Our Mind is not our Friend

Our Mind is not our Friend

:anjal:

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I have not seen the vid, but as to the title, I don’t think we should make such one-sided generalizations:

From AN 1:

  1. “I don’t envision a single thing that, when
    undeveloped, leads to such great harm as the mind. The mind, when
    undeveloped leads to great harm.”
  1. “I don’t envision a single thing that, when
    developed, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when
    developed leads to great benefit.”
  1. “I don’t envision a single thing that, when
    undeveloped & unapparent, leads to such great harm as the mind. The
    mind, when undeveloped & unapparent leads to great harm.”
  1. “I don’t envision a single thing that, when
    developed & apparent, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The
    mind, when developed & apparent, leads to great benefit.”
  1. “I don’t envision a single thing that, when
    undeveloped & uncultivated, leads to such great harm as the mind.
    The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated leads to great harm.”
  1. “I don’t envision a single thing that, when
    developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind.
    The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit.”
  1. “I don’t envision a single thing that, when
    undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress
    as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings
    about suffering & stress.”
  1. “I don’t envision a single thing that, when
    developed & cultivated, brings about such happiness as the mind.
    The mind, when developed & cultivated, brings about happiness.”
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  1. “I don’t envision a single thing that, when
    untamed, leads to such great harm as the mind. The mind, when untamed
    leads to great harm.”
  1. “I don’t envision a single thing that, when
    tamed, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when tamed
    leads to great benefit.”
  1. “I don’t envision a single thing that, when
    unguarded, leads to such great harm as the mind. The mind, when
    unguarded leads to great harm.”
  1. “I don’t envision a single thing that, when
    guarded, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when
    guarded leads to great benefit.”
  1. “I don’t envision a single thing that, when
    unprotected, leads to such great harm as the mind. The mind, when
    unprotected leads to great harm.”
  1. “I don’t envision a single thing that, when
    protected, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when
    protected leads to great benefit.”
  1. “I don’t envision a single thing that, when
    unrestrained, leads to such great harm as the mind. The mind, when
    unrestrained leads to great harm.”
  1. “I don’t envision a single thing that, when
    restrained, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when
    restrained leads to great benefit.”
  1. “I don’t envision a single thing that — when
    untamed, unguarded, unprotected, unrestrained — leads to such great
    harm as the mind. The mind — when untamed, unguarded, unprotected,
    unrestrained — leads to great harm.”
  1. “I don’t envision a single thing that —
    when tamed, guarded, protected, restrained — leads to such great benefit
    as the mind. The mind — when tamed, guarded, protected, restrained —
    leads to great benefit.”

This automatic overriding of numberings is a bit annoying. The numbers in these two posts should run from 23 to 40.

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to my taste the title is correct, the mind is not our friend (well not mine at least), but it potentially can through enormous effort be made our slave
and this amounts to revolution and overthrowing rulers, as normally we’re slaves to the mind

the mind can be a wild and difficult thing but it is inconstant - we cannot stay angry forever - thank goodness. the same is true with regard to anything that the mind throws up - anitya! it would be difficult to find our way to the Buddha Dhamma without a mind to take us there? How would we practice generosity and support each other in our shared journeys if we did not have minds? the mind just is what it is and nirvana is what it is - in a manner of speaking - how could things be otherwise?

I have things to say about this very topic, which you will find interesting, but I am on retreat so can only write in brief.

The mind is neither your friend nor your enemy. It is who you invite in the “room” where your mind “lives” that matters and that makes the difference. You can invite an enemy (Māra - your unsubdued defilements) there (who’s gonna torture you like hell sometimes) or you can invite your friends Buddho Bodhicitta (your pure heart - wisdom & compassion) and his constant companion and advisor Ñānadhammo (your knowing mind - suta-maya-paññā, knowledge, intelligence, memory) who kick Māra out of the room where your mind dwells and not only establish you in the right path but console you and slowly help you recover from the torture that Māra inflicted upon you.

But Mara is still in the house (your nāmarūpa); until Arahantship, in fact. So it’s temporary. But at least now you’re with friends again and so you are happy.

It’s 1:41am and I need to sleep. I will explain more tomorrow. There is more to it than that.

