08 August 2012

A little bit on vipashyana...

A few weeks ago, I posted a gatha from the Vajrasamadhi Sutra here and elsewhere online.  This brief verse opens onto many different kinds of meaning.  One of them has to do with the practice of seated meditation.

There are two aspects to meditation in our school:  shamatha and vipashyana, or "calming the mind" and "discerning the real" respectively.  Calming the mind is just that, you take up an object and concentrate on it until the mind is stilled.  Much of the contemporary discourse around "mindfulness" is actually about this kind of calming function.  The point of calming the mind is to come to some understanding of the nature of mind, which is to say, you calm the mind in order to discern the real:  to recognize one's real condition.  I think this gatha gives excellent advice on vipashyana:
Objects that are produced by causes and conditions,
Those objects are extinguished and unproduced.
 Take thoughts for example.  Thoughts are objects of mind that are produced by causes and conditions.  If you recognize them as empty in their nature, then they resolve into emptiness without effort.  You do not have to force it or get involved in it.  Simple recognition is all it takes.  Even scary or painful thoughts and feelings arise and resolve, and there is no problem at all.  And this is so for all objects (objects of sight, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching too), any kind of life situation, not merely objects of thought.  What happens when you do get mixed up in it, trying to actively put out the fire?  The second half of the gatha tells you:
Extinguish all objects subject to production and extinction,
And those objects will be produced and unextinguished.
If you take the phantasmagoria of emotions and thoughts in your mindstream as real and actively engage with them, pushing them away for instance, then all you do is create problems for yourself.  The point is not to negate or deny or transcend somehow the world of the senses, thoughts, and feelings.  The point is to understand their nature as the movement of mind.  To do that, it really helps to relax.  That is why we have calming the mind in tandem with discerning the real. 

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