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THE MINDFUL MIND OF NO-MIND
 

THE MINDFUL MIND OF NO-MIND

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An Address to The Blavatsky Lodge of The Theosophical Sciety in Australia, Sydney NSW Australia, 26 October 2011 - copyright - all rights reserved

An Address to The Blavatsky Lodge of The Theosophical Sciety in Australia, Sydney NSW Australia, 26 October 2011 - copyright - all rights reserved

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    THE MINDFUL MIND OF NO-MIND THE MINDFUL MIND OF NO-MIND Document Transcript

    • THE MINDFUL MIND OF NO-MIND By Dr Ian Ellis-Jones An Address to The Blavatsky Lodge of The Theosophical Society in Australia Sydney, New South Wales, Wednesday, 26 October 2011As a kid I adored the antics of the American comedy team of Abbott and Costello. I still do. In one sceneof their 1941 film Buck Privates Bud Abbott, who plays the appropriately named Slicker Smith, is tryinghard to be a drill instructor. He gives an order to poor, hapless Herbie Brown, played by patsy LouCostello: ‘Throw out your chest! Throw it out!’ Herbie shouts back, ‘I’m not through with it yet!’ Today, Isay to you, ‘Throw out your mind! Throw it out!’ Now, that’s an interesting, if not arresting, thought, isn’t it?No mind. (Please don’t retort, ‘I’m not through with it yet!’ If that be your thought, you need to hear more.)One of the greatest books ever written on the subject of Buddhism and, in particular, Zen is The ZenDoctrine of No-Mind written by the late Zen master Dr D T Suzuki. I’m sure many of you are familiar withthat book, and perhaps others as well written by Dr Suzuki. I first read The Zen Doctrine of No-Mind wayback in 1973 when I was in my first year of Arts/Law at the University of Sydney. I have re-read the bookmany times since. It is not an easy book to understand. Indeed, it is a most difficult book to understand,even for those who know something about its subject-matter. Ill return to the interesting concept of no-mind later.I want to share with you this afternoon some fairly basic ‘building-block’ ideas and concepts which I havefound, in my mindfulness practice, to be of assistance to me. These ideas and concepts help me to trainmy mind to be fully present in the present moment ... from one moment to the next ... in other words, to‘fall awake,’ as Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn puts it.Now, right at the outset, I need to make a couple of things perfectly clear. First, I want you to forgetaltogether, and forever, about so-called ‘expanded consciousness’. Theres nothing to expand (orenlarge), for there is no ‘consciousness’ whose nature it is to be known. I repeat, there is noconsciousness whose nature it is to be known ... so there can be no degrees of that which does not exist.Consciousness, as philosophers such as David Hume, William James, Bertrand Russell and (in thiscountry) John Anderson have pointed out, is not an entity in its own right but simply a name for thelogical relationship between the person who knows and the thing known ... the third necessary element inthe relation being the act of knowing. So-called expanded consciousness means nothing more thanwaking up or leaving the cave. Secondly, I want you to forget altogether, and forever, about the supposedneed to ‘elevate’ our ‘self-awareness.’ There is absolutely no need for us to ‘elevate’ our so-called self-awareness. Indeed, all attempts to do so are bound to end in failure. For starters, there is no self ofwhich to be or become aware. All we need to do, dear friends, is to become more alert to, and aware of,what is happening in and around, and as, us. It’s as simple as that. We all need to become more open,more curious, and more flexible.I’m worried now. Not only have I probably alienated at least half of my audience – even before I barelybegin my talk – I have also breached an important metaphysical law. You see, I told you to forget acouple of thinks. Most of you would have heard of the ‘law of indirectness’ (i.e. dont attempt to put athought or problem out of ones mind directly but rather let the problem slip from the sphere of consciousanalysis) is the right way to proceed. Dont try ... instead, let. In Zen Buddhism there is the story of theZen master who says to his pupil, ‘One must never think of the white monkey,’ if you want enlightenment.You can guess what happens. Thinking about not thinking about the white monkey is the same asthinking about the white monkey. Thus, thinking about not stammering is the same as thinking aboutstammering. ‘This’ and ‘not this’ are the same thing.Be that as it may, let’s start with the word ‘awareness,’ for we can all agree that each of us is aware ofsomething ... well, at least some of the time. Awareness is an integral part of mindfulness, but______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Copyright © Ian Ellis-Jones 2011. All Rights Reserved. The paper may be reproduced for non-profit purposes. Page 1
