The Mind Is an Illusion

Credit: beliefnet.com

By Wes Annac, Culture of Awareness

Here, I’d like to look at what a few different spiritual teachers have said about the mind. As some of you probably know, the mind (along with everything else) is the product of the Divine Mother’s creation, which essentially means that like everything else we perceive with our limited senses, it’s an illusion.

We don’t need to defeat or transcend our constant racing thoughts to get a glimpse beyond the mind – we simply need to become aware of them. By becoming aware of them without attaching ourselves to them, we can allow them to drift in and right back out without affecting us or keeping us from the silence and stillness that bring us closer to the Divine Father.

We’ve convinced ourselves the mind and its thoughts are real, but beyond them exists an infinite spiritual reality. Plenty of spiritual seekers are trying to elevate their consciousness or align with something higher, and little do we all know, we don’t need to do anything to find what we’ve been searching for.

In fact, the pursuit of a higher consciousness requires more stillness than anything else, and all we really need to do is relax, get to a space outside of the limited confines of the mind, and observe it along with every other aspect of our inner and outer reality. Once we can observe it all with no detachment, we’ll take the first steps to true liberation.

Bodhidharma explains the ‘Middle Way’, which is a path that recognizes that the mind ‘neither exists nor doesn’t exist’. This path requires a clear, unfiltered understanding of the nature of the mind, and it encourages understanding the mind over transcending it.

“Whoever knows that the mind is a fiction and devoid of anything real knows that his own mind neither exists nor doesn’t exist. Mortals keep creating the mind, claiming it exists. And arhats keep negating the mind, claiming it doesn’t exist. But bodhisattvas and buddhas neither create nor negate the mind. That is what’s meant by the mind that neither exists nor doesn’t exist. The mind that neither exists nor doesn’t exist is called the Middle Way.” (1)

Shankara tells us about the mind’s ‘mental covering’.

“The mind, together with the organs of perception, forms the ‘mental covering’. It causes the sense of ‘I’ and ‘mine’”. (2)

When these self-centered senses fog our perception, we forget about our unity with the rest of creation and we focus more on ourselves and our personal or greed-driven wellbeing than the wellbeing of the rest of the world or even the people around us. Getting to a space outside of the mind will give us a better glimpse of the mental covering we put over ourselves when we incarnated here, and then, we can start helping people with the knowledge that what affects one person affects the rest of the world.

Our compassion for the people (and animals) around us will grow, and whereas we might not have cared much about helping people before, we’ll treat them like we want to be treated because we’ll understand that in reality, we’re one with them and the rest of creation. There are no real differences between us as spiritual beings who come from the same divine emptiness, and the rest of the world will realize this when they’re ready.

For now, all we can do is try to serve others with an open heart and the understanding that they’re no different than us. Departing the limited realm of the mind opens us up to this understanding, and realigning with the love of the Mother as we approach the blissful emptiness of the Father will inspire us to lend a hand to those in need.

Sri Ramakrishna tells us that the mind will absorb whatever ‘color’ we stain it with.

“The mind is like white linen fresh from the laundry; it takes the colour in which you dip it. If it is associated with falsehood for a long time, it will be stained with falsehood.” (3)

To realign with the Father, he tells us, we can’t continue to reside in the mind.

“Atman cannot be realized through this mind; Atman is realized through Atman alone.” (4)

Krishnamurti tells us that the fears and attachments of the mind are responsible for the destruction of love.

“It is the mind with its demands and fears, its attachments and denials, its determinations and urges, that destroys love.” (5)

When we get to a space outside of the mind, all of those attachments, denials, fears, etc. fade and we’re left with simple existence. This is when we learn that life doesn’t have to constantly amaze us to be worthwhile, and the greatest thrill and fulfillment can be found in the simplicity of the present moment.

With an open heart, which aligns us with the Mother, and a relatively still, empty mind, which is difficult to attain in this sphere but still worth pursuing, we’ll gradually illuminate our connection with God and enjoy ourselves along the way with various creative projects that help others while bringing us closer to the Mother.

Little by little, we’ll leave behind the distortions that have kept us from our higher consciousness and remember that the purpose of our existence is to evolve through the spheres until we achieve complete transcendence and return to our creator. The first step is for us to leave behind the limitations of our past, which have been embedded in the mind all our lives, and the divine energy and insight will come pouring through when we have love in our hearts and we become a clear, blank slate for the expression of our greater awareness.

Krishnamurti also tells us how the mind constantly recreates itself with thoughts and sensations.

“The mind is the product of environment, re-creating and sustaining itself on sensations and identifications; and that is why the mind clings to codes of conduct, patterns of thought, and so on. As long as the mind is the outcome of the past, it can never discover truth or allow truth to come into being. In holding to organizations it discards the search for truth.” (6)

Most people, he tells us, have built an inner ‘fence of security’ around themselves.

“Man has built in himself images as a fence of security – religious, political, personal. These manifest as symbols, ideas, beliefs. The burden of these images dominates man’s thinking, his relationships and his daily life. These images are the causes of our problems for they divide man from man. His perception of life is shaped by the concepts already established in his mind.

“The content of his consciousness is his entire existence. This content is common to all humanity. The individuality is the name, the form and superficial culture he acquires from tradition and environment. The uniqueness of man does not lie in the superficial but in complete freedom from the content of his consciousness, which is common to all mankind. So he is not an individual.” (7)

These mind-driven security measures can keep us from the very thing most spiritual seekers are trying to attain, and unfortunately, spiritual seekers aren’t any less vulnerable to the adoption of ideology and symbols that they attach themselves to in the name of their spirituality. While appealing, this can block the flow of genuine, heart-centered intuitive guidance, and ideology can be one of the biggest inhibitors of a clear and flowing higher perception.

Even I still have a few cherished beliefs that I’d have a hard time letting go of, and some beliefs can help us make progress on the path. Some of the more rigid, limiting or dogmatic ones will keep us from making progress, however, and while it’s okay to listen to a teacher or speaker (like Krishnamurti or the other teachers we’ve heard from here) or even have specific beliefs, we’ll want to make sure these tendencies don’t block us from our higher consciousness by keeping us from embracing change.

We can’t embrace change in our lives or on the spiritual path if we cling to an ideology that prevents it, and if we want to evolve, we have to be open to whatever changes present themselves – even if they’re destructive to belief systems we hold dear. This is true transcendence, and going with our evolutionary flow is one of the best ways to leave the mind, observe its ways and become aware of ourselves as truly infinite beings who exist in multiple interconnected realities.

Footnotes:

  1. Red Pine, trans., The Zen Teachings of Bodhidharma. Port Townsend, WA, Empty Bowl, 1987, 26.
  2. Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher lsherwood, Shankara’s Crest-Jewel of Discrimination. Hollywood: Vedanta Press, 1975; c1947, 59.
  3. Swami Nikhilananda, trans., The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1978; c1942, 195.
  4. Ibid., 802.
  5. J. Krishnamurti,Commentaries on Living. Second Series. Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1967; c1958, 223.
  6. J. Krishnamurti, Commentaries on Living. First Series. Bombay, etc.: B.I. Publications, 1972; c1974, 24.
  7. Krishnamurti Foundation Trust, “Krishnamurti: The Core of His Teachings,” 1980, downloaded from http://www.katinkahesselink.net/kr/core.htm, 4 Nov. 2007.
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