The Doors of Liberation

Starting the new year, we are supposed to come up with our new year resolutions. Pondering them, we are hoping to make our lives happier, healthier, and more meaningful, even prosperous. Living in this world and of this world, there is nothing wrong with these annual practices. Without planning, setting goals and objectives, drawing roadmaps, and creating action items, our lives could never be productive and substantial. Life is a race where we have to aim high and try our best.

It is true to some extent. But it should never be the end and whole of the story. Especially, when and if our motivation is ego-driven, life would be problematic. Regardless of success and failure, we would suffer. We would burn out and sigh, saying life is difficult.

We must set our plans, goals, objectives, roadmaps, and action items. There is nothing wrong with them. Like hunter-gatherers and farmers did in ancient times, we must do our best for our lives. But, it is only one layer of our life’s perspectives. We are confined in the realm of spacetime, form, and self-consciousness. In it, life is inevitably self-driven, feeling that the success and failure binary looks so critical. In it, we believe life is what we drive. Nothing flows. Nobody guides us.

How can we see something beyond such a life prison? In Buddhism, there are so-called three doors of liberation.

In our spacetime confinement, life is inevitably self-driven, substantial, and goal-oriented. These are the key components to make our lives meaningful – happier, healthier, even prosperous, which is still within our spacetime boundary.

Three doors, therefore, are supposed to liberate us from it through the complete opposite of each key component:

  • Selfless
  • Formless
  • Aimless

Be selfless instead of self-driven. It does not mean we need to act like a zombie, but more like our realization that everything we have, even who we are, could be after all the precious grace from God. We possess nothing, even ourselves. We are nothing and yet God is everything. We can never love Him completely; He loves us alone. There is an infinite gap between Him and ourselves, except for His Son, in Christianity.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 3:16

Being selfless, therefore, we can be thankful for everything. Paradoxically enough, we can do our best humbly for anything we face at hand, feeling and realizing the truth that God alone loves us perfectly.

And, be formless instead of seeking substance. It does not mean we have to be nihilistic for anything in this world. On the contrary, we can appreciate the very beauty of this world. Life is beautiful. In Christianity, the world we live in is the totality of His grace, where we are supposed to do our best with our God-provided, precious talents.

Nevertheless, or because of that, everything in this world is as formless as God revealed Himself with His grace and blessings. Everything is beyond our possession. We must never seek to possess them, just like we can never possess God in our end.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

James 1:17

Being formless, therefore, we can appreciate everything in this world in the sense of awe. Seeing it as an illusion, we can contemplate what is beyond such everything – Nothingness, Emptiness, and God within.

Lastly, be aimless instead of goal-oriented. As long as we see our goals (plans, objectives, roadmaps, action items), we can never get out of the realm of spacetime perspective. These are strictly time-bound, where we tend to live in the past and future, instead of the now and here.

Being aimless, therefore, we can focus on things at hand alone. We just do our best for things at hand for now and here. In doing so, we can be in the state of right mindfulness and right concentration.

Moreover, we can be even beyond the “time” of the here and now and can be completely “timeless” – the door of timelessness.

Being timeless means that there are no such things as the beginning to end, but the state of the Alpha and Omega alone. Whether it is one hour, one day, one year, 100 years, 100 million years, even 100 billion years, and more, what we could see is the divine timeless moment of the Alpha and Omega, which is the eternity that God is.

I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.

Revelation 1:8

These three doors of liberation could lead us to see a glimpse of the universe as is. At least, we could see the truth that we are not in the prison of spacetime, not within the self-consciousness, forms, goals, and life and death binaries. These are just a manifestation of the cosmic dance.

This does not, however, mean that we must surrender all the worldly self, substance, and goals, which is impossible. Whether we like it or not, we are not only in this world but of this world. In addition to these doors, therefore, I’d like to place another, which is in the perspective of the middle way (Madhyamāpratipada)

Everything extreme is harmful. Even something good, when and if it is excessive, what we would see are various fingers of self-righteousness, which would lead us to the endless blaming games. There is a lot already.

The middle way could be one of the remedies to make ourselves more reflective, moderate, and kind to others and ourselves. In the middle way, therefore, let us be blameless one another as nobody is perfect in this world and of this world – the door of blamelessness.

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

Matthew 7:3

Life is difficult. And yet, life is still beautiful through these doors of liberation:

  • Selfless
  • Formless
  • Aimless
  • Timeless
  • Blameless

Image by Jérémie Perron

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