2020-04-23: Kalyāṇa (4 of 5) The Beautiful Mind
3:40PM May 7, 2020
This talk will be the fourth in this series on beautiful - the role of beauty, 'kalyāṇa,' in the teachings of the Buddha, in our practice and in our lives. The teacher that I practiced with in Burma, named U Pandita once wrote and put in the book, "Body and mind are like a garden in this sense. If neglected, defilement weeds will grow. If the plot is well-tended, it will be beautiful and fruitful."
So as we practice meditation, practice Buddhism, it's an action that we engage in: the action of sitting down to be quiet, mindful, attentive. The action of being generous. The action of being kind. The action of cultivating our ability for generosity, kindness, wisdom, equanimity, and peacefulness. As we cultivate these beautiful flowers, beautiful fruit grows in the garden of our hearts. If we neglect, if we're not mindful, not aware of what's here, if we're not self-aware, it's all too easy for old habits, conditioning, and impulses to just take over. Without awareness, it's all too easy for those to be weeds, to be things that are not really that we want there and are helpful there, things that may be actually obscure, or obstruct, or make it impossible for the beautiful flowers to grow.
This teacher, U Pandita - the book where this quote is from was given the title, "The State of Mind Called Beautiful." That's the topic for today's talk: a beautiful mind, or the state of mind that's beautiful. I don't know what he was thinking, what he was saying in Pali, which was translated into English. But he knew Pali very well, and knew the teachings of the Buddha. It's possible that he was doing a wordplay, because the word for mind or state of mind is 'citta.' But that same word in Pali is what's called a homonym. Same pronunciation, same spelling, but has a second meaning. It's a different word, but it's a homonym. That second word means beautiful. So in Pali, the expression "cittaṃ cittaṃ" means beautiful mind. The fact that somehow these homonyms exist with the same word 'mind' and 'beautiful' speaks to the potential of the mind to become beautiful, to become 'kalyāṇa.'
Sometimes a different word is used for the mind or the mind in meditation that also means beautiful, which is 'sobhā,' 'sobhānaṃ' The Buddha talks about the mind, beautiful mind, beautiful heart. The word heart is also a translation of the word 'citta.' In English, we tend to separate these two out. In ancient Buddhism, it's ambiguous. It's rather a choice of the translator whether 'citta' is translated as heart or as mind. Some of you might prefer heart. This word 'citta' can mean other things besides beautiful. It can also mean brilliant, and wonderful - all dictionary definitions of the word.
We find that the Buddha has all kinds of related words to describe the mind, the mind state, not inherently exactly, but its potential, what it can become when we tend our garden well and allow things to grow. There's words like brightness, luminosity, luminous, bright. One of my favorite descriptions of the potential of the mind that comes usually in deep concentration is the mind becomes purified, bright, unblemished, rid of imperfections, malleable, workable, steady, and imperturbable. Wow! It's wonderful potential. It's like a celebration of the mind. Sometimes the state of the mind - what the mind can become when the garden has really been developed - is as wonderous as looking into a wonderful natural wonder. To look out across the Pacific Ocean on a clear day in a blue sky. Or to look out across the Sierras, the great mountains here in California. Or to look into the Grand Canyon and see the immensity of time, depth, and beauty.
The mind can be that. Our minds have that capacity. There's a way of discovering the mind, opening to the mind, and seeing. It's a wonderous thing. We have this potential inside for something amazingly beautiful, a treasure that can be discovered, cultivated or grown inside.
One description that the Buddha gives is, "With an intellect - with a mind that is open and uncovered, one develops a luminous mind." When our mental functioning is open and uncovered. Imagine that, you're taking off the covers, the hindrances, the preoccupations - and it's open. We have this idea in English of an open mind is a beautiful mind. So it's open, then we develop a luminous mind.
There are other words that the Buddha used that also speak to and are evocative of this potential of the mind. As you hear some of these words, maybe at some point in your memory, in your life now or in the past, you had some taste of what this could be like in meditation or something. Not that you have to have it now. But, maybe it's evocative of some taste, smell, sense, memory of something.