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I started writing an elabaroation on the above, but it turned out 4 Word pages long (and nowhere near finished) so I decided to post that as an article and start a blog. So, I will attempt a shorter answer instead. [EDIT: Whoops… Couldn’t manage a short answer at all! Got inspired and the story just kept flowing and flowing and flowing… I hadn’t even planned for there to be a story but once I thought of a simple real-world example (someone kicking a cat) everything just got more and more elaborated, so I came up with someone kissing a woman, then scolding his kid, and then I just told the kid’s life story… Anyway, hope you like it…]

The being is composed of two things: nāma and rūpa, mind and body. The body is obvious, and other than the fact that the Buddha dissects it into the four elements of earth, water, fire and air, in Buddhism it is usually treated as one, whereas the mind is being dissected into 4: feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness.

In psychology it is dissected as well, some saying there is a conscious, subconscious, and superconscious.

In Mahāyāna they have the idea of Buddha-nature. Non-Buddhists can speak of soul or some form of energy, spirit, inner essence, etc.

To me they all seem fanciful. Buddha-nature is a beautiful idea, but whether it was actually taught by the Buddha I do not know.

However, Thai Forst monks speak of ‘Buddho’.

What everyone is trying to get at, is that there is more to the mind than everyone thinks.

I would say that the above labels are just trying to describe various deep levels of the mind, which are hard to actually ‘access’. And those that have accessed them are trying to describe them to us. Perhaps.

I think that it is just this:

The body is clear. No need to dwell on it too much here. It is like our ‘house’. The material side of our being.

The mind that we usually refer to as ‘our mind’ we can simply say that it is ‘us’ in our ordinary state of affairs. It is ‘you’.

When people say that you are either good or bad as a person, do they mean your body or your mind? Your mind because the body is just an instrument, but your intentions (mind) are what matter - not the physical or verbal actions of the body.

When you do good, why do you do it? Because you know it is the right thing to do (unless you are doing it out of a mix of intentions, such as seeking gain, praise, honour and fame), because you know it will lead to your benefit, the benefit of others, and the benefit of both. What tells you that it is the right thing to do and how does that thing know that it will lead to your benefit and everyone’s benefit?

Wisdom-&-compassion tell you that it is the right thing to do. Wisdom understands what is right and what is wrong. Compassion has empathy for you and the people whom you affect, so out of compassion it urges you to do the right thing. How does Wisdom know that that thing is right or that other thing is wrong?

Knowledge tells Wisdom. Knowledge of the Dhamma. It is Correct Knowledge. Because knowledge could also be listening to what outsiders (non-Buddhists) are saying, but that is not necessarily right knowledge because it could ultimately lead to harm. How do you gain knowledge? You read suttas, books and articles, listen to Dhamma talks, and converse with other Buddhists.

When you give that information to your knowing mind, you can call it Ñāṇadhammo, and you can anthropomorphise it - and the other ‘people’ in your ‘house’, i.e. body-mind complex. Ñāṇadhammo is intelligent, knowledgeable, learned, and has a strong memory. But he can’t really interpret it. You can read suttas all day long, and still not be wise.

But he passes that knowledge on to your ‘pure heart’, your Wisdom-&-Compassion. People call it also ‘emotional intelligence’, and I believe this is what Mahāyānists call Buddha-nature and Bodhicitta. It is just your mind’s profound ability to understand things you never thought you were ever capable of understanding. It is Wisdom. Wisdom, or Buddho, understands what Ñāṇadhammo is telling him. He comprehends it in a most deep and intuitive way (which leads artists, musicians, scientists, and inventors to claim inspiration from some inner ‘source’) which could be completely contrary to what anyone else would think - yet perfectly true in terms of reality. Anyway, Buddho understands what is right and what is wrong, what is true and what is false.

Out of Compassion, Buddho now instructs you - the mind of this being - to act in accordance with that understanding, so that you do not perform any unskillful actions but only skillful ones, so that the whole system prospers and so that other beings also prosper, since we all affect each other.

Now it’s your turn. Do you listen to Buddho or do you not? If not, who do you listen to?

Māra. Your defilements, particularly greed (or lust) and hatred. And if you listen to this Māra, then it means that you are at that moment heedless and you lack moral shame and moral dread. Why? Because of ignorance and delusion, or fear. And all these defilements are a product of Māra. But when you kiss another man’s wife, kick the cat, or scold your son it means that you are responsible because YOU choose to listen to Māra out of either lust, anger, or the delusion that that is how to discipline children.