    • mindfulness (sati) is not simply awareness (viññāna), but awareness of awareness. Yes, awareness ofawareness .. a ‘two-dimensional awareness’. The Pāli word sati literally means ‘memory’. The word saticomes from a root meaning ‘to remember’. So, mindfulness is ... remembering what is present ...remembering to stay present in the present moment from one moment to the next ... as well asremembering in the present moment what has already happened. In other words, mindfulness is all aboutremembering the present ... that is, keeping the present in mind. Put simply, mindfulness is rememberingto be here ... and to stay here ... now. This is what I mean by an ‘awareness of awareness’. Mindfulnessremembers awareness ... as well as the object of awareness. The work of being mindful, of practisingmindfulness, is the work of reminding ourselves, not just to be aware, but also that we are aware ...indeed, that we are already aware.Some psychologists refer to this activity as being that of a so-called ‘witnessing self’ ... a specialrelationship of ‘self’ to ‘self’, whatever that means. As already mentioned, I have enormous trouble withthe whole concept of ‘self’ – my power-not-oneself is the power of ‘not-self’ (anattā) – so I like to keepthings simple. (Ha!) In any event, un-self-consciousness (wu-hsin / mushin) or no-mindedness is, forme, the holy grail of all meditative practice – a state of wholeness in which the mind functions freely andeasily, without the sensation of a second mind or ego standing over it with a club (the immortal words ofthe ever-quotable Zen Buddhist Alan Watts).Having been a student of ‘Andersonian realism,’ I see things like this. First, there is the person who isaware. Secondly, there is the object of awareness. Thirdly, there is the act of being aware. It just sohappens that the object of awareness can be awareness itself. Remember, it is the person who is doingthe awareness ... not some supposed illusory ‘self’ or second mind ... and mindfulness is all about theperson that you are paying attention to that person ... and not to a self ... within each unfolding momentand from one such moment to the next. Yes, there are simply different ways of seeing. That is what theword vipassanā means. The word is composed of two parts – vi, meaning ‘in various ways’, and passanā,meaning seeing. So, vipassanā means ‘seeing in various ways’ ... as well as seeing things as they reallyare.Now, what are the characteristics of a ‘mindful mind’? In other words, what are the ‘conditions’ for a mindbeing ‘mindful’? What are the ‘things’ which permit appreciation, apprehension or recognition of a mindbeing ‘mindful’? (Note: These ‘things’ do not constitute ‘mindfulness’ per se. They are not the ‘conditions’or ‘constituents’ of the state of being and living meditation known as mindfulness.)The first characteristic of a ‘mindful mind’ is bare attention. Why ‘bare’? Well, we mean just enoughattention to ‘wake up’ to the present moment, to ‘stay awake’ (and here and now), and to observe what istaking place ... enough attention to be able to discern without discriminating or judging. After all, there isa world of difference between being aware of a thought and thinking and analyzing that thought. ‘Bare,’ inthis context, means stripped down or nothing added over top. Bare attention is a mode of perceptionwhich, with passive detachment, perceives each moment exactly as it is as opposed to through somefilter of your thoughts, ideas and feelings. (There is a saying in Zen [which, relevantly, means ‘exactingmeditation’, by human effort, so as to reach beyond thought, indeed beyond verbal expression], Do notsearch for truth. Just stop having opinions. Love it!)Bare attention is a way of looking at experience, which adds nothing to, and takes nothing away, from theraw experience itself. There is no attempt to change things in any way. You interfere with nothing. Bareattention notices what is being noticed ... and how the noticing is taking place, but involves no comment,attitude, judgment or deliberation but simply sees and ‘notes’ what is ... without any attachment oridentification (eg ‘There is anger in this body’ as opposed to ‘I am angry, and ‘There is thinking takingplace’ as opposed to ‘I am thinking’). You are not your thoughts. Indeed, you are not even ‘the thinker’.The second characteristic of a ‘mindful mind’ is choiceless awareness. Now, awareness is somethingyou bring, effortlessly, and continuously, to each moment of the day. Awareness is also something inwhich you live, in the sense of living in awareness of the present moment. We are talking about anawareness of all that the present moment contains (thoughts, perceptions, assumptions, tendencies,memories, feelings, bodily sensations, sounds, etc). You are ‘choicelessly’ aware when you are aware ofwhatever is ... when you objectively sees things-as-they-are ... things both inner and outer ... and withoutbecoming attached to anything.______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Copyright © Ian Ellis-Jones 2011. All Rights Reserved. The paper may be reproduced for non-profit purposes. Page 2
