The Nature of the Mind vs its mental states – Ajahn Mun’s key teaching for Ajahn Chah

In your meditation, it is EXTREMELY important to know that there’s a difference between your mind and the mental states that arise and cease within your mind.

See, most people think that you ARE your thoughts, feelings and emotions – which create mental states that arise and cease within your mind. But actually, these thoughts, feelings and emotions are just energies that arise and cease within the mind – they are not mind itself, which is that which KNOWS these states.

The mind itself is the awareness, the knowing – that knows these states but is not a part of these states. These states come by themselves according to causes and conditions (i.e., what’s just happened or what you have been thinking about beforehand), they stick around for a while and then pass away after their energy is used up.

Mental states are a bit like reflections in a mirror – the wise person knows that reflections are just reflections and are not self.  You can have beautiful reflections, you can have ugly reflections but the mirror itself does not become more beautiful nor more ugly no matter how horrendous or pretty the reflections are.

States are just states and are not self. States are just states and are not the mind itself:

  • Because the mind can sit back and observe those states, therefore those states are not the mind.
  • Because you can sit back and observe your thoughts – therefore you are not your thoughts.
  • Because you can sit back and observe your feelings – therefore you are not your feelings.

That which observes the sadness is not sad.
That which observes the anger is not angry.

So whenever you find yourself sad or angry, or feeling overwhelmed by any other negative mental state, you can reflect like this and this will help you see that you are not these negative mentals states, are you?!

So don’t attach yourself to things which are inherently not you – these thoughts and feelings – all emotional states that arise and cease in the mind are separate to the mind itself. They are alien, they are foreign to you, they are not self.

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