How to cultivate the mind
Good morning everyone! This is today’s Dharma Expresso.
Someone asked me, “What is the Mind and how to cultivate it?”
In Buddhism, the word “mind” that we often hear is called “dualistic mind”, not “false mind”. The dualistic mind is the mind that always has a subject and an object.
Two things that mundane people use the most are feelings and thoughts. The Buddha called them dualistic mind, not the mind that thinks of all kinds of random or scattered thoughts. Thus, the mind refers to two characteristics:
1- emotional, or emotion
2- intellectual, or intellect
This was the preliminary concept. After that, he began to teach. He said that it was because of those emotions and intellect that we have an inner world. This inner world is the subject which always needs an object. The subject and object make it difficult for us to recognize the True Mind or the Absolute Mind. From the dualistic mind to true mind is a Buddhist’s cultivation path.
From long ago in India and the time of the Buddha, an early philosophy of how to overcome the five Koshas already existed. In Buddhism, they are called the five Skandhas, or the five covering layers. For example, you put a book down, then stack a cookie box on top, then a pillow, and then a blanket on top, etc. After a while, you can't find your book because it's been buried under all the other stuff. That book symbolizes the True Mind, and the covering layers are called Skandhas.
There are five Skandhas according to the Buddha:
1. Form: experiences of the body
2. Feelings: experiences of the feelings and emotions
3. Thoughts: experiences of thinking and perceptions
4. Mental Formation: experiences of habitual energy and habits
5. Consciousness: experiences of knowledge and awareness
These are called experiences since only a subject can experience them, not an object. Only each person can experience them personally; no other individual can have the same experiences.
Thus, the concept of the five Skandhas dated back to the time of the Buddha and we always use them today to harmonize with other Dharma teaching methods. The Shurangama Sutra further explained that the five covering layers should be called five Skandhas which means shadows or darkness. For instance, the sky is covered by dark clouds, or the tree canopy gives shadows. The five Skandhas of form, feelings, thoughts, habits, and consciousness are five layers that cover the sun underneath. We can liberate ourselves and recognize our True Mind only when we can find ways to let the light go through those five layers. This is called mind cultivating.
Cultivating the mind is cultivating the True Mind in such a way that our inner light, the light of the True Mind, can radiate out through those five covering layers.
-Body: Unless you're healthy, there is no way you would think of the true mind, of cultivating, or sitting to practice the six Hand-Eye Dharma.
-Emotion: If you're angry at someone, there's no way you can sit to say, "OK, I'm visualizing the light now." That would be very difficult.
-Thought: When your brain thinks of this or that movie, that means you're thinking of all kinds of things, it would be difficult for you to sit still and feel the serenity of your inner mind. Thoughts are powerful. They make it impossible for us to sit still.
-Habit: Every day, if you don't get up early to practice, and if you don't stay up a little bit later at night to practice, you won't develop the habit for cultivating.
Therefore, the miracle of cultivation is when you begin to make time, change habits, change the way you think, change your feelings, emotions, and perceptions, and finally change your physical body. Cultivating the mind is actually the process of cultivating everything, from body, to feelings, emotions, habits, thoughts, and perceptions, etc. It's not an easy thing to do.
The Buddha went one step further. He said, "You know that from six senses--eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind--there are six gunas (sense objects)--sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and thought. The senses and sense objects always include consciousness, which is awareness. This awareness is always based on the senses and sense objects; it's difficult to separate them.
Therefore, in our cultivation, we have to meditate deeply to go through layers of attachments such as sense-organs and sense objects. For example, our eyes are always attached to form/appearance or beauty. Thus, we must have a method of cultivation to look through all things, so the sense-organs are not attached to the sense objects. Cultivating the mind is very complicated nowadays. The mind that used to be called the dualistic mind in the old days is now the mind that we learn to cultivate in such a way for the True Mind to manifest.
You might say, "I often think of all kinds of wrong things. Now if I learn to think right (Right View), is it mind cultivating?" But that is a relative aspect, not to develop the True Mind. If you say you often begrudge and resent, then you should cultivate your mind now by being lovable, forgiving, letting go, flexible, and open. You should practice to transform the angry mind which makes you stuck in duality.
There are always two parts. First is how to cultivate so as not to get stuck in duality. Second is how to cultivate so as to manifest the True Mind. When you follow these two parts to cultivate, you are practicing the Buddha's way: Manifest the True Mind and transform the Dualistic Mind or the Attaching Mind.
I hope that by now, you have become aware and can recognize where the mind is. The mind is nowhere. If it is in a dualistic place, it is the dualistic mind. The True Mind is what we are developing, trying to manifest our inherent inner light.
Thank you for listening. I wish you a lovely day. May you be more and more joyful and awake with this Dharma Espresso.
Dharma Master Heng Chang
(Translated and transcribed by Compassionate Service Society)