It all boils down to whether one understands how the mind works or not. Be it your mind or my mind, the “mind” has a universal nature that can be universally understood, if given time and effort. If the mind is not properly known or given awareness, many a time that mind becomes the pursuit of “a personality”. A sense of “self” arises from it instead of knowing that it is just a mind-made experience.
The mind is not personal, but it can be personalised according to what it is being conditioned to take on. And once it is being conditioned, it has a natural effect of its own; and this effect is universal in any mind. For example, judgmental comparison – its effect will be universal – either jealousy or looking down on another, or even putting one equal to another – depending on which end of the spectrum one is standing. It is just a game of deception that can be universally recognised, if only you were to take the time to be aware of its nature – the nature of the mind.
Hence, it is a matter of playing with the mind, or understanding the mind. Many a time we are not on the latter journey, which requires mindfulness or awareness to observe the mind. Worse, when the mind is being played, many of us are not even aware that we are “playing” with the mind. It is so deeply identified, that “me”, “I” or “mine” can only be its experience.
Thus, when we are depressed, sad, happy or anything for that matter, we do not realise that they are all effects – a natural effect of what we have planted in the mind beforehand. “Effect” in the sense that, as I have mentioned, the mind has its own natural path that can be pretty predictable when it comes to what you have planted beforehand. It is similar to the workings of the world. We don’t expect to have apples if we were to plant an orange seed. Neither can we expect to have a fantastic fruit-growing tree if we don’t nurture it well. Another mind-made example would be investing “trust” in another, only to be rewarded with “betrayal” at the end, if it turns out otherwise. The world is only a repetition of the past, over and over again, except the stories are different. The conditioning being played out is pretty much the same, all the time, though the storylines may have changed. We are not skilled in noticing those repetitive clues, or that we are not taught to notice them since we keep on playing and trying to perfect the game, hoping that one day it will be different. Every moment is perfect. There is no perfection in the future. That is the deception of Delusion, like a mouse on a treadmill, not knowing when and how to stop and jump out of it. A beautiful saying from Rumi, a well-known Sufi, illustrates this: Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open?
Thus, happiness or sadness, that we are experiencing moment to moment, is due to how we play with our minds. A good reminder from a well-known meditation teacher, Shwe Oo Min Sayadaw, is this – “if this mind is suffering, it is the fault of this mind”. But the question to oneself is not about how much happiness to arrive at or unhappiness to escape from since there is NO permanent happy or unhappy ever after. It is a fallacy. It keeps changing over time due to the arising conditions. In other words, it is not a bargain or a fixated experience. It comes as it comes and goes as it goes – impersonal to anyone for that matter.
The purpose of mindfulness or awareness, ultimately, is to realise that no matter how we play with the mind, it never ends. It just keeps producing fruits of personalised mind, a sense of egocentrism, the so-called “I am”. Yet, behind it all, it is empty of a self. Yet, the irony is that the experience of self is very real for many of us, simply because we are playing with it, totally immersed and identified with it! In reality, it is just nature of the mind arising all along, changing and changing over time. Hence, a good “person” may change to be bad over time and vice versa. A kind “person” too may be wicked anytime, depending on whatever potential in the mind awaiting to arise. In reality, it is not a “person”, but a conditioned mind of the past playing up. Hence, to judge someone by their acts can be pretty trivial or erroneous, not to mention, ignorant.
The purpose of awareness or mindfulness is NOT to generate more happiness though that may be its unavoidable effect. Otherwise, that intention “to have more happiness” will create new minds to perpetuate. To know that the mind changes every second is to understand one of its nature. Hence, to say “I am very XYZ” is a misleading statement, if not, ignorant. And not to see that nature is to await a time bomb, of whatever opposites that the mind can produce later. Our suffering comes from that – a personalised game of deception that we are not aware.
To know the mind more and more, and to understand it deeper and deeper, is a Grace indeed. Ultimately it helps us to stop the cycle of being trapped in the quagmire mind game which keeps on producing endlessly, until a way of ending it is in sight. Sad to say, that game, if not noticed, does not end after death, as the mind cannot die but continues on, subjected to whatever conditions one has given to it to make it survive and continue. Death and birth moments are insidious programmes to make one forget one’s past lives, thus making the reality of existence before birth or afterlife a fallacy. Birth, or even death, doesn’t tell much about the mind except the form – the body. Rebirth is NOT a belief. It can be clearly known when one notices one’s own mind over and over again; seeing how it never ends whether one wishes it to end or not. To believe or not to believe in rebirth is just another mind game, until realized through direct observation.
In summary, to be aware or mindful of our own mind, of all its incessant dependencies, tricks, habits, patterns, and the sufferings it entails, never mind the little happiness that comes along, is a major shift of how we finally escape the rounds of birth and death, aka the mind game of deception. The concept of heaven, hell, or earth, will all come to an end when the wheel of conditioning of the mind is being finally seen for the last time. If you have not realized there is such a thing as heaven or hell, forget about it then, otherwise, it will just be another dogmatic belief, another mind game. Just notice your mind more, be mindful or aware of it, as consistent as you can. Then you will know why those realms do exist. All made up by the mind, specifically by delusion, for its own continuity of deception. The mind is our only case study. An important mystery to be solved, once and for all. Is there “life”, or just mind-made?