Discernment vs. Self-Deception
Upasika Kee Nanayon -- also known as Kor Khao-suan-luang after the hill on which she established her hermitage -- is generally regarded as the formost female Dhamma teacher in Thailand this century. She never took any formal ordination or discipleship under a teacher; using the ermitic situation, the Pali Canon and her own determined introspection as her Dhamma-guides. As a result of her practice and example, other women came to live with her as their teacher, and the resultant community continued to maintain the hermitage after her death in 1978.It's important that we discuss the steps of the practice in training the mind, for the mind has all sorts of deceptions by which it fools itself. If you aren't skilful in investigating and seeing through them, they are very difficult to overcome even if you're continually mindful to keep watch over the mind. You have to make an effort to focus on contemplating these things at all times. Mindfulness on its own won't be able to give rise to any real knowledge. At best, it can give you only a little protection against the effects of sensory contact. If you don't make a focused contemplation, the mind won't be able to give rise to any knowledge within itself at all.
This is why you have to train yourself to be constantly aware all around. When you come to know anything for what it really is, there's nothing but letting go, letting go. On the beginning level, this means the mind won't give rise to any unwise or unprofitable thoughts. It will simply stop to watch, stop to know within itself at all times. If there's anything you have to think about, keep your thoughts on the themes of inconstancy, stress, and not-self. You have to keep the mind thinking and labelling solely in reference to these sorts of themes, for if your thinking and labelling are right, you'll come to see things rightly. If you go the opposite way, you'll have to think wrongly and label things wrongly, and that means you'll have to see things wrongly as well. This is what keeps the mind completely hidden from itself.
Now, when thoughts or labels arise in the mind, then if you focus on watching them closely you'll see that they're sensations - sensations of arising and disbanding, changeable, unreliable, and illusory. If you don't make an effort to keep a focused watch on them, you'll fall for the deceptions of thought-formation. In other words, the mind gives rise to memories of the past and fashions issues dealing with the past, but if you're aware of what's going on in time, you'll see that they're all illusory. There's no real truth to them at all. Even the meanings the mind gives to good and bad sensory contacts at the moment they occur: if you carefully observe and contemplate, you'll see that they're all deceptive. There's no real truth to them. But ignorance and delusion latch onto them all, and this drives the mind around in circles. In other words, it doesn't know what's what - how these things arise, persist, and disband - so it latches onto them and gets itself deceived on many, many levels. If you don't stop to focus and watch, there's no way you can see through these things at all.
Thanks to the teachings of the Buddha, we can gain knowledge into the mind ... which, when you look into it deeply, you'll find to be empty - empty of any meaning in and of itself.
But if the mind keeps its balance or stops to watch and know within itself,
it can come to realise these things for what they are. When it realises them,
it can let them go automatically without being attached to anything. This is
the knowledge that comes with true mindfulness and discernment: it knows and
lets go. It doesn't cling. No matter what appears - good or bad, pleasure or
pain - when the mind knows, it doesn't cling. When it doesn't cling, there's
no stress or suffering. You have to keep hammering away at this point: when
it doesn't cling, the mind can stay at normalcy. Empty. Undisturbed. Quiet
and still. But if it doesn't read itself in this way, doesn't know itself in
this way, it will fall for the deceits of defilement and craving. It will
fashion up all sorts of complex and complicated things that it itself will
have a hard time seeing through, for they'll have their ways of playing up to
the mind to keep it attached to them, all of which is simply a matter of the
mind's falling for the deceits of the defilements and cravings within itself.
The fact that it isn't acquainted with itself - doesn't know how mental
states arise and disband and take on objects - means that it loses itself in
its many, many attachments.
For this reason, to see these things clearly requires the effort to stop and
watch, to stop and know in an appropriate way, in a way that's just right. At
the same time, you have to use your powers of observation. That's what will
enable you to read your own consciousness in a special way. Otherwise, if you
latch onto the issues of thoughts and labels, they'll keep you spinning
around. So you have to stop and watch, stop and know clearly by focusing down
- focusing down on the consciousness in charge. That way your knowledge will
To know just this much is very useful for seeing the truth inside yourself.
You'll see that consciousness is empty of any self. When you look at physical
phenomena, you'll see them as elements, as empty of any self. You'll see
mental phenomena as empty of any self, as elements of consciousness - and
that if there's no attachment, no latching on, there's no suffering or