Distinct parts of the Mind

By Desmond Yeoh SC

The mind can be divided into three distinct parts. The first part if the pure mind. The pure mind is clear, bright and untainted. It is felt when one goes into deep meditation when it is not disturbed by one’s thoughts, emotions and sensations. When the pure mind is cut-off from consciousness, the meditator is not aware of any sound or sensations at all. It is as if the meditator is out of this world. Only later when the meditator comes out from his meditation, the pure mind is once against influenced by externalities.

The other two parts are actually part of the intellectual mind. They comprise of all the knowledge and experiences gained in this life.

One part, the defilements, can also be described as Mara. It draws the person away from God Consciousness or enlightenment towards enjoyment of the material world. The defilements fill One with desires and aversions, causing One to fluctuate between periods of suffering and delight in the material world.

The other part is wisdom or Buddhi which draws One away from the material world and towards God Consciousness or enlightenment.

The Pure Mind is neither of these parts but becomes whatever that takes hold of it. When One is filled with anger, the Pure Mind becomes anger itself. When there is craving, it becomes craving and One’s entire being reflects that craving.

The defilements are really like a child running after what it likes and running away from what it dislikes. The Buddhi is like an adult which needs to keep constant watch of the defilements, reprimanding and challenging all the thoughts that can bring about suffering.

For the average human being, the defilement often wins because it uses One’s emotions to drive One into doing what it wants. The Buddhi, on the other hand, requires the One to be calm, in order to effectively work. When a person is emotionally disturbed, it is like the Buddhi have to shout at the defilements from very far away. The defilements can easily ignore the Buddhi. This is why enlightened masters encourage us to meditate often and to maintain that mindfulness and calm throughout the day even while we are doing other things. We do not ‘stop’ meditating when we open our eyes and get up from our seat. We should still endeavour to maintain our mindfulness.

When the Buddhi challenges the defilements in a calm state of mind, the defilements have no chance at all because the Buddhi’s arguments are based on everlasting universal truth.

Firstly, nothing stays the same indefinitely. Everything is impermanent. Therefore, we will at some point in the future, lose something that we have and that would result in suffering.

Secondly, nothing in this material world can promise lasting happiness. Everything is tainted with suffering, even love. When we lose a loved one, we suffer tremendously. In fact, what we think of as happiness, is really a temporary cessation of a form of suffering for example, when we get what we desire, our craving cease temporarily and we see it as happiness. Very soon, we get bored with the object and start to suffer from our desire for something else that we do not already owned.

man holding baby s breath flower in front of woman standing near marble wall

Another example; when a boy meets a girl, there is a temporary cessation of loneliness and it is seen as happiness. However, the suffering changes into anger when they get into fights or jealousy when he sees the girl flirting with other boys.

The defilements do not only use desire to attract us into the material world. They also do so with suffering. They use negative emotions such as hatred, anger and jealousy to draw us deeper into the material world. In such situations, wisdom will highlight that we are only bringing suffering to ourselves by entertaining such thoughts and emotions. We should simply let those thoughts pass by and fade away.

Thirdly, the self is illusory. As mentioned above, the intellectual mind, together with our emotions and body is seen as the self. But the intellectual part is just really accumulated memories. Our thinking process is like combining our memories like a jigsaw puzzle or Lego blocks to form something else. It is not very different from an artificial intelligence system that learns from experiences. We just need to meditate and watch our spontaneous thoughts to see this truth; unless we rather choose to deny it because of our attachment to the self.

The battle between wisdom and mental defilements must be fought to the very end. In the autobiography of Ajahn Chah, “Stillness Flowing”, there is a story that in one occasion, Ajahn Chah lost his temper with an inattentive novice. This is not a big matter for all of us but to Ajahn Chah, the awareness that the capacity to lose his temper still dwelt within him was such a shock to him that he went into his hut vowing not to leave it again until he had victory over this remnant of defilement. He emerged from his hut only after ten long days of meditation and contemplation.

There are thousands of self-help books which helps with thousands of problems. The permutations are indefinite. The solution is really simple; to understand that the intellectual mind is neither me or mine. Once this is understood and experienced, the defilements lose their ability to take hold and influence the pure mind. One does not take his thoughts as ‘true’ or important merely because they come from his mind; and he can let go of those thoughts easily. He is no longer affected by the external world because he rests in equanimity. He neither chases after or runs away from anything in the material world and remains blissful and calm.

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