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Understanding the Mind– The Nature and Power of the Mind
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Also by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso
Meaningful to Behold
Clear Light of Bliss
Heart of Wisdom
Joyful Path of Good Fortune
Guide to Dakini Land
The Bodhisattva Vow
Great Treasury of Merit
Introduction to Buddhism
Tantric Grounds and Paths
Ocean of Nectar
Essence of Vajrayana
Living Meaningfully, Dying Joyfully
Eight Steps to Happiness
Transform Your Life
The New Meditation Handbook
How to Solve Our Human Problems
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Geshe Kelsang Gyatso
First published in 1993
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Library of Congress Control Number: 2002104949
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
ISBN 978 0 948006 79 1 hardback
Set in Palatino by Tharpa Publications
This book, Understanding the Mind, is a comprehensive explanation of the mind, based on the experiences of accomplished meditators. Traditionally, Buddhist books on the mind are written from the point of view of the Sautrantika Buddhist school – an intermediate view taught by Buddha for the sake of disciples who could not immediately grasp his final view – and therefore such books are difficult to relate to meditative experiences. This book, however, is written from the point of view of the Madhyamika-Prasangika Buddhist school, which expresses Buddha’s final intention. As such, it is a unique and practical guide for those who seek to develop their minds through sincere study and meditation.
From the depths of our hearts we thank the author, Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, for his inconceivable kindness in composing this book, which provides for meditators throughout the world
a definitive exposition of the nature, types and functions of the mind.
We would also like to thank all the students of the author who, with great dedication and skill, edited the book and prepared it for publication.
The subject of this book is the mind. It is very important to have a correct understanding of the nature and functions of the mind because this special knowledge will open the door to liberation for us. In the Sutras and the Mahamudra scriptures it says:
If you realize your own mind you will become a Buddha; you should not seek Buddhahood elsewhere.
This instruction is very profound. It indicates that there are many different levels on which we can understand the mind. We can understand the gross minds, the subtle minds and the very subtle mind; and we can understand each of these either intellectually, through a generic image, or directly, through experience. To begin with we can understand these different levels of mind intellectually by studying this book and authentic commentaries to Vajrayana Mahamudra, such as Clear Light of Bliss, Tantric Grounds and Paths and Mahamudra Tantra. Then, on the basis of this understanding, we can gain direct experience of the gross, subtle and very subtle minds by engaging in the special meditation practices explained in Vajrayana Mahamudra. When we realize our very subtle mind directly we shall attain the higher realization of clear light, and we shall then be very close to becoming a Buddha. Soon this realization will transform into the omniscient wisdom of a Buddha and we shall become a great enlightened being.
If we understand clearly the nature of our mind we shall definitely realize that the continuum of our mind does not cease when we die, and then there will be no basis for doubting the existence of our future lives. If we realize the existence of our future lives we shall naturally be concerned for our welfare and happiness in those lives, and we shall use this present life to make the appropriate preparations. This will prevent us from wasting our precious human life on the preoccupations of this life alone. Therefore, an understanding of the mind is very helpful.
In the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras and in many other scriptures it says that all phenomena are like dreams. This means that just as all the things experienced in a dream are mere appearances to mind, so all beings, their environments, their enjoyments, and all other phenomena are mere appearances to mind. This is not easy to understand at first, but we can develop some understanding by contemplating as follows. When we are awake many different things exist, but when we fall asleep they cease because the mind to which they appear ceases. During our dreams we become a dreamer, and at that time the only things that appear are dream objects. Later, when we wake, these dream objects cease because the mind to which they appear ceases. Other than this there is no specific reason why they should cease. If we think deeply about this we shall understand how all phenomena are mere appearances to our mind, just like objects in a dream. Then we shall realize that we can cause all the unpleasant things that we dislike to cease simply by abandoning impure states of mind, and we can cause all the good things that we desire to arise simply by developing a pure mind. In this way we shall be able to fulfil all our wishes. Therefore, understanding the mind is a real wishfulfilling jewel.
