Early April - May 16, 1993

Private Sessions
Aaron, Barbara and transcriber (K)

(This was not a formal talk but a series of conversations between Aaron and Barbara concerning the material to be presented in future classes and a follow up on that material. Barbara's questions are not all included, since Aaron speaks to them without Barbara's voicing them.)

Aaron: I would speak first of the two ways we use the word 'mind.' What is mind?

In Vipassana we practice with discerning mind-knowing, labeling, using mind as a tool-until we reach that place of ego dissolution where pure awareness transcends the mind expressing small self. Here we see the two aspects of mind: the ego mind that filters through the lens of self, and big mind which transcends all notion of separate self. Tibetan teaching uses the word Rigpa which is useful for our purposes. I have used this word already with the class. When we use this term we mean that aspect of mind which is pure awareness, and thereby perceives truth as absence of all duality. It may be thought of as the opposite of moha, although it includes moha. Since there is no duality in Rigpa, it is not just mind, but the totality of all that is, the energy in which mind rests as well as the mind itself.

For the other use of 'mind,' let us use the term 'ego mind.' I do not mean ego here in a negative sense, such as 'He is egotistical,' only that there is notion of self in this mind. It is entrenched in the delusion of duality, and thus perceives an other and a separate self, thus, ego. There is nothing negative about ego mind in itself. It is a useful tool for survival in the world. The infant must begin to discern the self as separate from the mother, for practical reasons. 'Ego' has negative connotations because ego mind leads one to act as if one were separate, which may initiate fear, selfishness, and other such characteristics, often termed 'defilements.' We must differentiate the experience of ego mind from reaction to the experience.

In fact these minds may work together. The watching of the arising of phenomena presupposes a watcher. As one practices, one sees 'self' doing this observing. Meditation practice, by its very name, implies a doer, one to practice, one to be mindful. It employs the mental body along side the spirit body.

When you are mindful, a higher perspective watches the watcher, sees with pure mind that small mind is separating into subject/object. It begins to see the process by which small mind works to control and to understand, and that this duality is an artificial construct created for convenience, safety or to penetrate to understanding. When one knows one is separating into subject and object, this knowing is the path to non-separation.

Eventually the dual mind falls away. Big mind is the pure spirit body, pure awareness with no one to be aware. Not until you know you are dwelling in the illusion of self and separation can you shift into big mind perspective which sees the separating without identifying with it. It is only then that self becomes a useful tool, to be employed, then laid aside.

Here is where you find the balance between wide view and relative reality. You stand on a threshold with a foot on each side. With clear seeing, you know it is only a door frame. There is no wall dividing ultimate and relative reality. It simply becomes useful to understand that the illusion of relative reality is another tool, to be employed where useful. You dwell in Ultimate reality but must live in a world of relative reality. You balance between them, never mistaking relative reality for anything but the tool.

You use a screwdriver when you want to tighten a screw. You are not the screwdriver. Your hand holds the screwdriver. You know it is a tool. When you wish to transcend small ego self and experience true being, you use meditation practice as a tool. You use a watcher as a tool.

And yet this analogy is not quite accurate. Meditation is the tool and also the end. Meditation is most accurately a state of being, not an action. We use the techniques of practice to arrive in a space of meditation, at which point we know there is nowhere to go. There was never anywhere to go, only to arrive where you have always been. In this space you are not aware, but are awareness. Being aware is freedom, not doing awareness. I do not wish to become confusing. No accurate analogy can be offered. The tool is put down when the screw is tight. There is no longer separation between the parts. The raft is left on the far shore. Ego mind with delusion of a self who practices is released to deeper truth.

It is this deeper truth of which I wish to speak, and the ways we may arrive at that truth, at that resting place which is non-dual awareness, Ultimate Reality, or call it what you will. As I have just said, meditation practice is a tool to help remove the obstacles to pure awareness so you may enter this natural state. Thus, meditation is not a path to achievement. How can you gain what you already have? Rather, it is a path to releasing that which blocks pure awareness.

Vipassana meditation encourages the yogi to watch each moment with mindfulness, yet one can watch this forever and not find freedom if one continues with the misunderstanding that one is going to gain something that's not already present, through one's practice to move into some altered state in which there is liberation. Rather, at this further stage of the path, the focus of deepening practice needs to be the growing awareness of the simultaneously present pure mind which has always been hidden by the clouds of delusion.

We have been speaking of dependent origination and the 'contact/feeling/craving' steps of the chain. I want to break down the process further, probably over several weeks of class. We start with contact which is clear-sense touching sense object and resulting in sense consciousness. As we have discussed, contact has a necessary conditional connection with the existence of mind/body-of nama-rupa, and of the sixfold sense base. Once there is the sixfold sense base, there is necessarily contact, even if the contact is of 'void.' Once there is contact there is necessarily consciousness. We have investigated these relationships which are of necessary conditionality or of necessary reciprocal conditionality. Now we come to those relationships of contributory or support conditionality where the chain may be broken.

'Contact' has several parts. Contact and consciousness are not synonymous. Consciousness lies within contact. The relationship between consciousness and contact technically would be called a necessary non-reciprocal, contiguous conditionality, which is a fancy way of saying that consciousness necessarily overlaps contact. These are the natural unfolding of sense upon sense object. Remember, mind is also a sense. One of its objects is awareness of the contact of the physical senses. Consciousness does NOT cease when contact ceases; it becomes conscious of lack of sense contact.

Do you remember proximate and contiguous? Proximate lies adjacent to; contiguous overlaps. These are not sequential time relationships but space relationships. The texts mention these 24 types of conditions and, as I have previously stated, to avoid intellectual ensnarements we will not define them unless there is reason to do so. I mention this term only to remind you that these relationships exist. We will come back to why these specific ones are important here.

Contact is the bare touch of sense to object; consciousness is the mind's knowing there has been contact, even if there is as yet no perception of what that contact is. Initial consciousness is always with bare perception. Once there is consciousness, we move to perception, which begins our relationship with the object. In contact there is no 'relationship,' and no 'self' to relate. This is subtle. Can you see the shift?

At the moment of transition from consciousness to perception, there is always bare perception, even if that perception is of 'don't know.' Old mind moves in later, perhaps only a fraction of a second, but there is always a moment of pure perception before old mind enters. These steps from contact to consciousness to bare perception are very subtle. It is not useful to attempt to distinguish. Such attempt pulls in a self and is detrimental to this stage of meditation. Distinguishing will arise naturally during moments of intense mindfulness.

When one stays in bare perception there is never a shift in sensation from neutral to like or dislike. There may be comfort or discomfort, even awareness that it is skillful to move away if the discomfort is strong. Discomfort and dislike are not synonymous. Dislike implies a self to do that disliking and a separate object to be disliked. In bare perception there is no self or other, and thus, no dislike.

It is not useful to ask which comes first, a sense of self, a sense of fear or the arising of old mind bias, whether these arise simultaneously or alternate. This is not the same issue as you addressed last year with the simultaneous or alternate arising of fear and compassion. As you noted, it was useful to distinguish. Here it is not useful. Please look at this for yourself to understand why I say it is not useful.

(Barbara: As I looked at this, I see that both fear and old mind bias grow out of moha. When there is no self, both mind states are impossible. Each is contributory to the other when there is self. Each contribute to the shift that allows the delusion of self. When one ceases, the others necessarily cease.)

When one moves from bare perception to old mind, then it is vital to notice that shift. There is already self for old mind to be present. It is also important to note any judgment appearing as aversion. The aversion to old mind entering is not old mind entering. The more precise you are, the less you will get stuck, the faster the self dissolves and you re-enter bare perception.