Monday, February 4, 2013

Grasping the Clear Mind

“A clear mind is like the full moon in the sky. Sometimes clouds come and cover it, but the moon is always behind them. The clouds go away, then the moon shines brightly. So don't worry about the clear mind: it is always there. When thinking comes, behind it is the clear mind. When thinking goes, there is only clear mind. Thinking comes and goes, comes and goes, You must not be attached to the coming or the going.” …………..Zen Master Seung Sahn

Seung Sahn is a Korean Zen master who had many controversies attached to him both in personal life and in the conduct of teaching. But his teaching have a practical touch and that is what appeals to me. There is no use of high metaphysical positioning if a master can not communicate a concept of spirituality and its practice in simple easy to understand terms.

The example given by Seung Sahn in explaining the clear mind is simple to understand. Like the moon that lies beyond the realm of the clouds, a clear mind is the basic nature of the human mind but in the observation from a domain which lies below the clouds, the changeless moon appears to disappear once it is covered by the clouds so also the mind appears to be tainted to the ego controlled observer mind. This can further be amplified as the observation of the moon from above the clouds is the area of the Ego-less Self and in this observation there is only the clear mind but in the arena below the clouds, it is the Ego consciousness which makes the observation that is tainted by limitation.

It is not possible for one to be capable of making a switch between these two planes of observation as one requires a mode of transportation and this vehicle is the transcendence of consciousness, which requires many spiritual practices.

As long as we live in this life, we have to exist in our ego mind and employ the self same ego mind towards the intended transcendence. This does not mean that we can escape to the higher realm of consciousness and permanently take residence there. That state of enlightenment is nirvana or moksha or Samadhi. In this state the individual observing mind ceases to exist which is when the physical body is discarded.

This two way transit from objective ego mind or consciousness to the Supreme consciousness and the world of physical manifestation is beautifully captured by the great German Christian mystic, Meister Eckhart, On this very subject he says:

“The union of the soul with God is far more inward than that of the soul and body…. Now, I might ask, how stands it with the soul that is lost in God? Does the soul find herself or not? To this I will answer as it appears to me, that the soul finds in the point where every rational being understands itself with itself. Although it sinks in the eternity of divine essence, yet it can never reach the ground. Therefore God has left a little point wherein the soul turns back upon itself to be a creature.”

This is the reason that Walpola Rahula, in his book “The Buddha and The Christ – Reciprocal Views” writes about faith:

“Almost all religions are built on faith – rather ‘blind’ faith it would seem. But in Buddhism emphasis is laid on ‘seeing’, knowing, understanding, and not on faith, or belief. In Buddhist texts there is a word ‘saddha’ (Sanskrit word shraddha), which is usually translated as ‘faith’ or ‘belief’. But saddha is not ‘faith’ as such, but rather ‘confidence’ born out of conviction”

Confidence and convictions are processes which are rooted in the Ego mind. This is the start of the journey of ascendance and if we make a incorrect start we can not reach our destination. Confidence and convictions are generated through a process of experience, an experience which results in a state of true well-being  Every incremental stage of true state of well-being leads to further strengthening of our start on our return journey. This is the reason that great mystics and spiritual masters could reach the stage of enlightenment in an instant and return to the world without much effort.

Love to you all. 


  1. Are there contemporaries who can switch to the enlightenment mode and come back to the normal state of living? I'm curious.

  2. Thanks Arun, for your question.
    Every spiritually empowered person is in the enlightened mode. Enlightened mode is not a state of isolation from the real world of action and living. Asceticism is one of the many methods through which you can reach enlightenment. But that is only for a extremely small section of humanity. All persons like Mother Theresa, The Dalai Lama and the thousands of social activists who work among the socially outcast are all enlightened beings. There is good book by Jack Kornfield "After the Ecstasy doing the Laundry" where a number of cases of spiritually enlightened persons talking about their doubts and troubles in ordinary life.
    Thank you!