Thursday, September 2, 2010

Mind Matters Most!

One of the main reasons for my attraction to courses in Vipassana meditation is that the teaching provides me a method, a way, to directly experience the reality of mind and matter. The process of knowing what is happening within is through direct experience, it is not a belief nor do I have to follow a ritual.

The instructions are clear and precise and to the point. The theoretical explanations given during discourses in the evening throw light on one's practice during the day and is very meaningful. In fact Goenkaji is very spot on in his teaching--he has a good comprehension of students' experiences on each day of the course.

Because of the importance given to practice of meditation, the theoretical aspects become easier to comprehend and don't remain just a philosophy. What becomes clear in the course of the practice is that we all have a consciousness and more specifically, this consciousness is linked to our sense organs. Therefore we have an "eye consciousness", "ear consciousness", "touch consciousness", "taste consciousness", "smell consciousness" -- the 5 sense organs. In addition, we have our "mind-consciousness" (example, a thought that arises).

We know we have this consciousness because we are able to perceive the external world through our sense organs. With this important faculty of perception we are able to give meaning to what we see, hear, taste, smell, touch, and think. Giving meaning is possible because of past experience with the external object. Therefore if somebody praises you, your ear-consciousness hears the praise and is able to interpret the words as something good, something wonderful.

The instant we are able to perceive the stimulus in our environment, there is a sensation that is aroused in the body which is in line with our perception. The words of praise that reaches our ears gives us a corresponding sensation of pleasure --such as a tingling feeling, or a sense of pleasantness, a wave of exhilaration. This sensation makes us want more and more of the stimulus that set it off--the words of praise, so we start craving for more words of praise--a reaction.

Described thus far, there seems to be consciousness, perception, sensation and finally reactions. It is because of these four faculties that we experience our world and it is worth while to understand these processes clearly and help ourselves out of the mess we land ourselves in very often.

The fact that we have a consciousness cannot be altered, and as long as our sense organs are working, we will keep becoming aware of the stimuli at various sense doors. We can neither stop ourselves from giving meaning to the objects in our environment so the process of perception goes on, based on our past experiences. However, what is not very apparent to us is that there is a gap between our perception and our reaction to this perception and that is our sensation on our body. The moment we perceive, we evaluate the external object (or an internal phenomenon such as a thought in the mind) as being good or bad, favourable or unfavourable and depending on this we experience a sensation. Reactions are based on the sensations we experience--if it is pleasant we crave for it --if unpleasant we want to avoid it.

When we stop reacting to our sensations, we find that the sensation passes away on its own without us having to do anything about it. This helps us understand their impermanent nature.

Therefore meditation helps us in 2 significant ways:
1. it helps sharpen our minds so that we learn to detect these sensations on our body, and pay attention to them
2. it helps us remain objective (equanimous) about our sensations and understand the truth about their nature-- that they are impermanent.

This is the main and most significant role of meditation. It trains us to become more and more aware of our sensations and helps us to understand their true nature of impermanence and thus helps us become objective about them (equanimity).

Time and again many enlightened people have asserted, that we have no control over the objects in the external world--we only have control over our reactions to them. The process of meditation provides us a method of gaining that control over our reactions. It helps us find the gap between stimulus and our response. It enables us choose our response wisely not out of blind, automatic reaction.

An intellectual understanding alone rarely helps us in life, it can probably inspire us. Turning this into a belief or accepting it as a philosophy doesn't help as well.

It is only with continuous practice that one begins to see the truth of these processes; it is with practice that one is able to comprehend the impermanence of our sensations and develop equanimity towards them. By doing so we put a stop to blind reactions to sensations.

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