Essays on mandalas, spirituality and the universe by Peter Patrick Barreda.
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The Pebble and the Wave: The Seed at the Center of the Storm

Only the stillness at the heart of being can be said to truly exist…
all the rest is but a pandemonium of waves.
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Imagine a pebble, a smooth, tiny stone, floating not a millimeter above the glassy surface of a pond. It hovers there, effortlessly, for immeasurable moments. It knows no anticipation, no expectationnothing but the peace of pure being. The pebble is the center as well as the whole, the focus of its entire universe. It is everything, yet it knows nothing, for it has no frame of reference, no "other," against which to be anything at all. The pond is there, serene and still, tantalizingly close, but it enjoys no interaction with the pebble, no information passes between the two. And so the pebble has no awareness of warmth or coolness, darkness or light, not even of the wetness of the water so near to it. In this state there is no action, only existence.

     The center point of the mandala is called the bindu, a Sanskrit word meaning "seed." It is the source, the beginning, the point from which all else springs into existence. In the human mind, the bindu is the birth of awareness, the first moment of sentience when the world around us becomes evident. It is the core of our first memories, our initial perceptions of the world. All living things have evolved as systems of perception—to ensure our continued existence we have developed an awareness of our immediate environment, an ability to process the information we acquire, and the power to act upon that information in a manner that benefits our continued survival and reproduction. At our very core we are creatures of perception. But perception by its very nature is a self-supporting system—it depends on an internal store of prior perceptions against which to gauge, compare and evaluate all incoming information. Therefore, at the beginning of our lives, perception is a new and unstructured system with little or no internal store of memories and impressions upon which it can rely. At this early point our worldview is simple, and in this simplicity we find stability, security and peace. We are the center of everything, rulers of our personal universe. There is little to compare against, with no inconsistencies to upset the status quo. The entire world is the bindu, the pebble, the very seed of being—there is nothing more.

Then, suddenly, through circumstances unknown to it, the pebble shifts the tiniest distance, touches the surface of the water, and rises again to its original position. It is just a quiver in space, a barely perceptible movement. But now everything has changed. The pebble knows sensation, as a drop forms and drips from its underbelly. It knows action, as the force of its contact sends a graceful wave outward across the surface of the pond. Then the pebble moves again. Again it becomes wet and again the wave spreads outward across the water. The pace increases gradually, until a fervent, continuous vibration links the pebble and the pond. After a time the pebble no longer distinguishes between itself and the pond, the waves that emanate from the pebble’s movement come to feel as if they are an integral part of itself. Its world is no longer only pebble, only selfnow there is the other, the circular waves that surround it. And by assimiliating its perception of these waves into its self-image, it maintains a delicate sense of wholeness. The pebble feels secure in its world of center and circle, a pure mandala of peace and symmetry in the formless expanse of space.

     Over time, however, as more information is perceived by the sentient being, processed and stored in its mind, the mandala that defines its world becomes more complex. Inevitably it will take in information that conflicts with prior information, or with the beliefs it has formed based on prior experience. As these elements clash, the sentience must adjust to the conflict. Its beliefs must inevitably change, just as the paths of two particles must change when they collide in space—the sentience can alter its beliefs to include the new information to some degree, or it can buttress its existing beliefs to better resist the conflicting element. Either way a change has occurred. And what determines the direction of the reaction? All the prior beliefs that have come before. And what has structured  those prior beliefs? The beliefs that came before them. There is also a pre-existing pattern to factor in—the genetic tendencies we have inherited from our ancestors. These internally coded messages affect our reactions, our talents, our aptitudes. They instill our behavior with statistical tendencies, actions or positions we are likely to take.  But even they are at the mercy of the never-ending motion of the waves. They form a foundation, certainly, but it is a structure that is continually being re-molded by its environment. The waves of perception that come into contact with our awareness create our beliefs, manipulate our genetic tendencies and shape every single aspect of our being. It is an endless onslaught of perception and evaluation. We are born into safety and simplicity, and gradually grow into a world of uncertainty and insecurity. From here is born the ego, which struggles in vain to return the Self to that peaceful bindu that it remembers longingly from its own distant, mythical past.

