Forest Sangha Newsletter January 2003

Sati-sampajanna: The Brightest Kamma; Ajahn Sucitto
Silent Attentiveness & the Mirror-like Mind; Ajahn Vimalo
A few words on Dhamma from Down Under; Ajahn Kalyano
Cycles of time: Renewal; Ajahn Thaniya


Silent Attentiveness and the Mirror-like Mind
From a talk offered by Ajahn Vimalo at Amaravati Monastery in August 2002.

I have trust in a silent way of being, in intuiting mind in presence, in an openness where thinking occurs but it's not taken too seriously. I have faith in mindfulness. I have faith that if the mind is always taken into silent attentiveness then what happens is it becomes more mirror-like. It begins to reflect the way things are.

Faith in awareness is learning to remain in, and have appreciation for, presence of mind. It's this that is my practice. When things are difficult I will just sit with my eyes open and bring my mind as near into presence as I can, and then try - even though we can't look back into ourselves - to feel out what presence of mind is like. This can become very beautiful. Even though consciousness is a momentary thing, arisen by way of eye and visible object, in our experience there can be an appreciation for it.
When the mind has presence it becomes quite clear what is good for us and what is bad for us. Things that the Buddha taught start to appear,...

This can bring peace and joy in our lives. People can focus on what is negative. We can do that in relation to ourselves and then we can get depressed. This examining of presence of mind is a different thing. Presence of mind is the 'door to the deathless'. It's a fullness of mind, an emptiness of mind. There is a qualitylessness about it. Like a mirror, it allows everything else to reflect in it. If we can remain or function in that dimension it is the Path. In the Dhammapada there is the expression, 'Heedfulness is the Path to the deathless'. And this is heedfulness. When we're mindful and we're present, we are not ignoring. In the teaching on Paticca-samuppada (dependent origination) things arise dependent on ignorance. In this presence of mind we are not ignoring; there's a direct looking at experience.

People will say, 'I have to cultivate the factors of enlightenment.' And they'll say, 'I can't get anywhere because I've got to cultivate patience and all these things.' But when we remain in this presence of mind and relax more deeply into it, joy starts to arise, piti starts to arise, we start to become patient. So we don't need to worry about Nibbana, or about developing other things either. I can find myself sitting and joy arises. This happens not because I'm heavily concentrating, trying to develop joy; rather, what I'm doing is relaxing into presence of mind. And with this presence of mind, as it becomes more beautiful, joy arises.
At a certain point, rather than trying to relax into presence, we start to become aware that 'there is presence.' And everything else starts to arise within that. This is another dimension. It naturally starts to occur. Then, whatever we are doing, whether moving fast or slow, standing or walking, things are a bit different, the world is a bit different. I'm not saying I have attained anything, I'm just sharing my understanding of mindfulness.

When the mind has presence it becomes quite clear what is good for us and what is bad for us. Things that the Buddha taught start to appear, we don't have to think about them too much; we suddenly realise things. The more we relax into just being present then things resolve themselves; everything resolves itself, until all self interest disappears. So my encouragement to people is to have faith in just coming into presence.

In the book Tales of Power, it describes what happened when rocks crushed Don Juan's son. He talks about seeing his son's body in agony. When he looked at his son, he said, 'I shifted my eye. So I didn't see my son dying. If I had thought about my son I would have seen his fine body crushed and a cry would have come up inside of me. But I shifted my eye so I watched his personal life disintegrating into infinity. Because this is the way life and death mix. I didn't watch my son, I watched his death. And his death was equal to everything else.' When this occurred, what Don Juan did was he shifted his perception, he moved it out of the perception of 'son'; and in that shift his mind became mirror-like. He saw the whole thing in a totally different way, closer to reality, closer to the way things are.
By constantly shifting perception we start to see the way things are. The Buddha said he taught the Norm. When we keep moving perception into awareness we are moving towards the Norm. Most of the time we are out of the Norm because we are ignoring. But when we move into mindfulness, this fullness of mind, then we are moving towards the Norm and allowing things to reflect within us. We are like a mirror. When the mindfulness is clear then it becomes like a mirror. When presence is very clear it is like a mirror but without the frame around it.

When we go into a room and it feels peaceful, then, when we are aware of that peace our mind is also peaceful. We tend to identify with the mind that is scattering about, but if we keep attending to the peace then we are this peace. With the peace in this room, I often sit here and feel it out. This peacefulness hasn't got borders. I close my eyes and there is peacefulness inside; there are no borders as borders are just constructs. The peace in this room has an infinite quality. This can be perceived. This is a way of moving away from the linear world. When there is dukkha we are often not moving away from it, but when there is moving into mindfulness we are. In moving into mindfulness then we are moving towards the deathless. It's a shift in perception.

The pyramids of Egypt were once covered in Turah limestone. Now, when they are seen against a blue sky, they are just great big triangular blocks - which are only attractive to Vittoria, a few others and me. But originally they were covered in Turah limestone so that when the sun hit them they blazed light. When people looked at them, instead of seeing triangular blocks against a blue sky, it gave an opposite effect. There would be the blue sky, and the pyramids would look like windows in the sky to somewhere brilliant beyond it. There would be a shift in perception. This shift into a non-linear way is a similar kind of shift. It is not that you are enlightened; but you are able to comprehend more fully, view more rightly, and open to the way things are. I have faith in this. This I offer you.