Mind: The First Mantra
“Mind” is the word we should recollect repeatedly and contemplate. The word “mantra” has one general meaning as an instrument of thought. In Buddhist practice, we use mantras in many ways. Practitioners use mantras to both calm the mind and to encourage contemplation and insight.
In this teaching from August 2017, in Cooperstown, NY, Phakchok Rinpoche suggests that the first mantra we should use is “mind.” We can repeat to ourselves, “mind, mind, mind.” Then, just follow that pattern for a few minutes. Don’t make it too complicated or engage in too many things. Again, throughout our day, we take some moments to just say “mind.”
Experiencing Pristine Mind
Our mind is naturally clean, it is naturally pristine. Talking about it, however, cannot solve our problems all the time. Instead, we need to experience it. Just say, “mind, mind, mind” — and follow your mind! Follow the consciousness. What is mind? That which is clear and pristine. When we experience that, we automatically relax.
Sometimes, when we are caught up in emotions and excessive thinking, this purity does not seem so clear. Then, at that time, we simply focus our mind on our breath. As we do this, we can think, “I am connected to the world.” We need to understand that investigating mind is not about being unconnected. But right now, we usually are not connected to ourselves. That’s why it is best to just say “mind.”
Mantra Reminds Us of the Main Point
We should take some time to contemplate our minds. And that is true regardless of whether we are beginners on the path or advanced. Sometimes, we read books and commentaries and we get confused. Those texts divide mind up into categories. Then we learn many subdivisions: we investigate about the essence, qualities, mind consciousness. Yet, a potential danger lies in this clever analysis because commentaries may actually take us far away from the main point. And that main point is “mind.” Although the whole intention may be to investigate the mind, we may find that we are moving further away from that goal.
Keeping it Simple
Seeing the mind is really the most simple thing. We can follow these instructions about reciting “mind” as a mantra. And don’t corrupt the exercise by thinking too much. We may think this is basic. But actually, if you can recognize the mind, then seeing that first moment of clarity is already advanced. Rinpoche has asked many practitioners who say, “I practice recognizing the nature of the mind,” the question of, “Really?” He asks them, “what is the mind?,” and they immediately start thinking about the mind. They try to recall what they read about the mind in some book. Really they should speak from their own experience.
The Mind’s Job
Every single thing we do, the mind is clear. When we are angry — clear. When we are upset — clear. The mind is always clear. That is its job: being clear. Rinpoche would like to see us not using any fancy Dharma words, when someone asks us what we learned. Don’t use any big words such as “nature of mind” or whatever. Just say: “I saw my own mind.”
Say, “I saw my mind.” What is it? Clear. That’s it! We live with that mind all the time, right? We practice with that mind and we sleep, complain, and cry. And we learn to meditate with that same pristine mind.
This week, take some time to recognize your mind’s importance. Begin each day by recalling the mantra, “mind, mind, mind”. Say it aloud–it may feel strange at first, but vocalizing helps make something stick!
And make the resolve to return to that mantra throughout your day. How many times before you leave your house can you remember to be aware of mind? And during your commute or your morning chores? At your lunch hour, can you pause before taking a bite and think, “mind, mind, mind”? Keep working with a few minutes here and there throughout the day.
After a few days of practicing in this way, you may find that you spontaneously seem to repeat the mantra. And what does this do? Do you see any difference in the way you react to people or situations? Is your mind steadier, calmer, or happier–or is it more agitated? Don’t judge–but be honest and experiment with the process. Can you begin to see flashes of pristine, clear mind? How joyful!
More teaching on mind training
In Samye’s on-line support program, Training the Mind, an Introduction, Phakchok Rinpoche introduces more techniques for understanding our minds. He introduces us to the concept of “active mind” and explains how we can work with it more skillfully.