When I changed from za zen to vipassana practice, I learned about the four fiundations of mindfulness. One is also aware and mindful of these when doing za zen, but I had not heard about it in such detail and was not familiar with the satipatthana sutta. Of course, as diligent meditation practitioner one does not exclude any of the foundations of mindfulness, the body, feelings, mind and mind objects (Dhamma), one is aware of all (one at the time) – mostly it is the first and easiest,awarenss of the body.
Since one year, after leaving Santi and moving to Thailand and living quite secluded in the mountains, I determened to do cittanupassana as main object of observation, to become aware mainly of the mind and mindobjects, instead as before mainly kayanupassana, the mindfulness on the body. The results of that change are sometimes funny and sometimes scary. Funny in the sense that by trying to be aware of the mind, of all intentions, of impulses, of thoughts, perceptions and everything that is going on in the mind, I sometimes know what I was intending or thinking but I was so focused on it, that I totally lost awarenes of the body so much so that I stumbled over things that I didn’t see, or things slipped out of my hands and so on.
To know the intentions in regards to physical activities i.e. is relatively simple, often an inention for an activity does not come directly before one performs the action but way earlier, and then later, when the conditions allow, the impuls is sent to actually really perform the action. Often intention and impulse follow each other and seem to arise at the same time, which is not true, they come one after the other, but in quick succsession. Sometimes the impulse may seem to arise even before the intention or at least before the intention becomes known.
To know ones intentions for verbal activities or generally in interactions with other people that is different, much more complex to see and requires a lot of honesty. One may say something and think the intention is through and through good and noble but totally denies the underlying defilements. Simple example how often do we say: ‘Oh, that’s nice.’ And we might think we say that only out of so much altruistic joy but there might also be envy or attachment which we usually do not become aware of.
As far as I remember, I read in the Samyutta Nikaya that the intention set in a mind is like the river ganges which flows into one direction and this direction cannot be changed even one were to dig with a spade. In other places it is said that ‘what we think that we become’. That is the scary part. Especially since we do not know what we think most of the times. And when we come to know, it is not wholesome most of the time. I need to make a far greater effort to make sure that one of the paramies pervades my mind and not one of the defilements.
Again and again people say, I cannot stop thinking. Something interesting is: One cannot stop thinking because one wants to think, because one thinks ones thought would have any importance, which is a misinterpretation. A thought might have as much value as a fart. But thinking gives the impression one is doing something and can influence ones surrounding, whereas feeling is entertaining and give the impression one lives, something is happening. The mind wants to be active and think even when we say we would like to have peace and would not want to think so much. But in fact the reason why we can’t stop thinking is that we are attached to our thoughts and that we miss them when they are getting less or it becomes frightening when they dissapear.
What I learned so far is that one cannot trust the mind at all. One cannot trust ones perceptions. The intention for an impulse might be a totally different from what one thought it were.
And most importantly, everything that we see, hear, smell etc. will leave an imprint on the mind. When we are not observing the mind it cannot be noticed. As far as I understand the matter from reading the texts, this would be in regards to the cittabhavanga. Things that we see, even movies that we watched, one has long forgotten that one ever saw that movie or saw this image but suddnely it fashes up. An example of today, I was relaxing and closed the eyes, some blue dots appeared as a flash. I had the thought ‘I saw this, I remember this’ and the picture became clearer, it was the blue of the flowers of trees growing on the streets of Madeira. I had at all forgotten that I ever had been to Madeira, almost, that Madeira exsists, but by recocnizing the blue dots I remembered the whole thing. When not observing the mind this would happen completely unnoticed or would happen only accidentally. Or an image or feeling would arise and could not be related to anything.
The crux is – yes, one can remember things, but one only remembers ones own percetion, only ones own version of what one experienced. And this is tainted by the defilements predominat in that particular situation. In this case it is tainted by liking and as soon as I remembered the blue flowers of the trees I noticed the wish to travel to Madeira again arising in my mind.
Earlier I said provocingly that our thoughts are as valuable as our farts. That is only true for large parts of the unwholesome thoughts that arise due to our defilements. The only importance they have is that all unwhlesome will sink into this enormous flux of our lifestream conciousness and will be cause for some unwholesome resultant kamma whenever the conditions allow. It is not true for every single thought of loving kindness or compassion, or sympathetic joy or any other parami that we have arising in our minds. Those are valuable, important. These thoughts, when nourished and harboured bear great fruit. They transform us into better people and the make a difference in the world.