from confining doubts and hesitations, you see the very face of the natural state.
Having first eliminated all your doubts through hearing and reflections, you come to the practical experience of meditation, and see everything as empty forms without any substantiality, as in the eight similes of illusion:
As in a dream, all the external objects perceived with the five senses are not there, but appear through delusion.
As in a magic show, things are made to appear by a temporary conjunction, circumstances and connections.
As in a visual aberration, things appear to be there, yet there is nothing.
As in a mirage, things appear but are not real.
As in an echo, things can be perceived but there is nothing there, either outside or inside.
As in a city of gandharvas*, there is neither a dwelling nor anyone to dwell.
As in reflections, things appear but have no reality of their own.
As in a city created by magic, there are all sorts of appearances but they are not really there.
Seeing all the objects of your perception in this way, you come to understand that all these appearances are false by their very nature. When you look into the nature of the subject that perceives them—the mind—those objects that appear to it do not stop appearing, but the concepts that take them as having any true existence subside. To leave the mind in the realization of the nature of the reality, empty yet clear like the sky, is transcendent wisdom.
*Literally, gandharva means “smell eater.” They are mythical beings who seem to disappear as you get close to them.”
(Karr, Contemplating Reality, 2007, 12)
During the meditation session in which I came to a partial realization of this contemplation, I was sitting on a chair. My eyes were gazing down in front of me, so that my gaze rested just beyond the center of a large patterned area rug. The rug’s pattern was such that the center pattern radiated out in the same manner in all four directions.
As my eyes rested on the upper part of the pattern (from my perspective, if the carpet were an open book, I would have been looking just above halfway down the page at the center crease), a vision appeared before me in the carpet. It was a cat like yogi with long fiery limbs and a mean and serious face.
I told myself, “A fiery cat yogi in the carpet must mean I am enlightened!” I got a good laugh out of that.
After I laughed, I went back to my breath, but because the natural resting place of my eyes was exactly where the cat appeared to me, I didn’t look away. What I found was that even when I turned my attention away from the carpet that the cat yogi didn’t disappear! I could not make my mind see the pattern in the carpet as just a pattern (once enlightened, always enlightened I guess). The cat yogi was part of the carpet fibers now!
I’ll let you experience this. Look at this carpet I found on the internet.
Did your mind find any “cat yogis” in the carpet? Yes or no, I would like to direct your attention to an image that I want you to see. Do you see the small, peach-colored, gumdrop-shaped parts of the pattern immediately next to the central diamond? There are four of them, and they point towards the northeast, the southeast, the southwest, and the northwest.
Can you see the little faces in those gumdrops? Look at the image until you see the four faces; maybe you imagine them talking to you. After you feel you have firmly and clearly seen these faces, you are ready for the next task.
Tell your mind to stop seeing the ‘faces’ in the carpet. Force it to only see the carpet, and not the ‘face.’ Furthermore, get your mind to stop seeing those faces as ‘gumdrop-shaped’ and ‘peach-colored.’ Find some way to get what appears to you to just be colors and dots and lines and only be satisfied when you can honestly say that there is not, has never been, and you don’t remember any ‘gumdrop-shaped peach-colored face’ having appeared in the carpet at all, and no matter what you do, you cannot see any of what you saw before. Stop when you can see only the base elements and parts of the carpet with no remnant of ‘face’ or ‘color’ or ‘shape’ anywhere.
Were you successful in stopping the ‘faces’ from appearing? Even if you could stop seeing the faces, gumdrops, and colors in the carpet above, you are going to find it very difficult to stop seeing that arrangement of shining pixels on your computer screen as a “carpet.” Yesterday, I couldn’t stop the yogi cat from appearing in the carpet. I realized because of that that what appears to my mind is a projection of my mind. I mean, we both agree that there are no actual real-life faces in that carpet above, right? There was no ‘actual’ fiery cat yogi in the carpet I was looking at yesterday. It was just an appearance—an appearance that clearly requires a mind to arrange the carpet into a cat-yogi. In addition, I couldn’t stop the carpet from appearing like a fiery cat yogi. What appeared to my mind as a cat yogi was what my mind arranged as a cat yogi, and what my mind arranges is largely outside of my immediate control. Cat yogi, or face, or whatever, what appears to my senses is what my mind creates.
In addition, just as the faces above are creations of your mind, and the cat yogi was a creation of my mind, so too are all appearances creations of the mind. Think of it this way: you can no less stop ‘seeing’ the faces in the carpet than you can stop ‘seeing’ a hand as a hand. But a hand is a collection of cells and bones and atoms and blood vessels and muscles and skin. The same thing happens if you try and stop making your tongue your tongue. Your mind won’t let your tongue go. It cannot see what the true nature of reality is most of the time. It is a conditioned device that creates dreams and illusions. Don’t get me wrong, it is fun to experience the world with my mind, but really, it presents a very pretty picture of what reality is most of the time, it does not present reality.
Well, if hands and faces and cat yogis are not real, if the mind creates its own illusory material, than what is real? And if the mind is conditioned to present illusions, than how do we discover what is real?
I’m pretty sure that meditation and contemplation is first what we use to see the nature of the tricks the mind plays. During that process, the mind might be willing to give up seeing the cat yogi in the carpet. Probably not soon, though.
Nothing wrong with that. Cat yogis are funny. And human is what we are (for now).
PS. After some continued reading and contemplation during the day based upon Karr's book, I have come to understand that the way the mind works is more complicated than I described above. I hope you will excuse the imperfection in my use of terminology and my lack of precision as I discover more and more. I hope you will join me on this journey by continuing your meditation practice routinely.
I think the main question to ask at this point is is it is possible that the image of the 'face' in the carpet is conjured by and believed by the conceptual mind to be one with what the sensory perception experiences to such a degree as to make the visual image that I perceive show a cat? That is, is our conceptual mind so routinely confused that it can change our sense perceptions, at the most basic 'seeing' level? Or is it simply the nature of how dominant the conceptual mind is that even as I speak about this, I cannot get my conceptual mind to recognize that there is a difference between what appears to my senses and what my conceptual mind creates? Is it possible that my conceptual mind is so use to mixing sense experience and conceptual experience that I cannot separate them? Isn't the way the 'faces' appear in the carpet an example of that? I mean, it seems as if the 'faces' are part of the image I see with the eye sense.
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