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14379Mind is All-A Commentary on the Dhammapada

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  • swamitarakananda
    Sep 20, 2005
      Here is another article by Swami Nirmalananda, abbot of Atma Jyoti

      History of the Dhammapada

      The Dhammapada is not a transcription of a single talk by Gautama the
      Buddha. Rather, it
      is a collection of his words on the most important subjects for those
      seeking Nirvana. It
      was compiled only three months after his passing away by his
      enlightened disciples
      (arhats), who gave it the name Dhammapada, which means "Portions of
      the Dharma" or
      "The Way of Dharma." The Dhammapada consists of four hundred
      twenty-three Pali verses
      that were gleaned from about three hundred discourses of the Buddha.
      It is a distillation of
      forty-five years of teaching.

      What is the mind

      "Mind precedes its objects. They are mind-governed and mind-made."
      (Dhammapada 1)

      What is the mind? The language of Buddha, as well as Pali, in which
      his complete teachings
      are set down, was based on Sanskrit, so we can get some understanding
      by looking at the
      Sanskrit terms from which the Pali was derived. (In fact, we may get
      a better
      understanding than if we rely on the Pali commentaries and their
      considering that they were begun exactly five hundred years after the
      death of Buddha,
      who had stated that in five hundred years the dharma he was preaching
      would begin to be
      lost.) Sanskrit and Pali have the same word for mind: "mana".
      Mana comes
      from the root verb "man", which means "to think." However,
      mind takes in
      more territory than the intellect; it includes the senses and the
      emotions, because it is in
      response to feelings and sensory impressions that thoughts arise in
      the attempt to label
      and understand them. Evolved minds have the capacity to think
      abstractly and to
      determine what shall be experienced by the senses or the feelings.
      That is, in lesser
      evolved minds these impressions precede thought, but in higher
      evolved minds thought
      becomes dominant and not only precedes those impressions but also
      determines them.
      Undoubtedly this is progress, but like everything in relative
      existence it has a down side,
      and that is the capacity of the mind to "create reality" rather than
      simply respond to it or
      classify it. Perception is not a matter of exact and undistorted
      experience. Perception itself
      is learned and is therefore extremely subjective. People born blind
      who have gained their
      sight in later childhood or even in adulthood have said that it took
      them weeks to tell the
      difference between circles, squares, triangles, and other geometric
      shapes-as well as the
      difference between many other kinds of visual impressions. This tells
      us that we do not
      just perceive spontaneously through the senses. We learn
      perception-it is not just a
      faculty. In other words, the senses do not perceive; it is the mind
      alone that perceives even
      though it uses the impressions of the senses as its "raw material"
      for those perceptions.
      Objectivity in human beings is virtually impossible. We might even
      hazard the speculation
      that objectivity is impossible outside of enlightenment.

      All of the foregoing might worry us greatly-indeed, the insight into
      this truth about the
      nature of the mind may well be the seed of paranoia, for it is
      well-known that the Eastern
      description of the enlightened mind and personality is closely akin
      to what modern
      psychiatry calls paranoid schizophrenia. Some might say they are
      identical, but they would
      be wrong, for the enlightened respond to their vision with positive
      behavior, peacefulness
      of mind, and lovingkindness towards others. The mentally ill, on the
      other hand, respond
      with anxiety, fear, hostility, and mistrust of others. The sage has
      profound self-
      understanding, whereas the paranoid schizophrenic has almost no
      self-realization at all.
      (More than one psychiatric nurse has told me that they often took
      their problems to the
      paranoic schizophrenics in their charge, who gave them remarkably
      insightful and wise
      advice. But regarding themselves, those same patients were just plain
      crazy and without a
      clue. This is a terrible and cruel dichotomy.)

      The understanding to be gained from all this is that our life
      experiences are a training
      film, an exercise in the development of consciousness with the mind
      as its main
      instrument. We are to look and learn. The question of "Is it real?"
      is almost irrelevant, "Is it
      comprehensible?" being more vital. There is a sense in which the
      individual alone exists
      and all that he experiences is but the shifting patterns of the
      movies of the mind-but for a
      purpose: insight that leads to freedom from the need of any more
      movies. Then the
      liberated can rest in the truth of his own self.