The pebble senses the waves that bounce back toward it, and slowly it perceives other patterns in the waveform. It realizes that there are other pebbles in the world, pebbles whose waves are intermingling with its own, creating new, distorted shapes. The pebble’s world is no longer composed of perfect circles, of simplicity and stability, but rather of the clashes between other circles and its own. Its worldview is forever altered. Where before it knew the peace of simplicity and the security of stability, now its world has become increasingly more complex and chaotic.

     The ego is the original sensation of Self, long lost in the complex waveform of the universe. It is the basic structural foundation of an early sentience that feels it has been overwhelmed by its own existence. It struggles endlessly to find itself amidst the chaos of the world around it, and to re-emerge as the center of the maelstrom. The ego searches endlessly for that forgotten paradise, the bindu center from which it was forcefully but inevitably cast out. The irony lies in the fact that this much-sought simplicity does indeed exist, that in actuality it is an accurate and ultimate picture of the universe before and beyond the apparent chaos that surrounds us. But it cannot be arrived at by the ego’s method of conflict and conquest. Rather it is a matter of release and acceptance, openness and realization. It can be achieved by focusing less upon the waves that batter us, and more upon the pebble’s heart, where peace still resides, forgotten in the cacophony of the world.

In time the pebble learns to adjust its view, to perceive these new patterns and to apply meaning to them. To arrive at these meanings it has no other tools than the perceptions it has acquired during the brief tenure of its sentience, when it first knew sensation and conflict, evaluation and re-evaluation, and the varied combinations of these elements and effects. It has registered and retained these perceptions that build upon each other in its mind, forming logic structures that it considers irrefutable and absolute. In this way the pebble gradually develops beliefs and opinions, and these internal processes are all it has to work with in its ongoing relationship with the world of other pebbles and waves. Since the pebble has come to view the waves that surround it as essential to its own identity, it now considers all of these sundry viewpoints that it holds to be defining elements of its being. It has allowed the chaotic, ephemeral waves of the universe to define its Self at the expense of the security and solidity of the stone that is its essence. Forgetting its true nature, it has lost sight of the center, of the peace and stability that it holds so deep within.

