III TO CONTROL ONE'S MIND Our old friend, //dukkha//, arises in the mind as dissatisfactio
TO CONTROL ONE'S MIND
Our old friend, //dukkha//, arises in the mind as dissatisfaction
caused by all sorts of triggers. It can be triggered by bodily
discomfort, but more often it is caused by the mind's own aberrations
and convolutions. The mind creates //dukkha//, and that's why we must
really watch and guard our minds.
Our own mind can make us happy, our own mind can make us unhappy.
There is no person or thing in the whole world that will do this for us.
All happenings act as triggers for us, which constantly catch us
unawares. Therefore we need to develop strong awareness of our own
We have a good chance to do that in meditation. There are two
directions in meditation, calm (//samatha//) and insight
(//vipassana//). If we can achieve some calm, that indicates that
concentration is improving. But unless that valuable skill is used for
insight, it's a waste of time. If the mind becomes calm, joy often
arises, but we must observe how fleeting and impermanent that joy is,
and how even bliss is essentially still only a condition which can be
easily lost. Only insight is irreversible. The stronger the calm is
established, the better it will withstand disturbances. In the beginning
any noise, discomfort or thought will break it up, especially if the
mind has not been calm during the day.
Impermanence (//anicca//) needs to be seen quite clearly in everything
that happens, whether it is in or out of meditation. The fact of
constant change should and must be used for gaining insight into
reality. Mindfulness is the heart of Buddhist meditation and insight is
its goal. We're spending our time in many different ways and some
portion of it in meditation, but all our time can be used to gain some
insight into our own mind. That's where the whole world is happening for
us. Nothing, except what we are thinking, exists for us.
The more we watch our mind and see what it does to us and for us, the
more we will be inclined to take good care of it and treat it with
respect. One of the biggest mistakes we can make is taking the mind for
granted. The mind has the capacity to create good and also evil for us,
and only when we are able to remain happy and even- minded no matter
what conditions are arising, only then can we say that we have gained a
little control. Until then we are out of control and our thoughts are
"Whatever harm a foe may do to foe,
or hater unto one he hates,
the ill-directed mind indeed
can do one greater harm.
What neither mother, nor father too,
nor any other relative can do,
the well-directed mind indeed
can do one greater good."
Dhp. 42, 43
(Trans: by Ven. Khantipalo)
The above words of the Buddha show quite clearly that there is nothing
more valuable than a controlled and skillfully directed mind. To tame
one's mind does not happen only in meditation, that is just one specific
training. It can be likened to learning to play tennis. One works out
with a trainer, again and again, until one has found one's balance and
aptitude, and can actually play in a tennis match. Our match for taming
the mind happens in day-to-day living, in all situations we encounter.
The greatest support we can have is mindfulness, which means being
totally present in each moment. If the mind remains centered then it
can't make up stories about the injustice of the world or one's friends,
or about one's desires, or one's lamentations. All these mind-made
stories would fill many volumes, but we are mindful such verbalizations
stop. "Mindful" is being fully absorbed in the moment, leaving no room
for anything else. We are filled with the momentary happening, whether
that may be standing or sitting or lying down, being comfortable or
uncomfortable, feeling pleasant or unpleasant. Whichever it may be, it
is a non-judgmental awareness, "knowing only," without evaluation.
Clear comprehension brings evaluation. We comprehend the purpose of
our thought, speech or action, whether we are using skilful means or not
and whether we have actually achieved the required results. One needs
some distance to oneself in order to be able to evaluate
dispassionately. If one is right in the middle, it's very difficult to
get an objective view. Mindfulness coupled with clear comprehension
provides one with the necessary distance, the objectivity, the
Any //dukkha// that one has, small, medium or large, continuous or
intermittent, is all created by one's mind. We are the creators of all
that happens to us, forming our own destiny, nobody else is involved.
Everybody else is playing his own role, we just happen to be near some
people and farther away at other times. But whatever we are doing, all
is done to our own mind-moments.
The more we watch our thoughts in meditation, the more insight can
arise, if there is an objective viewing of what is happening. When we
watch mind-moments arising, staying and ceasing, detachment from our
thinking process will result, which brings dispassion. Thoughts are
coming and going all the time, just like the breath. If we hang on to
them, try to keep them, that's when all the trouble starts. We want to
own them and really do something with them, especially of they are
negative, which is bound to create //dukkha//.
The Buddha's formula for the highest effort is worth remembering: "Not
to let an unwholesome thought arise, which has not yet arisen. Not to
sustain an unwholesome thought which has already arisen. To arouse a
wholesome thought which has not yet arisen. To sustain a wholesome
thought which has already arisen."
The quicker we can become a master of this effort, the better. This is
part of the training we undergo in meditation. When we have learned to
quickly drop whatever is arising in meditation, then we can do the same
with unwholesome thoughts in daily living. When we are alert to an
unwholesome thought in meditation, we can use the same skill to protect
our mind at all times. The more we learn to shut our mind-door to all
negativities which disturb our inner peace, the easier our life becomes.
Peace of mind is not indifference. A peaceful mind is a compassionate
mind. Recognizing and letting go is not suppression.
//Dukkha// is self-made and self-perpetuated. If we are sincere in
wanting to get rid of it, we have to watch the mind carefully, to get an
insight into what's really happening within. What is triggering us?
There are innumerable triggers, but there are only two reactions. One is
equanimity and one is craving.
We can learn from everything. Today some //anagarikas// had to wait
quite a long time in the bank, which was an exercise in patience.
Whether the exercise was successful or not, doesn't matter as much as
that it was a learning experience. Everything we do is an exercise, this
is our purpose as human beings. It's the only reason for being here,
namely to use the time on our little planet for learning and growing. It
can be called an adult education class. Everything else we can think of
as the purpose of life, is a mistaken view.
We're guests here, giving a limited guest performance. If we use our
time to gain insight into ourselves utilizing our likes and dislikes,
our resistances, our rejections, our worries, our fears, then we're
spending this lifetime to the best advantage. It's a great skill to live
in such a way. The Buddha called it "urgency' (//samvega//), a sense of
having to work on ourselves now and not leave it for some future
unspecified date, when one may have more time. Everything can be a
learning experience and the only time is now.
When we meet our old friend //dukkha//, we would ask: "Where did you
come from?" When we get an answer, we should inquire again, getting
deeper into the subject. There's only one true answer, but we won't get
it immediately. We have to go through several answers until we get to
the bottom line, which is "ego." When we've come to that one, we know we
have come to the end of the questioning and to the beginning of insight.
We can then try to see how the ego has produced //dukkha// again. What
did it do, how did it react? When we see the cause, it may be possible
to let go of that particular wrong view. Having seen cause and effect by
ourselves, we'll never forget it again. Single drops fill a bucket,
little by little we purify. Every moment is worthwhile.
The more we experience every moment as worthwhile, the more energy
there is. There are no useless moments, every single one is important,
if we use it skillfully. Enormous energy arises from that, because all
of it adds up to a life which is lived in the best possible way.
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E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank