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Struggles of the Thinking Mind

monk,  meditative mind

Some experiences can be so powerful and captivating that can create a temporary illusion of happiness and ultimate success. Although the biological mechanism behind it is complicated, it can be said that also such ecstatic impressions arise primary as a product of the thinking mind that uses a blueprint to analyze and categorize both everyday and extraordinary experiences.

When experience is new, the information is first evaluated using the internal library and then classified into the pre-existing categories that seem to fit best. When the inner library of categories is scarce or the experience greatly exceeds the norms of everyday life the selection of categories will always be inadequate, what will lead to misinterpretations and missunderstandings. However, even the richest internal libraries cannot have an adequate reference for extraordinary and unfamiliar experiences. Thus, such experiences will at first be squeezed into different categories, the choice of which will depend on the individual mind.

As a result, the same experience will not always be classified into the same categories, although every thinking mind has the same blueprint. This discrepancy in assignments is especially noticeable when experience does not meet the basic conditions of the thinking mind (dualistic logic, linear time, defined boundaries). Consequently, also in a case of spiritual awakening, that will lead some people to classify it as untruth (related to delusion or mental disorder) and others to inexplainable truth (related to faith and religion). However, such classifications are nothing but subjective attitudes that rely on many factors (personal experience, intellectual capacity, clarity of mind, conditioning, etc.) and are relevant only to material existence ruled by dualistic perception.

No matter how functional dualistic perception may be in the realm of forms, it is also the greatest handicap of the intellectual mind when it comes to understanding what lies beyond form, as is the case with awakened consciousness. Namely, even after awakening is actually "experienced", due to the dualistic assessment, the intellectual mind cannot reach a full understanding of such an experience. Only when fully transcended, it can come to the realisation that the dualistic approach cannot be applied to consciousness, because, the consciousness has no beginning, no end, and no boundaries, it cannot be measured, it cannot be set as a goal, nor can the path to it be defined. Further on, to the transcended mind it is completely irrelevant whether the awakening experience is accepted or rejected by the thinking mind, since it recognizes the nature and purpose of the intellect and sees it as it is - extremely helpful in the realm of boundaries, but incapable of dealing with the "aimless approach to a goal" or "a journey whose end is also its beginning."

Yet, there is nothing extraordinary about an awakened mind. Since consciousness actually pervades every manifested form, the only difference between the mind with awakened and dormant consciousness is that the mind undergoing awakening realizes that it has trapped itself in an open cage from which it can escape at any time. On the other hand, the mind characterized by a dormant consciousness does not come to such a realization and so, instead of looking for a way out to freedom, it directs its focus on strengthening the bars and beautifying the cage. And although most people find themselves in such a trapped state of mind, they too, paradoxically, yearn for liberation and a way out of suffering. This desire will eventually lead them on a path of self-discovery where the mental formations that hold them captive become visible and their dismantling can be initiated.

The dismantling process is important because mental formations obscure and distort clear vision, both outwardly and inwardly. When mind is blurred, we are also prevented from seeing our original nature as it is, why both our development and the process of liberation will be slown down. The more blurred our vision, the greater our inner insecurity, and therefore every step we take becomes shaky, unstable and hesitant, as if we were walking through a thick fog. This feeling of inner insecurity leads to the strengthening of already established mental formations and the construction of new ones, which cloud the mind even more. This is why people with unclear minds cling even tighter to the bars of their inner cage, also then when the door to freedom is wide open and within reach.

Only through the power that arises when we practice life itself do we gain the experience necessary to recognize both the inner formations that build the false self and our attachment to them. However, it is important to understand that every attachment, without exception (even those that we consider conducive to personal success) prevents us from developing further. Therefore, we must also let go of attachments to the ideas of freedom, enlightenment, God, Self or Oness.

As we begin to learn the art of letting go, the first insights start suggesting that the ultimate success we long for can be achieved not by winning but by losing, not by filling but by emptying. And since this realization is contrary to what the thinking mind keeps implying, it is not surprising that letting go of attachments or surrendering to the flow of life is one of the most difficult skills to master. But, as long as we maintain attachments, the inner peace, wisdom, and liberation from suffering will remain unattainable, while we continue to wander around, repeating words that we either don't understand or that we misinterprete.

Yet, although the nature of the intellectual mind is such that it cannot function outside the premises of dualistic thinking, all those who have tried to transmit the taste of the limitless, having experienced unity themselves, also have applied the tools of the intellectual mind to illuminate the Path for others. So, in an attempt to help them break through the barrier of physical reality, they have utilised many aspects of the thinking mind, such as paradoxes, koans, various sounds or responses on physical stimulation. In applying such tools, however, the masters would never lose sight of the limitations of the intellectual mind and the ineffectiveness of words when it comes to describing the indescribable.

As Lao Zi and many before and after him realised: “The tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal Name.” Thus, since intellectual mind assesses everything through "named thoughts" it can never grasp the Truth, because also the truth that can be named is not the ultimate Truth.

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