Who is in our mind? what is in our mind? - the concept of guest and dust
Good morning, everyone. This is your five-minute Dharma espresso.
In the Shurangama Sutra, it was said that Venerable Kauṇḍinya (Kondanna in Pali) attained the Arhat status since he was able to understand the two words “guest” and “dust”. This concept is very important to novice cultivators since we do not know what “guest” and “dust” entail.
“Guest” is like a hotel guest who stays for a short time and then leaves, not residing there
permanently. The host is what we called True Nature. The term “guest” is an example of
random thoughts, or wrong views. “Dust” refers to dust particles which we can only see when
there is light shining on them. Normally, we do not see dust. When we sit in a room, we do not
see dust, but when there is a ray of light shining through, we can see dust flying everywhere.
Dust symbolizes random thoughts and also means emotions or feelings which belong to the five Skandhas. Normally, we do not see them since they are our blind spots. They are right in front of us, but we can only see them when the light of True Nature shines on them. We can ponder upon these two words to get an insight from different paradigms, not just one.
Today, I will spend a few minutes to talk about “guest”, which is a very special concept. There
are thoughts that once they enter your head, you cannot take them off. They are similar to
“memes”. Once in our head, they stay there. Do you notice that when you hate someone, you do not know how to get that thought out of your head? When we hate someone, we keep
remembering them. Whatever we do, we always think of ways to revenge. That thought or that
guest will not only enter our hotel, but also take over the ownership, and the owner is chased
away. Buddha used a very good term to describe this. He said we “adopted our enemy to be our own child.” We accept the guest as our host. We, therefore, lose our own True Nature.
The thought and the image of the person we hate stay in our head for many years. Sometimes, the hatred and the anger stay with us our whole life. If we are jealous of someone, that person stays in our head forever, and we can never get rid of him or her. We say “never” because that jealous thought traps us with such a strong force that we have no way to escape. The only way out is to be aware of compassion and forgiveness. Compassion and forgiveness are indeed our hosts.
More often than not, the guest is stronger than the host, and the host has to yield. Therefore,
hateful thoughts, jealous thoughts, images of people we hate, are jealous of, or are angry with, stick in our head so strongly and they bind us to the five Skandhas – form, feelings, thoughts, habitual energy, and consciousness. They tie, they gather, they keep the five Skandhas there, giving us an explanation for why we live, why we do this, why we fight back, why we revenge, why we blackmail, why we have to kill that person, or why we want to see that person falling on their face. They all come from that disastrous thought, the thought of the guest in our head.
Why do we call it dust? Because it is very subtle. That thought sneaks into our mind slowly and subtly without us noticing it. It happens right in our face, yet we cannot deny its existence.
Therefore, it is one of the most dangerous things called blind spot. It is there, but we cannot get rid of it since we do not see it to get it out. You see, the light can shine on the dust, but it cannot sweep the dust away. The dust can only be lightened up. Very often we can be aware of our own compassion, kindness, joy and forgiveness. We recognize the thought and the image of the person who makes us suffer. By acknowledging it, forgiving it and letting it go, we can liberate ourselves. Not by doing anything else. We cannot reason with it since the more we reason, the more we fail. It will only enforce our belief that this person is the one who makes us suffer. We have thousands of evidences to prove that this person causes us suffering this way and harm us that way. We cannot deny what that person has done. The more we use our reasoning to prove that this person is wrong, evil, and harmful, the more we are stuck in the world of duality, of rights and wrongs. That image, that guest will stay in our head, and will stay there forever if we accept any of their reasonings. And the reason is always the same: I have seen the truth. I have seen the truth that this person harms me. I have proofs that this person did this and that. I have seen the truth that this person did bad things. Those are very clear evidences. This will only cause our anger and jealousy to stick in our head even more.
We do not know that this is the most harmful way, and this person is a guest, not a host. The host is the forgiveness, the boundless and immense light. The host is wisdom and clarity, and stillness. However, we often follow the guest and follow the dust, not recognizing the light, not recognizing the host. Hence, we are stuck in the vicious cycle of birth and death.
Venerable Kauṇḍinya was clearly aware of who was who in every moment of his life. When he
saw a guest, he did not let the guest stay in his residence. When he saw dust, or a blind spot, he just smiled like the shining light. And therefore, being at ease and unobstructed, he became an Arhat.
Thank you for listening to today’s Dharma espresso. I wish you a joyful day.