When faced with a possibly unpleasant future, the mind worries.
Worrying is the mind’s way of rehearsing and preparing: to avert unpleasantness.
The mind tries to solve the problem by thinking its way out, and it will continue to do so until uncertainties are realised into certainty.
Only one who has doused the fires of craving and aversion can end his worries.
But the ‘dying’ embers are easily flamed up alive again. Thus the meditator guards the sense doors of his heart at all times, until it becomes an automatic skill.
Thus nirvana may not necessarily be a permanent extinguishment, but more likely an automatic skill acquired by an accomplished meditator.
When the singular perception of ‘I’ is apprehended, ego is dispelled.
The meditator realises that the conscious ‘self’ is not a distinct entity existing independently on its own, but an emergent experience manifested through the synchronistic recursive process of parts and forces.
But karmic conditioning continues to form new attachments to this ‘I’, despite the meditator’s knowledge.
He/she continues to be subjected to habitual forces of craving and aversion.
Nirvana – liberation – is only achieved when this perception of ‘I’ is extinguished from consciousness.
The idea of self is no more.
There is no longer the perception of identity.
Thus craving and aversion cease.
The meditator is filled instead with the bliss of freedom and peace.
This is what Buddha teaches Bahiya, a holy man:
“Bahiya, you should train yourself thus: in the seen will be merely what is seen. In the heard will be merely what is heard. In the sensed will be merely what is sensed. In the cognised will be merely what is cognised. In this way should you train yourself. … Then, Bahiya, you are not ‘in that’. When you are not ‘in that’, then you will be neither here nor beyond nor between the two. Just this, is the end of dukkha.”
Can the extinguishment be permanent?
The perception of ‘I’, which is your core identity, is humming almost always in the background of consciousness during your waking moments.
It is lost when you sleep, but activated often when you dream.
It can also be lost when you ‘lose yourself’ in engaging activities or absorbing sceneries or in certain meditative states.
This perception of ‘I’ is the same one as when you were a child. For you feel and know that you are essentially the same person, despite the years, despite the physical changes, despite the differences in your likes and dislikes.
You can change your name, you can go for plastic surgery, yet:
you still feel and know that you are you.
This is the perception of ‘I’.
Before cinemas have gone digital, movies were shown using film projectors.
These film projectors operate at 24 frames per second, flashing pictures in rapid succession onto the cinema screen to create the illusion of motion.
Why does the mind not see the individual frames?
More importantly, why does the mind not see the black screen in between the flashes of pictures?
If I am not wrong, the duration of darkness in between the flashes of light lasts just as long as the brightness. Yet we only notice the pictures, not the black screen.
It is the same with our mind. We only notice the succession of thoughts popping up, not the ’emptiness’ in between.
We only notice the actors and props on the stage, not the space they inhabit.
Thus it is through meditative practices that we can ‘speed up’ our awareness to ‘capture’ this fleeting emptiness in between.
For in these moments, when the mind is empty, we can directly experience the state of pure consciousness – an awareness only of awareness – the singular perception of ‘I’.
One of the goals in meditation, therefore, is to ‘speed up’ awareness. Fast awareness allows one to apprehend the fleeting and the subtle, thus penetrating the many illusions put up in the theatre of our mind.
There are those engaging in meditation whose purpose is to subdue the mind as if it were the enemy.
The truth is that, for most of us, our ordinary mind is actually eager to help, a faithful companion of habits, although ignorant and easily impressed with pleasure.
The problem is thus ignorance, not defiance.
The mind does not listen to rules or reasons or theories. You can’t think your way out of fear or anger or lust or delusion.
The mind only learns from experience, and so the mind should be taught through experiential practices.
Let conscious effort lead the experiential practice and your mind will follow. When the experience is repeated sufficiently, your mind follows effortlessly. This is how meditation should be.
One of the goals in meditation is synchrony.
Synchronizing mind with consciousness.
Synchronizing body with mind.
This is what we should teach our mind.
Some say renunciation is escapism.
Some say leaving the city to seek truth is escapism.
But it is equally possible to say that, remaining in the city and ignoring the burning questions is real escapism.
For there will come a stage in everyone’s life when he/she feels lost, when he/she feels that something is wrong:
“Why is the world like this?”
“Why am I here?”
“Why do I suffer?”
And the quest for meaning always begins with questions.
We can choose to ignore and forget these questions, to escape from ourselves through the city’s many games:
the game of money.
the game of prestige.
the game of power.
the game of sex.
We can choose to play our troubles away, continuously. Or we can choose to confront our doubts and ignorance, to find peace and rest deep within.
Seeking truth is not escapism.
Seeking truth requires courage.
The courage to confront the darkest places of the mind, and the darkest aspects of humanity.
For the bravest and strongest among us conquers not the world, but his own self.
This world completely lacks essence;
It trembles in all directions.
I longed to find myself a place
Unscathed – but I could not see it.
Seeing people locked in conflict,
I became completely distraught.
But then I discerned here a thorn
– Hard to see – lodged deep in the heart.
It’s only when pierced by this thorn
That one runs in all directions.
So if that thorn is taken out –
One does not run, and settles down.
– Buddhist discourse quoted by Vishvapani Blomfield in Gautama Buddha
We are made restless by our insatiable desire.
The constant attention on what we don’t have.
Frustrated dreams we failed to achieve.
Dissatisfied lives we are leading now. There is always, still, something that we don’t have.
We are made restless by desire.
By the false promise of eternal happiness.
By the sweet utopia that’s never here.
We’ve been looking in wrong places.
It is only in gratefulness that we can find peace.
And it is only gratefulness that can quench the perpetual thirst.
For as desire paints a tempting future,
gratefulness reveals the present.
A wondrous gift:
everflowing with possibilities.
The present is a current of fresh possibilities.
For those who drink in this current, they are free.
Free to choose.
To live strong and awakened.
To live brave and beautiful.
To be grateful.
To be happy.
This is gratefulness.
There is a sensation of self, which seems separated from the body.
It is the sensation of ‘I’.
When the mind is aware of this sensation, it defines this sensation to be itself – generating the perception of ‘I’.
This perception of ‘I’ is the seed of our identity. It is our core identity.
Through interaction with our environment, this core identity becomes contaminated – it forms attachment to things.
The core identity and all its attachments are collectively known as ego – a conceptual network of self.
Ego is the perception of ‘me’.
One of the goals of meditation is to differentiate between these two perceptions: the ‘I’ from the ‘me’.
When the core identity is recognized through direct experience, the ego is dispelled. The person can thus begin to cleanse his/her identity of illusory attachments.
A person cleansed of attachments live in peace and bliss.
Sensation –> perception –> conception –> motivation –> action –>
In meditation, you learn first to cease action, then motivation, then conception.
When these cease, you become quiet and still.