Samsara and Ego-Clinging

But now I must tell you one or two things. In the mind of everyone, of every living, sentient being, there is a fundamental nature or ground, the so-called sugatagarbha. This is the seed of Samantabhadra, the seed of buddhahood. Although this is something we all have, we do not recognize it. It is unknown to us. This ground, which is our spontaneous awareness, has been with us “from the beginning.” It is like a mirror. When someone with a happy face looks in a mirror, the reflection of a happy face appears. When someone with a sad face looks into it, a sad face appears. The primordial ground is just like a mirror. The reflection of a person with a happy face looking into a perfectly clear mirror, the primordial ground, is like Samantabhadra, who awoke to his ultimate nature. Samantabhadra, it is said, “captured the citadel of the primordial ground, awoke, recognized his own nature, and was free.” But we ordinary beings fail to recognize this nature, the mirrorlike primordial ground. For us, the situation is like someone with a downcast face looking into the mirror: a sad reflection appears! This is precisely what happens when, through our habit of samsara, the primordial ground is transformed into the so-called alaya. A subtle ego-apprehending consciousness emerges from it, and the sense of “I” and clinging to “I” manifest. When this happens, another mental state occurs, projected outward onto objects, which are perceived as being outside and separate from the mind. The primary mechanism of “I-apprehension” may be compared to a house with six doors, corresponding to the six consciousnesses. This is how it works: “I-apprehension,” the thought of “I,” expands into other mental states. Thus a second thought arises and is projected (let’s say through one of the doors of the house) toward various patches of color that are the objects of the visual sense. After this, there is a thought of recognition: the object is identified and named as this or that. The apprehension of the characteristics of colors and so on, grasped as outer objects, is the definition of visual consciousness. Similarly, a consciousness projects onto objects of hearing, so that we hear sounds. Then other, even coarser, thoughts develop and run after the sound, recognizing it as this or that, this word, that word, apprehending it as pleasant or unpleasant. The coordinator of these thoughts is the auditive or ear consciousness. Then there is a consciousness that projects out, toward objects of smell. Steadily adverted to, these are apprehended as outer realities and are experienced as pleasant or unpleasant, and thus we have the smell consciousness. Again, another consciousness expands out toward objects of taste, apprehended as delicious or revolting, sweet or sour. This is the taste consciousness. Finally, there is a consciousness projected onto the body, the consciousness of touch, which apprehends physical contact, rough or smooth, as the case may be. We can see therefore that, based on the state of mind that thinks “I” is experienced as somehow inhabiting the body, which is in turn regarded as a single entity, the five kinds of consciousness project outward by means of the five sense organs. There are six consciousnesses altogether: the five sense consciousnesses plus the mental consciousness, and it is thanks to these that samsara unfolds. Samsaric activity proceeds apace and we remain in delusion. The root of delusion is ignorance, and the root of ignorance is ego-apprehension, the idea of “I.” Samsara occurs simply because we do not recognize our true nature. It is on account of this “I,” this clinging to the notion of self, that we conceive of “others.” As a result, we enter into subject-object relationships, and these prevent us from escaping from samsara. Because we have a sense of “I” and cling to self, pride occurs. Because we cling to self, anger and the other emotional poisons arise. If we are practicing according to the lower vehicles, we must discard these emotions by the application of antidotes—remedies that vary according to the poisons and sense objects in question. But for us practitioners of the Secret Mantra, only one supreme instruction is necessary, a single antidote that liberates everything. We must acquire a deep conviction regarding the true nature of phenomena. Once again, the root of delusion is ignorance. And what is ignorance? It is clinging to self.