Resting in the Essence of Mind

This whole phrase popped into my mind yesterday as I have been trying to understand my mind through choiceless awareness. I am not sure whether this phrase was coined by me or whether it popped from my unconscious memory of all the readings I have done. So I looked up the phrase in Google and came across this fantastic site on Mahamudra Buddhism. The name of the website is

natural awareness
relaxed presence, unfabricated, flowing, just as it is

which is quite close to the choiceless awareness that Krishnamurti talks about. Before I get into the actual contents of the website that attracted me, I would like to provide a brief history of how I came to this in the first place.

For a while I have been looking at this relation between the thinker and the thought. Intellectually, it has become absolutely clear to me that any operation of the thinker is the operation of time and memory. So the question is how does one observe thought without the operation of the thinker. Krishnamurti’s answer would be something like, “There is no how. The moment you ask a how you get into the method and an operation in time”. According to him, the understanding itself has to be so complete, such a powerful insight, that it once and for all wipes the distinction between the thinker and the thought in one single stroke. He spoke about the possibility of such a radical insight for years. But I am not sure whether one can have this insight without some preceding steps. Krishnamurti himself has been vague and ambiguous about this. His teachings, at some points, hints at a gradual progression in understanding of mind, like in my post Reading the Book of Life. But he also vexingly talks about the penultimate insight of seeing the observer as the observed, as the only way out of conflict.

Anyways, since I am not interested in blindly following anyone but move from my own understanding, I have been looking at the dynamics of Witnessing. Witnessing seems to me to be an intermediate stage before reaching the actual state where the observer is seen as the observed. There seems to be a process where the Witness gets more and more “transparent”, a word I am borrowing from Greg Goode’s Direct Path. For the past two years, I have been a Witness of thoughts. While this gives one quite a lot of freedom, there are still frequent hijacks by the thinker and a subsequent getting embroiled in discursive thinking.

Ever since I moved back into Krishnamurti kind of inquiry, I discovered that my Witness was getting hijacked by thought because of my affiliations with paths. Any path forms a very subtle thinker and an internal authority that prevents absolute, impartial witnessing. In Greg’s terminology, I guess it was more of “Opaque Witness”. It took some time for me to discover these hidden structures of paths, authority and dependence on knowledge. As this happened, my Witness started to become more transparent or impartial.

With the Witness getting more transparent, I started becoming a Witness more to energy than thought. Thought is an expression of energy. I hesitantly put forward my thesis that this energy is consciousness and that awareness is actually different from consciousness. This is similar to what we perceive in the physical world as the relation between space and energy. Awareness is akin to space whereas all the transformations that take place in oneself – in body and mind – are transformations of energy. When one becomes a Witness to Energy rather than Thought, one gets almost total freedom from the discursive process of thinking and logic. One is then no longer following thought with its cause-effect linkage but actually “looking” and “listening” to thought as an energy transformation that is taking place in space like awareness.

I also realized further that there is actually no effort required to be a Witness or to be Aware because Awareness seems to be the fundamental nature or essence of the mind. One doesn’t need to make an effort to be aware because mind is awareness. The essence of mind is awareness just as one can say that the essence of the physical world is space. One needs to have an insight into this nature of mind. Awareness is not a practice, it is about understanding that there is an “unfabricated” awareness that is present as space all the time. When this understanding takes place, there is little interest in modifying the contents of thought because no matter what kind of thought is taking place, it has no capacity to alter or change this unfabricated awareness.

All that I discovered has been beautifully summarized in what is called “Tilopa’s Pith Instructions on Mahamudra (The Ganges Mahamudra)”. I am reproducing below a translation of the same by Ken McLeod, from the website http://www.naturalawareness.net/ganges.html

I simply loved them and found them to be awesome I hope that it will be of help to others traversing a similar journey like mine.

Pith Instructions on Mahamudra (translated by Ken McLeod)

I bow to Vajra Dakini.

1
Mahamudra cannot be taught, Naropa,
But your devotion to your teacher and the hardships you’ve met
Have made you patient in suffering and also wise:
Take this to heart, my worthy student.

2
For instance, consider space: what depends on what?
Likewise, mahamudra: it doesn’t depend on anything.
Don’t control. Let go and rest naturally.
Let what binds you let go and freedom is not in doubt.

3
When you look into space, seeing stops.
Likewise, when mind looks at mind,
The flow of thinking stops and you come to the deepest awakening.

4
Mists rise from the earth and vanish into space.
They go nowhere, nor do they stay.
Likewise, though thoughts arise,
Whenever you see your mind, the clouds of thinking clear.

5
Space is beyond color or shape.
It doesn’t take on color, black or white: it doesn’t change.
Likewise, your mind, in essence, is beyond color or shape.
It does not change because you do good or evil.

6
The darkness of a thousand eons cannot dim
The brilliant radiance that is the essence of the sun.
Likewise, eons of samsara cannot dim
The sheer clarity that is the essence of your mind.

7
Although you say space is empty,
You can’t say that space is “like this”.
Likewise, although mind is said to be sheer clarity,
There is nothing there: you can’t say “it’s like this”.

8
Thus, the nature of mind is inherently like space:
It includes everything you experience.

9
Stop all physical activity: sit naturally at ease.
Do not talk or speak: let sound be empty, like an echo.
Do not think about anything: look at experience beyond thought.

10
Your body has no core, hollow like bamboo.
Your mind goes beyond thought, open like space.
Let go of control and rest right there.

