Response to “How Does Samsara develop?” by Ven Geshe Kelsang Gyatso


“How Does Samsara develop?” by Ven Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

First, please take a few minutes to listen to this video. My response is below.

Through sitting in awareness, emptiness, we can see the five aggregates as a construction of our sense of I, or our Self. We can see that these things are necessary for the construct of the self, but that they are hindered by the Self; this idea of mine or ours, rather than accepting something for just what it is. All of our views are biased by our sense of I. It wants to control how we see and experience the world. But the world exists outside of this body, mind, and spirit. It exists outside of the forms, perceptions, sensations, formations, and consciousness. It exists in emptiness, or “merely emptiness” as Ven. Geshe Kelsang Gyatso so eloquently put it.

Emptiness is easy to see, but harder to understand. I get glimpses of it, but rarely does it stay in sight. There is this type of language that is ultimate, where people constantly ask “who is talking?” to try to get people to realize emptiness. But in order to communicate we must use relative language: “I am talking.” In order to share the dharma we must accept that this relative language is necessary. I struggle with it when writing these notes because in my experience of meditation and contemplation, there is no “I” contemplating. The thoughts are just coming and going and Awareness is watching. But, to put that into words, I must use these terms. It is the only way we can learn from each other.

Experiencing life through the five aggregates and the senses is like living through a kaleidoscope. It’s hard to make sense of what is there, and in order to understand our lives and their place in it, our awareness creates these words like “I” “You” “Other” “That” “This”, and makes us see the world as duality. For me, it was very hard to let go of these terms, and now it is very hard to accept their use and importance.

Samsara, to me, is necessary, and expected while we are in these bodies. Ven. Geshe Kelsang Gyatso seemed to be saying that the five aggregates create suffering, but I’m wondering if it isn’t a little give and take. The cycle of samsara happens, always. It happens whether we are here to experience it or not. The fact that we see it as suffering is what causes us to suffer. Perhaps the five aggregates are not merely to blame, though they make us seem separate from it, and therefore as though it is happening *to us*, rather than around, through, and within us. It is happening *as well as* us. How we perceive it is what changes it from just an experience to something external and offensive.

I think what Ven. Geshe Kelsang Gyatso was trying to say was that when we realize emptiness, when we can step back out of our sense of I and see the world as a process rather than a fixed entity, samsara starts to break down and becomes merely a part of that process, which is soon to change.

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