In the Yogacara perspective there are said to be three natures: the conditioned nature, the dependent nature, and the perfected nature.
The conditioned nature is the way that the ordinary person sees the world; as constructed of familiar objects, as seen conceptually.
The dependent nature, is seeing everything as impermanent, as interdependent.
The perfected nature is seeing everything as suchness.
The metaphor which is used to explain the distinction between these three natures is the metaphor of a person with cataracts seeing flowers in the sky. Flowers which obviously aren’t there. In the conditioned nature, a person seeing these flowers in the sky, unaware he has cataracts, will think of the sky flowers as real.
For the dependent nature the person seeing these sky flowers realises that he has cataracts and so he understands that the phenomena of sky flowers, is simply generated by a matrix of causes and conditions. The fact that he has cataracts, the pattern of light playing on his cataracts and so on.
In the perfected nature the person with cataracts understands that the sky flowers are neither real or unreal. They’re not real because they’ve no self nature yet they’re not unreal because all experience is real. That position, where there is plainly experience but where one cannot assert a self behind that experience, or behind phenomena, is suchness.
The problem with schemas such as this is that they can be quite bloodless. It seems that they’re inviting us to understand the world in a conceptual way. That’s very unfortunate because what these apparent concepts are designed to do is to take us into an emotional, feeling position, because that’s where we change.
You could say that in the dependent nature it’s as if I’m travelling through the landscape of my life—like in a train or like a car. I’m seeing my life—but I’m seeing it in a disconnected way. It has a slightly unreal quality to it and I’m not intimately part of it.
For the dependent nature it’s as if in a dream. I’m always running towards something, yet just as I’m approaching it, it vanishes into nothingness.
In the perfected nature I understand – at a visceral level – that all experience is a miracle.