The very first chapter is full of rich insight and wisdom.
Batchelor has structured his book around the three fold scheme of Ground, Path, and Fruition. Those familiar with Tibetan Buddhism will recognize this arrangement.
The idea of ground reminds me of the idea of View.
What is the ground, or the view?
It is not intellectual. It is not conceptual. It is, rather, a new kind of experience. More precisely, it is a direct experience. It is an experience unmediated by concept.
What gets in the way of direct experience?
Two basic habits: aversion and clinging.
The power of grasping and the power of aversion, as unconscious intentions, insert barriers of judgment between the subject and the other. As one brings awareness to these forms of judgment, the quality of experience begins to change in subtle ways. Eventually one can inquire into the very basic habit of seeing the world in terms of subject and object, me and not me.
As the barriers of unconscious intention (grasping and aversion) are slowly thinned out, one might sometimes have moments of very direct experience. The habit of subject grasping object momentarily falls away into the background and the experience is simply of life "just as it is". There is a sense of immense unfabricated wonder, of freshness, and of freedom in such moments.
One basic function of the teacher is to introduce you to this ground or view. It must be pointed out, because it is not a concept that can be learned. It has to be realized in experience. You cannot create this realization. It is more like discovering a window into another world.
Once you have realized this kind of ground, or "tasted it" as some would say, you have a new view, or, a new potential center of gravity. There is a gradual shift from ego relating to the world, to awareness as a background upon which many experiences arise and pass away.
This new center of gravity is realized as an experience, not as an idea, a bit like the difference between the idea of sugar, and actually tasting sugar.
In my experience, there is an oscillation between old centers of gravity, based in ego, and moments of a new center of gravity, being at-one with awareness unfolding. These kinds of experiences inform each other, rather than compete or cancel each other out.
This emphasis on realization is strong in the way that Batchelor is approaching his subject. Essentially he is saying that awakening is the ground of our practice. Awakening is not the end of the story, but just the beginning. The taste of freedom that comes from the view stimulates a very deep motivation to practice, to integrate the view by walking the path.
Here the metaphor of purification is important because it has to do with no longer being dominated by distraction, generated by the unconscious intentions of grasping and clinging.
With this in mind, Batchelor approaches the Four Nobel Truths. Each truth, he says, requires and action. Each truth is a different way of perceiving reality.
The truth of suffering requires the action of mindfulness, a willingness to turn toward suffering in order to investigate it
The truth of the causes and conditions of suffering gives rise to the natural action of compassion, building on the understanding of those causes and conditions
The truth of the cessation of suffering requires the practice of letting go. Realizing the taste of the view we practice letting go of the habits of clinging and aversion in order to end the repetitive self destructive patterns that are so self defeating.
Finally, it is the formal paths of practice that help to cultivate and integrate awakening and to transform the personality from one of suffering to one of joy at life "just as it is".
I remember the Dzoghen instructions:
Bring the mind home
Release the grasping
Rest in natural great perfection
Dharma is a profound tradition for pointing to the heart of reality.
The path allows for layer upon layer of deepening realization. But realization requires an ongoing practice of releasing, relaxing, and of letting go.
There is a rhythm of letting go and realization, of opening up to direct experience, and of mindfully investigating and bringing compassion to the hardened habits of the heart.
One gradually learns how to welcome more and more of experience itself, without judgment and story dominating. One discovers a wider space for experience to arise within.
Two great masters died at the end of 2015. I mourn the passing of Chatral Rinpoche and Stephen Levine. Each in his own way was a brilliant master sharing deep realizations of compassion and direct awareness and influencing many lives.
Remembering teachers like Chatral Rinpoche and Stephen Levine inspires me not to give up to distraction and to repeatedly turn my attention back to the Dharma of direct experience. May their examples be lamps of wisdom in the darkness of degenerate times and may they inspire all beings to awaken.