Monday, 13 February 2017

Cessation Of Mind

Patanjali

The content below is an expanded version of a forum post.

Union or realization of oneness happens on cessation of mental activities. This is the age old formula (by the father of yoga Patanjali himself). All very good, but what is really meant by cessation of mental activity?

Does it mean I stop using my mind? Does it mean I stop the continuous chatter (monologue) that goes on inside my head? Does it mean I should stop perceiving things, recognizing things, naming/knowing them etc? Does it mean I bring the mind to a standstill like a dead or unconscious or asleep man? Do I need to be brain dead to get the experience of oneness?


What will stop the mental activity? Breathing in a specific way? Reciting a mantra non-stop? Staring at an image, or a mental image? Music, drumming? A drug? Or a "meditation" (whatever that is)?

How will the cessation of mental activity generate an experience of oneness? Is it magic? Is it yet another state of the mind? Does something magical happens to the Self (aka pure consciousness) when the mind stops? What is the mechanism, and if it fails, how will I know what caused the failure?

Sounds like a bunch of stupid questions. A teacher will tell you that you are thinking too much, just do it, do not waste time on these questions, its just more mental activity. But then we see thousands of seekers who go on "just doing" and even after decades reach nowhere. Not everyone is gifted, you see. One can see that the above questions are those which only a seeker on the path of knowledge can ask. Those resemble the questions which a scientist or an engineer would ask. Such people do not simply take things on faith, they need at least a convincing hypothesis, their approach is very systematic and rational. They need to go to the nuts and bolts level, need to check the blue prints and circuit diagrams. They demand a complete understanding. If you are such a person, keep reading.

I struggled with questions like these for years, and tried a lot of exercises to get rid of this "mind" thing. The result was a big zero, very frustrating. All one can do is hold the breath for a few seconds to trick the mind into not thinking or just fall asleep after falling into a trance like state. Of course, it is possible to momentarily halt the monkey mind, stop recalling or imagining, and to enter a peaceful state of "nothingness". But it never lasts. It seems forced and unnatural, because as a human, we are habituated into using the mind non-stop. What I was doing here was just clearing the contents, I was not stopping the mind. This was a big revelation.

The best I could do was to become very aware and alert of mental activities and sensory contents, which is as good as clearing them, because I could create a distance between my Self (consciousness that I am) and mental activities (which I am not). So it was like an objectification of mind, now its just a machine with a load of software which produces thoughts and actions. So far so good, but..... still no oneness. I was totally separate from everything that the mind showed me.

Something changed when I finally started understanding teachings and tricks of non-dualism (Advaita Vedanta), originating from Vedas and explained in brilliant commentary by Shankara et al. But, the real impact happened through teachers such as Mooji, Papaji, Francis Lucille, Rupert Spira, Nisargdatta and of course, Ramana. Experiencing oneness is a piece of cake now. It lasts for a few seconds only, but is certain enough to remove all doubts, its a direct experience, not a thought, not a concept or some philosophical idea.

But how?? That's a $M question. So we will invest some time going in depth of it first, else there will be no understanding.

What is mind and what are its activities?

This is the first question one should ask. If you do not know what are you trying to stop, you won't be able to stop it. You will terminate some or other stuff that you think is the mind, and the result will be nothing. Commonly, the non-physical collection of processes like thoughts, memories, imaginations, emotions and feelings etc. is referred to as the mind. But this is just surface of the Mind (with a capital M). We have studied Mind in past articles and we see that its a huge mega-structure. So huge that this whole physical universe is a tiny part of it. Mind is not huge in terms of size, you cannot measure it in km, because Mind itself creates space. Perhaps the physical universe is just some dimensionless numbers. Mind is huge in the sense of potential, it has almost infinite potential. Mind is a creation of the Fundamental Process (see past articles), and since this process is unceasing, not in time, the Mind is unceasing, and is not in time. The question of cessation of the Mind makes no sense in this light. Mind cannot be stopped.

Why? Because the process used to stop it will be just another mental process. It will be a substitution of one process for the other. You will simply assume that it has stopped, but it has only changed state. Soon, the habitual processes come back. It doesn't last. Even death won't stop the Mind. Mind is universal, not individual. An individual is a product of Mind, not the reverse. A product cannot terminate its creating process.

So what are those non-superficial activities? The essential activity of the Mind is organizing and forming structures. It takes Experiencing (see past articles) and turns it into structures. Matter, bodies, brains, minds, thoughts, memories, a person etc. are all just structures. This organizing activity is "involuntary", you cannot stop it, you as a person, are the product of this activity. All you can do is become aware of it (as Self). Experience it as a process, as your part, not as yourself. That's the key.

The Trick

Mind does organization of experiences by dividing the incoming experiences into parts. The first division it creates is that of an experience and an experiencer. This can be directly seen. This is your direct experience now, there is essentially an experience, and there is the Self (you) who is the receiver of those experiences. The oneness becomes dual here. You need to note this carefully, and reverse it in order to experience the oneness. Its that simple.

