Friday, April 8, 2016


Here’s a simple description of mindfulness, without all the ‘bells and whistles’. Mindfulness is the presence of choiceless awareness of the content of the present moment from one such moment to the next. Here's an even simpler description. Mindfulness is ... you ... as the present moment.

Why ‘choiceless’ awareness? Listen to these words from the Indian spiritual philosopher J Krishnamurti:

Choiceless awareness -- do not condemn, do not justify. Awareness works only if it’s allowed free play without interference.
To understand, surely, there must be a state of choiceless awareness in which there is no sense of comparison or condemnation, no waiting for a further development of the thing we are talking about in order to agree or disagree -- don’t start from a conclusion above all.
Awareness simply isn’t awareness when we are engaged in judging, analyzing, interpreting, filtering, condemning, comparing and contrasting. The moment we do any of those things we are no longer living in the now. To live in the now all likes, dislikes, opinions, views, biases, prejudices and predilections must be forsaken. There can be no compromise on that matter.

Xinxin Ming is a poem attributed to the Third Chinese Chán (Zen) Patriarch Jianzhi Sengcan (Chien-chih Seng-ts'an[pictured below]. The essence of the poem is this: our true self (‘true mind’), which is self-existent be-ing-ness, is perfect as it is. 

However, as soon as we form a liking or disliking to some person, thing or idea, or form a view or opinion of any kind, we create a ‘false self’ -- a ‘false view’ or ‘false mind’, in the language of ‘Xinxin Ming’ -- with which we tend to identify, and which we mistakenly believe is our true self. Our ‘false views’ obscure the true mind's inherent perfection. Here are some quotations from ‘Xinxin Ming’ that illustrate the point I am trying to make:

Any degeneration of your previous practice on emptiness [the true nature of things and events] arises because of false perspectives. There is really no need to go after the Truth but there is indeed a need to extinguish biased views.

Do not dwell in the two biased views. Make sure you do not pursue. The moment you think about right and wrong, that moment you unwittingly lose your true mind.

The Great Way is not difficult, just don't pick and choose. If you cut off all likes or dislikes, everything is clear like space.

Now, I do not think that it is humanly possible to give up all our views, opinions, likes and dislikes. However, let’s face it. Do we really need to overlay those things on our moment-to-moment experience of life? The moment we do that, we are no longer living in the now. Instead, we are back in the past and in the mental realm of conditioning. To experience the now in all its directness and immediacy we must look, really look at the right-here-and-now. We must listen, really listen to the right-here-and-now. We must smell, really smell the right-here-and-now. We must taste, really taste the right-here-and-now. And we must touch, really touch the right-here-and-now. We can do none of those things properly—or even half decently—when we are stuck in our own headspace. Being right-here-and-now, and experiencing right-here-and-now requires us to … drop, let go and desist our ‘false mind’.

The Diamond Sutra says, ‘The past is ungraspable, the present is ungraspable, the future is ungraspable.’ The past is gone. It is ungraspable. The future is not yet here, so it too is ungraspable. But how is the present ungraspable? Well, we are not in the present. If we are, where is it to be found? Point to it, please. Grasp it. You can’t. It’s impossible to measure the present, see the present, or define it. It cannot be pinned down. The so-called present moment, ever so short and ephemeral, has its unfolding in and as the now. The now is the portal through which we experience the present moment, indeed every moment … but only one moment at a time. It is always the present moment. 

Here’s something else that is terribly important—we are the present moment. Yes, the present moment is what, in truth, we are. And the present moment is---our ‘true mind’! In truth, you are the present moment. It is not something happening around you. It is you. The present moment requires your consciousness and awareness in order for it to be what it actually is--the present moment. Without your full and total presence (that is, choiceless awareness), the moment you experience will not be the present moment. It will be a past moment, or some anticipated or hoped for future moment, but it certainly won’t be the present moment.

These are my favourite lines from ‘Xinxin Ming’:

Words! The Way is beyond language,
for in it there is
no yesterday
no tomorrow
no today.

Stop picking and choosing. Abandon your false mind. Just be the present moment.

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