Welcome to day 7 of our Cookbook for a Sacred Life virtual course!
Today our topic is Jnana (The Rational Mind).
"In one way and another, all of the practices of Jnana Yoga work with our intellectual faculties and with different levels of the mind to get to something that is finally beyond the mind’s grasp.” – Ram Dass (Paths to God: Living the Bhagavad Gita)
Today’s topic is about using the mind to transcend the mind. Yet, according to many Buddhist teachers, the thoughts that trap us in the Western psyche are often unworthiness and self-criticism, shame, and self-hatred. So it seems we must work on two planes: On the plane of the personality, we need to learn to make our mind our best friend, and on the plane of awakening, to not identify with any thoughts we think. It’s a bit of a paradox!
QUESTION: How does this paradox sit with you (or not sit with you)?
I feel like I always knew on a deep subconscious level the existence of these kinds of paradoxes in life, but because I was so caught in my rational mind, I never actually accepted or explored these paradoxes. I find this one of the barriers to introducing other people to this way of thinking - it’s difficult to accept a paradox if you’re used to thinking in a rational, linear way!
But, since then, I’ve loved just recognising and experiencing these sorts of paradoxes without trying to understand or grasp them. Just accepting that on one level, you work with your mind and guide it towards more wholesome places, and on another level, you’re just watching it all happen!
Ahh I can feel my mind trying to make sense of this now and I can feel the fog of confusion descending. It’s all part of the fun
For me it comes down to remembering that we are the one expressed as the many… that every moment includes the full spectrum of experience.
My mind used to completely reject paradox, until I observed my feelings about myself and others. I realized I could have conflicting opinions or emotions and yet they existed within me simultaneously. When I try to make “sense” of these paradoxes I experience a lot of tension… when I surrender to them, there is real bliss.
I am opening a space for meditation in a Facebook group I am in for caregivers for loved ones who have dementia/alzheimer’s. I care for my dad. My heart can be oft times sad in seeing how the disease is doing what it is to him and others, and yet is sings with the opportunity to open that space to others, for at least a moment of respite from the day to day.
Definitely a paradoxical concept. I try to focus on grace for myself and grace for all. Of course, I have personal fears and feelings of unworthiness. I find that acknowledging them is somewhat an acceptance of and then follow with grace saying “I’m doing the best I can with what I have today” and appreciate everything I am blessed with both the things that “I” like and dislike
We are what we think is an important thing to remember. When my mind leans to the dark side, I find that reminding myself of the immense blessings this life can and does bring the light to cover the dark.
The paradox sits right next to me. On one plane there is work to be done and things can improve and get better. On the next plane everything is perfect. The trick is to not get stuck on the first plane and to not use the 2nd plane as a means of spiritual bypassing.
This Jnana path is the path that brings me to self-realization. It’s so interesting to be involved with this community because it’s putting a lot of the things I was unconsciously conscious of into a digestible practice of becoming consciously conscious. I am absolutely grateful for that growth Ram Dass’s teachings have opened me to.
Since we are all operating together on one plane of reality (mind) I find it helpful to acknowledge we are communicating through metaphors. A metaphor I find interesting is that of the Fractal. Looking at the Mandelbrot set, we perceive it as 2 dimensional. In fact, the set is 1 dot traced by a line on several points on a plane. So it’s really 1.5 dimensions. Holding both 1 and 2 dimensions as true, we can conceptualize it as a 1 and a half dimensional object. The plane of improvement would be the 2nd perceived dimension, the plane of awakening would be the 1st dimension and the 1.5 dimensional concept would be that space in the rational mind that can hold both planes as true.
So many different words for the point of view that transcends the paradox. Love, heart space, silence, unconditional loving awareness, God, Self, void, emptiness, light, that which is not,…etc. As I step outside of the dualistic mind I can see this loving heart space is the contrast to all that is and creates these things which come into existence. This frame of mind is also helpful in traversing a vast landscape of ideas/concepts which are becoming more complex each day.
Great prompt today, gets us thinking! As someone who likes to think and ponder deeply it resonates on many levels. I think, as you pointed out, its a multiple plane thing. Ive been on both sides of the paradox, and definitely dont enjoy those feelings of “unworthiness, self criticism, shame and a self hatred”. Yet Ive also experienced what Ram Dass and Ramana Maharshi are talking about.
Seems to relate to the teaching the other day about suffering stinks on one plane and on the other its all perfect. In addition to the issues you raised, two other quotes remind me of that Buddhist critique as it were, both from Krishna Das. “One can’t think oneself out of prison cell. Each thought is a new prison bar”, and “Asking the mind to get rid of the ego is like asking the thief to be a police officer, there will be lots of investigation but no arrest will ever be made”. Those are not direct quotes, paraphrasing, but Ive heard them often enough from KD and thats I think the general gist of it. I agree very much with what he is saying.
I see both sides of the question and agree with both. To a certain degree the paradox sits comfortably with me. For me, Ive learned things arent black and white, that things actually rest in the muddied grey, and to be honest I like the grey better, its more interesting anyways. Things can be this AND and little bit of that. Its jarring for sure, but it feels right to me.
Regardless I think its a very cool thing to ponder. It gets us to think about the topic from one side of the room, then get up and go find another spot in the room to deliberate from, and continue to do so. Love it!
Rather than use the term “paradox”, which to me, propagates the dualism we are working to alleviate, I prefer to view this process as all part of the same path, the same plane. In this manner, I am already working together with my mind, rather than battling against it. Sounds good doesn’t it? Just because I make it sound so obvious and nice, I know full well that this is a constant attention, a constant struggle that is taking place. I am in the midst of it. Addressing the unkind words my ego may speak to me, in a compassionate and aware tone, oh man,letting go of the need to know…sometimes I let go and experience that wonderful sense of peace, that comes with the release…
And in the next moment…I just keep coming back…
Thanks for sharing everybody, I love reading these responses.
Yes, my mind as my friend and yet not listening to it too much.
I always like to remember that I am not my thoughts, particularly when they’re unkind - and I know why my mind gets wrapped up and tangled in that way, usually because my practices have slipped or I’m becoming overwhelmed.
Will ponder on this one some more. It’s definitely got me thinking.