what does it mean to be “radical”?

We use the word “radical” in many Buddhist phrases like radical acceptance. Radical indicates the change in our view from the upside-down perspective of ordinary consciousness. The ordinary mind sees the world as solid, independent units and existing in linear time. We see the story of our lives and the fact of our birth and death as solid, incontrovertible fact. The Buddhist perspective uses the word “radical” to indicate a view that see the world as impermanent, always changing, and where all things inter-be which especially changes the idea of a self and other. Radical means to be empty- which is, not a nihilistic nothing, but empty of inherent independent existence.

Our minds constructs an upside-down world through our mental representations in 3 areas:

  1. We construct a self and a personal identity and have a very reactive grab around what we get and don’t get in this life of ours based on our individual desire system.
  2. We represent external phenomenon and construct an out-there world. We construct an inside and an outside and project a world around us based on our psychological states.
  3. We construct time and clocks in consensus reality and then believe them as solid which makes us very anxious about our schedules, our achievements, and the idea of a life span.

As our constructions are very, very strong, no wonder we use the word “radical”! Maturing a Buddhist view in our consciousness is very radical indeed. We start to live from the perspective of “Right view” as the 8-fold path calls it. To choose this new view as your base of operation is quite a change and requires a great deal of letting go and courage but begins to reveal liberation.

But how do we mature a view of life that is neither nihilistic nor attached? This new way of seeing produces activities that are completely vibrant in the present moment. These activities are not subject to our screen of evaluation, good and bad, right and wrong. Their vibrancy stands as is.

Somehow, through our very subtle practice, the particular phenomena that is arising in this moment meets the view of interconnected existence. So we neither have to eradicate our self or the phenomena of the moment; nor do we have to grab onto it through the screen of our personal desire system. It is just what it is: a particular arising in an enormous field of existence.

 A practice I’ve been doing to bring about this integration of the particular and the universe is the “sealing” practice. “Sealing” is taken from the ancient practice of using a chop or a stamp to make an imprint on paper. A famous phrase is to imprint the Buddha seal in the three activities: thought, word and action. When a phenomena arises (an emotion, a sense object, a thought, an action) how fast can I remember to seal it with the Buddha seal of non-substantiality. Can you hit each phenomena that arises with Buddha’s seal? Can that begin to become spontaneous and automatic? Katagiri-Roshi would add, “Then you can take care of each moment as Buddha.”