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Mon Aug 19, 2019, 11:19 AM

How does an Enlightened person view memories and the past

There is a saying from Master ZhouZou that I've struggled with for a couple of years that feels very relevant to where I am in practice:

The master entered the hall and said, "Brothers, simply remake what has gone by and work with what comes. If you do not remake, you are stuck deeply somewhere."


When Master ZhouZhou says "remake what has gone by" he seems to be saying something about how we deal with the past. What is the correct way to view memories? Memories, it seems to me, can yank us out of present awareness very quickly and reawaken the sense of there being a "self." Good memories create longing, nostalgia and attachment; bad memories create guilt and remorse. Does an enlightened person still have memories? Any opinions on "remaking what has gone by" are welcome.

He seems to say this is especially important, because if we can't do this we "are stuck deeply." I notice that I sometimes get stuck deeply by the past, so I want to figure out what he means.

Thank you!

Glad I found this group!

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Reply How does an Enlightened person view memories and the past (Original post)
Mike 03 Aug 19 OP
safeinOhio Aug 19 #1
Mike 03 Aug 19 #6
safeinOhio Aug 19 #8
wasupaloopa Aug 19 #2
Mike 03 Aug 19 #7
Newest Reality Aug 19 #3
Newest Reality Aug 19 #4
Mike 03 Aug 19 #5
Newest Reality Aug 19 #9
Newest Reality Aug 19 #12
wasupaloopa Aug 19 #10
Mike 03 Aug 19 #11
Karadeniz Aug 19 #13

Response to Mike 03 (Original post)

Mon Aug 19, 2019, 11:30 AM

1. What has the past taught you?

I find it nether good or bad as it is what made me what I am today.

Some day I may become enlightened, just not yet.

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Response to safeinOhio (Reply #1)

Mon Aug 19, 2019, 12:54 PM

6. Thank you for your answer!

I owe a lot to my past experience, good and bad.

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Response to Mike 03 (Reply #6)

Mon Aug 19, 2019, 01:01 PM

8. I just happen to be the luckiest man in the world.

Half of it is good luck and the other half bad luck.

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Response to Mike 03 (Original post)

Mon Aug 19, 2019, 11:38 AM

2. I think you should acknowledge that you have a past

But donít dwell on it. By all means there is no right way or wrong way to think about it. Know you are thinking about it without judgement and examine those thoughts.

The future is not here but again do not dwell on it. Know you are thinking about the future without judgment and examine those thoughts.

None of us are enlightened so I would not be concerned with how an enlightened person deals with past and future.

Those are my thoughts about it.

I try to live in the present by watching what is going on without judgement. That is how I practice mindfulness. That is when ever I can remember to do it.

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Response to wasupaloopa (Reply #2)

Mon Aug 19, 2019, 12:58 PM

7. Thank you!

That is good advice. I have difficulty remaining detached from some of the things happening on our planet now and it has cost me in increased agitation and sometimes even anger, which is not a good development. Thanks again.

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Response to Mike 03 (Original post)

Mon Aug 19, 2019, 11:45 AM

3. Good Question

There is a factor of remembering in many teachings along these lines, so it is not about getting rid of memories, per se. In a sense, it the remembering refers to going deeply beyond what is before the memories, or at least it points in that direction. As in, show me your original face before your parents were born.

If you ask what the meaning of "remake" is or what it refers to, you may find some insight into that. While memories feel like they are actual and have a reality to them, I think it is safe to say that they are recordings and not real, even if the mind resorts to replaying them and referring to them in order to maintain the persona. So, in that case, one could actually "remake" memories and perhaps, intensive instruction on that would be useful, (with many caveats).

I would say, though, that the remaking is along the lines of what I just said. It is not so much about the contents, but the process and then what our relationship to memory is. Remake, to me, would be to remember to remember that the present has its tang of direct reality that is tangible and immediate, whereas memories are very much different when compared to that and the machinations of our rather compulsive anticipation of the future we project and take for real in a similar fashion. So, dealing with the nature of memory in this way brings you to here and now as this just as it is and then, the future can also be reconciled in that way.

