Life is as varied and diverse as day and night. Young or old, rich or poor, highly educated or illiterate, Nobel Peace Prize—winner or cursed criminal, however much difference there is in our external circumstances, regardless of our religion, whether we are black or white, of whatever race we are or whatever language we speak, the nature of the mind is the same for all of us: pure, tranquil and brilliant as natural pure water.
When a substance is mixed with pure water, it turns the formerly clean water into coffee or tea depending on what is added.
Thus where tainted water is, so is clean and pure water. This is the same as our mind. Within a sorrowful mind is a serene and joyful one, because when sadness abates, brightness and joy will arise in its place.
The mind and cognitive objects [arammana] The mind is the ‘knowing’ or ‘consciousness’ that senses cognitive objects (5 rammana). Cognitive objects are experiences through the six senses — eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind; thus cognitive objects are sights, sounds, smells, tastes, bodily feelings, and mental objects. For example,
when we see a gecko, the gecko is the ‘object’ of the sight, its sound the objects of the ears. When we interpret what we see or hear, whether good, bad or neutral, they are objects of the mind or pleasant feeling (sukhavedana), unpleasant feeling (dukkhavedana) and neither pleasant nor unpleasant feeling (adukkhamasukhavedana).
In life we encounter both positive and negative experiences which stem from the eight worldly conditions (10/cadhamma). Desirable conditions — fortune, status, praise and happiness — bring pleasure and satisfaction, while undesirable ones — loss of possessions, loss of status, criticism and misery — bring displeasure and dissatisfaction. However, pleasure and displeasure are only objects arising from craving and mental stains (greed, aversion and delusion) which color the mind. They are not the mind itself, for that is the condition that cognizes objects as they are. The mind is the state of knowingness, the state of knowing, in which there is only the one who knows, who knows objects and then lets go.
Every human being experiences suffering, it is not only us. Some people have so much suffering they commit suicide. In fact, all sufferings in this world, be it family or social problems, occur because we cling to cognitive objects. Therefore, in our daily lives we must be careful and not lose ourselves in mental objects, allowing mental objects to have power over our minds.
One practice that helps to ﬁnd this ‘one who knows’ who is above mental objects, in order to experience the state of knowingness and wakefulness within ourselves, is dndpdndsati — using mindfulness and clear comprehension to focus on the in-breath and out-breath. The in-breath and out-breath are things we always have with us, so it is not too difﬁcult a practice. Practising to attain mindfulness and clear comprehension by keeping our attention on the breath is the tool that enables us to discover ‘the one who knows’, so that we experience the state of awakening and radiance within each and every one of us. With a calm state of mind arising from mindfulness and clear comprehension, we will see that the mind is the mind and cognitive object is cognitive object. We will see that the cognitive object is not us, not ours, not our self. With this understanding we will discover the true nature of our mind, which is unmoved by pleasure and displeasure, one which observes with an equanimity that is free from attachment. Or at the very least we will attain a healthier state of mind.