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The Clinging Mind

Posted by Mac Mani on March 14, 2012 at 6:05 PM

Throughout human history, there have been those who have woken up from the dream that our state of mind depends on what we have or do. They are the rishis, roshis, mystics, saints, lamas and other "wise ones" who have seen through the illusion that, if only we could get the world to be the way want, we would finally be happy. They have each, in their own way, rediscovered the same timeless truth about human consciousness: The mind in its natural state is already at ease.


By 'natural' they do not mean the state of mind in which we spend most of our time-which clearly is not usually one of ease and contentment-they are speaking of the mind before it becomes tarnished with worry, wanting, analyzing and planning. Time and again they have reminded us that we do not need to do anything, or go anywhere to be at ease. On the contrary, all our doing, all our seeking to change things, takes us in the opposite direction. We imagine something is missing, and with this self-created sense of lack comes discontent. Feelings of discontent cloud our consciousness, overshadowing the intrinsic ease of the mind in its natural, unsullied, state.


This was one of the Buddha's key realizations. He saw that we all experience what he called dukka. The word is often translated as "suffering," leading to the common misconception that Buddha taught that life is suffering. The word dukka is actually a negation of the word sukha, which has the meaning of ease (originally, a wheel that runs smoothly). So dukka means not-at-ease, and is probably best translated as discontent or unsatisfactoriness. Suffering, as we think of it, is an extreme form of discontent. Much more common-indeed, so common that it usually passes unnoticed-is the discontent that comes from wishing that things were different, worrying about what happened earlier, or hoping for a better future. Buddha realized that the root cause of this discontent was our clinging to our ideas of how things should or should not be. As soon as clinging enters the mind, we lose the natural state of ease. Thus, to return to a state of ease, we have only to stop creating unnecessary discontent. That means letting go of our attachments as to how things should or should not be.

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