Two Types of Paths

There are two ways we can characterize the process of becoming liberated from bondage:

Process A (pA): The ground/starting point is other than (is different from) the fruit/goal, and the path/movement from the former to the latter has aspects or elements of both.

Process B (pB): The ground is nothing other than (is the same as) the fruit itself, and the path expresses this indivisibility of ground and fruit.

pA can be said to be premised on bondage, with the aim of liberation, while pB can be said to be premised on liberation itself, with the aim of bringing this state to its full measure.

The problem with pA is that because the fruit is different from the ground, it is difficult to conceive of how one thing can give rise to something else that bears no relationship to it. If liberation is utterly different from being bound, it begs the question as to how a bounded state can actually change into a liberated state, without the use of some mediating principle. And this leads to further problems, such as whether or not the mediator itself must be mediated too (thus generating an infinite regress of mediators), and the issue that a path that simultaneously bears opposing qualities (i.e. being both bound and liberated) is contradictory in nature.

pB does not have these problems because the ground and fruit are not different. But this does beg the question as to why it can be said that there is a fruit at all if the nature of the fruit was already existent at the ground; it would seem that any notion of a “path” from ground to fruit would be rendered superfluous. Perhaps we can resolve this issue by seeing ground and fruit as not different but not identical either, which means that the concepts of “ground” and “fruit” are abstractions of the concrete movement of the path itself, which is not bound by the limits of either term. This allows us to make meaningful operative use of the concepts of ground and fruit without making the path redundant and without facing the sort of obstacles that are self-posed by pA.

Clearly pB is superior to pA, but it also seems like it is only practiced by superior practitioners. With those of inferior qualities, still mired as we are by many emotional and cognitive obscurations that pose as obstacles to our bliss and clarity, pA is where we have to start from. pA is a path based principally on a sense of struggle, based on resisting obstacles. pB is a path that assumes the end as the very beginning, where we don’t start from a position of not being awakened but as already being awakened, so in a sense pB can be said to be already “completed” from the initial starting point; the origin and terminus of the path are coincident.

pA is the path characterizing all ordinary sentient beings who are bound to the cycle of suffering and ignorance, and pB is the path characterizing the awakened ones who are liberated from said cycle. Since the paths are nothing other than the mind itself, pA is the mind of ordinary sentience and pB the mind of awakening. pB inclusively transcends (includes and lies beyond) pA. pB is the only true way, the one way all ways must give way to. With this in mind, we should not get too caught up by the way in which pA functions since it is merely a provisional means that we make skillful use of before we acquire the ability to ascend to and abide by the mode of pB.

Whereas from the limited perspective of pA there is a real difference between ordinary mind and the mind of enlightenment, between bondage and liberation, from the greater perspective of pB there is nothing that is not already liberated, no real difference between ordinary sentient beings and awakened ones, no difference between bondage and liberation. From the perspective of pB, it is precisely by aiming to be liberated from bondage that keeps the mind of pA in bondage, and that all one needs to do to be liberated is to recognize that one is always-already liberated!

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