The following is an extract from Mindfulness Meditation and The Art of Reiki, which will be published in July 2022.
In what is widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest philosophical texts called The Fundamental Treatise on the Middle Way Called ‘Wisdom,’ the teacher Nagarjuna stated that if we were to search for the Buddha, we would not find him within the complex of physical, mental, and emotional attributes that we would recognize as the Buddha. But the Buddha is not to be found anywhere else other than within that same complex of physical, mental, and emotional attributes that we would recognize as the Buddha. These attributes (or aggregates) are not in him, and he is not in them. So, the question must arise: what Buddha is there?
As we contemplate this and apply the same principles to everything in existence, we can begin to see that everything without exception is empty of independent existence. Everything arises or comes into existence only on the basis of its dependence on the arising or coming into existence of other things. Our realisation of this state of emptiness or shunyata is our realisation of wuji. This emptiness or wuji is simply the play of energy that gives rise to all forms. When we begin our journey of realisation through a development of the mind of wisdom, which operates not on the level of intellect but as a deeply felt experience, then healing and liberation from suffering must naturally follow. We can see then that in a sense our healing journey with Reiki is one towards the realisation that as we engage in the healing process there really is no independent “I” to heal.
So, if there is no “I,” who is sitting here reading this book? Who is this writing this book? And who is it that gives and receives a Reiki treatment? We could take the view that like the Kabbalist, Kalman in Rabbi Lawrence Kushner’s Kabbalah: A Love Story that there is only God and that we are just aspects of this divine presence:
“In this model, God is… a big circle.” He drew another big circle on the place mat, but this time he drew the little circle inside the bigger one. “The little circle, here, still represents you, but see, it is within the big circle of God. You would call this mystical monism. It’s all one and it’s all God. God is simply all there is. And therefore, the separateness of anyone or anything is illusory because everything is a manifestation of God. God is the ocean, and we are the waves.” (Kushner, 2006)
What we have here is a description of how duality and oneness are co-existent. There are no waves without the ocean, but the ocean is also defined in part by the waves that play across its surface. We can say that there is no “I” whilst asserting with just as much conviction that here “I” am and being right on both counts. We can say therefore that there are two ways in which we can view the concept of “self.” The first is that there is a living breathing being, the one that we are very familiar with who is reading this book, that has ambitions, goes to work, is a mother, father, brother, sister, son, daughter, office worker, taxi driver, watches TV, engages in spiritual practices, grows old and eventually dies. This is the self that sits and meditates and if this self did not exist, there would be no point in meditating or practicing any kind of spiritual method at all as there would be no self to benefit from it. When we contemplate our body or our mind, we discover that we are not our body and that we are not our feelings or thoughts and nor are we our memories. The search for an independent “I” separate from all personality characteristics continues and we find that in the end there is nothing that we can pin down as being the thing that owns the body, the mind, the thoughts and emotions. And so, this notion of self gives way to a second version of the concept of self.
This version or different understanding of self we can see from our previous analysis is completely devoid of inherent independent existence and that the “I” that we experience is dependent on the coming together of various components which are themselves likewise dependent on the coming together of other attributes such as our thoughts, predispositions and the labels that we give ourselves (names and definitions such as “intelligent,” “carefree,” “disorganized,” “eccentric,” etc.) and various other identifying factors. Everything arises as a consequence of certain energetic attributes of the Universal Energy Field coming together for a time before they once more pass into the void from which they came. This is what happens when we die.
Sometimes our identification with “I” is quite nebulous. We might remember a time when we won an award or achieved something great. In circumstances such as these, we have a concept of the self, but we are not relating this to the body or the mind but some overarching concept that perhaps embraces these things but is inclusive of much more than just these aspects of our being. The self in this instance is more than the sum of its parts. But where is this self? Again, we cannot find it.
When the Buddha was asked quite directly if there was such a thing as the self, he refused to answer. When he was asked why, he refused to answer that question also and said that to waste time trying to figure out if there is or isn’t a self is simply to engage in two extreme forms of wrong view that makes spiritual practice and progress impossible. In answering the question of whether there is a self or no-self, whatever the answer, suffering would inevitably follow. Whether we identify as a separate being and cling to the idea of an independent and separate existence or whether we identify as non-self and cling to the idea of expansively merging with the ocean of oneness, there is still the problem of clinging.
A couple of years ago one of my students in Cairo came to me for a Reiki treatment because she had a particularly stressful business trip to New York coming up and felt that Reiki might help to settle her mind and reduce her stress. Early in the treatment, I placed my hand over her Third Eye chakra and dropped into an open awareness meditation which became incredibly deep as a consequence of the interaction of my awareness with the flow of energy.