Residual Or Phantom Thoughts
In general, humans see something or someone, and react: this is so habitual that it seems unconscious. These seemingly unconscious habits create a personality layer or covering around our being – just like a onion! At the heart of an onion, nothing can be found: it is empty. And just like an onion, we – pure consciousness, pure intelligence – have layers of concepts covering us.
Those who look can recognise this. We experience a feeling, but do not become that feeling by ‘acting’ it out.
Knowing this is not enough however, as the layers are still seemingly present. Note that the word ‘seemingly’ is being used here, as this is not the whole story. Whatever arises is a residue from the past – phantom thoughts which promote strong feelings that we take to be real, living our lives as if nothing is out of order. The whole story is that these appearances will continue to arise until enlightenment, but we now see them merely as a residue of phantom thoughts from our past. This recognition is the meaning of the two truths: we recognise that thoughts and feelings have always been phantoms – residues of the past – and thus we break the pattern of illusion. Compassion – and empathy – is recognising that others haven’t yet severed the chain of habitual patterning.
As we genuinely acknowledge our reactions to our obsessive thoughts and emotions, they gradually subside and we feel more free – liberated, in fact – because we have become familiar with the process. Of course, these feelings and reactions still arise, but now we see them for what they are.
Until enlightenment, they will continue to arise, but gradually we find that they don’t bother us. The observations about things or people are still noticed but do not govern or imprison us.