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Meditation – The Cleansing of the Mind
by Aik Theng Chong, The Buddhist Channel, July 1, 2011
Singapore -- As humans, we are constantly thinking about our future or our past. But in order to experience life, we have to live each moment. Lives happening of the past are just memory.
For lives happening in the future, that is planning. The only time we can live is now, this moment. Difficult as it may seem, we have to learn to do that first. We have to actually experience living in the present to eliminate a great many of our problems. Simple as it may sounds, difficult indeed it is to carry out. The only way to learn to live each moment is through what else - but the process of meditation.
Most if not all of us are quite capable to look after our bodies to make sure it is able to function well. But are we doing the same for our mind? What we may not have given much thought about is that our mind is the master and the body is the servant. The master, the one in charge, has to be in the best possible condition to direct the servant to ensure everything is in order. Everything in this world is mind-made, yet many of us take the mind for granted. Not many of us would take the body for granted though, we would ensure that it is well feed, well rested and when it is sick it is taken to the doctor. For the mind, that would be another matter altogether for most ordinary folks. Looking after the mind is essential for it to grow in depth and vision, but one suspect it is only the meditator who would know how to go about looking after it.
Many of us would likely to live our lives in the realities of yesterday and tomorrow, good and bad, like and dislike, but it is only when the mind is trained can we see beyond this and into other dimensions. The first thing that we need to do to made the mind ‘see’ beyond this present two dimensional lives is to first ‘wash’ and ‘clean’ it up in all our waking moments. For that, we will need to learn how to go about it. With the body, we certainly would know how to do it right from a very young age. But for the mind, it can only be cleansed by itself. What it has put in there before, the mind is the only one that can take it out. In that respect, one second of
concentration in meditation is also one second in the purification of our mind. Luckily for us, mind moments follow each other in quick succession but only one at a time.
When we concentrate, the five hindrances of sense desire, ill will, sloth and torpor, worries and doubts, would not have the chance to arise as our mind can only do one thing at a time. As we get better at concentration and the period gets longer and longer, the mind gets cleansed more and more. Our mind is like a fine, wonderful tool that each of us possesses and we obviously should learn how to go about looking after it at all times. It is a tool that we can use to accomplished many things including enlightenment and learning to look after it would ensure it will function properly.
During our meditation we learn to drop from our mind what we do not want to keep and only keeping our mind on the meditation subject. As we become more and more skilled at it, we should also be able to start making use of our meditative practice to assist us in our daily living, like helping us to drop those thoughts which are unwholesome and putting our attention to wholesome ones only.
Next, we will need to exercise and strengthen our mind to do exactly what we want it to do, to stand still when we want it to do so. This creates the power in the mind to let go, to renounce when it is so required. Thoughts which arise, happy or unhappy ones, in constant flux and flow; this is what we must learn to drop when we manage to stay on our meditation subject. Renunciation arises in meditation when we drop all thoughts. When we think, talk, or reads, it is using the mind in the interest of our ego. When there is nobody thinking, there will be no confirmation of the existence of the ego.
For those who have become masters of their own thoughts and learn to think what they want to think, have indeed move onto the path to becoming Arahants, the Enlightened Ones. At that stage, one has become master of the mind instead of the mind being the master of one self. The spiritual path is all about letting go, the letting go of all we have built up around us, which would includes conditioned habits, ideas, beliefs and thinking patterns. A strong mind does not suffer from boredom, frustration, depression or unhappiness. It has learned to drop what it does not want, and the practice of meditation has given it the necessary muscles to do so.
Of course the mind too need to rest. We have been thinking ever since we were small, in fact over our innumerable lifetimes. The only time the mind can have a real rest is when it stops thinking and start only experiencing. One simile used for the mind is that, it is like a blank screen on which a continuous film is shown without intermission. Here the film is like our thoughts and we forget that there is a screen
behind it. If we for once stop the show for a moment in meditation, we can experience the basic purity of our mind. This moment also brought about the arising of a moment of happiness with an accompanying state of bliss as well. It is a state conditioned by concentration. When verbalization stops, there is quiet and contentment of the mind.
Thinking is suffering, no matter what we are thinking. The moment we relax and rest our mind it gains new strength and happiness. This happiness created in meditation should also carries through to our daily living as the mind knows it can go home too and find peace and quiet in meditation when it so requires.
The letting go, the renunciation in meditation brings along with it insight, the understanding that the ego is constantly wanting and therefore wanting to think. When the ego stops wanting, it does not need to think and all un-satisfactoriness disappears. That is why, as Buddhists we need to meditate to cleanse our mind, to bring it peace and calm and most importantly, with the arising of Insights through
experience, the eventual cessation of our Suffering.