A Story Inspired by the Heart Sutra, Part 5

By Desmond Yeoh SC

Avalokitesvara finally experienced the emptiness of his body and mind, the five Skandhas. When he realised this, He felt a heavy burden being lifted from him. There is no separate self. Everything in the universe is one and the same. There is no separate self who is suffering. There is no separate self who is caught in the cycle of birth and death. There is no death because there is no separate self which dies. In emptiness, there is no death!

He realised that this conceptual separate self is the cause of all problems and suffering. Clinging to the conceptual self leads to selfishness which in turn leads to actions which brings negative karma. Human beings seek fame and wealth because these things strengthen the sense of self; only to realise later on that they only bring about more worries, anger, hatred, jealousy and other negative emotions.

agriculture beautiful bogart village bright

As all things are inter-dependent and intertwined; true happiness can only be achieved through selflessness. Planting positive seeds or karma every day is the surest way of ensuring peace of mind which leads to lasting happiness. He noticed that small villages can see inter-dependence better than cities. The villagers see with more clarity that everyone in the village is important for the well-being of the entire village. Recently, a healer of a small village fell ill and everyone in the village put in effort to help the healer and pray for him. They took turns to look after his needs until he eventually recovered. They understood the inter-dependent nature of all beings and things. However, he observed that as a village grow into cities, they tend to forget about this.

Because there is no self, there is no death. The five Skandhas changes from moment to moment. What humanity sees as death is really a return to the Whole which everything is a part of. It is the return to the Divine. Death is no different from going to deep sleep when the five Skandhas are temporarily suspended. Avalokitesvara clearly understood that his deceased parents are really still alive within him in the form of his mental perceptions, principles and view of life. Even his body contained his late parents. No one ever dies.

The illusory conceptual self tries to reinforce itself through the mental formation Skandha by remembering past events which are highly emotional. Sometimes during meditation, Avalokitesvara remembers how his friends ridiculed him when he was a child. In his mind, he saw himself as a child and relived the emotional pain he felt. This in turn created a strong presence of a separate self. Replaying this memory brings about unnecessary suffering. Seeing that the conceptual self is an illusion, these memories no longer have an emotional hold on him as they are merely past events. He no longer entertains delusional thoughts.

The illusory self also creates imaginary future events which leads to worry and restlessness. These mental formations also reinforce the illusory self. Mental formations of the past and future occupies One’s mind so incessantly that One is not able to see that a separate self does not truly exist.

He now understood why enlightenment is so difficult to understand and explain. Seekers try to attain enlightenment for a separate self which does not exist. It is a futile and impossible effort. For something that does not exist, there is really nothing that can be achieved. There is no attainment for something illusory. The very effort to seek enlightenment for the separate self only pushes One into more confusion. In emptiness, there is no enlightenment. In emptiness, there is no ignorance and suffering. Therefore, there is really nothing to strive for. This understanding brought great joy to his heart because he now understands that behind the delusion of a separate self, everyone is already enlightened!

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