Many Flavors, One Taste

Published on August 24, 2015, by in Uncategorized.

Make the final leap into awareness
without the slightest basis for determining
what is spiritual or not,
this bare state with no reference point
is beyond the cage of philosophy.
Rest in infinite evenness.
Experience the true nature of phenomena
as their equalness.


The equalness of phenomena?  What the hell is Longchenpa talking about? Phenomena aren’t equal, they’re utterly distinct and diverse, aren’t they? No two experiences are ever the same. So what is this equalness being referred to here? The suggestion seems to be that those states we conventionally describe with words such as not awake, not mindful, or deluded are essentially equal to those states characterized as awake, mindful or free of delusion.  But clearly the equalness of everything cannot be found in the way things are described conceptually or linguistically. Sadness is undeniably different than (i.e., not equal to) joy just as excitement is qualitatively distinct from boredom. So in what possible way are they equal?

Well, if we look at the nature of experience, we can see several characteristics that they all share. First, experiences are present. Second, they are known. Third, they are by nature dynamic and unstable. And fourth, they cannot be definitively described or characterized conceptually. Experiential moments described as “clear,” while obviously distinct qualitatively from those moments characterized as “confused,” are at the same time equal in that they are both present and known, they are impermanent and they contain infinite experiential depth—i.e., they cannot be pinned down as being one (de)finite thing. Everything that arises experientially arises experientially, regardless of how that arising may be characterized. This is the “one taste” of everything that is spoken of in some traditions. Every experience has its distinctive flavor. No question. But the fact of its presence, the fact that it is here, that is the one taste, the taste of everything.

We can of course practice some technique in order to move from one experience interpreted as unaware or unenlightened to another labeled as more aware, more mindful or more enlightened. But there is another choice and that is to simply notice that experience, regardless of its label, is always present. That is its fundamental nature, to be present, to arise, effortlessly. Everything, no matter how it may be described, is present. Presence need not be cultivated or developed. Presence—the here-ness of all experiential moments—is already the case. It is inescapable. A moment characterized as not being aware or mindful is just as here, just as present as a moment described as being fully awake and mindful. You see? Clarity is equal to confusion; mindlessness is equal to mindfulness; non-recognition of awareness is equal to recognition of awareness; falling away of self is equal to self-identification, not in terms of their distinctive flavors and textures but in terms of their presence, equal in their existence, equal in their impermanence, equal in their indescribability…

And so, we can relax for reality is already here, presence is already present. A moment of boredom or excitement, of sorrow or joy, it is all the ultimately uncharacterizable, indescribable presence of experiencing. That is the ultimate practice, to see the equalness of everything, the non-difference in all experience even as we savor the lusciousness of all its distinctive flavors.

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