In this final installment of reflecting on the nuances of resolution, I’d like to consider a third working definition ofresolution. By way of review, the first two definitions we considered were: 1. The act of determining upon an action (ie. steadying the mind, seeing things clearly) and 2. The mental state of being resolved.
The third definition of resolution moves us into the territory of what we discover as our meditation process develops.
Resolution: The act or process of resolving or separating into constituent or elementary parts.
In other words, as we stabilize our capacity to look deeply into the phenomenological process of our experience, the foundational building blocks/elements of that experience reveal their nature with sharper clarity.
Years back, I remember flipping through a book by Edward Conze calledBuddhism: It’s Essence and Development. A page caught my eye. There were two columns on this page. The column on the left had the title “Fiction” and the column on the right had the title “Reality”. Under the “Fiction” column was one word: self. And under ‘Reality’ were five words: body, feeling, perception, formation, consciousness.
This elegantly simple chart speaks to this third aspect of resolution, a separation into elementary parts.
In essence, we tend to operate from the assumed position of a cohesively organized self-system. There is the sense of me, the sense of ‘I-amness’, the sense of some continuous entity within the changing flux of experience.
And yet as the practice unfolds, that seemingly solid sense of me is revealed to be the fictitious mirage that it is. Under careful scrutiny, continuity reveals discontinuity, solidity reveals instability. And the sense of self resolves into its elemental bits:
1. Physical sensations
4. Mental fabrications
5. Moments of consciousness
This list makes up what are known as the khandas or ‘aggregates’ that the sense of self clings to in order shore up its illusory claim to stability. However, it’s a losing battle.
We’ll be looking at each of thesekhandas in the coming weeks, but for now, take this list into the meditation process. Look at any or all of them and see if you can tease out the enduring entity that you call ‘you’.
- “Why are you unhappy?
- Because 99.9 per cent
- Of everything you think,
- And of everything you do,
- Is for yourself —
- And there isn’t one.”- Wu Wei Wu
Originally published on January 27, 2012