    • Just as importantly, there is no choosing to be aware of one thing but not another. In other words, there isno discriminating (that is, no decisions, no choices, no exercise of the will) ... and there are no demands... not even preferences. You are simply ‘aware’ of whatever presents itself from one moment to the nextas your experience ... that is, you simply look, watch and observe ... without identifying too closely withany elements of the experience ... and without judging anything that arises as good or bad. Thus, thereis no I like this, or I dont like that, sort of thing. Thats right - there should be no analysis, comment,judgment, evaluation or condemnation ... and no abiding of thought anywhere on anything ... just aconstant, continuous, pliable, effortless and ever-present (and thus unconditioned) state of impartial,objective inquiry in which there is no conclusion. Hence, there can be no room for beliefs of any kind, forbelief is just another form of conclusion.This is what Krishnamurti means when he says there needs to be observation without the observer ... forwhere there is an observer there is a conditioned mind and a conditioned point of view ... which is thepast ... and where there is the past, there can be no mindfulness. Of course, in an empirical sensethere will always be an observer, in the form of the person that each one of us is, but that is about theextent of it. Shakyamuni Buddha had much to say about meditation and mindfulness. One of his reportedsayings is, "When the mind wanders, observe it as it is." What could be simpler than that?There is a saying in Zen along these lines: ‘Using the mind to look for reality is delusion. Not using themind to look for reality is awareness. Freeing oneself from the mind is total liberation.’ Get the picture?We need to see the ego apart. We need to see the body, our thoughts, our feelings, and so on, asseparate. How can we do that? Never ask how. Just do it. Observe. Watch. See those things coming andgoing ... and don’t associate the so-called ‘me’ or ‘I’ of you with any of those things. This will break downthe very foundation of your thinking.The third characteristic of a ‘mindful mind’ is curiosity. A mindful mind is a curious and energetic mind ...not one which is dull or bored, but one which is living, moving and vital. It is a mind whichis patient, flexible, open, even open-ended, receptive, and ever interested in whatever is the experienceof the moment. Yes, an inquisitive (but non-clinging, indeed detached) mind, by means of which webecome conscious of what was previously unconscious.However, we must be careful not to allow our curiosity to deflect us from our ‘staying on track’. We allknow what can happen when we follow a thought through to its supposedly logical conclusion. Theresult? Mental movies complete with the latest sound system. Ongoing internal dialogue. The ‘answer’?Stay fixed and focused, and fully present, in the finitude of the present moment ... without being rigid.That is why it helps to focus one’s attention on one’s breath. It takes the focus of attention away fromone’s thinking and directs it into the body. That leads on to the next characteristic of a ‘mindful mind’.The fourth characteristic of a ‘mindful mind’ is purposefulness. Mindfulness is paying attention ... in thepresent moment ... on purpose. That means that we consciously, deliberately and vigilantly direct andfocus (not forcibly, but in a ‘soft focus’, gentle and kind sort of way) our attention and awareness towhatever be our experience from one moment to the next. Of course, mindfulness takes meditation andapplies it to one’s entire life. Hence, Zen says, when you’re eating, just eat; when you’re walking, justwalk; when you’re sitting, just sit, and so forth.The fifth characteristic of a ‘mindful mind’ is spontaneity. A mindful mind is one which respondseffortlessly, receptively and spontaneously ... without discrimination ... whilst resisting the temptation torespond unthinkingly ... that is, mindlessly.The sixth, and final, characteristic of a ‘mindful mind’ is detachment. We feel as if we were watchingourselves from the inside, so to speak. In other words, we are aware of what is happening from onemoment to the next ... without feeling involved in what is happening.Now, lets bring all those things together and look at the doctrine or concept of ‘no-mind’ (Jpn mushin). Amindful mind is a mind of no-mind (Jpn mushin no shin). Yes, pure Zen, but it does make sense in a Zensort of way. The doctrine or concept of ‘no-mind’ means no deliberate mind of one’s own. It does notmean the absence of mind, or absentmindedness, but rather a mind which is non-discriminating,______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Copyright © Ian Ellis-Jones 2011. All Rights Reserved. The paper may be reproduced for non-profit purposes. Page 3