Although everyone has a mind, most of us have only a vague understanding of its nature and functions. For example, if we have not trained in Dharma we shall probably know very little about the different types of mind, how they are generated, and what effect they have on our lives. We shall not be able to distinguish virtuous minds from non-virtuous minds, and we shall not know how to cultivate the former and abandon the latter. Why is it necessary to understand all this? The reason is that all happiness and suffering depend upon the mind, and so if we want to avoid suffering and find true happiness we need to understand how the mind works and use that understanding to bring our mind under control. Only in this way can we improve the quality of our life, both now and in the future.
In recent years our understanding and control of the external world have increased considerably and as a result we have witnessed remarkable material progress; but there has not been a corresponding increase in human happiness. There is no less suffering in the world today, and there are no fewer problems. Indeed, it might be said that there are now more problems and greater unhappiness than ever before. This shows that the cause of happiness and the solution to our problems do not lie in knowledge or control of the external world. Happiness and suffering are states of mind and so their main causes are not to be found outside the mind. If we want to be truly happy and free from suffering we must improve our understanding of the mind.
When things go wrong in our life and we encounter difficult situations we tend to regard the situation itself as the problem, but in reality whatever problems we experience come from the side of the mind. If we were to respond to difficult situations with a positive or peaceful mind they would not be problems for us; indeed we may even come to regard them as challenges or opportunities for growth and development. Problems arise only if we respond to difficulties with a negative state of mind. Therefore, if we want to be free from problems we must learn to control our mind.
Buddha taught that the mind has the power to create all pleasant and unpleasant objects. This is a view held in common by all four Buddhist schools: the two Hinayana schools – the Vaibhashikas and the Sautrantikas – and the two Mahayana schools – the Chittamatrins and the Madhyamikas. According to this view the world is the result of the karma, or actions, of the beings who inhabit it. A pure world is the result of pure actions and an impure world is the result of impure actions. Since all actions are created by mind, ultimately everything, including the world itself, is created by mind. There is no creator other than mind. Buddhists believe this because they rely upon the explanations given by Buddha.
Normally we say ’I created such and such’, or ’He or she created such and such’, but the actual creator of everything is the mind. We are like servants helping our mind, which is the actual creator. Whenever our mind wants to do something we have to do it without any choice. Since beginningless time until now we have been under the control of our mind, without any freedom; but if we now practise Dharma sincerely we can reverse this situation and gain control over our mind. Only then shall we have real freedom.
Within the four Buddhist schools, the Chittamatrins in particular believe that all phenomena, including the world itself, are the same nature as the mind that apprehends them and have no existence outside the mind. They say that if we dream of a mountain, for example, that mountain is the same nature as the dream mind and has no existence outside the mind. If it existed outside the mind we would have to say that a huge mountain existed in our small bedroom, which is clearly absurd. They say that just as it is with dream objects, so it is with all phenomena – they are all the same nature as the mind, like a dream mountain.
The highest of the four Buddhist schools, the Madhyamika-Prasangika school, says that all phenomena are merely imputed by mind and have no existence from their own side.
The essential point in all these views is that liberation from suffering cannot be found outside the mind. Permanent liberation can be found only by purifying the mind. Therefore, if we want to become free from problems and attain lasting peace and happiness we need to increase our knowledge and understanding of the mind.
The explanation of the mind in this book is in two parts. The first part explains the nature and function of the different types of mind, and how we develop and increase knowledge and understanding. First, each type of mind is clearly defined so that it can be correctly identified, and then the different varieties of each type of mind are enumerated and illustrated by examples. Then there follows an explanation of how each type of mind is generated, and finally there is advice on how to apply our understanding of each type of mind to our Dharma practice. These explanations help us to understand how we develop and increase valid knowledge and Dharma realizations.
The second part of the book explains primary minds and mental factors. Here the emphasis is on distinguishing virtuous states of mind from non-virtuous states of mind so that we can cultivate the former and abandon the latter. First there is an explanation of the six primary minds and their relationship to their accompanying mental factors. Then there follows an explanation of the definitions, divisions and functions of each of the fifty-one mental factors. These explanations help us to control our deluded minds and attain permanent freedom from suffering.
Details: 352 pages includes 9 line illustrations
Language: English (UK)
Size: 19.8 x 12.9 x 2.8cm
Details: 352 pages includes 9 line illustrations
Language: English (UK)
Size: 21.6 x 13.8 x 2.8cm