You could liken memories and their stickiness to karma, though karma refers more directly to actions or what we do. Another way it can be put is as residue or traces, similar to the wake a boat leaves as it moves through the water.

In your mind, how are memories stored and treated? Are they not all "there" simultaneously and merely remembered with a chronological time stamp based on your recollection in the subjective sense? You could just as easily envision memories as a flat, two-dimensional wall with lines and arrows pointing to their successive relationships. Are not memories often evoked by causes and conditions that then ignite a serious of associations that present patterns?

What really cuts to the core of this though is not so much memories, but who or what is knowing them and a simple case of identification involved in the process. You find this theme in both Hindu and Buddhist philosophy and it is expressed in many ways. Logically, is it possible to actually be what you know? If you can know people and things and situations, well, obviously you are not them in name and form. Now, what about the body, mind, thoughts, memories, etc.? If you can know it, you can't be it because the act of knowing implies what is known. This whittles it down to what is the brunt of the investigation.

So, there may be subtle differences, (and one can detail them) in the meanings of liberation, enlightenment, moksha, satori, self-realization, etc., but, for the sake of brevity, I will leave it at that. There is an implication in all that that can be expressed in words, but it is better to encounter that in the right environment and with the aim to find out for yourself because it rests solely on direct experience, not merely on conceptual knowledge and the rest.

I would even suggest to avoid any cut-and-dried definition of those terms without some further study and practice because it really does not good to continue this with any false assumptions and misunderstandings, after all, ignore-ance is both the crux and heart of the matter in this case, as you may already know. I can casually say that whatever you think enlightenment is, it isn't and the same applies to self-realization and liberation. But maybe I say that in jest?

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Response to Newest Reality (Reply #3)

Mon Aug 19, 2019, 12:06 PM

4. In addition...

The simplest way to put it is to inquire within. Really.

You have a ready to go laboratory: your own mind. You are asking questions and gathering tools for that endeavor.

You have awareness, (don't you?) or are you that? When you ask about memories and such, why not look right there in your own lab and put some attention on your own, direct experience? Look, look, and look again until you see into or thru things. I call that radical, subjective empiricism.

Utilize that as a balance to outward, objective seeking in concepts, ideas, philosophies, etc. You can't go wrong when you apply that consistently because it is your own, true nature that is the ultimate answer.

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Response to Newest Reality (Reply #4)

Mon Aug 19, 2019, 12:49 PM

5. So Grateful

Thank you so much. Your answers are overwhelming. Sometimes the posts I make when I'm emotional are not my best posts, so I wanted to think deeply about what you wrote. I'm full of thoughts (not usually a good thing).

There are different ways of remembering.

Sometimes I'm grateful for a memory occurring, sort of like a koan that appears just when you need it the most.

Other times a memory sort of grabs one by the throat, or like being hit by lighting. This is more unpleasant. Then suddenly I'm so solid, with a past, and so much baggage. It feels like taking a step backwards, or I've lost ground in practice and sort of back to square one.

Maybe it's like what ZhouZhou says about time: We can use it or it can use us. Maybe it's the same with memories.

I've also had the strange experience of asking, "Whose memories are these, really? Do they 'belong' to me or do they sort of belong to the universe." Is that crazy?

But I need to really reflect on what you wrote. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

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Response to Mike 03 (Reply #5)

Mon Aug 19, 2019, 01:39 PM

9. Well, you are most welcome!

I am so glad that it was helpful or of some benefit. After all, benefiting beings in the best way we can is the spirit of Dharma.

You are full of questions. That is refreshing and most practical on the Way. It's OK! Continue just as you are. Tat Tvam Asi: That Thou Art!

Another way to phrase what ZhouZhou said is: Do you think your thoughts or do they think you? Are you doing it or is it doing you? Noticing the nature of that dichotomy is a way to recognize the dualism of experience so that it stands out and then, the relationship can also become more evident to the point that you breakthrough about polar opposites in general. They rely on each other and are more like sides of the same coin, so to speak.

