In previous posts I’ve talked about a state beyond the conceptualising mind where the dualism of self and the external world disappears and where the empty nature of matter and the senses becomes apparent. In this state a person does not engage in constant
intellectual thought or to put it another way, does not “tarry in dualism”. This state is
achieved when the egotistical pressure is reduced to such an extent that the person plunges into the “unconscious” which is really the mind manifesting in front of them and which they perceive as the “external” world when in the unenlightened state.
There is an idea in Buddhism that is called non-preference and this idea is considered extremely important in regard to reaching the enlightened state. The following gatha outlines this fact:
“The perfect way knows no difficulty, except that it allows itself no preference. A difference of a tenth of an inch and heaven and earth are thereby separated”.
The reason that preference is such a problem is because it psychologically divides reality in to separate chunks and these chunks are without exception created by the conceptualising mind. We conceive separate physical objects, individual concepts and time as finite chunks. Reality is therefore divided and as such cannot be perceived as “one”. Having created these concepts we then attach to them and develop preferences in the form of likes and dislikes. These preferences keep us chained to the finite ideas from which the preferences develop. Preference therefore limits and enslaves us, locking us in the world of the finite and the world of habits. We like some things and dislike others and become essentially playthings of these likes and dislikes.
We here a lot about “oneness” and “living in the now” nowadays, but there is an important element to “living in the now” that is overlooked by most writers and that element is infinity. The advice to “live in the now” is in some ways flawed because it ignores the fact that “nowness” is actually the perception of infinity. A person cannot live in the now while they still have preference, because preference divides reality in to finite chunks. Infinity is the true “one” because there is nothing outside of infinity, it is all encompassing. Infinity implies no separation within reality and hence no conceptualisation and no preference. To conceptualise one has to divide reality in to individual objects and concepts which the intellect can then play with. But to divide reality is to lose perception of infinity and hence oneness. The intellect is therefore by its very nature confined to the finite and as a result is a hindrance with regard to enlightenment. The intellect is a dividing machine and as such it can not perceive the infinite. It works against the very thing we are trying to achieve.
It is important to discuss something else here and that is the idea of consciousness devoid of self-consciousness. To most people the idea that consciousness can exist without self-consciousness seems illogical. They assume that consciousness by it’s very nature means self-consciousness. This is not true however. Consciousness can exist without self-consciousness because self-consciousness is actually a manifestation of the dualism inherent in human nature. It is the self-consciousness produced by an intellect that divides reality in to chunks and then sets itself against these very created concepts. In doing this it creates a conception of “self” and “other” and destroys the perception of infinity and “oneness”. This is what Buddhists call “soiled mind consciousness”. Self-consciousness is soiled mind consciousness and is entirely the result of false conceptions. One escapes this conundrum by freeing oneself from preference and conception.
So what does it mean to lose all preference? Firstly, the person who is free of preference has no attachment to concepts such as “I like this” and “I like that” or “I hate this” and “I hate that”. To have such ideas means to split reality in to separate conceptual chunks and in doing so destroy the perception of the infinite. The instant we start dividing, the perception of infinity is lost. How can we perceive infinity if we keep dividing infinity in to finite chunks? Secondly, the person who is free of preference has no attachment to time because they do not divide infinite time in to finite time by conceptualising something called “time”. If time is by nature infinite then to divide time by conceptualising chunks of time destroys the infinite. If you want to get a flavour of what is being talked about here, imagine living life without a watch. You would do things but the concept of time would not come in to things. You would not divide the infinite day up in to finite chunks.
The more perceptive of you may be beginning to see, as I have already pointed out in previous posts, that the intellect is the problem here. As already stated, the intellect is a dividing machine that splits reality in to endless conceptual objects and in doing so creates a world of endless multiplicity and division. Because our intellect is always fixed on the finite conceptual objects it creates, it can never perceive infinity and with it the oneness of infinity. To do so we must wean ourselves off preference through a realisation that by engaging in this kind of thinking we divide our world. The instant we conceptualise we divide. The instant we divide we create preference. The instant we have preference the perception of infinity is destroyed. Why work against yourself?
You may now be able to see why Buddhism has over time produced statements such as the following:
“Set the attention on nothing”
“From the first not a thing is”
“Have no preference”
“Stop cherishing opinions”
There is a common thread running through these statements. They are all attempts to stop the use of the dividing intellect and bring unity and oneness by restoring perception of the infinite. Oneness resides in infinity. It does not reside in finite intellectual thinking.