"When understood, the Buddha’s universe..is anything but alien and inhibiting. It is a world full of hope, where everything we need to do can be done and everything that matters is within human reach. It is a world where kindness, unselfishness, non-violence, and compassion achieve what self-interest and arrogance cannot. It is a world where any human can be happy in goodness and the fullness of giving." ❦ Eknath Easwara

September 30, 2011

The Importance of Heightening the Mind in Meditation

"The Buddha concluded one of his most important talks with the phrase, adhicitte ca ayogo, commitment to the heightened mind. What this means is that we lift the mind above its ordinary concerns, as when we come here to practice meditation. Our normal cares of the day— looking after our own bodies, feeding them, looking after other people, being concerned with what other people think about us, how we interact with them, all the concerns of the day—we put those down, lift our mind above them, and bring it to the meditation object.

When you look at the affairs of the world, you see that they spin around just as the world does. There’s a classic list of eight: gain and loss, status and loss of status, criticism and censure, pleasure and pain. These things keep trading places. You can’t have the good ones without the bad ones. You can’t have the bad ones without the good. They keep changing places like this, around and around, and if we allow our minds to get caught up in them it’s like getting our clothes caught up in the gears of a machine. They keep pulling us in, pulling us in. If we don’t know how to disentangle ourselves, they keep pulling us in until they mangle our arms, mangle our legs, crush us to bits. In other words, if we allow these preoccupations to consume the mind, the mind gets mangled and doesn’t have a chance to be its own self.

We don’t even know what the mind is like on its own because all we know is the mind as a slave to these things, running around wherever they force it. So when we come to meditate, we have to learn to lift our mind above these things. All thoughts of past and future we put aside. We just bring the mind to the breath so the mind doesn’t have to spin around anymore. It simply stays with the breath coming in, going out, and gains at least some measure of freedom.

From this heightened perspective we can look at our normal involvement with the world and begin to realize that, for the most part, it doesn’t go anywhere. It just keeps spinning around, coming back to the same old places over and over and over again. All that gets accomplished is that the mind gets more and more worn out.

If we allow the mind to rise above these things so that it doesn’t feed on them, doesn’t run after them, we’ll begin to get some sense of the mind’s worth, in and of itself. As the mind gets still, things begin to settle out. Like sediment in a glass of water: If you allow the water to stay still for a time, whatever sediment is in there finally settles out and the water becomes clear."
Heightening the Mind
Thanissaro Bhikkhu July, 2001
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