Stillness of Mind and Stillness of Essence
The seemingly real and the reality
This is vitally important to understand and realise, in order to get out of the ‘system’ and beyond. In Shamata meditation, we focus and control the discursive mind, with its swirling thoughts. Gradually, the mind becomes settled, and rests in stillness. Observing this movement and settling of mind is consciousness – ordinary consciousness.
In the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, this would be known as the 8thconsciousness, or Alaya Vijnana. The eight consciousnesses comprise five of the senses and three of mind – perception, judgement and memory: it is memory that holds on to our karmic identity and is thus associated with an accumulated feeling of ‘I’. It is both this accumulation in the 8thconsciousness andour holding on that which have to be released. That holding on isthe cause of all our suffering as it maintains our hopes and fears. Our lack of recognition is holding us back from going beyond the ‘system’.
When we settle the mind in meditation, this 8thconsciousness calms down into stillness. It is here that we can misunderstand, becoming caught up and maintaining a duality – me and the feeling of stillness. It’s nice; it feels good and it’s relaxing, but it’s also unstable and temporary. We can become meditation gods, appearing to be enlightened.
Stillness of essence – or our essential nature – is none other than pure awareness (rigpa), the 9th consciousness of pure consciousness. It is this that is observing the stillness of mind. It’s a step back. Home. The journey’s end. In pure resting in essence, there is no duality; this is clear seeing through the mind of memories, through judgements and perception, through the senses.
The senses are neutral and non-conceptual, so when we are merely seeing, smelling etc. there is no activity occurring, other than pure perception. We may worry that, in pure essence, we should not see what is happening – we should be totally absorbed – but this is untrue. There is just seeing.
We may hear certain people claiming, “I have no judgement.” That is merely indecision, as there is still an “I” boasting. In the pure state of non-meditation, there certainly is no judgement going on. When we come down from that state however, there certainly isjudgement going on – but now it is a tool for discernment in our conduct in daily life.
Once we recognise pure essence, then whether the mind is still or active, clarity is still present. Recognising stillness or activity is merely a reminder and, as such, returns us to emptiness. This is the spontaneous unity of appearances and emptiness.
Ultimately, we – and all phenomena – are emptiness. Conventionally, we are caught up in solidifying ourselves and all phenomena.
When we know, we can play, and repay our karmic debt.
When we do not know, we play, and collect more karmic debt.