“is the mind.” So say, Buddha Shakyamuni, Patanjali, and a host of realized teachers of meditation and Awareness (male and female) through the centuries. How is the mind the root of phenomena, and why is this significant to a vipahsyana practice or to life?
Understanding that the root of phenomena is mind benefits one’s life. How so? That which conjures the feelings of happy or sad, confidence or doubt, abundance or lack is the combination of perception/self/and emotions. This rubric can be deconstructed. Doing so provides that more of one’s state of being is derived from within rather than circumstantially or in consort with others and the whims of relationships.
The whims and adjustments of relationships and relatedness to pet, person, weather, or house plants are excellent training grounds. These cultivate putting others first, their needs forefront and, thereby, fosters disinterest or detachment about oneself. This is not only excellent, but necessary to proceed in greater truth with others, truth and honesty with oneself about anything, and in greater harmony with life. (Life is not “me” centered!)
Disentangling the wiring of perception/self/and emotions allows one to work with any of the components individually. Doing so will generate change; otherwise change will be negligible, if possible at all, which is why habits are hard to change. Each of these three components is invested in status quo, non-change; but, take them apart and they can be conquered. The result is more true freedom within one’s mind and from one’s emotions and reactions. Therefore, Shakyamuni Buddha calls attention to the distinction of perception, perceiver, and perceived. “What is the freedom of mind that is empty? … This is empty of self or of what belongs to self. This is called freedom of mind.” Majjhima-nikaya I, 297-98
- the master Patanjali said, “Yoga (meditation training) is to still the patterning of consciousness.” I.2. “Then, pure awareness can abide in its very nature.” I.3 “Otherwise, awareness takes itself to be the patterns of consciousness. I.4
- Furthermore, Buddha Shakyamuni said, Where there is perception, there is ideation. Where there is idea, there is concept. Where there is concept, there is duality. Where there is duality, there is suffering. (I’m paraphrasing.) Through undoing the linkage of perception/self/emotion, one can undo the linage to suffering and limitation.
Secondly, understanding that “the mind is the root of all phenomena” is of value to a vipashyana practice. Vipashyana is a path of stepping stones that leads to pure perception. Vipashyana training shepherds one from the delusion of believing blindly and mindlessly in one’s perceptions, to understanding the linkage within belief (ideas, concepts, and delusion), to disrobing oneself of these. This must be done while simultaneously living in the world and being part of it.
Pure perception is called by many names in the Eastern traditions. Some are vajra chakshu, mahamudra, Awareness-as-It-IS, dharmakaya, rigpa, the Tao, Ishvara, clarity-emptiness, bliss-emptiness, shunyata overall, ultimate truth, Wisdom, liberation. These itemizations are levels of purer perception, per se; but such designation is impure unto itself. Therefore,
- Patanjali said,”As the patterning of consciousness subsides, a transparent way of seeing … saturates consciousness; like a jewel, it reflects equally whatever lies before it – whether subject, object, or act of perceiving. I.41. “The wisdom that arises in that lucidity is unerring.” I.48.
- Buddha said, “Unerringly cultivate wisdom.”
How, then, is mind the root of phenomena? It is so due to that which is labeled mind is actually not mind, but is instead the perception/self/emotion complex. Perception is personal. The same is so of self and of emotions. Additionally, within all three are the interactions of sensations, memories, preferences, and aversions. These also are personal. For example, I sit here drinking a cup of homemade chai made just the way I like it. The experience is personal from the brand of tea chosen, the spices added, the combination of almond and coconut milk used, and the mug chosen to make it in. A good cup of chai to me is a set of current sensations, memories of previous sensations desired to have again, habits on my taste buds, and the momentary satisfaction of drinking the chai. The entire phenomenon of “my cup of chai” is self-made. It is due to the interwoven nature of my personal equipment: intellect, emotions, sensations, perceptions, and so forth.
Vipashyana is the cultivation of just seeing, like a mirror sees what is before it. The mirror has no comment. Vipashyana intends this neutrality, this impartiality, this emptiness of self. “Just seeing” applies to all the other senses as well (taste, hearing, etc.), to all manner of perceiving, and to the sense of self that is appropriating and creating a reality with sensation-perception-memory-and idea.
Why should one care to do this: to tease out the web of perception-self-emotion? Because of awakeness, because of potential world-betterment, or because caring for others matters. If any of these is one’s motivation in life, then deconstructing one’s Matrix is of value and vipashyana is a worthwhile practice.