       Every opinion that we possess, every belief that we hold, every reaction we have to the reactions of the world around us, are determined by the patterns of the waves within us and without. Our thoughts themselves must be seen as internal waves, as the effects of previously assimilated waves bounce around and mingle unceasingly in our minds. Every thought we have is determined by a combination of previous thoughts and the external waves that affect them. This endless series of waves creates a tempest of sound and fury, of instability and sensitivity, of defensiveness and fear. Against this chaotic, unreliable backdrop we form all of our opinions and beliefs. Upon this ever-shifting structure of endless impact and recovery we base our actions and our responses to the actions of others. Every one of a person’s thoughts and actions are determined entirely by an internal state that itself has been determined entirely by a series of prior internal states, going back to the original bindu state. Thus our every motivation is guided by a precipitous plunge along a rivercourse of history and accident. Ambition, charity, insecurity, compassion—all of our mindstates of are determined by mindstates that came before. Our very being is determined by who we were yesterday, much more than by who we are today.
          To feel capable of judging a person or their actions is to mistakenly apply an illusion of intention onto the wave effects emanating from that person, when in reality that person’s waveform is only the result of its own waveform history. It is important to realize that there is no original action in the world, only reaction to perception. Everything that you or anyone does or thinks or says is a reaction to a perceived wave pattern. This is crucial because it shows us that what we are reacting to is not another person’s intentions, but rather to that person’s reaction to some previous reaction to something else. Furthermore, our own reaction is governed by our internal beliefs, which are simply a progression of continually evolving belief states. Every given point in time will find one’s belief state at a different stage. Yesterday your beliefs were subtly different from today’s, just as they will be from tomorrow’s. This endless evolution of our belief state is the growth of the intellect—it is learning, analyzing and adjusting. But it also means that our reaction to a given piece of information will vary over time, that last year’s reaction will have been different from next year’s. We display an incredible arrogance and shortsightedness in our certainty that the beliefs we hold at precisely this moment in time are absolute and irrefutable. If we are aware that we are always growing and changing, and that in turn our beliefs will change and evolve over time, then we must realize that what seems illogical today might make perfect sense tomorrow. Therefore inflexible judgment of another person is mistaken because we are attempting to apply our own rigid categorization upon another’s amorphous and ephemeral waveform which possesses no fixed structure of its own. Furthermore, in order to create that very judgment we are utilizing our own internal waveform, which itself is as impermanent as the clouds.
     Yet this is the way of the ego, it is the instinctual urge to minimize or eliminate the effects of others’ external waveforms upon our perception. If the ego can belittle another person, then it feels it is just  a bit closer to its original state of security before it was aware that "others" even existed. If it can raise its own self-esteem by participating in activities—games, relationships, professional endeavors—at which it can excel or which it considers beneficial, the ego once again finds itself closer to being the center of its world. Why do we tend to enjoy games we are good at and dismiss or dislike games in which we show little ability? Because the ego needs to feel great, empowered, valuable, reaching ever closer to that ancient bindu center. However the ego is very cunning, and can approach the matter from an infinity of angles. For example, say you play chess for the first time. You may feel bad because you don’t understand the rules, or inadequate when you quickly lose the match. But the ego may take this as a challenge and continue to play and even to lose, not because it desires the sensation of defeat, but because it has set a goal that it will one day master the game and become victorious. Still we see the ego seeking victory, self-importance, and a return toward the center it has lost. When the ego achieves this momentary success it believes it is that much closer to the center, the bindu that was once its home. But success of this nature is short-lived, and the urge to repeat it is an emotional addiction. Of course, the machinations of the ego are not conscious intentions—we do not actually think these things as we go about our day. We do not consider these impulses when we criticize others or cheer for our favorite sports teams. But that is why we do it, nonetheless. Nothing that we do is done without a deeply hidden purpose, even when some other, lesser purpose seems more obvious. This is important to remember in relation to ourselves, as well. When we react harshly to someone, or when we behave in a way that we later regret, we must remember that it is not our intention that is malicious, rather it is our ego acting unchecked. The waves of the world are exercising too much influence upon it, and it is this that we must try to control. After all, the ego is a scared and battered child struggling to stay afloat in the world’s endlessly crashing waves, and every one of its actions, from malice to compassion, is governed by this overwhelming effort.
     To understand this underlying impulse is to achieve a profound insight into the motivation behind all human behavior. Once we realize this, how can we feel anything other than sympathy and compassion for the entire world? When we have truly understood this phenomena and all its ramifications, we will instantly lose the desire to judge, to hate, to feel anger or resentment. Indignation will evaporate and in its place will grow open-hearted acceptance. Be not too critical of others, for their actions are merely re-actions to the inescapable flow of the waves that preceeded them. And be not too arrogant, nor too certain, of your own position, for it too is little more than the result of the waves that surround you and carry you along the watercourse of your life. In this way we will inevitably regain our original state of universal connectedness—we will see the ego’s eternal quest for the long-lost bindu as futile and unnecessary. Rather than struggling to separate and diminish, rather than judging and dominating, we will be compelled to join with the cosmos, to help our fellow beings, to love unconditionally and to forgive all trespasses against us.

The pebble retains the knowledge, however deeply hidden, that its essence lies within itself rather than in the waves that have become absorbed into its self-identity. The sensation of the waves that batter and caress it are an intensely addictive experience, because whether they result in pleasure or in suffering, the very act of feeling them anchors the pebble to a point in the universeany point at alland that is preferable to the insecurity of having no solid place on which to stand in the cold, dark expanse of psychic and physical space. But the ego’s external search for the security that we feel we lack is mistaken, because there is no firm footing to be found in the ephemeral fluidity of the universe. The only security we can know lies deep in the core of our being, before experience, before ego, before everything that we mistakenly think defines our Self. That security is not accessible through any conscious action, only through the mystical introspection that links us with the very fabric of the cosmos. Upon finding that point within, the original bindu of our spirit, we will discover that it intimately connects us to the essence of wholeness and being. In this way the pebble can recover its original stillness, the eternal peace from which it was unwillingly thrust. The waves come against it, without mercy, without rest, but they can not truly corrupt its essence, its bindu self, which forever retains its integrity despite the chaos that swirls eternally around it.

     And so we must remember to be the pebble, not the wave—to make an effort to see beyond the illusory chaos of the forces that continually threaten to engulf us, and to rediscover the identity of peace and stability that lies at the core of our being. We need no longer seek in desperation for that long-lost bindu state, for it was never truly lost. The essence of the pebble is always with us, its eternal peace residing at the very center of our spirit. To recapture that peace, we need only look mindfully within.

June 22, 2007
by Peter Patrick Barreda, material copyright 2009, all rights reserved


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