In the video I’ve shown a small part of the forest Buddhist monastery grounds where I’m staying at the moment.
I was happy to discover that in this monastery Buddhists are vegetarians; in this Asian country (I prefer to keep its name secret for the time being) most Buddhists are meat-eaters, because meat eating is very prevalent here.
So the fact that this is a vegetarian monastery is good news, because I don’t need to worry whether I take some dish with meat by accident.
On the monastery grounds they grow their own fruits, such as bananas and papayas. If they wished, they could easily become self-sufficient, but I know that they choose to buy some of the food from the outside and also some visitors donate food as well.
I find meditating in this monastery very easy because meditations are varied. I wished meditation times were longer, but such kind of hours are ideal for beginners.
The main meditation is breath meditation, then there’s breath meditation whilst lying down, and then there’s walking meditation. There is also quite a lot of chanting, which I’m slowly getting into, though at first it was a struggle for me to motivate myself to recite those prayers.
But what’s best about the monastery is one of the English-speaking monks. He, I guess, is around sixty, if I’m not mistaken. He is the one that gives most lectures to laypeople.
This monk has a sharp mind and deep wisdom. Whenever he talks I listen intently to his every word. Due to his advice, I’m experiencing very deep meditation states again – and I’m writing this on the fifth day of my stay here (the video above was created earlier).
I hope to write about his meditation advice in another post. In this post I will focus on the subject of two minds.
One day, when the monk gave a lecture, some of the laypersons, including myself, stayed to ask him private questions. I did not have any questions in mind, but I stayed so that I could absorb all the wisdom that he has to share with others.
When the subject of the knower came up, and he started expanding on it, it got really interesting. He told that without becoming aware of the knower – your true mind – you cannot reach enlightenment in this lifetime.
In response to this, I remarked that I experienced the state of the knower quite a few times, but this did not give me enlightenment. So I asked, if, according to Buddhism, a person can be called enlightened when the knower permanently separates from the false mind and the body.
Instead of answering my question, firstly he told that I must have practiced meditation in previous lives and achieved a high state of consciousness, because it’s impossible to experience such a state without lifetimes of practice. He told me that it’s no accident that I was in the monastery, and then he confirmed that my understanding of enlightenment was correct.
By this time all the laypeople were looking at me with interest. This always happens to me, for better or worse! I never intend to attract attention but usually it just happens – maybe it’s something to do with the star I was born under.
Then I told him that the mind still tricks me into identifying with the body, although I know I’m not the body. He told this to be completely normal, and the next day he actually gave a lecture on how it feels like when you discover your true mind.
So let me expand on this a bit, in case you don’t understand what I’m talking about!
The knower is the awareness. This is what you really are – the observer. Most people never get to the stage where they uncover their true minds, because they are completely identified with their thought processes which tell a story to them that convince them that they are physical bodies.
When you learn to watch your thoughts, it can be said that you got your first taste of the knower. If you are able to watch the thought arising and disappearing, you are on your way to self-realization. But what really makes you understand that the knower is your real self is when you get to experience that your body is not your own.
This happened to me quite a few times. I guess the first time it happened was in the Vipassana Meditation Center in Igatpuri, India. We were relaxing in the meditation hall by doing a sort of shavasana. It’s in that pose that I became aware of the fact that my body breathes by itself. This was, I believe, the first time when I came to the realization that my body is like a machine, and that I’m definitely not it.
A significant event that gave me a longer glimpse of the pure observer was when I was drowning in the river Ganges in Rishikesh as a result of a river-rafting accident. At that time my awareness completely detached from my body (though it’s never attached in the first place and only feels like it, according to the monk).
The awareness felt trapped in my head, and from this position I observed how the body was making desperate attempts to stay afloat. I was just a silent witness of the whole drama. The body desperately tried to survive, and it had its own intelligence to do so. I didn’t need to do anything to keep it afloat.
According to Buddhism, when this realization happens (that you are not the body), enlightenment is possible in one lifetime. Monks put a lot of effort to achieve this state, because once you get this experience of being the knower, it will never leave you throughout future lifetimes, and it will gradually lead you to enlightenment. Which makes me think that the knower is strangely similar to the Higher Self, kundalini and the Holy Spirit!
Striving towards this state must be done without the specific intention of understanding that you are the knower, because if you intend it, it won’t happen.
The monk also told me that the knower is never united with the false mind, and it’s never identified with the body. It just feels so to us. But when a person achieves enlightenment he knows that the knower is always separate.
I believe that one of the easiest ways to achieve the state of the knower is through breath meditation. When you totally relax and focus on your breath (whilst sitting in a meditation posture so that not to fall asleep), and then keep observing the breath whilst being very relaxed, there comes a time when you realize that the breathing process happens by itself, and that you have nothing to do with it.
To deepen this realization one should do walking meditation as well, keeping the awareness in the body, yet being mindful of what’s happening outside at the same time. If done regularly, this again may give you the experience that the body is walking, but that you are separate from it.
When you firmly know that you are not the body, most of your life’s troubles are gone. It’s the false belief that one is the body that causes misery in the world.
I wish you would see those forest monks! Apart from the two ones who, I believe, aren’t living by Buddha’s teachings, the five other ones are so full of life and their faces shine. This alone shows me that what they practice is correct.
This teaching makes so much sense to me because my own experiences validate it. Enlightenment, according to Buddhists, is firm knowledge born out of experience that one isn’t the body; it’s the total disidentification from the body and thought processes. Only when this is achieved there are no fetters and the person is told to be liberated.
That being said, it’s time for me to do breath-meditation before sleep. I wish you all to experience the state of being the knower, as the knowledge that you are not your body will leave you changed for ever.