Thoughts and emotions can also be said to be two sides of the same coin. When you consider emotions as just a form of energy that is made more complex by the relationship with corresponding thoughts, then that can be a sort of a solvent.

There comes a point that, when you understand morals and ethics, that you can also more confidently observe thoughts and feelings for what they are, just as they are. You can see good thoughts/bad thoughts, pleasant emotions/disturbing emotions in that light and become less compelling. In fact, judging your own experience is alright up to a point, but notice how you then enter a sort of feedback loop and get all caught up again. Noticing more is very helpful!

So, you could say that "remembering your true nature, (prior to all thoughts, memories, experiences, etc.) and abiding there is to pause, reflect, relax, and do nothing but observe them, at least initially, when you meditate to practice that. There is a participatory detachment that is calm and knowing. I just wanted to mention that because detachment, in this case, and from experience, is grossly misunderstood and often subjected to Western psychological criteria.

No, it is not at all crazy, (if you keep your wits about you) to ask those questions. That is an essential part of inquiry. The answers are of more import, of course. And it is not crazy to sincerely and consistently ask yourself who or what you really are. The only reason that can seem to be difficult and vague is that you are digging into a pile of conditioning and habits that have been inculcated into the mind for...oh, who knows how long? Knowing who or what you are is the name of the game, ultimately.

A lot depends on how motivated and earnest you are on the search. That's a good inquiry in itself. There are some hard core teachings that I have found and practiced, but I liken them to walking the shores of existence and discovering a bright, colorful jewel along the way and that is a way to put it without claiming any universal superiority.

Forgive me if you are already aware of these resources, but you might find these recommendations to be jewels that provide you with tips, support and glimmers of insight: Alan Watts, Adyashanti and Rupert Spira, to name a few (all available on YouTube). If you find yourself to be more Bhakti than a Jnana, then Mooji is also worth checking out. The "hard core" stuff may be for later or you will stumble upon it when you are ready. Patience is a good practice and something to cultivate. You are like a lotus ready to bloom and that is not to be forced, but watched and enjoyed.

And of course, there are many volumes of Buddhist sutras, commentaries and practices available on any level that might just fit your style, as you may already know.

Lastly, it is okay to be a DIY type, but if you come across a skillful, well-vetted teacher, (most importantly with a valid lineage) that can be most helpful at some stage because, you may find, all the sutras and books are a door to an in-depth dialogue. I find most Tibetan Lamas to be very knowledgeable and interesting in many ways

Longchen Rabjampa said, "How can a tight mesh of body, speech and mind reach out to touch its indestructible core?"

Tashi Delek
(sorry for the length, but, birds sing, thunder roars, bees buzz and I write too much, that's what I do)

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Response to Newest Reality (Reply #9)

Mon Aug 19, 2019, 01:43 PM

12. Disclaimer:

Take nothing that I have shared with you to be the truth! Take nothing for granted.

It is up to you to investigate, explore and discover the truth yourself and be able to discern it with skillful means and Wisdom. That's job one in this mode. If you don't find out for yourself, what could will any hearsay be in the end? Don't settle for less.

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Response to Mike 03 (Reply #5)

Mon Aug 19, 2019, 01:39 PM

10. An old Hawaiian saying, you eat life or life eat you

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Response to Mike 03 (Original post)

Mon Aug 19, 2019, 01:42 PM

11. Thank you for your responses

So now I am wondering, Maybe it's not necessary to see "memories" as interruptions of the present, but as part of the stream of unfolding, not more real or less real than direct experience. One could even call them direct experience, the way a dream is a direct experience, even though we think of it as being different. There is much to reflect on!

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Response to Mike 03 (Original post)

Mon Aug 19, 2019, 06:17 PM

13. We've all had bad experiences. Can you now find any good that you can chalk up to that

Experience? Or are you stuck in bitterness when you recall that event? That does no good for you.

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