Discourse on the Dharma Seal
from a talk by Jim Roseberry (Spring, 2013)
What is the essence of this discourse in which the Buddha identified the Dharma Seal as the Three Doors of Liberation: emptiness, signlessness, wishlessness. To answer this, and be liberated, we are asked to look beneath the surface appearance. Our notions are subjective. Our world is constantly changing. It is interdependent. Getting stuck in appearance is an invitation to suffering because it may lead us to make choices that run counter to the best and most compassionate understanding of our world.
To start with “Emptiness,” shunyata. The package with which we come to the world known as the Five Skandhas – body, feeling, perceptions, mental formations and (the container of all these) consciousness – all empty! It is easy enough to see how our senses deceive us and how our mind constructs notions that are incomplete and limiting. Without the Dharma Seal to guide us, we are clinging to the surface only, cut us off from deeper realities which allow us to nourish the good seeds which are the foundation of a joyful existence.
Take this chair I’m sitting in. It has a form: a simple object made of metal and cloth. It may incite a feeling: pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. If I sit in it, I may have the feeling of being comfortable or uncomfortable. Perceptions may arise: the chair is utilitarian but not elegant. Mental formations yield a more elaborate narrative: Why did we buy it? Was it cheap? Finally, all this information comes via the seeds in one’s consciousness –that vast “storehouse” holding the seeds which were created by the activity of the other four skandhas. This might well allow us to spin a further tale about the chair. No, our thoughts are not new.
Why are these notions “empty”? As we peel away the surface, we may recognize that a different reality exists. In its core molecular structure, the chair is in constant motion. Imagine what it will look like in 500 years! That is why focusing on the surface appearance of the chair as if it were a permanent fixture, accurately described by one five-letter word, misses so much. We are asked by the Buddha to be guided by the Dharma Seal of the Three Doors of Liberation and to look deeper.
“Signlessness” is the second door of liberation. Everything manifests by means of a sign, a marker, an appearance, and it is easy to get caught in that sign. Language is a highly useful tool for making sense of our world, yet words may become static representations of a dynamic and inter-related world. Start with words, but go deeper. Stop. Look deeply into appearances. Am I sure?
“Wishlessness” is the third door of liberation. It means not grasping at things, not running after things, not wishing for this or that, rather than appreciating what is there, the wonders of the present moment.
SnowFlower relies on your donations to support one another in the practice of mindfulness. Please consider making your financial contribution to SnowFlower. You can choose to make a one-time gift, an annual, quarterly, or monthly donation. If you are able, we encourage you to donate $3 per week, that’s $12-$15 per month, or $39 per quarter. Be sure to complete the Optional: Use this donation for, so we know where to credit your gift.
Day of Mindfulness on Election Day, November 3
- A practice period at 7 – 8:30 am
- Walking meditation in the mid morning at Mickey Joe Smith’s farm near Black Earth. Click here for directions. Mickey Joe will have a fire with chairs for those who can’t do walking meditation. Tea will be provided.
- The weekly Inquiry session with Open Door’s guiding teacher, Flint Sparks at 12:30
- Snowflower Sangha’s practice gathering at 7-8:30 pm.
- Monday evening with Sharon Salzberg – Stability in the Storm. Pre-registration required.
- Open Door’s Wednesday Metta practice.
Listserv Moving to Google Groups
Yahoo will be discontinuing its listserv, Yahoo Groups, on December 15, 2020. So, SnowFlower is moving its listserv to Google Groups on November 28, 2020. If you would like to continue to receive SnowFlower e-mails, please complete this form.
Note: Just as you did not have to have a yahoo email to join the group, you do not need to have a Gmail account to join the group.
We ask you to do this as soon as possible and before November 21 to give us time to upload the list to Google Groups. We will send you a reminder before that date. You will be able to request access to the listserv after November 21, but you may miss a couple of emails.
Please be sure to indicate whether you only want emails about SnowFlower Retreats or all SnowFlower emails.
All meetings will be via Zoom until further notice. Please help us to create the container for our practice by acting as you would walking into the Friends Meetinghouse (not eating or finishing tasks after you have signed into Zoom). Join the SnowFlower List Serve to receive e-mails containing the link for each of the meetings. To receive SnowFlower emails, please sign up for our Yahoo! Group by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday Night Sit Time: 07:00 PM
Wednesday Afternoon Sit: Time: 1:30 PM
Friday Night Sit: Time 7:00 PM
Sunday Morning Sit: Time 10:00 AM