11
Mind without projection is mahamudra.
Train and develop this and you will come to the deepest awakening.

12
You don’t see mahamudra’s sheer clarity
By means of classical texts or philosophical systems,
Whether of the mantras, paramitas,
Vinaya, sutras or other collections.

13
Ambition clouds sheer clarity and you don’t see it.
Thinking about precepts undermines the point of commitment.
Do not think about anything; let all ambition drop.
Let what arises settle by itself, like patterns in water.
No place, no focus, no missing the point —
Do not break this commitment: it is the light in the dark.

14
When you are free from ambition and don’t hold any position,
You will see all that the scriptures teach.
When you open to this, you are free from samsara’s prison.
When you settle in this, all evil and distortion burn up.
This is called “The Light of the Teaching”.

15
The foolish are not interested in this.
The currents of samsara constantly carry them away.
Oh, how pitiable, the foolish — their struggles never end.
Don’t accept these struggles, long for freedom, and rely on a skilled teacher.
When his (her) energy enters your heart, your mind is freed.

16
What joy!
Samsaric ways are senseless: they are the seeds of suffering.
Conventional ways are pointless. Focus on what is sound and true.
Majestic outlook is beyond all fixation.
Majestic practice is no distraction.
Majestic behavior is no action or effort.
The fruition is there when you are free from hope and fear.

17
Beyond any frame of reference mind is naturally clear.
Where there is no path you begin the path of awakening.
Where there is nothing to work on you come to the deepest awakening.

18
Alas! Look carefully at this experience of the world.
Nothing lasts. It’s like a dream, like magic.
The dream, the magic, makes no sense.
Experience this grief and forget the affairs of the world.

19
Cut all ties of involvement with country or kin,
Practice alone in forest or mountain retreats.
Rest, not practicing anything.
When you come to nothing to come to, you come to mahamudra.

20
A tree spreads its branches and leaves.
Cut the root and ten thousand branches wither.
Likewise, cut the root of mind and the leaves of samsara wither.

21
Though darkness gathers for a thousand eons.
A single light dispels it all.
Likewise, one moment of sheer clarity
Dispels the ignorance, evil and confusion of a thousand eons.

22
What joy!
With the ways of the intellect you won’t see beyond intellect.
With the ways of action you won’t know non-action.
If you want to know what is beyond intellect and action,
Cut your mind at its root and rest in naked awareness.

23
Let the cloudy waters of thinking settle and clear.
Let appearances come and go on their own.
With nothing to change, the world you experience becomes mahamudra.
Because the basis of experience has no beginning, patterns and distortions fall away.
Rest in no beginning, with no self-interest or expectation.
Let what appears appear on its own and let conceptual ways subside.

24
The most majestic of outlooks is free of all reference.
The most majestic of practices is vast and deep without limit.
The most majestic of behaviors is open-minded and impartial.
The most majestic of fruitions is natural being, free of concern.

25
At first, practice is a river rushing through a gorge.
In the middle, it’s the river Ganges, smooth and flowing.
In the end, it’s where all rivers meet, mother and child.

26
When your mind is less acute and does not truly rest,
Work the essentials of energy and bring out the vitality of awareness.
Using gazes and techniques to take hold of mind
Train awareness until it does truly rest.

27
When you practice with a sexual partner, empty bliss awareness arises.
The balancing of method and wisdom transforms energy.
Let it descend gently, collect it, draw it back up,
Return it to its place, and let it saturate your body.
When you are free from longing and desire, empty bliss awareness arises.

28
You will have a long life, you will not gray, and you will shine like the moon.
You will radiate health and well-being and be as strong as a lion.
You will quickly attain the ordinary abilities and open to the supreme one.

May these pith instructions, the essentials of mahamudra,
Abide in the hearts of all worthy beings.

These are the great Tilopa’s oral instructions. On the completion of the twelve hardships, Tilopa taught these on the banks of the river Ganges to the Kashmiri pandit, the wise and learned Naropa. Naropa taught The Twenty-Eight Vajra Verses to the great interpreter, the king of translators, Marpa Chökyi Lodrö. Marpa finalized his translation at Pulahari in the north of India. Ken McLeod translated this into English in Los Angeles in the southwest of the United States, working from the efforts of previous translators and various commentaries.

The image has been taken from http://media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/736x/0a/c4/84/0ac484bf284746dcc2ae6df91df2a475.jpg

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3 thoughts on “Resting in the Essence of Mind

    1. Dear Papa,

      The essence of mind is awareness. One does not make an effort to be aware. For example, when an object comes in front of you, you become aware of it instantaneously and effortlessly. This awareness is not fabricated. You do not have to make an effort to be aware of the object.

      This awareness is like space. All things exist in it and yet no thing can make any difference to this awareness. Just like space does not get dirty because of bad smoke, awareness does not get affected by bad thoughts. Just like space does not get burnt by fire, awareness does not get exhausted or affected due to anger. Awareness effortlessly illumines all thoughts.

      So, the moment one understands that the essential nature of mind or its essence is never going to change or get affected, one relaxes in this primordial awareness. This insight releases you from the suffering associated with changing or modifying thoughts. They just come, dance, play and if allowed to flower completely they die their own death.

      This insight may start out as an intellectual idea and therefore there will still be a process of identification with thoughts. As the idea actually sinks in, the watching starts becoming effortless and the space like nature of mind starts becoming more and more clear.

      Like

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