Reading Taoist texts after having deeply researched Hinduism fills all the gaps of each philosophy. I find these two doctrines complementing and explaining each other. Buddhism can also be better understood by studying the previous two belief systems.
In this post I would like to focus only on the topic of destroying the conscious mind, having touched it in a previous article. This topic is very misunderstood by many who hear of it. It’s actually nothing frightening, but because this statement is perceived by the false mind, it, and not you, feels scared of it.
In many Eastern spiritual doctrines there is found a belief that the mind we employ is not our original mind but the one that gives limitation and causes suffering. It’s the mind that produces constant inner chatter and makes us attached to places and people, makes us addicted and encourages us to emotionally react to phenomena.
The same belief is found in the works of Carlos Castaneda, who claimed to have derived his knowledge from the wisdom of American Indians. In the book The Teachings of Don Juan we find the author claiming that our conscious mind was given to us by our predators – archons, reptilian beings feeding off our emotions and energy.
In Taoism, on the other hand, it is believed that this false mind started forming when we began discriminating. But how could we start discrimination without some sort of root in us for such a capability?
That’s why the claim of Carlos Castaneda seems more valid to me; that somehow our experience of enjoying the projection of this reality was ruined by the installation of the minds which separated us from each other, imprisoned us in our personalities, and made us perceive the world as separate from us.
(The imprisonment in the body and personality will start diminishing when regular meditation is practiced, as you will start experiencing being the objects of your attention; we read about such identifications in The Autobiography of a Yogi, and it’s something I often experienced myself when practicing deep meditation. For example, you suddenly start thinking of some event and you find yourself being in the midst of it, as a plant, animal, or human.)
And although different doctrines assign different reasons for us having the chatter, fear and worry causing minds, all agree on how to get rid of this mind. One of the ways this can be done is through dwelling in the gaps between the thoughts, for example.
If we stay totally present rather than hypnotized by the chatter of the mind, that chatter will keep diminishing until the false mind flees from us. Firstly, it will flee temporarily, giving us glimpses of the magical reality we are part of; then those moments of oneness and rapture will increase, until the false mind flees permanently.
Reading Carlos Castaneda’s books also helped me to understand why some Indian spiritual seekers who manage to break the mind appear totally child-like, not being able to function like adults anymore, and requiring assistance with things like getting clothed or using the bathroom.
That’s because it is told by Carlos Castaneda that once you free yourself from the false mind, you are left without any tools because you never used your true mind. So you need to start, little by little like a child, to learn how to use it, which is a task even more difficult than breaking the false construct.
Some people learn how to use this mind, like in the case of Sri Ramana Maharshi, for example. Some remain child-like all their lives, living indeed a heavenly life, but looking pathetic to the world. I should again, like in a previous article, quote the Bible that says that unless you become like a child, you cannot enter the Kingdom of God.
We also have the account of Eckhart Tolle of what happened when he managed to free himself from the false mind. I don’t know if this was a permanent freedom or not, and I’m leaning towards the belief that it wasn’t, as according to Eastern spiritual doctrines, the false mind flees permanently only if one continues spiritual practices. However, he experienced the absence of that limiting mind for a long time.
He told that those days of freedom were absolutely heavenly. Although he looked like a vagabond to the world, spending nights on benches in parks, he was enjoying absolute inner ecstasy and saw the world as a truly magical place. Some people, feeling his inner rapture, would approach him to tell that they wanted that which he had.
A momentary glimpse into the magic of the world can be gotten by looking at some object without any judgment of it. Once this happened to me when I was deep into yoga whilst I was visiting Nepal. I simply focused on a tree without any preconceived notions of it and saw it in all its splendor.
Then I also remember sitting in an outside cafe in Nepal when the sun was setting, and when I looked at mountains without any beliefs about what I was observing, I became the calmness of those mountains, totally merging with the view that I was observing.
The way, therefore, to break the false mind is very simple, but practicing it is very, very difficult. The conscious mind is very smart and it will try to distract you in all the ways possible. It will try to make you scared, or sleepy, or bored, or frustrated at the amount of inner chatter to the point of giving up. It may convince you that you have no time, that you have better things to do, that this practice is pointless, and so on, and so forth.
You will find many times fooled by it. Of course it strives to survive, like any living thing, so it will use all its might not to be obliterated. And because all this time it managed to keep you under its influence, in a sort of hypnotized state, it’s going to take all your might to free yourself from its tyrannical control.
Again, all philosophies talking about the false mind have the same suggestions of how to free you from it. As I said, one of the ways is dwelling in the gaps between the thoughts. This should be practiced every time you can. And when you are active, you should be totally present, focusing on what’s happening in this reality rather than being lost in your thoughts.
The mind becomes less fickle if breath meditation is practiced; that is, focusing on your breathing, whether feeling only the air you breathe in and out, or feeling also the area which the breath touches. Some meditators focus on feeling the sensations of the body instead, rather than the breath, and some focus on bodily sensations after they have advanced in breath meditation.
The point of all these practices is to keep you present and alert rather than being hypnotized by that dominating mind. You want to avoid being absent-minded at all costs; you want to stay present all the time. There are also other practices that could help, like focusing on some external object to the exclusion of others, called trataka in Hinduism.
The last time I went to Thailand I was interested in exploring Buddhist hermitages following forest Buddhist traditions. A common practice in such hermitages is to take very slow daily walks, sometimes even three times a day. Monks and laypersons walk in a queue, slowly following one another barefoot, and focusing on how each step feels. This is a highly relaxing practice, not to mention the significant spiritual gain, of course.
When the false mind breaks, you are left with your quite unused original mind. It doesn’t give suggestions like the false mind does of what to do, but there will be a spontaneous action only, in harmony with the whole universe.
Should you not break the conscious mind, it will keep you in its grip even after death, in the illusion of this world, possibly without any self-consciousness anymore, and who knows what will happen after your death. This is similar to the hermetic teachings of the failure to attain conscious immortality.
Buddha told that being reborn as a human is so rare that it’s absolutely foolish to miss such a precious opportunity; that’s the reason he encouraged his followers to practice day and night, and it was more like a military training in the intensity of their effort rather than what we observe in many Buddhist monasteries today.
He claimed that if you are not born as a human being again, you will remain stuck in this mental projection with no way to disidentify from this illusion. So fear of this is what encouraged many of Buddha’s followers to relentlessly meditate resulting in many of his followers awakening. This is a huge difference from today, where Buddhist followers are usually lost in the pages of never-ending doctrinal interpretations rather than being busy with meditation.
The Buddhist understanding is a little different from Taoism and what Carlos Castaneda wrote about, as there wasn’t much talk about human existence being the most precious (or at least I have not yet come across such teachings of Taoism), but the aim of all these philosophies is the same nevertheless – to destroy the false mind which causes our suffering and limitation.
Once this is done, we can rightly claim to have regained the Kingdom of God, or the Edenic existence. Should we now have genuine liberated teachers, I believe the intensity of such practices would again be great, resulting in many getting liberated.
However, I believe that when people truly understand these doctrines, they also, like the practitioners of the past, can get motivated enough to avoid using the false mind, until, starved of your energy supply, it can no longer survive.