Meditation on Mind
Let us quickly do a very basic version on meditation of the mind. So far we have been doing meditation on breath. On the previous practice, your object was breath. In this following practice the object of meditation is your mind. Get back to your posture and bring your awareness in your body. Now simply observe the mind and its mental moments. The important thing to remember in this practice is not to engage with the thoughts. We constantly do commentary on each thoughts that arises. But here instead of commentary, you are simply a mere observer and just observing as the thoughts come and go without giving any attention. Just remain neutral. Make your mind like a spacious room with open windows so that the thoughts don’t get stuck. Try to stay in this experience for few minutes.
Come out of your meditation and slowly relax your focus. Tenzin Palmo once said to me, the problem is not our thoughts, the problem is that we identify with our thoughts. Try not giving any energy to it and you will slowly feel the spaciousness of the mind.
A meditator recalls her experience after few months of solitary retreat, ‘All this time while observing my mind I realized that all the thoughts that come to the mind are just sparks. But our untamed mind picks up the spark and flows with it’.
If you have been meditating for a while now and have been disciplined in your practice, you must have noticed the nature of thoughts. If you have very carefully observed it, the thoughts have no basis. As soon you try to stay in the thoughts, it disappears and another thought appears.
I was even surprised to observe some insignificant childhood moments which I have no memory of previously, surfaced during my meditational practice. It is incredible when you think of. In Buddhist term, it is called mental moments. They give a pretty good example of a projector. Projector being the mind and what it projects are the thoughts and the frames per second are the mental moments. These mental moments acts like frames per second.
6 pillars of advice by Tilopa
In the 10th Century AD, born in a wealthy family, Tilopa gave up his princely livelihood and adopted monastic life. Since then he got several initiations from other masters and achieved Buddhahood. Sine then he started teaching and appointed Naropa as his chief disciple to whom he gave the 6 Words of Advice. His words became the 6 pillars of meditation manual and is still the most important advice for any meditators.
Translation by Ken McLeod
- Don’t recall; Let go of what has passed
- Don’t imagine; Let go of what may come
- Don’t think; Let go of what is happening now
- Don’t examine; Don’t try to figure anything out
- Don’t control; Don’t try to make anything happen
- Relax, right now, and rest
When one read these words over and over again, it feels like Tilopa silently examining our thoughts. In these 6 points, he basically highlighted the very nature of what we think all day long. Not a moment passes that we don’t think, and what we generally think all these moments? Once you start giving space to your mind, you will slowly start to ask, ‘what it is like to be in the present moment?’ You can reply, being in the present moment is so hard. But we experience being in present movies when we watch movie or when we listen to our favourite songs. Don’t we? Then we have the power to cultivate being present in this very moment fully aware.
Don’t recall; Let go of what has passed
When you were doing the meditation on mind, did you experience that your mind was simply started running away of what happened in the past?
Don’t recall; such a simple advice but the most difficult to deal with. From the morning we wake up to the time we go to bed, our 6 consciousness actively gathering all the mental moments and storing in our mind, both pleasant and unpleasant. This is call Mental Propensities. This is the seed of thoughts which gives rises to other thoughts. All this happens so fast every moment of our life that we are hardly aware.
Why we like the things we like and gets repulsed on things we do not like? Even scientists now claim that eye doesn’t see anything except Shapes and Colors. Once you slow down your mind and make it serviceable to investigate, you will see how naïve are we to get attracted and repulsed constantly. And all these stores in our mind and surfaces up to generate thoughts. So Tilopa is simply saying, what has passed has passed, don’t stay in that moment. You cannot be in the present moment if you are caught up in the past.
Don’t imagine; Let go of what may come
We know this mind too well and sometimes we label them ‘creative’. It is like a web of conceptualization constantly projecting on something that is yet to happen. We can’t even focus on the present moment but fully mastered in creating stories of the future.
Don’t Imagine; a simple way of saying don’t ponder in the future. Be right here at this very moment and nowhere else. As soon we sit down to meditate for even 2 minutes, our mind starts pre-planning the entire day. It is like we sit for meditation to make our daily routine. My teacher often says this to me, ‘If you can’t sit and meditate for 2 minutes then you should scold yourself’. Just imagine how our mind tricks us, ‘Oh I can’t meditate because I have laundry to do and as soon you think of doing the laundry, you will postpone it for later’. Watching our own mind is like watching a circus.
Tilopa’s wise words are more relevant today even though it was written 1100 years ago. Just simply let go of what may come. Zen master Thich Naht Han says, people think walking in the water is a miracle, for me being in the present moment is a miracle.
Don’t think; Let go of what is happening now
This is very important advice. While starting, one struggles to hold the concentration and gets easily discouraged. As one slowly progress in the path of Calm Abiding, a pleasant sensation arises. Getting attached to the unpleasant feeling and pleasant feeling can cause a big hindrance towards meditational practice. Remind yourself constantly, you are NOT meditating to achieve something. There is nothing to gain and nothing to lose. You are simply observing the mind moments to know your own nature of the mind.
Don’t think; there is nothing to prove. Pleasant feeling, unpleasant feeling, happiness, unhappiness, these are all part of the process. The only difference is, previously you were reacting to these feelings and now you are simply observing and not giving any energy to it.
Don’t examine; Don’t try to figure anything out
The first university in the world was Nalanda University, built in 1st century AD. One of the greatest Buddhist Scholars, Mathematicians, Logicians, Meditators, Scientists and Philosophers belonged to that university. It was the pinnacle of great modern science where nuclear Physics, Gravitational Theory, Sub Atomic theory were discussed and debated for 1200 years. The library was bigger than Oxford Library which stored 84,000 volumes of Buddhist texts. When Mughal came and destroyed Nalanda university, it is said the library burnt for 3 months.
One who started studying the Buddhist texts, can over intellectualize the process of meditation. Don’t examine; it is not an intellectualize game. Your job is to simply observe without trying to dissect every moment. Just observe moment to moment arising and falling. This is the very nature of impermanence. It integrates, abides and then disintegrates, this is the very nature, this is the reality.
Tilopa got his teaching from Arya Nagarjuna, who was the head of Nalanda University knows it too well. That is why he advised meditators on not getting caught up in examining each moment, instead simply observe the moment.
Don’t control; Don’t try to make anything happen
Sometimes we are caught up with the meditational manuals. Oh, I am suppose to feel the sensation in my nose, maybe I am not doing things right. Maybe I should breath harder to feel the sensation.
Don’t control; sensation is a sensation. Don’t try to control the sensation. Sometimes you can have a very pliant feeling and on other days your mind will be like the monkey mind. This is very normal. It is more difficult for people who are very goal oriented and need to be in control all the time. Let go of the control. Surrender!!!
Relax, right now, and rest.
What a joyous feeling when one gets to the stage where no effort is needed. Mind simply draws into deep concentration and stays in that experience without the need of any effort. Mind starts becoming spacious and starts observing each moment one by one. Such a physical and mental pliant. It says a meditator who are in a very advanced stage feels their body as light as a cotton and their mind as vast as clear blue sky.
Although 6 words, but achieving the 6 words will take time, maybe few months to few years and in Buddhist tradition it says several lifetimes. Like any practice, one needs to put joyous effort to the practice. Early stages are difficult but once some kind of stabilization is achieved then the progress will be much faster. Print out these 6 words and read them out loudly every time you sit for meditation. Not only in meditation but these word are practical even in our everyday life. You will be more focussed and concentrated