The mind is through which we see the world…typically. Of course, there is what the world looks like when there is no thought…which is something else. The world, as we see it, is tinted and filtered by the mind. Mind is just another word for thoughts that arise. You see what your thoughts allow you to see. So, it’s all a matter of thought. Based on our thoughts and beliefs, the world we see is tinted and filtered.
However, most people do not realize the degree the world is tinted and filtered by thoughts and beliefs. Thought tends to continue (left to itself) in the direction set (consciously or unconsciously)…creating upward and downward spirals. Something as simple as a gray rainy morning can set the stage for a crappy day.
When I speak of the illusions of the mind…this tinting and filtering is part of the illusions of the mind. Awakening is seeing through the illusions of the mind, so awakening also means freedom from this tinting and filtering…or at least not being fooled by it. To see the gray rainy morning and not assign any negative label (something bad)…or if a thought does come up saying “what a crappy day” to see it for what it is and laugh at it like a joke. To know that although the thought arose from a snarky mind, it is wrong…it’s not a crappy day at all.
The mind (through memory and beliefs) adds reference and context (good or bad) to what we see in the world. This referencing and context is what creates other thoughts and emotions.
There was once a boatman who was crossing a river. As he was rowing, he felt something collide against his boat. With anger, he turned to yell at the other boatman to watch where he was going…but when he turned he only saw an empty boat that was adrift. The anger immediately vanished…and he laughed.
When I first encountered this story, I could relate…perhaps you can too…becoming angry at nothing. But what was going on here? There is some belief that “others” should have control and responsibility of their boats and never crash into others (or more specifically you). This belief causes anger to arise when somebody is not controlling their boats like they are supposed to and bump into you. Other thoughts may arise, “what an idiot” or “look at that moron!” None of which would arise if it was an empty boat. The stress, the anger, etc. are self-created based upon more deeply held thoughts or beliefs. If there were no thought (or beliefs) and everything was accepted, you might act as if the boat was empty…whether it was or not.
There is also a story that was told by Zen master Seung Sahn that I recently read that illustrates the point well.
Thirteen hundred years ago, in an ancient province of Korea, there was a great Zen Master named Won Hyo. As a young man he fought in a bloody civil war and saw many friends slaughtered and homes destroyed. He was overcome by the emptiness of this life, so he shaved his head and went to the mountains to live the life of a monk.
In the mountains he read many Sutras and kept his precepts well, but still he didn’t understand the true meaning of Buddhism. Finally, since he knew that in China he might find a Zen master who could help him become enlightened, he put on his backpack and headed for the great dry Northern plains. He went on foot. He would walk all day long and rest at night.
One evening, after months of walking, he stopped at a small patch of green, where there were a few trees and some water and went to sleep. Toward midnight he woke up very thirsty. It was pitch dark. He groped along on all fours searching for water. At last his hand touched a cup on the ground. He picked it up and drank. Ah, how delicious! Then he bowed deeply in gratitude to Buddha for the gift of water.
The next morning he woke up and saw beside him what he had taken for a cup. It was piece of a human skullcap. There were numerous insects floating on the surface of the small quantity of filthy rain water still left in the bottom portion of the skull. Won Hyo looked at the skull and felt a great wave of nausea. He opened his mouth. As soon as the vomit poured out, his mind opened and he understood. Last night, since he hadn’t seen and hadn’t thought, the water was delicious. This morning, seeing and thinking had made him vomit.
Ah, he said to himself, thinking makes good and bad, life and death. It creates the whole universe. It is the universal master. And without thinking, there is no universe, no Buddha, no Dharma. All is one, and this one is empty.
This is another story that illustrates how things change based on our thoughts.
It is all in the mind. There is not anything that is inherently good or bad/evil…no “me” and “others”, but thought makes it so. As Bodhidharma said, vast emptiness…nothing holy.