But if you say: “No, Jenny, you are my colleague and you are a nice woman, but I am married and you are married and it would be improper, so nothing between us can ever happen.”, then you are listening to your Wisdom. Buddho tells you, out of compassion: “This is wrong, John. Kiss her and you and your wife are in deep trouble, and not just you but Jenny, her husband and everyone related to both families, including the company. Don’t do it. And also, when you get home, don’t kick the cat because he is not to blame for what happened at work, and neither is your kid, despite not having done his homework because he likes video games. Animals feel pain, while kids are highly sensitive to any criticism. And it would also hurt you kammically.”

So you listen to your Buddho and you don’t do any of those things and all is fine and well. A disaster has been avoided and you are happy.

But what would have happened had you listened to Māra, kissed the beautiful lady whom you have a crush on, seriously injured your own cat, and your kid now suffers from depression and is bullied daily at school? Mmm…

Now, depression. The kid is in depression. For something he was barely at fault at. His name is Mark. He is a lovely 13-year-old boy who just happens to like video games a lot, but he is an intelligent, harmless child. But his father’s lack of: self-restraint, responsibility and the ability to consider possible consequences of his actions, causes problems in the family and since his mother also can’t deal with the whole situation, Mark succumbs to his first depressive episode in his life.

Being depressed is a terrible state of affairs. No joy, no hope, no self-worth, and we all know what else. Mark is as if in a room - but he can’t enjoy his games anymore - because he is in a room with Māra. Māra is torturing him, in quite literal ways - but not physically, just mentally (the physical being side effects of the mental torture). Māra is telling Mark all day and night long that he is worthless, that he is a failure and that this is because of his lack of self-discipline in his academic endeavors (something instilled in him by his own father).

Māra is Mark’s own defilements - within his mind. Mark is the mind, Māra are the defilements, and they are as if living together in the same room. How on earth does Mark recover?

His father and mother see what is going on and drag (somehow) Mark to a psychologist. Mark doesn’t like it since he has a lot of self-respect despite the recent slump, and he doesn’t want it to be known at school that he is now “crazy”. The psychologist doesn’t know of Mark’s previous wellbeing, because he has never seen him before. He really thinks Mark is worthless and diagnoses him with Borderline Personality Disorder. He puts him on tough medications. OK. I got too deep in the story and it’s probably now not interesting anymore, despite the fact it could happen in real life to people who may not be called Mark. How does Mark deal with all of this?

By chance, Mark happens on a YouTube video by Ajahn Brahm. He learns about Buddhism. He also learns about depression and how to be free from it. He also reads this fictional story right here on this webpage at SuttaCentral, is absolutely astonished and shocked and can’t believe his eyes that he is reading about his own developments in his personal life on the Internet, BUT he is now about to learn how to solve his problem (although I will try to be as brief as possible, because he is fictional and you have other things to do today, I suppose).

Mark, you are in a room, just as I imagine you are right now. I remember you from a young age, and I have always admired your kindness, intelligence, wisdom and empathy. I found way you helped your lovely cousin achieve an A in computer science (her most detested subject, wasn’t it!! :wink: was deeply touching and I literally cried. It showed me who you really are.

And I just wanted to let you know that that intelligence, wisdom, and compassion are still within you. Yes! They are still there, Mark :slight_smile: But they are in the other room. You are now in your bedroom and this guy (he is a real nasty guy, my friend - a real demon!) called Māra, he is torturing you, Mark. His abusive words of self-criticism, fear, and craving to be respected and appreciated by your parents and the world when they are in fact ignorant and busy with extramarital affairs (because they are also tortured by the same evil one) are causing you a lot of pain. Please accept the fact that there is a problem right now. It is okay. Because I will help you.

Now that you have accepted that you have a problem, tell Māra: “I know you, Māra.”, because that is what this acceptance means. “It is okay, Māra. I am here and you are my friend. Everything’s going to be fine.” Māra now has a moment of bewilderment. He turns around briefly, wondering why on earth are you speaking this way.

