Nature of The Mind

His Holiness Sakya Trizin

One of the main teachings of the Buddha is the law of karma, the teaching that all the
lives we have are not without cause, are not created by other beings, and are not by
coincidence, but are all created by our own actions. All the positive things such as love,
long life, good health, prosperity and so forth are also not given by anybody else. It is
through our own positive actions in the past that today we enjoy all the good things.
Similarly all the negative aspects, like short life, sickness, poverty, etc. and all the
undesirable things are also not created by any outsider but by our own actions, the
negative deeds we committed in the past.
If one really wishes to be free from suffering and to experience happiness, it is very
important to work on the causes. Without working on the causes, one cannot expect to
yield any results. Each and everything must have its own cause and a complete cause
- things cannot appear without any cause. Things do not appear from nowhere, from the
wrong cause, or from an imcomplete cause. So the source of all the sufferings is the
negative deeds.

Negative deeds basically means not knowing reality, not knowing the true nature of
the mind. Instead of seeing the true nature of the mind, we cling to a self without any
logical reason. All of us have a natural tendency to cling to a self because we are so
used to it. It is a kind of habit we have formed since beginningless time.

However if we carefully examine and investigate, we cannot find the self. If there is
a self, it has to be either body, mind or name. First, the name is empty by itself. Any
name can be given to anybody. So the name is empty by itself.

Likewise the body. We say "my body". just like "my house, my car, my home, my
country" and so forth, so the body and "I" are separate. If we examine every part
of the body, we cannot find anywhere, anything called "I" or the self. It is just many
things together that form what we cling to as the body or the self. If we investigate
carefully from head to toe, we cannot find anywhere a thing called self. The body is
not a self because the body has many parts, many different parts. People can still
remain alive without certain parts of the body, so the body is not the self.

Likewise the mind. We think that the mind may be the self, but the mind is actually
changing from moment to moment. All the time the mind is changing. And the past
mind is already extinct, already gone. Something that is already gone cannot be called
the self. And the future mind is yet to arise. Something that is yet to arise cannot be
the self. And the present mind is changing all the time, every moment it is changing.
The mind when we were a baby and the mind when we are an adult are very different.
And these different minds do not occur at one time. It is all the time changing, all the
time changing, every moment it is changing. Something that is constantly changing
cannot be the self.

So now, apart from name, body or mind, there is no such thing called the self, but
due to long habit, we all have a very strong tendency to cling to a self. Instead of
seeing the true nature of the mind, we cling at a self without any logical reason.
And as long as we have this, it is just like mistaking a colourful rope for a snake.
Until we realise that it is not a snake but only a rope, we have fear and anxiety. As
long as we cling to a self, we have suffering. Clinging to a self is the root of all the
sufferings. Not knowing reality, not knowing the true nature of the mind, we cling
to a self.

When you have a "self", naturally there are "others" - the self and others. The
"self and others" are dependent on the "self". Just like right and left, if there is
right, there has got to be a left. Likewise, if there is a self, there are others. When
you have a self and others, attachment then arises to one's own side, one's friends
and relatives and so forth, and hatred arises towards "others" whom you disagree
with, towards the people who have different views, different ideas. These three are
main poisons that keep us in this net of illusions, samsara. Basically the ignorance
of not knowing and clinging to a self, attachment or desire, and hatred - these three
are the three main poisons. And from these three, arise other impurities, such as
jealousy, pride and so forth. And when you have these, you create actions. And when
you create actions, it is like planting a seed on a fertile ground that in due course
will yield results. In this way we create karma constantly and are caught up in the
realms of existence.

To be completely free from samsara, we need the wisdom that can cut the root of
samsara, the wisdom that realises selflessness. Such wisdom also depends on method.
Without the accumulation of method, one cannot cause wisdom to arise. And without
wisdom, one cannot have the right method. Just like needing two wings in order to
fly in the sky, one needs both method and wisdom in order to attain enlightenment.
The most important method, the most effective method, is based on loving-kindness,
universal love and compassion, and from this arises the bodhicitta, or the enlightenment
thought, which is the sincere wish to attain perfect enlightenment for the sake of all
sentient beings. When you have this thought, then all the right and virtuous deeds
are naturally acquired.

On the other side, you need wisdom, the wisdom that realises the true nature of all
phenomena, and particularly of the mind - because the root of samsara and nirvana,
everything, is the mind. The Lord Buddha said: "One should not indulge in negative
deeds, one should try to practice virtuous deeds, and one should tame the mind."
This is the teaching of the Buddha. The fault lies in our wild mind, we are caught up
in samsara or the cycle of existence. The purpose of all the eighty-four thousand
teachings of the Buddha is to tame our mind. After all, everything is the mind - it is the
mind which suffers, it is the mind which experiences happiness, it is the mind which is
caught up in samsara and it is the mind that attains liberation or enlightenment. So
when the true nature of the mind is realised, all other things, all other outer and inner
things, are then naturally realised.

So what is the mind? If one tries to investigate where the mind is, one cannot find
the mind anywhere. One cannot pinpoint any part of the body and say, "This is my
mind." So it is not inside the body, not outside the body, and not in between the body.
If something exists, it has to be of specific shape or colour but one cannot find it in
any shape or any colour. So the nature of the mind is emptiness.

But when we say that everything is emptiness and doesn't exist, it does not mean
that it does not conventionally exist. After all, it is the mind which does all the wrong
things, it is the mind which does all the right things, it is the mind which experiences
suffering and so forth. Therefore there is a mind of course - we are not dead or
unconscious, but are conscious living beings, and there is a stream of continuity of
the consciousness, constantly. Just like the candle light that is burning, the clarity
of the mind is constantly continuing. The characteristic of the mind is clarity. You
cannot find it in any form or in any colour or in any place, yet there is a clarity that
is constantly continuing. This is the characteristic of the mind. And the two, the
clarity and emptiness are inseparable, just like fire and the heat of fire are inseparable.
The clarity and the emptiness cannot be separated. The inseparability of the two is
the essence, the unfabricated essence of the mind.

In order to experience such a state, it is important first to go through the preliminary
practices. Also, through preliminary practices one accumulates merit. It is best to
meditate on insight wisdom. For that one needs to prepare the present mind, our ordinary
mind that is constantly in streams of thoughts. Such a busy and agitated mind will not be
a base for insight wisdom. So first we have to build a base with concentration, using the
right method. Through concentration, one tries to bring the mind to a very stable state.
And on such stable clarity and single-pointedness, one then meditates on insight wisdom
and through this one realises the true nature of the mind. But to realise such, one requires
a tremendous amount of merit, and the most effective way of acquiring the merit is to
cultivate bodhicitta.

So with the two together, method and wisdom, one can realise the true nature. And
when one has realised the true nature, on the basis of that and increasing wisdom,
eventually one will reach the full realisation and will attain enlightenment.