Monday, December 1, 2008

Abhidharma and Revelation

“There is no Buddha apart from your own mind. We do not have two minds. There is just one mind that is either deluded or undeluded.” Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche

It has been a productive and interesting few weeks. My apologies for not contributing to this blog during this time.

A couple of months ago, I was asked to present about mindfulness at a conference this coming March on addiction treatment. My first inner reaction was, not another presentation on mindfulness! Then I thought what topic would be really challenging and interesting for me and for the conferees? I realized that we talk a lot about mindfulness, yet the Abhidharmic teachings on the nature of mind and consciousness are rarely presented to audiences outside of Buddhist circles. I had been studying the Abhidharma and marveling at it's depth of vision and complex phenomenology. The Abhidharma not only presents a detailed framework for the actual functioning of mind, it also reveals a topology of mind extending out to include supramundane realms of conscious awareness. When we tell patients that mindful awareness is a powerful tool, we rarely talk about the full extent of this power.

Mindfulness as it is most often taught in clinical settings is single-mindedly focused on symptom reduction (right in line with our allopathic medical system, huh?) It seems radical to speak of the endgame of concentration and insight meditation techniques as tools to liberate the mind. Yet this is exactly their purpose: to cultivate clear comprehension of our true nature as thoroughly interdependent upon all other simultaneously arising phenomena, and totally devoid of inherent, separate self-existence. As Kalu Rinpoche says, “When you understand, you will see that you are nothing. And being nothing you are everything.”

One of the slides I created for the presentation I will give on the Buddhist psychological view of addiction, elucidates the trajectory of profound revelation that can be realized through the practice of a concentration meditation like mindfulness of breath. Most people think they do this practice just to calm the mind. Yes, tranquility is a dramatic effect of mindful attention to breath at the nostrils. Yet, tranquility is a necessary precursor to unification and stabilization of the mind, which reveals the mind's natural inner luminosity, eventually leading to realization of mind states of unconditioned bliss and deep revelation.

Imagine telling a patient suffering with depression or anxiety that you are going to teach them a simple practice which will in time, with dedicated practice, liberate them from identification with any mental construction that includes physical, mental, or emotional limitation. Sounds perposterous doesn't it? While it might be inappropriate to state it in these terms, it is absolutely true; and for me this is the true joy of sharing these tools for enlightenment with those who are suffering.

No comments: