372. The Three Natures

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.