Mindfulness of Mind: Mental States

The Four Foundations of Mindfulness (pp.113-122)

Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening (pp. 105-1118) 

“And how, monks, does he in regard to the mind abide contemplating the mind? “Here he knows a lustful mind to be ‘lustful,’ and a mind without lust to be ‘without lust’; he knows an angry mind to be ‘angry,’ and a mind without anger to be ‘without anger’; he knows a deluded mind to be ‘deluded,’ and a mind without delusion to be ‘without delusion’; he knows a contracted mind to be ‘contracted,’ and a distracted mind to be ‘distracted’; he knows a great mind to be ‘great,’ and a narrow mind to be ‘narrow’; he knows a surpassable mind to be ’surpassable,’ and an unsurpassable mind to be ‘unsurpassable’; he knows a concentrated mind to be ‘concentrated,’ and an unconcentrated mind to be ‘unconcentrated’; he knows a liberated mind to be ‘liberated,’ and an unliberated mind to be ‘unliberated.’  Goldstein, Joseph. Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening (p. 370)

The Mental States

In the last talk, we explored the general nature of the mind knowing that there are mind states (unwholesome, absence of unwholesome and wholesome).

The Buddha specifically noted eight pairs of mind states to observe.  They are:

Greedy or not greedy

Hateful or not hateful

Deluded or not deluded

Contracted/distracted or not contracted/distracted

Not developed or developed

Not supreme or supreme

Not concentrated or concentrated

Not liberated or liberated

The first of each pair refers to an unwholesome state and the second, a wholesome state.  The first four refer to states that we can observe while meditating or reflecting on during our everyday activities.  The last four are states that require a higher degree of practice to fully realize.

Greedy or Not Greedy

The mental state of greedy is the wanting state.  The mind is obsessed by desire.  This can occur at any time, at any place and in any situation.  This state of mind is one of the five hindrances to be discussed later in the Fourth Foundations of Mindfulness

Hateful or not hateful

Hate or anger can cause the mind to “simmer with  jealousy, vengefulness, malicious thoughts, and thoughts of cruelty.”  If the mind boils over with these thoughts, reaction can occur and we might say or do unskillful things.  This state of mind is one of the five hindrances to be discussed later in the Fourth Foundations of Mindfulness

Deluded or not deluded

Delusion occurs when we think that there is permanence, lasting satisfaction and a self.  Because the mind prefers permanence, satisfaction seeking, and being in control (self), we constantly need to be mindful of what really is.

Contracted/distracted or not contracted distracted

A contracted mind is depressed or withdrawn.  A distracted mind is on that expands beyond all boundaries and can lead to “monkey mind,”  traveling all over the universe through imagination.  This is state of mind is one of the five hindrances to be discussed later in the Fourth Foundations of Mindfulness.

Not developed or developed

Not supreme or supreme

Not concentrated or concentrated

These three pairs of mental states refer to the increasing degrees of concentration we may achieve in our practice.

Not liberated or liberated

“A liberated mind is free of all problems. It is not greedy, hateful, deluded, contracted, or distracted. It is developed, supreme, and concentrated. In the highest states of concentration meditation, it is possible to achieve temporary liberation. But even temporary liberation from harmful mental states is an extraordinarily beneficial experience. If we follow the steps of mindfulness very closely, eventually the mind may become fully liberated.”  Gunaratana, Henepola. The Four Foundations of Mindfulness in Plain English (p. 119).

Practicing Mindfulness of the Mind States

“It is noteworthy that contemplation of the mind does not involve active measures to oppose unwholesome states of mind (such as lust or anger). Rather, the task of mindfulness is to remain receptively aware by clearly recognizing the state of mind that underlies a particular train of thoughts or reactions. Such uninvolved receptivity is required because of one’s instinctive tendency to ignore whatever contradicts or threatens one’s sense of importance and personal integrity. The habit of employing self-deception to maintain one’s self esteem has often become so ingrained that the first step to developing accurate self-awareness is honest acknowledgment of the existence of hidden emotions, motives, and tendencies in the mind, without immediately suppressing them.  Maintaining non-reactive awareness in this way counters the impulse towards either reaction or suppression contained in unwholesome states of mind, and thereby deactivates their emotional and attentional pull.”  Analayo p. 175

In the Vitakkasanthana Sutta: The Relaxation of Thoughts (MN 20), the Buddha gives five instructions on how to replace unwholesome states of mind with wholesome ones. These are listed in order to be used.

Replace it with a wholesome thought (such as generosity for greed and loving-kindness for hateful)

Remember the suffering it causes (think ahead of the consequences)

Ignore it by paying no attention (we can ignore our friends’ advice; do that for the mind as well)

Remember that it is impermanent: (it can only last so long)

Overpower it (only as a last resort)

Reflection

  • Reread this talk and reflect on it.
  • Check on your mind state frequently without judgement. If you detect that an unwholesome state of mind has arisen, try one of the Buddha’s instructions as noted above.  Be aware of experiencing the state of mind of no unwholesome state. This is the temptaste of liberation.

Meditation

  • Meditate using the mindfulness of the breath technique and focus your insight meditation on states of mind.

Next: The Refrain: On Feelings and MInd
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