The Pure Mind or Chitta

By Desmond Yeoh SC

giant decorative apple on roof of stall on colorful new year fairground in downtown at night

The Chitta is in its natural state, pure and calm unless it is thrown about by mind objects such as desire and aversion. The enlightened masters likened the Chitta as a flag which remains stationary unless it is moved by the wind, which in this simile, represents the mental objects. As long as there are no mental objects to disturb it, the Chitta remains in its natural state. So the Chitta and the mental objects are really two separate things. The Chitta does not go chasing after mental objects but rather, it is swayed by something external. In its natural state, it can be described as ‘empty’; there is no happiness or pain; love or hate; anger or compassion and so on.

The unenlightened mind becomes the mental objects. When there is anger, it confuses itself as anger. When there is fear, it mistakes itself as fear. It becomes the mental objects that disturb it and thinks that it is the mental objects. The slightest pleasant or unpleasant mental object would cause the mind to react immediately and be flung into various moods. The mind spins from one mental object to another so fast that the proliferation creates an illusory self. So, we try out thousands of ways to ‘improve’ this illusory self because we do not understand that our Chitta is by nature, already pure.

The main purpose of meditation is to see the Chitta in its natural state; unmoving and calm when it is not distracted by mental objects. In deep states of meditation or Samadhi, the mind becomes concentrated and stable. There is brightness and clarity.  The Chitta may experience pleasant and unpleasant mental objects but is less affected by them because it can more easily let them go. It is like picking up an object just to see what it is and then putting it back down without the need to cling to it. Over time, the Chitta understand itself as pure, and understand that all things are mere conditionings and are not the mind. It then reaches its original state and becomes more independent of the world.

The Chitta then understands that happiness and suffering are mental states that are separate from it. It does not cling to either of them because they disturb it from its natural state. It then transcends both attachment and aversion and arrives at equanimity. It is always in the middle. It neither chases after happiness or runs away from suffering but remains still and unmoved by circumstances. It is not moved at all by pleasant or unpleasant mental objects. It changes from the flag to the flag pole which is not disturbed at all by the winds coming from any direction.

The mind of a person who is close to enlightenment is continuously mindful, wakeful and knowing. It is continuously mindful of the mental objects that impinge on it. Every mental object is viewed as a mental defilement and contemplated upon. Not a single mental object is allowed to slip by. Everything is clearly seen as not part of the mind or owned by the mind. They are also viewed as impermanent and causes of suffering. Even pleasant experiences are seen as causes of suffering because they are impermanent.

So feeling happy is also understood as a delusion. When they end, suffering will arise. Happiness is just the state of happiness and suffering is just a state of suffering; and the Chitta is not the owner of these. So, whenever happiness arises and the mind attaches to it; the happiness is taken up as a subject of contemplation. This also applies to suffering. This is continuously done until the Chitta is able to be completely mindful of and transcend both happiness and suffering. It settles down as the One Who Knows. It still experience happiness and suffering but no longer clings to them.

Understanding this helps us to really understand what “spiritual progress” is and what our practice should involve. There are two types of peacefulness. One that comes from Samadhi and the other from wisdom. The peace that comes from Samadhi is really a form of delusion because it remains calm as long as it is not disturbed by mental objects. Practitioners who are attached to this form of peacefulness have very low tolerance for mental objects. They want to escape from the world because they cannot stand the noise, sight and smell that disturbs them. They do not want to converse with others and so they hide themselves away. Clearly, this type of peacefulness is not helpful and cannot be viewed as progress even if one develops Siddhis or psychic powers from one’s practices.

We should seek after the peacefulness that comes from wisdom. We still apply Samadhi but it is not the final destination. We use Samadhi to calm the mind so that we can better contemplate mental objects calmly and independently. We use the calm of Samadhi to contemplate sights, smells, tastes, sensations and ideas. The world thus becomes our training ground and not something to escape from. Happiness is welcomed. Suffering is welcomed. They are both subjects for contemplation and means to achieve true knowing. The peace that comes from wisdom is more powerful because when the mind withdraws from Samadhi, it remains unafraid of forms, sounds, smells, tastes, sensations and ideas. All these are separate from the mind and are useful for contemplation. If we try to escape from the world, then there is very little scope for contemplation. With wisdom, the Chitta becomes fearless and powerful. It is even unafraid of suffering.

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