The mind's capacity for beauty and this luminosity is also described as the mind becoming clean, a clean mind, cleansed, pure. A mind also that becomes confident, concentrated, elated, and happy. Also the mind becomes expansive, a great mind, and a peaceful mind.
Furthermore, when the Buddha talks about someone becoming awakened, he actually often times doesn't talk about somebody become awakened. He talks about it's the 'citta,' the mind, that is awakened, the mind that's released. The mind that's liberated. This mind is very important for the Buddha. He talks about the mind in wonderful ways. He's never dismissive of the mind, or never sees the mind as a problem or something to be liberated from. Rather it's a mind that's liberated.
Something that is translated into English as consciousness, 'viññāna,' the Buddha didn't have a lot of respect for, oddly enough. So probably the English word 'consciousness' is not the right translation, how we relate to the word 'consciousness.' But whatever 'viññāna' is, it can be a burden. It's impermanent. It's not self. It's dukkha. It's suffering and unsatisfactory. We want to become liberated in a sense from it, oddly enough, from whatever that 'viññāna' is, consciousness.
But the Buddha never says that about the mind. The mind is never referred to as impermanent, not self, and suffering. Not that it is permanent, self, or something else, the opposite of suffering. But somehow the mind is something that doesn't fit that category. The mind can become brittle and frightened, agitated and unsteady, sluggish and restless, confused, and go wandering off. The Buddha talks about a hostile mind as well.
So certainly the mind can become fragile and difficult. It's not we're getting rid of the mind, the mind is being - maybe I shouldn't say this word - beautified. We're discovering, growing, or developing this beautiful mind.
"How is this discovered? How do we define the liberated mind? How do we find the beautiful mind?" I can't stress enough that the Buddha considered the mind to be something that can be cultivated, shaped, conditioned, supported to grow, develop, and become strong. What that requires is action, what I talked about yesterday. So the action that's beautiful, beautiful deeds. The doer of beauty reaps beauty.
So how can we engage in the practice of Buddhism, the practice of mindfulness of breathing, mindfulness of anything? The practice of concentration, the practice of generosity, goodwill, kindness, patience, all the different practices of Buddhism, the ethical practices, the precepts? What would it mean if those actions were done in a beautiful way? Chances are we would not do it with greed. We would not do it with conceit, selfishly. We would not do it with tight expectations, wanting, striving, and pushing. The very quality of how we would do the practice comes into play when we're looking at the quality of mind that's beautiful.
I imagine that each of you will have a different reference point for the idea of beauty. I encourage you to do that. Find some reference point, some understanding of that, that inspires you or is meaningful for you. How can you engage in your life, live in beauty, practice in beauty? Keep coming back to a mind that can do things in beautiful ways. Now I know it's hard to do. I know there's lots of conditions and forces that frustrate, frighten, and cause the mind to be other ways. But don't give up on the possibility of a beautiful mind.
It's even worthwhile acting as if the mind is beautiful. Sometimes "as if" is sincere enough. It's not like we're pretending it's different. But we know the mind is challenged. But "as if" begins creating a little different context in the mind and freedom of the mind. We're exercising the freedom of the mind not to be caught in the weeds of what goes on - to step out of it. The act of mindfulness itself, stepping away, observing, and recognizing, "How can we have some sense of beauty, peacefulness, clarity, feeling of cleanliness, or some feeling of goodness in just the way we're going to practice?"
As we offer in the ways that we act, the ways that we practice, that we bring a sense of beauty into it, that begins to allow the mind state of beauty - that state of mind to grow and develop. At some point, we start recognizing that, in fact, in ourselves is one of the greatest treasures that exist - a greater wealth than you will ever have in the bank or under your mattress. A piece of art that's more beautiful than anything at one of the great museums of the world. That beautiful thing is your own mind.
I hope that as you practice you will discover that you'll see nothing more beautiful in this universe than the beauty of a liberated mind, a clean mind, a pure mind. That your mind, you'll see that you have that. Amazing, that should be the case. Then with that beautiful mind of yours, I'm confident that you will naturally, easily, relaxedly have all the compassion and care that you need to have for this world that we live in.
May it be that your beauty is a partner with your compassion and love. You're beautiful. Thank you.