Master of beings
We often hear statements such as: 'mind over matter', 'mind is very powerful', 'mind can cause physical sickness' etc. However, none of these statements lead us to harness the real power of the mind. What is this mind? Where is it? How could we make use of it properly? These are some of the questions we wonder about quite often. Specially, when meditators sit down to meditate this and other myriad of question come to their minds. Buddhas are incomparable experts on the mind. Buddha Dharma is a great evidence of their expertise. A major portion of Abidhamma contains various classifications, and descriptions of the mind. Sutras in other collections directly or indirectly can lead a person to the development of the mind, which is the ultimate goal of buddhas' advice. This article attempts to briefly present some aspects of mind.
Mind by its own nature is pure. However, the rest of the constituents associated with the mind could make it impure. Hence the Buddha states: "The mind is clear or pure in nature. It becomes impure due to impurities that arrives at it." The Buddha's ultimate advice is to tame and purify this mind. Development of mind in such a manner requires development of faculties that are relevant for this goal. Only through the development of the necessary faculties of the mind that it becomes possible to tame and purify the mind properly. If these faculties are not developed properly the mind becomes prey to whatever it receives as objects.
By its nature the mind always seeks objects. This taking of objects cannot be clearly recognized due to the complexities caused by the other five bodily faculties. The five bodily faculties are eye, ear, nose, tongue and rest of the body as a whole. These faculties take in five types of objects: eye - visual objects, ear - auditory objects, nose - olfactory objects, tongue - tastes, body - tangible objects. Without the mind the five bodily facultieswill not function as they are. Sometimes when we do not put our minds to what we see, pictures or objects may pass in front of our eyes but we will not see them and similarly with the other organs. Mind attends to all these objects coming into it very quickly. Hence, more are the objects we try to accept through our sense more tired the mind can become. In addition to the objects that we perceive through the five bodily faculties, mind takes mental objects as well. This complicates our behavior more. We perceive the objects through the five senses and we think thoughts. The following story of a bhikkhu named Meghiya illustrates the distracting power of the thoughts or ill conceived mental objects. Bhikkhu Meghiya was the Buddha's personal attendant before bhikkhu Ananda.
Bhikkhu Meghiya being attracted by a beautiful mango grove near a river thought of going there to meditate if the Buddha gave him permission. So he went to the Buddha and told his wish. Buddha was reluctant to give him leave. 'Wait a little Meghiya, till some other bhikkhu arrives, for we are alone said the Buddha. In spite of the Buddha's warning, a second and a third time, the bhikkhu repeated the request. Then the Blessed One granted permission: 'well, what can I say, Meghiya, when you talk of striving for concentration? Do now, as you think fit'
Accordingly bhikkhu Meghiya went to the mango grove to meditate. While he was there, thoughts associated with three unwholesome types arose in his mind, namely: thoughts of sense-pleasure, ill-will, and harm. Bhikkhu Meghiya wondered thus: 'It is strange, it is amazing I who left home with 'faith' (shraddha) for homeless state, yet assailed by unwholesome thoughts. So he went to the Blessed One and told him what happened. Then the Buddha stated five factorsthat are helpful.
Even though, bhikkhu Meghiya was virtuous and guarding his five senses the arising of mental objects in the mind did not cease. This shows the complexities that could arise due to thoughts.
The effort of guarding the senses is to reduce the complexity and make it easy to train the mind. The mind by its nature behaves on its own. The Buddha at one place states that it wavers similar to a fish that has taken out of water. It could also go into far away places without any companions. We may sit down in front of the computer screen but the mind might wonder far.
As a person gains mindfulness the behavior of mind is understood properly. A practitioner will observe how each bodily movement originates with the mind. Before we sit down a thought to sit arises. Before walking the thought to walk arises etc. The power of the mind can be fully developed only when the mindfulness is well established. (All the other developments such as miracle powers etc. really does not result in mastery of the mind)