      The problem is that those who have only an intellectual idea about
      the relation of
      experience to reality-ourselves-will come to erroneous conclusions
      that may result in very
      self-destructive thought and behavior. And those observing them will
      rightly consider
      them either fools or lunatics. Only right experience garnered from
      right meditation and
      right thought (which is based on meditation) can clear away the
      clouds of non-perception
      and misperception and free us.

      The demarcation between "out there" and "in here" must become clear
      to us in a practical
      sense. We must also come to understand that "real" and "unreal" have
      both correct and
      mistaken definitions, that all our perceptions are
      "interpretations" of the mind
      and never the objects themselves. Our perceptions may be more or less
      correct as to the
      nature of the outside object, but how can we know? The enlightened of
      all ages have told
      us that a stage of evolution can be reached in which the mind is no
      longer necessary, a
      state in which we can go beyond the mind and enter into direct
      contact and
      communication with "out there" and then perceive objects as they
      truly are-or at least as
      they momentarily "are." The knowledge of temporality or eternality is
      inseparable from
      that state, so confusion cannot arise regarding them.

      In our childish way we always think of perfection as consisting of
      all our good traits greatly
      increased and our bad traits eradicated. (If we are "good" enough
      children to admit we
      have bad traits, that is.) We think of God as being just like us, but
      with His goodness
      expanded to boundless dimension, and badness impossible to Him. In
      the same way we
      think of eternity as time without end rather than a state that
      transcends time. Our ideas of
      eternal life are pathetic since we have no idea what life is, much
      less eternity. It only
      follows, then, that our ideas of enlightenment and liberation are
      equally puerile and
      valueless. This is why the wise center their attention on spiritual
      practice rather than
      theology and philosophy. Experience-Right Experience-will make all
      things clear or else
      enable us to see that they do not exist.

      At the moment we can say that we do not know just what the mind is,
      but we are working
      on knowing it. So let us again set forth the opening words of the

      Mind-the source

      "Mind precedes its objects. They are mind-governed and mind-made."

      First there is the mind. Let us go deeper than we have so far. It is
      possible to view "mind"
      as both the perception machinery we have been talking about and the
      which perceives the perception, the consciousness that is
      unconditioned and permanent-
      in other words, the spirit, the eternal self. ("The Self is ear of
      the ear, mind of the mind,
      speech of speech. He is also breath of the breath, and eye of the
      eye"-Kena Upanishad 2.)
      From this higher aspect of Mind all things proceed-in both the
      macrocosmic and the
      microcosmic sense. From the Mind of God all things are projected that
      are found in the
      cosmos; and from the mind of the individual are projected all that
      are distinctive to his
      life. We are all co-creators with God, even though we have long ago
      forgotten that and
      attributed everything that goes on in our life as acts of God. From
      this delusion erroneous
      religion has arisen-religion that thinks it necessary to pray to and
      propitiate God in order
      for the "good" to come to us and the "bad" to be eliminated from our
      life. It is this religion
      and its false God that Buddha adamantly rejected and from which we
      must be freed if we
      are to gain any true understanding of what is really happening to us
      from life to life. On
      the other hand, we need true religion-the conviction and aspiration
      for the uniting of the
      finite consciousness with the Infinite Consciousness in eternal
      Being. The call of the self to
      the Self is the essence of true religion, and in that sense those who
      would turn from death
      to life must be thoroughly religious. Any god that is separate from
      us is a false god; the
      true God is the very Self of our self. Though distinct from us, He is
      not separate. We are
      eternally one with Him. But we have to realize that-not
      intellectually only, but through
      direct experience. And that experience is only possible in meditation.

      All right: mind precedes its objects, which are themselves governed
      and made by the
      mind. This has profound implications.

      1) Karma is the creation of the mind-is simply the mind in extension.
      Karma need not be
      worked out or fulfilled; the mind need only be changed, or better yet
      brought into
      complete abeyance. Then karma is no more and its attendant
      compulsions-including birth
      and death-no longer exist.

