Meditation on Mind Nature
At the later stages of unification, after the meditator has calmed and unified the mind using jhana or metta, the meditator can then choose to investigate directly the nature of mind itself, taking the mental frame as the main focus of the meditation. In my meditation on the mind practice from TMI (which is actually proper technical Mahamudra instruction in disguise btw) – there is an experience called “awareness” that can be recognized as some sort of “backdrop” of experience. One can step back and become aware of this awareness while maintaining clarity on the current mind and objects within it. There is an experience where you “step back” from the object, and there is a sensation in my mind of the “thing” called awareness changing size. It was in fact a tangible, conditioned experience that is entirely constructed by the mind’s self-referential capacities. It would shift, seemingly change size, and then I would tell mind, “next level” and that experience of shifting awareness is then on a lower level, within the higher level mind. You do a few iterations of this and with a strong mind you will get an experience of mind as process that is very distinct and it’s a strong insight experience. You only have so much mental capacity, but when done correctly this experience becomes “direct seeing through awareness” which is a necessary precondition for the mind to experience mind as process. The awareness backdrop behind everything must also be seen as just made up of mind stuff. Attempting to step back and encompass all that on a higher level of metacognition, serves to directly show you this in your direct experience. Often people will have trouble with investigating awareness because they lack the conceptual framework to do the investigation.
We can think of awareness and our conception of what it is an elaborate fabrication, but one that we can tune into and concretize in terms of the sensations that make it up. A helpful way of getting an experiential feel for this are the following exercises:
Try to experience the mind from the perspective of a detached point observer, using the vibrational awareness entry into non-dual awareness. Begin by taking in all six sense doors and tuning into oscillatory phenomena. Start with the breath, keeping this basic oscillation in mind. Also notice faster oscillations of sensations within the breath cycle, down to faster vibrations of mental projections and bodily sensations. Tune into the experience of vibrating mental projections and bodily fabrications. We can aqpproach this practice via vibrational awareness explained in detail. This fastest oscillation you can perceive- this is the impermanence aspect. There is a shift in conscious experience that occurs when a meditator takes an inherent mental quality of all fabrications as the object. It is called “conformity knowledge” and corresponds to high equanimity / formations. At this perception the conditioned nature of reality is fully cognized by the mind and instead of a fabricated construct of experience, the mind has an experience of the basic mental qualities and sees a common experience.
Imagine a stationary point self and notice oscillations and vibrations of the point self with sensory phenomena. Becoming familiar with conformity knowledge is essential to the understanding of magick and dependent arising as a whole. The basic mental qualities that condition all experience and suffering are similar mental experiences – impermanence, non-self, and suffering. These mental qualities are inherent to the act of perception itself and it is why Buddhist thought places a high importance on penetrating the 3C’s of all sensations. That is an ok approach, until it doesn’t work anymore. Essentially that model works because you assume there is a thing called objective reality and there are objectively observable things called sensations that are experienced the exact same way for every person- which can’t be true.
The Three Characteristics as Mental Experiences
My experience has been that as insight deepens, there is less of a clinging to experiences of any kind, and this lack of clinging reduces the sense that there is a subject and an object, by reducing the clinging to objects there is less fabrication and more peace. This is a cause and effect reducing the sense of separate experiences of subject and object. Less clinging-more experiences of non-dual awareness. When there is no clinging, then the mind abandons the faculty of short-term remembrance and further fabrication, often involving more craving and clinging.
From a certain perspective one could argue that because there is conditioned conscious experience at all, there must be craving and clinging to some sense perceptions to maintain the duality of subject and object. When there is no craving or clinging, the objects in the sense doors are experienced as one of the three characteristics. There is a direct mental fabrication of impermanence, non-self, and suffering- and this mental fabrication is a special type of fabrication, because it is the most basic, fundamental mental fabrication there is. When the three characteristics of experience are the mental quality arising, then there is no basis for subject and object and thus conditioned consciousness as we know it ceases for a moment. This is a spectacular moment with full lucid wakefulness, and the mind clearly comprehends the cessation of fabricated experience, but they are nonetheless aware, because they have that intention during the meditation. We enter a state of absorption into cessation, and in this absorption the mind fully comprehends that everything it experiences is purely its own fabrication. This is truly profound, and after a fruition there is a feeling of having experienced something profound and spectacular. It truly is- it’s a direct experience that mind and reality are process and inseparable. Everything we see projected in the TV screen of our conscious experience is entirely fabricated by the mind. And we can choose to influence this process.
Even to say that experience depends on subject-object existing, well that’s something I thought was true without question based on my experience of dependent cessation, but I’m not so sure about that anymore. In states of Rigpa and other highly unfabricated states, there is a very close proximity to cessation, and often it’s as simple as switching on an light, but I think subject/object based conception of consciousness is not the whole story. Basically the 3C’s are a conceptual framework for experience and you can think of it like a three legged stool- you need a bit of a leg for each of the three legs for it to be considered a chair, but in practice if you detune one of the 3 C’s you get the others seem to intensify to stay at a status quo. It is an inherent property of a conditionally arising mental experience. You can, in late stage TMI, stage 10, take the 3C’s as an object – i.e. the mental representation of the 3C’s in subjective experience – take that as an object and through intention you can strengthen two and leave one at the absolute minimum- so you take the perception of impermanence and not self and intend to detune from the dukkha aspect. When you do this, you can get insight into the dependent arising of the mental fabrications that are the 3C’s.
The attainment of basically any perceptual state can be thought of like a tuning a radio really- when you think about it everything according to our current scientific knowledge involved vibrations of phenomena and the 3C’s are also a vibration of phenomena but they are a special type of highly protected reified phenomena in the minds of dharma practitioners. Due to the vibrational nature of phenomena and intention also seeming to have some effect on our perceptual subjective experience – to put it simply they are vibrations of phenomena and one can tune to different frequencies of phenomena. Intention and trial/error play a role in development along an axis in the time direction, i.e. our intentions and abilities will refine over time ideally.
In a simple way, once dependent origination is understood then it’s just another vibrational phenomena really (but it manifests as a vibrational mind phenomena), and with a knowledge of how the mind works one can simply take a simple conceptual model – like “my brain can tune to any phenomena and detune any other phenomena by intention”. It’s not a crazy notion- people ignore things all the time and even conventional worldly folks know the mind can sometimes perceive something one way and be completely fooled about its own nature. Knowing how the different vibrational planes relate to how perception feels and how cessation and the mental planes work, my experience was that I started noticing things about how intentions would manifest in real time and I would simply follow the chain of dependent arising and whenever I suffered I would collect myself and take a different view, install it as a working model of reality, then test it, suffer, refine, etc.
This basic process is elucidated in the SigmaTropic Cycle of conscious manifestation. We hold an ideal in mind with our imagination and our intention, and over time and trial and error we refine and tune our intention such that we get closer and closer to the goal, and all we need to do really is to continually refine our conception of what the intended conscious experience we want to manifest is.