The Mind doesn't stop there. It divides the experience into many, creates space to organize the pieces, creates time to organize the change or events, creates memories to store experiences, simulates experiences in the form of imagination, so on and so forth. It divides the incoming data into "external" and "internal". The external is anything that comes via senses. The internal is the activities that do not come via senses - thoughts, memories, desires etc. This creates the division of subject and object.

The Mind goes even further. It divides the objects into countless shapes, colors, textures etc. depending on the source sense organ. It divides the internal contents into many too, so e.g. a large variety of emotions, and an impressive set of mental abilities. The Mind also synthesizes, unites the parts, and this ability is the key when you are trying to unite divisions into one. We can unite everything back into one.

So lets do it

The trick is to understand the real meaning of "cessation of mind". We saw that cessation is an impossibility. And the real meaning is - not forcefully stopping the mind-machine or doing any of the "mind stopping acts". It results in just more mental activity, of a different kind. All you need to do is keep all the activities of the mind in your "field of view" of awareness, bring them into front of screen of awareness, do not keep the mental activity as a background, let it become inclusive and visible as yet another object in the field of all those sensory objects.

Normally the mind will shift from one thing to another, analyzing everything one after the other. The mind also shifts to thoughts, emotions, memories etc. All you need to do is bring this activity into light of awareness, let it just be. It soon becomes very faint naturally. Now its just something happening apart from you, like other events in your field of view of awareness of which you are only a neutral witness.

Now just notice that there is only one thing - namely, an experience. One experience includes everything there is, except the witness. If you now shift your attention to the witness (Self/consciousness), you will see that now the experience has been reduced to just "experiencing". There is nothing else except this experiencing. And there is no difference between the experience and the experiencer. They are one. There is oneness.

There are still a thousand things, its still same busy-busy mind, but now its only a process in the whole and you are aware of it. Shift your awareness away from the process towards the wholeness. There is just "isness". The divisions are created by the Mind, and it is still doing it, but you are not bothered, you know its all one. You can directly see it now.

You will find that the experience of oneness has always been there. You were one with everything since the beginning. It was covered up by the activity of the Mind. You have not "become" one, you have just realized that you were always one. There, this is what Patanjali meant.

FAQs

What is this thing I call "field of view of awareness" or simply the field or screen or canvas of awareness?

It is the sum total of all the contents that you can be aware of. With eyes open, it is the view of the world outside plus a "view" of all the mental activities inside, overlaid on that. With eyes closed, only the visual contents disappear, rest of the stuff is still there on the screen.

With eyes open, the view tends to snap into a 180x180 solid angle of visual field, with mental activities as "background", and the Self as the receiver of all of the view. With eyes closed you get a 360 solid angle view, with just "happenings" of mental events, sounds, touch and smells. You can eliminate sounds, smells to clear it further. With a flotation tank, the touch is also gone. You can stop the useless chatter, recalls, imaginations with some practice, and most of the content is gone. Mind is still there, only that the contents are missing. Its you and a minimal experience, that's all. It may or may not make the oneness easier. You don't need to go to such lengths to kill the contents. Its artificial, and does not last. Best way is to let everything be, just ignore it all. The everyday waking state of the Mind is all you need.

How to bring everything onto the screen of awareness?

To do this, its best to get into the usual "introspection mode" we have discussed in past articles on introspection. Keep the eyes open, be quiet and fully alert. Just plain everyday state of mind is good enough. Notice the surroundings, notice the objects, shapes and colors, sounds, smells, and everything simultaneously. This "defocussing" or zooming out, puts them all together on the canvas of your awareness. Be aware of them all at once, not trying to focus on one thing exclusively. Notice the mental activities - thoughts, recognition, perceptions, memories, reminders, and everything that goes on there. Bring them on the same canvas of awareness. Now the collection of objects and mental processes are in your "field of view" nicely and sharply. You have objectified the mind, it is just another process happening in front of you. You are the witness, not the thinker or perceiver.

What happens when you include mind as an object in the field of awareness? 

First thing you will notice is that there is only one thing left - a pure experience. There is just an experience, nothing else. Probably the mind will jump back into it and start dividing things up, naming them, recalling and recognizing. Its ok, it means that you have a healthy and functioning mind. But be aware that all these activities are only a part of your experience. Include them in your experience , which is only one single experience. There cannot be two experiences.

How to unite the experience and the experiencer?

Shift your awareness to the one that is "experiencing". Its the usual Self (consciousness) which is seen as emptiness (no-thing). At this point notice that there is nothing but an experience of this experiencer experiencing.

Meaning, you have now included the Self into your one and only experience. Notice that that's all there is. There is nothing apart from this one experience in this whole existence, and there was never anything else. All those thousand things were merely dividing acts of the mind. There are still divisions, but now you can see the reason behind them. Those are artificial, illusory. The Self is not "getting" an experience from somewhere, it is being that experience, and is actually same as the experience. In other words there are no two, there cannot be.

This in essence is the shortest and most direct way to get to the experience of oneness, unity, union or yoga, whatever people call it. It is very direct and takes no time. Writing about it is more difficult than actually experiencing it.

 

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