    • uncoloured, fluid, unbound and free from deluded thought ... indeed, a mind where there is no conditionedthinking, desiring or controlling ... a spontaneous and detached state of mind characterised by inwardsilence and no knowing awareness ... a mind which effortlessly thinks what it thinks ... without there beingany interference (judgment, analysis, etc) by some thinker or ego within the mind.In order for a mind to be free from deluded thought it needs to be kept fully engaged in the present frommoment to moment ... without there being any subjective evaluation or interpretation. Once we startevaluating and subjectively interpreting what is, we cease to experience life instantaneously andspontaneously. (Trying not to think, as opposed to forgetting to think altogether, is, of course, doomed tofailure.) Alan Watts described no-mindedness as a state of wholeness in which the mind functions freelyand easily, without the sensation of a second mind or ego standing over it with a club. Whatever comesup, moment by moment, is accepted without being embraced ... even non-acceptance.So, a mind of no-mind is a mind which is unconscious of itself and empty of itself (yes, that supposedego-self which we mistakenly believe is us!) ... a mind which is ever imperturbable, that is, undisturbedby affects of any kind ... a mind which is effortlessly engaged in being here now ... a mind where there isno-effort and no-thought ... a mind which is present only to that which is happening now ... a mind whichis, yes, ‘empty’ but whole (cf the ensō [circle]) ... a mind which is nowhere in particular (Takuan Sōhō).Wow! A state of ‘no-mind-ness’ or ‘no-mindedness’ ... that is, a state of ‘no-thing-ness’ ... characterised byeffortlessness and a constant non-discriminating yet gentle-on-oneself unbinding of the mind and lettinggo of all mental effluents and other ‘traffic’. You are ‘no-minded’ when you let life live out its self-livingnessin and as you ... and as all other things and persons. You are no-minded when you let go of all self-identification, self-absorption, self-obsession and self-centredness. You are no-minded when you let goof all attachments, presuppositions, assumptions and stories ... when you leave the mind empty of allgreed, anger and delusion (ignorance). You are ‘no-minded’ when you cut down the ego at its source.How do you do that? Again, don’t ask how. Just stop generating it – the ego, that is. Heaven forbid, don’ttry to suppress the ego. We are talking about its complete eradication – what Krishnamurti would refer toas a ‘total revolution.’Where, then, do we begin? Many start by trying to deactivate what Buddhists refer to as the ‘fivehindrances’ (viz sense desire, aversion, restlessness and worry, sloth and torpor, and doubt). However,the roots of the hindrances are the underlying tendencies in the mind – in Buddhism, the ‘ten fetters’ –which include such things as belief in a permanent self, dependence upon rituals, ill will, material andsensual cravings, and conceit. However, we need to go deeper still. The fetters grow in something else,namely the base soil of the ‘three poisons’ (greed, anger/hatred, and delusion/ignorance).Most of us engage in compulsive, and generally useless, thinking. We never stop thinking, and most ofour thinking is of a totally useless and mindless kind. Indeed, we find that our minds take up all of ourattention! We identify ourselves with our minds, and so find ourselves trapped in time, ‘living’ (if you cancall it that) exclusively through memory, evaluation, interpretation, judgment, analysis, and anticipation ...anything but actually living purposefully and consciously from one moment to the next. Our minds havebecome so conditioned that they are very good at denying, and seeking to escape from, the presentmoment ... which is the only moment we have. Remember the immortal words of Omar Khayyám? ‘Behappy for this moment. This moment is your life.’ But how can we possibly be happy when we constantlyallow our mind to run in its habitual ways?Fellow Theosophists, we live in a new ‘Dark Age.’ We have the dual menaces of materialism and religiousfundamentalism. I submit that the sanest way to respond to this sad state of affairs is to develop a mindof no-mind. So, dear friends, let us cultivate an ‘empty’ mind ... a mind of no-mind ... a mind of no-thing-ness ... a mind which is empty, but also full and luminous! It is said in Zen, ‘Know that only the emptymind can see the Buddha.’ If you are not a Buddhist, you can easily rephrase that to, ‘Know that only theempty mind can see Reality ... know Truth ... and experience Life as it really is.’ Same thing.______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Copyright © Ian Ellis-Jones 2011. All Rights Reserved. The paper may be reproduced for non-profit purposes. Page 4
    • ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Copyright © Ian Ellis-Jones 2011. All Rights Reserved. The paper may be reproduced for non-profit purposes. Page 5