Listen to the recording or read the transcript below. (Please note. I’m afraid the recording quality of the talk isn’t so good on this one. I had the microphone positioned too close unfortunately. Apologies for this.)
We have talked before about a conducive state of mind for meditation and spiritual progress. I’d like to take this a little further today. To look out the what and the why of this cultivation .
So, we can draw an analogy of the mind with the water bottle. The bottle forms a shape and when the water is poured in, it takes this state. Our minds are very similar. The container is the mind. But what are we pouring into it? Something is definitely contained but we should explore this a little. At the very high level we see this between cultures. The mind of the Japanese people is generally disciplined and structured. The form that Buddhism takes in this country is in turn disciplined and structured, in the form of Zen. When we move to India we see a desire for understanding but a much softer approach. This is the traditional Buddhist Theravada approach. In Tibet, the minds are very embedded in religion, ceremony and even superstition. Tibetan Buddhism reflects this.
From a personal perspective, on a more mundane level, we see this container affect happening. For example, when you have a day which results in a stressed, busy, confused mind state, your thoughts will be very much like this. But when you are calm and relaxed, open and receptive your thoughts will be far reaching and creative.
Buddhist practice explores this aspect through the 5 spiritual faculties.
Sraddha Faith/Confidence/Letting go
So we can look at our mind state and understand where we are sitting. We can view them as vertices along which we are sitting. We will have a general, underlying tendencies which draws us one way or the other. Then the effect of our day will potentially change this for short periods of time. We can look at these states and see House they affect us and colour our view of the world. For example, if we are too drawn in by Samadhi, we may find we are withdrawn and don’t interact and connect very much with the people and the world around us. But if we are too drawn in by Virja, we may find that our approach to the world is haphazard, chaotic and although we connect with people, perhaps we frustrate them because of our lack of focus.
Then if we come to the other axis, if we have too much Sradda, we may well feel like we can gain deep religious understanding, but it may well be misguided. We will have a tendency to follow whatever is said to us by teachers, without investigating for our selves. The emotion of the moment carries us forward and we aren’t even aware of this. Actually, in our sector of work, holistic therapy, you see many practitioners who exist in this state. They find it very difficult to see the value of the scientific methods of western medicine because it doesn’t fit in with their mind state.
Conversely, if you have too much Prajna, then you will tend to miss the spiritual and emotional side of experience. Again, with western medicine, we see examples of Doctors who see know value in complimentary therapy. Recently, we have seen counselling and mental health funding move out of the NHS and into the local council funding. This shows this type of behaviour reflected on the large scale.
Sitting in the middle we have the balanced state of Mindfulness. This is a knowing and acknowledgment of the influence of these different states directly on ourselves. It is pure self honesty. Now, it is VERY important to note that this is about looking at self, not looking at others. It is very easy to look at the examples we have just given and be critical. We can say to the Doctor, “it’s obvious that you need to consider the emotional and the energy in your treatment of a patient.” BUT! That very criticism will inevitably be influenced by our own mind state, our own balance. So if we are to truly make a difference, we must look at who we are and what our mind state is to the exclusion of all others. Who are we? What are we like? The Christian Faith has a parallel here. In Matthew, Chapter 7 verse 5, Jesus says ” you must remove the plank from your own eye, before you try to remove the speck from your brothers.” On first view, this appears to be a very strong message against hypocrisy. But I believe it goes deeper. Challenging us to look at all aspects of ourselves. The 5 spiritual faculties are a very good starting point.
I said at the start that our minds are the container, into which the fluid is poured. Now we can perhaps consider what the fluid is? In my own practice, I am in the place where I believe the fluid is pure awareness. A lot of my practice these days focussed on the nature of awareness. Asking “What is i.” In order to uncover the answer to this, I must strive to ensure that the container is as pure and un-dented as possible. How do we achieve this? Through practice of mindfulness. That un-judging, open, totally honest, bare attention state where we can sit and look, and see.
This is what we will examine in meditation today. We need to achieve that open state. Through the mindfulness of breathing we must first take the lid off our container to allow awareness, in its purest form, in. Then, we developed the habit of mindfulness or mind watching by concentrating on the breath