Friday, November 28, 2008

Buddha, Archetypes, and Coloring Books

From Wikipedia:

Archetypes are, according to Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, innate universal psychic dispositions that form the substrate from which the basic themes of human life emerge. Being universal and innate, their influence can be detected in the form of myths, symbols, rituals and instincts of human beings. Archetypes are components of the collective unconscious and serve to organize, direct and inform human thought and behaviour.

The archetypes form a dynamic substratum common to all humanity, upon the foundation of which each individual builds his own experience of life, developing a unique array of psychological characteristics. Thus, while archetypes themselves may be conceived as a relative few innate nebulous forms, from these may arise innumerable images, symbols and patterns of behavior. While the emerging images and forms are apprehended consciously, the archetypes which inform them are elementary structures which are unconscious and more difficult to apprehend. Being unconscious, the existence of archetypes can only be deduced indirectly by examining behaviour, images, art, myths, etc. They are inherited potentials which are actualized when they enter consciousness as images or manifest in behaviour on interaction with the outside world. (November 28, 2008)

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In the religion I grew up with, trying to live in alignment with divine commandments is a pretty central feature. Commandment-style living starts with the assumption of a dictator-god, ideally, a benign and altruistic one. Mind you, I’m not saying that God is so, only that commandment-style living depends on the assumption. If we already hold that assumption, then as we interact with God we come away with commandments.

My experience with God, though, is that while I come to God with a coloring book and nicely drawn lines, God often enough colors outside the lines. When I’m paying attention, sometimes I see the coloring and I see the lines, and I say, “Oh – God has colored a bluebird.” True, when I look a little bit more clearly and honestly, I have to admit that the blue doesn’t stop at the edges of the bird lines on my paper. If I had different lines on my paper, it might look more like a flower. And, truth to tell, if I were to disregard the lines entirely, I’d probably conclude that the blue that God has colored looks a lot more like the sky than a bird. But I have a paper with bird lines on it, and they matter to me, and God has colored things blue, and I find a bluebird.

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I sit in meditation. At home, I sit in a pretty sparse place. No altar, no incense, no statutes, no pictures.

My mind, as usual, flips and flops from one thing to another until jumps aboard a train of thoughts. It rides that rail for as long as it can hide from the “Hey! I see that!” part of my brain. When the mind-escape gets spotted, instantly, I’m off that particular train and back to the space between thoughts until off I go on another one.

Despite the spartan quality to my meditation space, I indulge myself one way: every now and again, when I’m having a particularly challenging time maintaining my focus, I allow myself to slip my mind into the Buddha – I let myself imagine that the “sean”-I drops away and the Buddha-I sees through my eyes. To write it out sounds artificial, and I suppose that it is from a perspective. To write it out sounds magical, and it really isn’t – at least it isn’t any more magical than identity itself.

But when I do this, I find a profoundly still and peacefulness that exists in every moment that I hold this mind-stance. Of course, that usually isn’t very long, as my monkey-mind starts scratching an itch, mentally or physically, until I’m lost once again on an ocean of thoughts.

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Is the Buddha-sense and the stillness that comes from it just God-coloring in and on and over the Buddha-shaped lines of my coloring book? Is there a Buddha-archetypal built into my mind-culture? How does the form of the Buddha in my head make it easier for me to experience peace?