Thursday, September 3, 2009

All phenomena proceed from the mind

I'm currently reading The Joy of Living: Unlocking the Secret and Science of Happiness by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche. (Thanks Stephanie. xx)

Here is a video of Mingyur Rinpoche teaching. The analogy of the watch is one he talks about in the book.

Today I was struck by his description of one of the Buddha's teachings. In it, a young man comes to a great master seeking a profound teaching. The master agrees to share one - after the young man has a cup of tea. As he's about to drink, the tea transforms into a beautiful lake. The young man stands looking at the lake, and a girl appears. They fall in love at first sight and he goes home with her. Her parents also like him, and the two get married and have two children.

In his teens, their son falls ill and dies, and their daughter is killed by a tiger shortly thereafter. Overcome with grief, the man's wife drowns herself in the lake. Her mourning parents stop eating and starve to death. Having lost everything, the young man goes to the lake to drown himself. As he's about to throw himself in, he suddenly finds himself back in the master's house, holding the cup of tea.

Though he had lived an entire lifetime, harly an instant had passed; the cup was still warm in his hands and the tea was still hot.

He looked across the table at the teacher, who nodded, saying, "Now you see. All phenomena proceed from the mind, which is emptiness. They do not truly exist except in the mind, but they are not nothingness. There is your profound teaching."

As I read the teacher's words, I felt a kind of liberation as a whole lot of fear fell away. I'm still not entirely sure that I know why, but as someone who has despaired after loss, this story gave me an incredible feeling of space and hope. Doesn't this story speak to something we all fear - losing everyone we love? This unspeakable pain... it is definitely not nothingness. But our experience of it arises in the mind, sinks back into the mind. And most dangerous of all is the fear of pain that has not happened. Sometimes we make that into something so solid, so real.

All phenomena proceed from the mind, which is emptiness.

Meditation teachers often use the analogy of the mind as the sky, and thoughts as clouds that arise from it and pass through it but are not permanent. (I've also heard the analogy of leaves on a stream, and I particularly like the sense of movement I get from that image.) You can sit and watch those thoughts arise, drift across your mind, and float away without attaching to them. Sit and watch the fear of incredible loss with identifying with it.

All phenomena proceed from the mind, which is emptiness.
Happiness is our birthright.
We all have monkey mind. Watch it chatter. Let it go on and on.
Let the big sky of the Self be still.

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