by Ken Kenyo
The word “Cycle,” refers to a process that repeats itself.
Rocks change their state and composition throughout time. This cycle repeats itself in the vast scales of
Rocks begin deep in the Earth as a molten liquid material called magma.
This magma may be pushed to the Earth’s surface through volcanic action.
When the magma cools it turns into a solid that is called igneous rock.
Then, weathering and erosion agents such as wind, water, gravity, and time, break down the igneous rock into smaller and smaller pieces. These pieces are carried away from their original location by wind and water.
Eventually, these smaller pieces of rocks begin to group together into layers. For example, at the bottom of a lake.
With time and pressure, these layers are turned into sedimentary rock.
Forces within the Earth bend, twist, and heat this sedimentary rock changing its physical structure into metamorphic rock.
With time, this metamorphic rock may be pushed deeper into the Earth’s interior where it melts and returns to
its original state of magma.
The cycle begins again.
I would like to make a comparison between Buddhist practice and the life cycle of a rock.
We may discover opportunities for personal improvement hidden deep inside us. This may occur as a result of various activities in Buddhism such as meditation, chanting, contemplation of its teachings, and interactions with Sangha members.
The rock state of magma could represent this condition. Magma moves and flows as a liquid in the center of the Earth. At times, we may find ourselves in this pliable state where understanding, change, and practice requires minimal effort. We can spot an opportunity for change and take it.
At other times, our Buddhist practice may bring to light behaviors, beliefs, or views resulting from years of misconception, illusion, misunderstanding, or mindless habit. Our ego or self-identification may be firmly rooted in these errors. This change can be hard because change threatens our ego. This is where the effectiveness of our Buddhist practice and our personal resolve to follow the Dharma come into play.
This resistance to personal change is similar to the process of Magma cooling into its first solid-state called igneous rock. Countless years travel, and time has resulted in the creation of this hard, inflexible, solid state called igneous rock. This rock no longer flows effortlessly along various routes to reach the Earth’s surface. It is fixed and immovable, unable to change. Our ego may also become less flexible resulting in fixed behaviors
and thought patterns.
It is interesting how the word igneous sounds similar to the word ignorance. Buddhism works to replace our ignorance with the discovery of the truth. It encourages us to go deep within to reveal the mechanisms we have used to guide our lives. It beckons us to evaluate their worth in view of the present moment.
Wind, water, gravity, and time are the environmental agents which break igneous rock into tiny pieces called sediments. These sediments are moved around on the surface of the Earth by wind and water until they group together. Minerals then follow to glue the sediments together. Eventually, this process forms layers of sedimentary rock.
We experience suffering as we uncover our layers of self-deception. You’ve heard of the onion theory. We peel off a layer and cry, then peel off another layer and cry again. Our stubborn behavior or beliefs have been formed mostly through reactionary, subconscious forces. They require separation, and evaluation to understand them. The first noble truth is that life is suffering. This suffering provides us the motivation and
opportunity for change. Justification of our behavior stagnates our progress while humility and surrender enables our growth.
The Earth’s tectonic forces pushing, pulling, twisting, heating, and applying pressure forms metamorphic rocks. Metamorphic rocks are rocks made from other rocks. They exhibit interesting textures, colors, and patterns of different rocks being merged together as one. Like metamorphic rocks, our consciousness is composed of various experiences of life. It is a composition of both conscious and subconscious thoughts throughout our lifespan.
Finally, some of these metamorphic rocks may return to the center of the Earth once again to become magma and start the cycle all over again. At times we feel that we finally understand a concept or have been able to put something into practice. Then life comes along with another experience that shows us there is still more to do and more to understand.
Similar to the life cycle of a rock, life is a process that never ends. Life can also be viewed as a mechanism for personal change. The path of the Dharma continually provides us with opportunities for personal enlightenment through discovery, understanding, commitment, and practice. And, like the life cycle of the rock, this process of enlightenment continues on and on through countless lifetimes.
The triple gems of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha serve as the catalyst for personal growth and enlightenment. Without continued effort in the right direction, we may be caught frozen in a specific unchanging state. Of course, life with its suffering will eventually jar us out of this complacency. But, it is best to encourage this growth rather than being pulled unwillingly into it. With the proactive interaction of intent to follow
Lord Buddha, we can accelerate our progress of understanding and awareness as well as avoid unnecessary suffering. So, the next time you stoop down to pick up a rock, think of the lesson it may have for you in terms of your
Buddhist practice. Buddhism does indeed “Rock!”
Ken Kenyo Sensei is a Lay Minister with Bright Dawn Way of Oneness Sangha. For information about Bright Dawn and the Lay Ministry program please visit our website.