      2) Our entire life experience is but a mirroring of the mind. If
      something is not already
      within our mind it cannot be projected outward as a (seemingly)
      external factor or
      experience of our life. So our life is our mind in motion! By
      observing it we can come to
      know what is in our mind. If we do not like what is happening in our
      life, the solution is to
      alter our mind. People who like to tell of how cruel, selfish,
      dishonest, and disloyal others
      habitually are to them are merely telling us how cruel, selfish,
      dishonest, and disloyal
      "they" are. "Victims" are only victimizers in a down cycle.
      The moment the
      upswing comes in their life rhythms they will go back to victimizing
      others. Action and
      reaction are purely psychological matters, the film in the
      projector-the light and sound on
      the screen being only its projection. Change the film and you change
      the experience. Since
      objects come from the mind they can only be compatible with the mind
      and therefore
      express and reveal its character.

      3) All the factors of "life" are really only thought, attitude, and
      outlook in manifestation.

      4) Study your life and thereby know your mind.

      5) You are always in control, even though that control may be on an
      unconscious level.

      6) Change your mind and you change your life. (Do not forget that
      "mind" includes

      7) Mary Baker Eddy was right: All is Mind and Mind is All.

      Action and reaction

      "To speak or act with a defiled mind is to draw pain after oneself,
      like a wheel behind the
      feet of the animal drawing it." (Dhammapada 1) Suffering is
      inevitable for the person with
      a defiled mind, for it is impossible not to act or think (speak
      inwardly, even if not
      outwardly). "Good" or meritorious acts done by a person with a
      defiled mind will bring
      suffering-perhaps not as much as evil acts, but still the suffering
      will not be avoided. This
      is imperative for us to comprehend: "Action is not the determining
      factor in our life-
      Mind is!" And mind alone. This why in the Bhagavad Gita Krishna
      describes how bad
      people do good in a bad way and thus accrue more misery to themselves.

      It is so important to understand this fact, since we tend to
      mistakenly assume that "good"
      acts produce "good" karma, etc., when in reality the actions mean
      nothing-it is the
      condition of the mind that determines their character and therefore
      their consequences.
      (Buddha was very insistent on this.) Selfish people do "unselfish"
      deeds to either cover up
      their selfishness or to get merit for themselves so they can enjoy
      this or a future life. Their
      intentions defile the actions and no good accrues to them whatsoever.
      Instead their
      selfishness and pettiness is compounded! This is the plain truth.
      False religion gets rich on
      such persons with false promises of merit and remission of sins. And
      even after death the
      deception goes on as their relatives and friends offer prayers and
      almsdeeds that
      supposedly will mitigate their negative karmas and alleviate-or even
      eliminate-the after-
      death consequences of their defiled thoughts and deeds. It is common
      to hear patently evil
      people excused on the grounds of "all the good" they do along with
      their evil actions. The
      truth is plain: evil minds can only produce evil actions that produce
      evil results.

      How then can a negative person break the pattern of negativity and
      escape it? By thinking
      and acting with the intention to change from negative to positive.
      The admission of
      negativity and the resolution to turn from it can produce positive
      thoughts and deeds
      when the intention is to change the consciousness, not just the
      consequences. Without the
      desire for real change nothing worthwhile can take place in the life.

      Unavoidable good

      Buddha then repeats his statement about the nature of objects and
      then continues: "To
      speak or act with a pure mind, is to draw happiness after oneself,
      like an inseparable
      shadow." (Dhammapada 2)

      What is defiled and what is pure? Buddha is speaking of something
      much more than good
      and bad thoughts and deeds in the ordinary sense. Instead, he is
      speaking of defiled and
      pure minds. What is a defiled mind? One that is smudged and clogged
      with egotism and
      its demon attendants: selfishness, greed, jealousy, spite, hatred,
      and materiality. A pure
      mind is free from all these things, including the root of egotism.
      Further, a defiled mind is
      outward-turned and a pure mind is inward-turned. One roves through
      the jungle of
      illusion and delusion that is the world of man's making, and the
      other rests in the truth
      and perfection of its immortal self. A person who is spirit-oriented
      cannot but produce
      peace and happiness for himself. It is as inevitable as the suffering
      of the matter-oriented
      person. It is a matter of polarity of consciousness.

      Again we see that suffering and happiness are matters of the mind

      More on the Dhammapada can be found at http://www.atmajyoti.org at


      Swami Tarakananda