26 Apr 2016
Alan begins the session with a sutta from the Pali Canon - the Suda Sutta or cook discourse, which begins with a foolish cook who didn’t take the king’s preferences into account and highlights the importance of acquiring the sign of the mind. The foolish cook never acquired the “sign” of the king. Alan mentions the movie Avatar in which there was a touching scene with the line “I see you”, and the phrase carries the meaning of understanding someone. In this way, the foolish cook did not “see” the king. He didn’t understand him and see what he truly wanted. Alan interprets the sign of the mind as being that from which the mind as we experience it emerges, the bhavanga. It is this brightly shining mind that is the source of our motivation to seek a path and to seek liberation. That stem consciousness that is not yet human is bound to hold a more primal stem desire. Tapping into that, you can find out what really makes you happy, and going deeper you can ask rigpa, “What’s your desire?” You can practice vipashyana without tapping into the depth of your soul, tapping into your heart’s desire, and tapping into the deepest motivation that is already there, but if you haven’t tapped into the innermost depths of what you truly want, the practice of vipashyana can easily be reduced to just another form of psychotherapy and have nothing to do with the path.
“Having acquired the sign of the mind, sensing the savor of solitude, practicing jhana, masterful, mindful, you obtain a pleasure that is not hedonic.” This sounds very much like shamatha. Shamatha can help ensure that your vipashyana can be motivated by a truly authentic motivation.
Also, to see the variety of motivations displayed in the world, and to be able to cut through and be able to truly look at someone and be able to say “I see you” on a level where you can truly empathize - that would be something. How can we tap into that depth of another person if we haven’t tapped into that depth of ourselves?
Alan then talks about two techniques to determine if you are doing the practice correctly and maintaining the flow of knowing or if you are just spacing out and cultivating stupor. The first test is for when you are settling the mind in its natural state during an interval between mental events. If, as you are attending there, an event arises, and as soon as the event arises, you’re already there and you don’t have to pull your attention back, then you were there before it happened. You were sustaining cognisance, and that’s the indicator of it. If it takes a few seconds, then you were spacing out. The second test can be done when you are withdrawing from all appearances and attending to the sheer luminosity and cognisance of awareness. If as soon as a subjective impulse - a thought, a desire, an emotion, etc. - comes up, you get it, then you were on the mark. If you learn about it only seconds later and you had to pull yourself back, then you were not on target.
The meditation is on shamatha without a sign.
After the meditation Alan talks about Galileo, mentioning, among other things, that history might have been a lot different if he had been allowed to stay in the monastery and had come to understand the sign of his own mind. The last four hundred years have yielded a tremendous growth of knowledge of the outside world, in medicine, and in hedonic well-being, yet have yielded little in terms of eudaimonia and knowledge into the nature of the mind. Major scientists are saying do not rely upon your first person experience, do not rely on introspection, and do not rely upon your own perception. They say that doing so is misleading and unreliable, but we don’t have to follow that...
The meditation starts at 24:50
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