No Mind and Consciousness

These days, there is lot of talk about mindfulness. Simply stated, mindfulness is the result of paying attention within a field of awareness.

Actually, awareness and attention are deeply inter-related. While awareness is about being present in a diffused field composed of different stimuli without attaching to any stimulus in particular; attention is about focusing on certain ‘stimuli’ taken from the diffused field of awareness, for varying lengths of time.

Consciousness, which encompasses attention, awareness and action; goes onto form a no-mind that goes beyond all the senses.

Though the essence of no-mind cannot be fully captured by words, an attempt can be made to describe it roughly. It is a mind that is not conditioned by the past or by the future and dwells in present, moment by moment. Therefore, it does not carry any baggage of previously stored responses, born out of our senses or lean upon the imaginative creation of the future for our senses to enjoy.

Technically speaking, no-mind is a mind that captures insights from present reality, essentially based on the principles of non permanence of anything; inter-relationship between all things and no identified self of anything (no-self). It is also about generating and choosing responses (action) based on insights gained from a given situation.

However, it seems that no-mind can be better understood through examples. And what better examples can there be other than those taken from the life of Buddha, who was one of the great practitioners of no-mind.

The story goes that one day a man came to the Buddha and asked, ”God is there, no?” Buddha replied, ”Yes.”

Then another day, another man came and asked, ”Is God really there?” To which, Buddha replied, ”No.”

Next day, a third man turned up and asked, ”Tell me whether God is there?” This time, Buddha remained silent.

On seeing three different responses of his master, his discipline and constant companion, Ananda, asked, ”How is that you gave three different replies to the same question? It is very confusing to me.”

Buddha explained, ”No, I did not give three different replies. I only responded differently to three different situations. The first person was sure that God is there. He was just asking for a confirmation. Therefore, I confirmed; since any amount of reasoning or exploration would not have helped him. He would not have accepted anything other than what he was convinced about. He had already formed his mind.”

Buddha continued, ”Similarly, the second person also had a fixed idea in his mind that God wasn’t there and was only seeking a confirmation. Hence I confirmed his strongly held belief.”

”But the third man came to me with an open mind with the sincere intention of finding out whether God existed or not. Hence I remained silent, indicating that he must explore the issue through deep and prolonged inquiry facilitated by a silent mind.” Buddha concluded.

The other story goes like this:

One day, Buddha happened to pass a man on the road who was taken in by his overwhelmingly peaceful presence.

The man stopped and asked, ”Who are you? Are you an angel or God?”

Buddha replied, ”No, I am neither an angel nor a God.”

Still curious, the man asked, ”Are you then a magician?”

This time again, Buddha answered, “No.”

”Then are you a man?” Asked the young man.

”No,” Buddha affirmed.

”Then what are you?” By this time the man was quite exasperated.

To which, Buddha replied, ”I am awake.”

Possibly, these two stories illustrate how a no-mind responds and what is the nature of no-mind.

In Buddha’s own words, no-mind is about: ”Be a lamp unto yourselves to light up thousand minds.”

Nice to Watch/Read:

a) How Meditation Can Re-shape our Brains by Sara Lazar

b) Mindfulness & Psychotherapy, 2nd Edition, Ed. Christopher Germer, Ronald D. Siegal and Paul R. Fulton

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