IMG_1953 lowres.jpg

Day 5
Choose how you will be aware

Spirit Rock Meditation Center Retreat, April 25-May 9, 2015

Translation from Burmese by Ma Thet and transcription and editing by Douglas McGill

What is the mind knowing? Is awareness present in the mind?

When practicing vipassana the object should be left in its natural state. The object or the experience should be allowed to unfold naturally. The effort we put in is supposed to be directed towards the awareness. To be aware, to have Right View. And to keep it continuous.

We are not trying to change the object or the experience, what we are trying to work with is the mind that observes. And how do we work with it? By checking if there is Right View, bringing in Right View. And you work with it by keeping mindfulness continuous while you figure out how to adjust the mind that is observing. So the change if any needs to be in the mind that is observing.

All the experiences and objects in the present moment are the results of conditions in the past. You can't change results. What you can do is change your action in the present moment. Choose what you do, how you will be aware.

So for example if there is pain you don't try to change the pain. What you try to change is the aversion in the mind. And how do you do that? You do that by first changing the perspective, trying to bring in Right View. Changing the view to Right View, and then observing the aversion continuously. So, observing continuously with Right View. And if the aversion should go away, if the state of mind changeS, you'll find the view of the mind towards the pain becomes different.

What we are learning is how to remain equanimous in the observing of states that might be considered good or pleasant, and equally states that might be considered bad or unpleasant.

How do we remain equanimous in the midst of experiencing pleasant, unpleasant, good or bad?

Actually, the objects themselves are just being their nature. The experiences are neither good nor bad. Good or bad are actually our opinion of them. If we think something is good we'll find it is pleasant. If we think something is bad we will find it unpleasant. So it is only with Right Thought and Right View that we are able to be unbiased in our opinion towards objects and experiences and remain equanimous in observing them. That is called the Middle Way.

Particularly when looking at our own minds, Right View is incredibly important. When we observe the defilements and wisdom is present, then they are seen to be just nature, natural qualities of mind. All experiences are just part of a natural process, part of the natural functions of the mind. So whether it is good or bad, just recognize this is one of the qualities that mind has. One of the natures that expresses itself.

When we have the Right Attitude towards it, see it for what it is, it becomes interesting to watch it act out its playing. In our lives our constant view has been to see this mind and this body as “mine.” But when practicing vipassana we are changing this view, trying to remember the view that this mind-body process is just a process, not an entity.

The way you observe, the mind that observes, make it a habit of knowing it, getting to understand it, how it works. Check often. It will become easier to know it.

If the mind is sleepy and dull it's because the mind is not working. Wisdom is weak, effort is weak. When wisdom is weak, we need to take it out and use it. Think about how practice is done. Wisdom has to tell awareness what to do. Wisdom tells effort what to do.

We use all these skills situationally. We see when it is appropriate to use what. The correctly meditating mind is not cruising. It's alert, working, sensitive.