Have you seen the movie The Matrix? The character Neo was determined to find out the truth of his life, he took the red pill to allow the true situation of his existence be revealed. Just as Morpheus explained to him: “You are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else, you were born into bondage, into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch – a prison for your mind. The prison is called Matrix”.
In analogous to Neo’s situation, we are born into this world with an ego (inner image of yourself), which forms certain bias/fix opinions partly from many previous life time’s accumulation, and partly from present life’s education, social convention, family background and living habits etc. This ego interacts with the outside world through five aggregates (eyes, ears, nodes, tongue and body touch). Our mind (the 6th consciousness) then take in these sensations and labels, analyzes the messages and conceptualizes them. The mind then organizes inputs into memory, sorts them out, gives judgment/bias. We form subject image of the “me”/self identity with certain values, who we are, how we think etc. – the little us, the ego (7th consciousness).
Each one of these five aggregates does not have its own nature, is impermanent, fictitious. Although they does exist, they will eventually die out. But we attach to them so much that we defend them, we protect them, we can even kill for them at the expenses of others. Our mind tends to habitually rely our five aggregates to draw conclusion and make decisions. Our desires arise in react to the interactions of five aggregates with the outside world. One desire triggers another, one thought comes after another. Before we realize it, our mind is occupied with cravings/greed/motivations for the outside things we want. Our five aggregates helps us to live the life, alas they are also the faculties that misguide us to our topsy turvy thinking. Our eyes are not as acute as that of eagle, our ears are not as sharp as dogs. But our mind’s attachments to the five aggregates arouse all kinds of mental states like greed(贪), hatred( 嗔), ignorance (痴), arrogance(慢), anxiety(疑), depression, anger – all negative emotions which further turn into our motivation in actions, speeches and volition. The record of every single one of these reaction is kept in our inner most energy storage (in Buddhism is called Alaya – the 8th consciousness, 阿赖耶识), which become seeds of karma (good, bad and neutral)of future manifestation.
Buddha taught us that all phenomenon of the universe arise by causality（缘起性空） – they are impermanent and don’t have a self nature, once the factors contributing to their existence disappear, the phenomenon will disappear as well. The circumstances we are born into are the results of the causality of unaccountable previous life times. Our body is only a retribution body, a body that comes because of the karma we created in the past. This body is not you, this body is not me, our retribution from previous life times is this body, the karmic body. Because the karma is different, the retribution is different. Some are good looking, some are ugly, some are healthy, some of illness prone, etc. We determine our own destiny with what we do/say/think. As that is how the universe operate, Buddha advised us to keep away from bad deeds and stick to good causes (诸恶莫作，众善奉行) in all our action, speech and thinking. We need to watch out for what we think and let go of attachments（善护念 无所住而生其心), because what we pay attention to is what to give energy to. To arrive at a more balanced personality, we need to cultivate the notion that “this shall pass”(平常心) regardless the nature of issues, be it good or bad.
Buddhism is not about worship of God, rather it probes the relationship of phenomena and its true causes, it is about study of our mind, understanding of consciousness, the investigation of wisdom inside and finding the god within. When we bow to the Buddha’s statue, we are in essence taking the inspiration from Buddha, calling on ourselves to purify the polluted senses and wake up the wisdom within.
Buddha told us that the six senses got us in trouble. But we can also train the six senses to lead us into enlightenment. They are just like fire – fire is a good servant, but a very bad master; it can burn you, it can help you. To do so we can start with training our senses to detached from the six corresponding fields of these senses. In his explanation of Diamond Sutra (the Sutra of Perfect Wisdom), Abbot Guan Cheng(观成法师) expounds on the foundation of Buddhism teaching: the importance of morality (戒), meditation (定) and wisdom (慧) for a righteous being as equivalent to the Army, Police and Government for a country. By letting go of attachment – attachments to material desires, authority power, status, we learn to let go of ego(放下), realign it with that which bring us to this Earth plane in the first place(the source), we make progress in our evolutionary journey.
Most people are in fact defined through their singular-ness or their ego, rather than seeing the interrelatedness of all of creation because the false perception of reality mislead our ego to grows out of proportion. Ego binds us with mental afflictions. We thus run into all kinds of conflict with others in serving our ego. That devil is our own mind. The evolutionary of the ego means to redefine it to that which creates creation in the first place – the source. Buddhism teaches the mystery of the truth and how we can align with our true life purpose. It is the study of our mind in relation to others, the study of how to better ourself in relationship to other, how to better other people in order to better ourself.
Buddha instructed us that when we are constantly in seek of outside pursuit, by all means legal or illegally, we tend to get mental afflictions. Happiness /Peace of mind can only be found within: that state of mind is beyond words, beyond conceptualization, can only be get a glimpse of with inner feeling. Monk WuMen in Song Dynasty (宋代无门慧开禅师) well demonstrated that state of mind in the following poem:
Spring comes with innumerable flowers,
and Autumn shines the night with the loveliest moon.
Summer has the gentle breeze
and Winter gives the white snow.
You think each of the four seasons has its unique features that give you moments of peace.
But I say your best season is when you have no obstacle in your mind.