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The Mind and the Nature of Mind

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  • medit8ionsociety
    Excerpt from The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, by Sogyal Rinpoche: The still revolutionary insight of Buddhism is that life and death are in the mind, and
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 16, 2011
      Excerpt from The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying,
      by Sogyal Rinpoche:

      The still revolutionary insight of Buddhism is
      that life and death are in the mind, and nowhere
      else. Mind is revealed as the universal basis of
      experience – the creator of happiness and the
      creator of suffering, the creator of what we call
      life and what we call death.

      There are many aspects to the mind, but two stand
      out. The first is the ordinary mind, called by
      the Tibetans sem. One master defines it: "That
      which possesses discriminating awareness, that
      which possesses a sense of duality – which grasps
      or rejects something external – that is mind.
      Fundamentally it is that which can associate with
      an 'other' – with any 'something,' that is perceived
      as different from the perceiver." (2) Sem is the
      discursive, dualistic, thinking mind, which can
      only function in relation to a projected and
      falsely perceived external reference point.

      So sem is the mind that thinks, plots, desires,
      manipulates, that flares up in anger, that creates
      and indulges in waves of negative emotion and
      thoughts, that has to go on and on asserting,
      validating, and confirming its "existence" by
      fragmenting, conceptualizing, and solidifying
      experience. The ordinary mind is the ceaselessly
      shifting and shiftless prey of external influences,
      habitual tendencies, and conditioning: The masters
      liken sem to a candle flame in an open doorway,
      vulnerable to all the winds of circumstance.

      Seen from one angle, sem is flickering, unstable,
      grasping, and endlessly minding others' business;
      its energy consumed by projecting outwards. I think
      of it sometimes as a Mexican jumping bean, or as
      a monkey hopping restlessly from branch to branch
      on a tree. Yet seen in another way, the ordinary
      mind has a false, dull stability, a smug and
      self-protective inertia, a stone-like calm of
      ingrained habits. Sem is as cunning as a crooked
      politician, skeptical, distrustful, expert at
      trickery and guile, "ingenious," Jamyang Khyentse
      wrote, " in the games of deception." It is within
      the experience of this chaotic, confused, undisciplined,
      and repetitive sem, this ordinary mind, that, again
      and again, we undergo change and death.

      Then there is the very nature of mind, its innermost
      essence, which is absolutely and always untouched
      by change or death. At present it is hidden within
      our own mind, our sem, enveloped and obscured by
      the mental scurry of our thoughts and emotions. Just
      as clouds can be shifted by a strong gust of wind
      to reveal the shining sun and wide-open sky, so,
      under certain special circumstances, some inspiration
      may uncover for us glimpses of this nature of mind.
      These glimpses have many depths and degrees, but
      each of them will bring some light of understanding,
      meaning, and freedom. This is because the nature
      of mind is the very root itself of understanding.
      In Tibetan we call it Rigpa, a primordial, pure,
      pristine awareness that is at once intelligent,
      cognizant, radiant, and always awake. It could be
      said to be the knowledge of knowledge itself.
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