‘Just like the question “Can you see your own eyes?”Nobody can see their own eyes. I can see your eyes but I can’t see my eyes. I’m sitting right here, I’ve got two eyes and I can’t see them. But you can see my eyes. But there’s no need for me to see my eyes because I can see! It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? If I started saying “Why can’t I see my own eyes?” you’d think “Ajahn Sumedho’s really weird, isn’t he!”Looking in a mirror you can see a reflection, but that’s not your eyes, it’s a reflection of your eyes. There’s no way that I’ve been able to look and see my own eyes. But then it’s not necessary to see your own eyes. It’s not necessary to know who it is that knows – because there’s knowing.’
~ Ajahn Sumedho, What is the Citta?, Forest Sangha Newsletter, Oct. ’88
This is an analogy for trying to look for your own mind in the outside world. Whatever you find will be an “object” of perception, not the perceiver – the One Who Knows. This is the fundamental problem of trying to find the “subject” in the objective world.
This is because how our senses work is that we have to go out and “cognize” an object which has characteristics (called lakkhana or lakshana) that we can latch on to and grasp – this is how we recognize things in the world of the senses.
But the awareness – that which is aware – is the subject, not an object. It’s not that the real Mind doesn’t exist – it’s just that it won’t have any characteristics for which you can latch on to because it’s not part of the objective world – it’s not part of “objects”.
As Master Hsuan Hua would say – the Real Mark is markless, yet there is nothing that is not marked by it. Because the real mind doesn’t have any marks or characteristics, this is why you’ve got to learn how to let go instead of grasp.
Zen Master Huang Po said that even if you could see your own mind, it would merely be a reflection of your own mind in the objective sphere – and not the real mind itself. This would be like mistaking a reflection of the moon for the real moon itself.
But Ajahn Sumedho here is also saying even though you won’t be able to find your own mind “out there” asking everywhere where it is, you know that you “know” things – so you know that you definitely have a mind.