March 14 : Appearances

It is good to remember that whatever our senses come into contact with is simply an appearance. We tend to think that the things we see and the people we encounter are all real, that they are “out there”, existing from their side in the way that they appear to us. But that is not exactly how they are. They are simply appearances arising dependently. They are dependent in several ways: on causes and conditions, on their parts, and on the mind that conceives and labels them. It is good to remember this in our daily life, reminding ourselves again and again that things are not real in the way they appear to our senses. 

Sometimes we have pleasant appearances, and sometimes we have unpleasant appearances, but our pleasantness or unpleasantness is also dependent on the circumstances and on our karma. When we grasp these appearances to be real, the mind starts “proliferating” — that is, the mind makes up stories about them. We think, “This is good, this is bad. This person likes me, this person doesn’t like me. I like this, I don’t like that.” That is the beginning of our struggles with the world. But this whole story, the scenario that causes us so much suffering, is something created by the mind, and it is dependent on the mind. Our mind is involved in creating our experiences. By remembering this, we stop the struggle, and the proliferation of restless and distressing thoughts dissipates. 

While sentient beings appearing to us are mere appearances arising, dependently they still want to be happy. Treating them with kindness is totally appropriate. In addition, treating them kindly helps to create the causes for our pleasant appearances in the future. Try and keep that in mind as you go through the day. Do not make things, people and events so “solid” in your mind. Learn to “play” and relax. 

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