Q. Is it possible when doing this practice of pure-awareness that one could get it all wrong and reduce Buddha Nature to simply the experience of sense-based phenomena? Surely Buddha Nature is far more than just this mindfulness of the world of the senses!
A. It is not possible to practise pure awareness. Practice is what takes you to its threshold. Awakening to pure awareness is the fruit of practice. It is not possible to get Buddha-nature wrong, as you put it, because there is no Buddha-nature to get wrong. In order to awaken to Buddha-nature it is necessary that we train in and cultivate the right spirit of practice. This spirit is not a formula or anything that can be worked out. Rather, it is an attitude of opening up to something that is beyond 'me'. This needs a spirit of surrender to be nurtured, a spirit that is, in my view, the true meaning of Going for Refuge to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. Because of emptiness, Buddha-nature is all that is, both samsara and nirvana, yet also neither. The deepest meaning of emptiness is interpenetration, and it is because of this truth all designations are false, yet there is always love. It is very easy for us to get lost in notions we have about practice somehow reducing reality -in this case termed Buddha-nature -to something akin to a formula or a metaphysical construction. We ought at times to remind ourselves that Buddha-nature would best be thought of as being alive, wise, warm and compassionate towards all living things, and with love for all that is. The all- embracing ever-present truth.
Q. Dear David, Here are two questions for the forum. Thanks: As part of your answer to a recent question you said: 'We can work on fear, which manifests in countless mental and emotional forms, through the correct practice of the path'. Please could say more about working with fear, especially when the fear seems so irrational, e.g., panic attacks, phobias, etc.
A. For Dharma training purposes, trying to work out why we are caught by so much fear can be an unnecessary diversion. It's not usually necessary to get to the bottom of the mental pictures that fear creates and the circumstances that we are caught in, to try and figure it all out. Fear in its 'basic' nature is emotional energy that a lot of the time is very powerful and seems to go to the very core of our being. For the most part it conditions our life and sets the parameters that we are trapped in, and is one of the reasons why so many of us never realise our potential as human beings. There are two insights that we put in place to work with fear. These, when applied correctly, will cause the fear to cease, and the energy that creates it will return to its original nature. The two insights that we put in place to work with fear are familiarity and accepting. The reality of fear is that it can only exist by our habitual reacting to the experience of it. Cease to react, and it will die. It is that simple. Easier said that done, no doubt. The familiarity comes first. To turn away, or run away, or hit out at fear will only feed it, leading it to come back stronger than before. Do your best not to react and begin to become familiar with an experience that you've probably never looked at or stayed with. Stay with the experience, and in that staying with, accept as best as you can without reacting. Of course, this can be immensely difficult to do, if not impossible, but do your best. Develop the strength of mind and body to come back to the experience of fear over and over again. Familiarity will allow you to have the ability to come back more and then, in accepting and containing, allowing it to be itself without you reacting or being carried away. This will starve the fear of the fuel of your emotional reactions, and given time it will fade away.
Q. How important is it to avoid killing insects? I'm usually happy 'rescuing' flies, wasps, bees, etc. when they come through my window, but I have problems with mosquitoes. They want my blood, and their bites are unhealthy. I find that if I don't squash them immediately they hide somewhere in my room and get me when I'm sleeping.
A. As with all actions, it is your volition that is the important factor. To kill because one enjoys killing cannot be wholesome, and will have its consequences. If it is your health that concerns you, then take one of the numerous precautions that are available, that way you won't have to kill them. Or you could reflect on metta and take the attitude that the mosquito has as much right to be here as you and let them have a spot or two of blood. It's very unlikely that you will come to any harm and it will surely give them a few moments of pleasure and fulfilment in a precarious life that is short and full of anxiety.