According to the teachings of Buddhism, the whole Universe, including life and death are in the mind and nowhere else. Mind is revealed as the universal basis of experience – the creator of happiness and the creator of sadness and suffering, the creator of what we call life and the creator of what we call death.
The mind – it thinks, plots, desires, manipulates, it flares-up in anger, it creates and indulges in waves of negative emotions and thoughts, it has to go on and on asserting, validating and confirming its existence by fragmenting, conceptualising and solidifying experience. The ordinary mind is ceaselessly shifting and a prey to external influences, habitual tendencies and conditioning. The masters have compared the mind to a candle flame in an open doorway, vulnerable to all the winds of circumstance.
Seen from one angle, the mind is flickering, unstable, grasping and endlessly minding others’ business; its energy consumed by projecting outwards. Think of it as a Mexican jumping bean or as a monkey hopping restlessly from branch to branch on a tree. Yet see it another way – the ordinary mind has a false, dual stability, a smug and self-protective inertia, a stone-like calm of ingrained habits.
Mind is as cunning as a crooked politician, sceptical, distrustful, expert at trickery and guile and even ingenious in the games of deception. It is within the experience of this chaotic, confused, undisciplined and repetitive mind that again and again, we undergo change and death.
Then there is the very nature of mind, its innermost essence, which is absolutely and always untouched by change or death. At present, it is hidden within our own mind, enveloped and obscured by the mental scurry of our thoughts and emotions. Just as clouds can be shifted by a strong gust of wind to reveal the shining sun and wide-open sky, so, under certain special circumstances, some inspiration may uncover for us glimpses of this nature of mind.
These glimpses have many depths and degrees, but each of them will bring some light of understanding, meaning and freedom. This is because the nature of mind is the very root itself of understanding. In Tibetian philosophy, it is called ‘ Rigpa’, a primordial, pure, pristine awareness that is at once intelligent, cognisant, radiant and always awake. It could be said to be knowledge of knowledge itself.
Do not make the mistake of imagining that the nature of mind is exclusive to our mind only. It is, in fact, the nature of everything. It can never be said too often that to realize the nature of mind is to realize the nature of all things. Saints and mystics throughout history have adorned their realizations with different names and given them different faces and interpretations, but what they are all fundamentally experiencing is the essential nature of the mind. Christians and Jews call it ‘God’; Hindus call it ‘the self’, ‘Shiva’, ‘Brahman’ and ‘Vishnu’. Sufi mystics name it ‘the Hidden Essence’ and the Buddhists call it the ‘Buddha Nature’. At the heart of all religions is the certainty that there is a fundamental truth and this life is a sacred opportunity to evolve and realize it.
When we say Buddha, we naturally think of the Indian Prince, Gautama Siddhartha who reached enlightenment in the sixth century BC and who taught the spiritual path followed by millions all over Asia, known today as Buddhism. ‘Buddha’, however has a much deeper meaning. It means a person, any person, who has completely awakened from ignorance and opened to his vast potential of wisdom. A Buddha is one who has brought a final end to suffering and frustration, and discovered a lasting and deathless happiness.
This brings us to a story from the Kathopanishad which illustrates the two mental states of being awake (Jagrut) and asleep (Swapna). An Emperor’s only son was on his deathbed. The physicians had given up. The mother stayed awake all night sitting on his bedside. Tears were flowing from her eyes. Sitting and waiting, at about four in the morning, the father began to doze. While he slept, he had a dream of a great empire he lorded over with his 12 sons. Suddenly, the wife woke him up to say that their son was dead. The King being an evolved soul did not cry, saying, “When I was asleep, I had 12 sons, now they have gone. When I woke-up, my only child was also gone. That was a dream and this life too is a dream. When I was dreaming, I completely forgot our real life son but when I woke-up, I forgot the 12 sons from the dream.”
Life itself is dream from which we shall ‘wake-up’ when we die!
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