Thursday, January 19, 2017
Turning the Light Around
In Zen, the most important function of consciousness is "to turn the light around," also known as "to turn yourself about" or "to take the backward step" (Sanskrit paravrtti). But because of the very bifurcation function of our underlying “sub”-consciousness (the manas level of consciousness) that enables us to have self-consciousness, we immediately make a mistake about this pointing out of what we must do if we want to comprehend our nature, our great meaning in life. That mistake is to literalize, objectify, or reify the pointing finger of “turn the light around” and look to an “inside” compared to the “outside.” There is nothing wrong with this, except that we then create objectifications of “inside” and erroneously call our subjectivity our “inside” and vice versa. This is why people mistake Buddhism as a kind of “subjective idealism” when we speak of mind, because they think Buddhism uses the term ‘mind” to mean subjectivity, when that is not the case at all.
In the Buddhist context, the phrase “turn the light around” means to become free of that fundamental bifurcation of making reality into two sides: the objective-subjective or external-internal. To turn the light around doesn’t mean to turn the light from the objective to the subjective, or to turn the light from the external to the internal; it means to turn the light around from our own deepest mental activity of dividing reality into an objective realm verses a subjective realm, or an external world opposed to internal world. We are taking a backward step that steps back from our instinctive need to polarize and reify our dualistic imagination. When we are able to turn the light of our awareness around from our habitual bifurcation process, our awareness penetrates or “sees through” that veil created by this deepest polarizing activity of our own mind to awaken to, witness, and confirm with our own realization the unity throughout the root, branches, twigs, and leaves of the living universe of awareness.