Wisdom In A Thinking Mind
We have to be honest about our capacity.
This is about seeing the obscured, programmed mind, and using this very programmed obscuration to realise wisdom. “The programme shall set you free!” 😀
When we first start to meditate, we have to tame the mind. It’s a little like boot camp in the army; train, train and train some more. This is so that we recognise what is happening in the mind and how much we cling to, hold and fixate on those thoughts that turn into negative emotions, traumatising us and creating a personality that sentences us for life. So we sit and watch the breath, and cut through these thoughts arising, breaking out of this ensnarement.
Once we become familiar with this process and technique, we are now in control, but this isn’t wisdom yet. This practice – called shamata – is still an antidote, a temporary measure, as thoughts and emotions will return, and we have to watch the breath again. So far, so good.
Now that we are familiar with what is going on, we can relax the ‘boot camp’ approach, but return to it when the mind is overtaken by thoughts. The nature of thoughts is emptiness: they have no inherent existence of their own, but are just memories, projections and judgements. They arise within the nature of mind which is emptiness – aware but empty, being pure and uncontaminated.
Wisdom is the realisation that both thoughts and the nature of mind are empty. The moment a thought (or emotion) is recognised in the emptiness of mind, that ‘clang!’ reminds us of the empty space in which empty thoughts arise.
We are now using the programmed mind to acknowledge emptiness.
Nobody can pull the wool over our eyes ever again!
Here is what Tilopa said.”It is not by appearances that you are fettered, but by fixation on them.”
Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche: “It is not what you experience that causes confusion; it is your fixation on the experience as being inherently what it appears to be. Therefore, only this fixation need be relinquished, not experience itself.”
“The nature of thought is the dharmakaya (emptiness). If we are capable of looking directly at the essence of thought, then whatever thought arises is self-liberated. If we can put this into practice, there is no need to try and remove thoughts or abandon them in any way.”
The paragraph below is from the instructions of Gampopa, and is followed by a commentary by Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, concerning the ten things not to be abandoned:
… “The fourth thing not to be abandoned applies mainly to those with realisation. Mental afflictions are the indication of wisdom, and therefore need not be abandoned. The presence in our experience of stupidity, aversion, pride, desire and jealousy indicates the presence in our continuum of the wisdom of the dharmadhatu, the mirror-like wisdom, the wisdom of equanimity, the discriminating wisdom and the wisdom of activity. Since the mental afflictions are merely the display of the wisdoms that are their essence, someone who has the realisation to experience these directly need not abandon them.
“It is important to analyse this statement because it might seem very strange on the face of it. Just a few minutes ago, you were told that you must definitely abandon mental afflictions, and now you are being told that you don’t have to abandon them. This is not a contradiction, but a demonstration of the difference in the maturity of practitioners at various levels of the teaching.
“The approach for beginners, in which it is necessary to abandon mental afflictions, is like the need for stairs. Someone who doesn’t have wings and who wishes to get to the second floor must walk up a set of stairs. The process of walking up the stairs is like the process of subduing mental afflictions. Someone who has wings, like a bird, doesn’t need to use stairs but can fly directly to the second floor. Having wings corresponds to having the realisation to be able to implement the profound wisdom of secret mantra. Thus, these two pieces of advice are not contradictory, but are directed towards individuals at different levels of practice.”
It’s clear to see that we have need of a teacher to take us from one level to another, to be able to see the differences clearly. Their role is not just to teach us ‘something’ , but to help us refine our understanding, experience and realisation. Doing this on our own would be extremely difficult, and is not without the risk of arrogance.
It is for this reason that, in Tibetan Buddhism, the teacher is so important.