Thought after thought, the Dharma.
The fuel behind this practice is that this world of this or that, of coming and going, is and isn’t, is like an illusion—a story—unfolding in the mind, and not the mind we think.
Buddha asked Ananda, “What is the mind?” Ananda said, “It’s this thing that knows, is aware and makes distinctions.” Buddha exclaimed, “Hey Ananda! That is not your mind!” Shocked and confused, Ananda asked, “If that is not my mind, what is it?”
The Buddha said to Ānanda, “It is merely your mental processes that assign false and illusory attributes to the world of perceived objects. These processes delude you about your true nature and have caused you, since time without beginning and in your present life, to mistake a burglar for your own child —to lose touch with your own original, everlasting mind —and thus you are bound to the cycle of death and rebirth.”
So this conscious mind, this thing, this process that we strongly associate with ourselves isn’t the mind, it isn’t what we think it is or what we want it to be. That’s why there’s suffering. It’s like mistaking a thief for one’s child, letting them into the house. When we wake up in the morning, everything is gone—the thief ran off with it into the night.
When we take this mind that thinks, sees, and is aware as our true mind, we’re at the mercy of impermanence and conditioning. Whatever changes and whatever arises through causes and conditions is not the self and doesn’t belong to the self.
When we see light, we see light. When we close our eyes, we see darkness. But what if someone came and took away light and darkness from us? Would we still say that we see? The Mind that the Sutras point to is the mind that remains when light and darkness both disappear.
Beyond sounds and silence, odors and odorlessness, taste and tastelessness, touch and the absence of touch, thought and the absence of thought. The Buddha says that this is our actual Mind and that it’s the same in all beings. It’s not a soul or a God or some kind of cosmic consciousness because those are all just ideas in the conscious, discriminating mind, the self-centered mind.
It’s like space, and wherever there’s space, there are bound to be stars. Shining.
Such things aren’t meant to be taken as a dogmatic truth, to be accepted or rejected. It’s the feeling behind them—the mood—that’s important. It’s like someone throwing a rope down to someone trapped in a hole so that they can climb out of it into a bright, open field. Above ground, the rope’s only purpose is in helping others out of their holes.
The person in the hole is us; the one on solid ground is the Buddha or Bodhi Mind; the rope is the teachings that naturally fall from that Mind like farts on chili night. The climb is the practice, following those teachings back to their source. The field is vast emptiness and wondrous existence, our true mind, self, or nature.
On solid ground, we can do as Hongzhi said and, “Romp and play in samadhi,” stepping into, “The center of the circle of wonder.”
This world of divided objects, of coming and going, is like cloud-animals. We forget that that cloud-horse is a cloud, so we try to throw a saddle on it and ride into the sunset. But then we fall straight through and wonder what happened. Or we see it change and dissolve and mourn its passing.
The intellectual aspect of the teachings helps us to remember that that horse is really a cloud, so we can keep ourselves from trying to ride it. The emotional aspect is seeing through the clouds altogether to the clear, shining blue.