Our next evolutionary step, according to the Avatamsaka Sutra, is the practice of 10 Abodes: Abode means the dwelling place. In this stage, one actually finds one’s dwelling place. What is one’s dwelling place? It is altruism. It is unselfishness. This is where we are evolving to.
Question (from Laura): Does it mean that if one still has selfishness, one hasn’t come home?
Answer: Dear Laura, that is a good way to put it: being selfish, we are still wandering and wandering.
According to the Avatamsaka Sutra, there are 4 phases in our journey:
1. First phase, we recognize our true home is not our Ego; that recognition is our dwelling or starting place (the Abodes十住 Thập Trụ). It will take a while for us to crystalize this recognition.
2. Then actualizing that consciousness, practicing what is unselfish, altruism, we come to the second phase of the journey: The actualizing phase (the Practices 十行 Thập Hạnh). Our life on this Earth, at this phase, is totally given to the path of altruism and service. By now we are moving from self-centeredness into Non-self centeredness.
3. After every thought and action is completely the manifestation of altruism, then we want to actually bring all living beings home as well. Our mind will stretch to break all mental concepts and barriers, so that our consciousness now is limitless, boundless, and timeless.
We are moving from Non-self centeredness into Selfessness. At this phase, every bit of our energy is dedicated to ALL living beings in the universe; therefore, it is called the phase of dedication (the Dedications 十迴向 Thập Hồi Hướng). There ISN’T a Self that is the center of our consciousness any more, instead, our consciousness is the consciousness of the universe.
4. This is the phase in which we are actually HOME. At this phase, our consciousness is no longer divided or dualistic any more. We realize the Non-Dual nature in all things and BECOME nondual. At the same time we embrace the universe, the cosmos and become the cosmos as well. There isn’t any dualism. There is one Reality only, and that is called Sunyata. We begin our journey when we recognize our Dwelling, but we only arrive home when we recognize this Non-Duality. It is very interesting that this Non Dual nature is not far away, and cannot be found anywhere except RIGHT HERE and RIGHT NOW. We seem to travel full circle! Because of this profound principle, this phase is called the Ground (the Grounds 十地 Thập Địa), the basic and the ultimate stage of our practice. Thus our journey is not directing out, nor directing in, nor directing any where; It is simply the HERE and NOW. In other words, our traveling is like this: self-centered –> altruistic, Non-self centeredness –> Selflessness –> Non-Duality.
Well, I hope my answer won’t confuse you! Let’s walk HOME, ok?