Now quickly get your iPhone and text Master Ñāṇadhammo and Lord Buddho Bodhicitta who are in the room across the corridor! (Don’t worry, your parents are in court trying to fix their own issues.) Ñāṇa and Buddho are your knowledge of right and wrong, your profound intuitive wisdom and your boundless compassion. They care for you, my friend. They really do. Anytime you call them, they are stirred by the fact that you are in urgent need of help, they break down the door, take Māra by the hand and feet and fling him out of your room!

Because wisdom and compassion (backed up with the knowledge you gained from YouTube videos) can deal with any fear, any delusion, any craving, any anger - any negative thought you always thought was yours because it happened to be inside your head! They fling greed, aversion and delusion out of your room.

Now Ñāṇa and Buddho are with you. Ñāṇa recites to you inspiring stories from the Jātakas, while Buddho explains to you their deep and profound meaning - and has the compassion to give you a good, long, loving hug, which also makes my eyes watery right now, speaks to you kindly and says that you will always be protected from Māra - as long as you keep Ñāṇa and Buddho in, and as long as you give up computer games and do your homework, and forgive your father.

And they slowly get you to recovery from depression, you are now happy and well again, you are a Theravada Buddhist and at age 20 you decide to be a Buddhist monk in Burma. You go back and teach your father to be good, wise, and caring and you teach your mother how to forgive him and how to overcome her own depression. All because of your own profound knowledge, wisdom, and compassion helping you evict all the various kilesas from your room.

But now, Venerable Bodhicitta, formerly Upāsaka Mark, I must inform you that Māra is still in your house. Yes, he is in the other room, but you have only suppressed the defilements - not eliminated them yet. Māra disappears only when you know him fully (full understanding and realisation) and not through an act of will or force or any other aggresive method (which would be Māra’s then, wouldn’t it?). You know him fully when you know the four noble truths fully. Then you are an Arahant. Māra is no longer inside your house. Your house is now free from demons - no longer haunted by the Evil One. You are Ajahn Bodhicitta - an Enlightened Master - and you are in your temple along with your favourite [inner] teachers of all time - your knowing mind, Master Ñāṇadhammo, and your pure heart - perfectly wise and compassionate - Lord Buddho.

But now you must go and become a teacher of your own right and instruct the people living in their own haunted houses how to evict their own Māras. You can’t evict Māra for them. No one can enter their homes. Only they can. But now you know how to instruct them. Let them bewilder Māra briefly by first accepting their own situation by being honest with themselves, and then tell them to text their Ñāṇa and Buddho. They shall come up from the heart and up to the upper chamber of the brain, evict the Evil Māra full of anger and lust, and now those people, too, are free.

Now that you have helped liberate so many beings from suffering, it is time for you to pass away it seems - you are 80 years old. Your taints are destroyed (Māra no longer dwells in your body-mind), you have lived the spiritual life, done what had to be done, laid down the burden, reached your own goal, utterly destroyed the fetters of existence, one completely liberated through final knowledge.

In other words, Mark/Ven. Bodhicitta, your house (your body) is now about to crumble down. But since Māra has been out of it for a long, long time, Māra cannot build another house for you - you are no more to be reborn. When the house collapses, it just vanishes. As if you never existed. Only a memory of a young boy, whose father was unvirtuous, and who suffered from depression when you were in your early teens, but that because of that horrendous suffering, your heart awakened to the truth of suffering - your Knowledge of the Buddha’s Dhamma allowed you to see your true inner worth and immense potential lying deep within that you never even suspected was there because everyone was telling you were just a lazy, addicted to computer games kid, and then even diagnosed you with some mental disorder you never even had. But you saw your inner worth, you awakened that Profound intuitive Wisdom and enormous Loving-Kindness and Compassion, they heard the call, the came to your aid, they threw Māra out, taught you how to practice the Dhamma correctly, advised you to become a monk in Burma, you went, you ordained, you practiced the Mahāsi method of vipassanā and you became a fully enlightened Arahant. After which you were able to free many other beings from the bonds of Māra. And now, there is no more renewed becoming for you.

Sādhu, Sādhu, Sādhu, Mark! My wonderful friend.

Through many a birth in samsara have I wandered in vain, seeking the builder of this house (of life). Repeated birth is indeed suffering!

O house-builder, you are seen! You will not build this house again. For your rafters are broken and your ridgepole shattered. My mind has reached the Unconditioned; I have attained the destruction of craving.

Dhp. 153-154

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