Spirit Grooves Blogs

Published on February 2, 2014


The mind contains,
The whole world,
As we know it,
And we don't know it.

-- February 2, 2014

Above is a little poem I wrote today for fun, but the rest of this is going to be a bit nitpicky, so you have been warned. As mentioned, I have a bone to pick, as they say, with the common approach to learning Insight meditation. I am willing to believe that this is due to my own obscurations, but nevertheless, I have no choice to but to attempt to represent my view as I see it, and not just follow blindly along. How else will I learn? Your comments on topic are welcome.

Typically, Insight meditation has two parts, first what is called the analytic meditation of the pandita, and second, the resting meditation of the kusulu. We are to understand that a pandita is a scholar, while a kusulu is a yogi or meditator, two different approaches to enlightenment. And these two approaches are contrasted.

I get the idea that the scholarly approach of the pandita, while eventually effective, will take untold eons to achieve, while the direct meditational approach of the kusulu might be accomplished in a single life. Hmmmm. Which path shall I choose? The choice is obvious, not the one that takes eons unless I have time of my hands, which at seventy-two years of age I don't seem to.

That being said, most texts on Vipasanna (Insight meditation) usually start with a fairly exhaustive bout of analysis as to the nature of the mind, asking questions like where the mind is located, what color it is, where thoughts come from, where they eventually go, and on and on. I am told that in Tibet this kind of analysis took many months.

It seems I misunderstood this analytical approach, and with me it devolved into simple intellectualization or what is called "understanding." For example, if the Insight meditation teacher asks me "Is the color of the mind red?" my tendency is to have a quick thought and come up with the answer, which is intellectual of course, based on just understanding, that the mind is not red… or blue or green.

And I did that for years with all kinds of these types of questions, like: is the mind located in my head or where is the mind located? Etc. My answers were all intellectual, based on what I understood by thinking. When these kinds of analytical questions came up, I would intellectually answer them and then more or less of zone or time out, waiting for something more juicy to come along.

I never thought to actually use my mind to look at the mind itself to see if the mind in fact IS this or that color. And that was a big mistake, one that I would not want anyone else to make, so that is why I am talking about it here.

It took me some years to come to my senses enough to interpret Rinpoche's request to investigate questions (like if the mind is the color red, to use that example) not as something to think about intellectually, but rather as an opportunity to actually use my mind to search the mind itself for the answer. "Who woulda' thunk it," as they say.

So even though they call it the analytic meditation of a pandita (scholar), there seems to be a more direct searching of the mind element that is required, not what I understand as just scholarly. I got it wrong, that's all.

The request to look in the mind is not a request to think and abstractly understand, but rather a request to actively use the mind to search itself to see for yourself if the mind is in fact the color red, and so on. This is a very different thing than understanding and thinking things, and then responding intellectually. That was my mistake.

When, after years of ignoring such a request and responding only with my understanding, I actually made an effort to scrutinize and look in the mind itself for the answers, I had a very different experience. And the results came as quite a surprise.

First, although questions about the color of the mind, and so forth, have a point, there is something else taking place to be aware of. Using the mind to look at or within itself is very different from intellectual understanding or just thinking about something. It has a viscous and moving quality that is almost emotional in nature. Or, it is like exercising a muscle for the first time, one that has never moved up until now. You can feel the effort to move the mind in this way and it amounts to an actual experience rather than just an abstract thought. In other words, something is accumulated from the exercise, perhaps learning of some sort, and at least familiarity.

Actually LOOKING is an experience that you can try right this moment. Just attempt to directly look at who is reading this sentence. Look at the looker. It reminds me of those little Scottish Terrier Dog Magnets that I had as a kid. When I would try to push them together reversed, I got some push-back. It is similar to what I experience when I try to look at the looker. Something different is happening there.

The result or answer to the above question about the mind and the color red, might be "The mind is not the color red," but that is just part of it. There is more. The effort made to actually look in the mind for that answer is not itself intellectual, but a different kind of experience altogether, as I mentioned above. And it is THAT experience of the mind movement that I am pointing to here, and it is not "mental" like we normally think of the mind as. It has a more physical or force-field component to it. This is what we have to practice and get to know and use.

We can learn to move around in the mind and also learn to move the mind around. That is not something I previously knew was possible and it is anything but just abstract or intellectual. Intellectual understanding and moving in the mind are not anywhere near the same. This process of actually using the mind to search the mind, for me, has been key to learning Insight meditation. You might want to look into it, if you have not already.

This realization means I have to adjust my idea of what a pandita or scholar is. In reality it would seem that through actively searching the mind, the pandita is doing very much what the kusulu or yogi does, which is to work directly with the mind itself, which is to me beyond what I consider scholarly. The yogi or kusulu then looks directly at the mind itself.

So the bottom line for me is that I have to not be simply satisfied with intellectual understanding, but rather actively use my mind to know itself, to actually get to know it personally where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. Thus my opening line: the mind contains the whole world as we know it, and we don't know it.

I am getting to know it.