This is Post 14 in the Meditation Guidance series. Summaries of the other articles in this series can be found here.
Although I have already talked a little about mettā, or Loving-Kindness, I shall be starting at the traditional beginning point of the mandala-cycle in this post, with upekṣā, or Equanimity, which is the brahmavihāra associated with the eastern quadrant; and with the creative use of the Thinking function of the mind – and with the dawn.
Those whose frame of reference is pre-Quantum-Physics scientific materialism, and who do not have a psychological framework that acknowledges a transpersonal or archetypal dimension, are forced to understand the brahmavihāras as personal emotional states. This is certainly not the way the Buddha understood them. With due respect to those who pride themselves on their ability to cram the Buddha’s sublime teachings into a Newtonian / Cartesian world-view, I feel bound to talk about the brahmavihāras as cosmic principles, which find – if we are receptive to them – a reflection in our personal mental and emotional development.
An Archetypal Source of Mental Clarity
Mahupekshā, the Great Equanimity, the archetypal source of upekshā, or Equanimity, is best thought of as the imperturbable cosmic stillness, which pervades the universe, and is single and unified – and has the power to bring integration, unity, and mental stability to those who are willing to recognise it as their own ultimate true nature. Mysteriously, this cosmic principle is also the basis of each individual person’s experience of observing, thinking and knowing. I have talked in previous posts about how, when we rest as Consciousness, the Thinking function of the Mind finds a new intelligence – a mental stability that starts to approach the always illusive quality of objectivity, and that is non-judgemental, solution-focused, relational, collaborative, and inherently creative.
The Mirror-Like Quantum Mechanical Threshold
In various Buddhist traditions (especially Zen) and elsewhere, upekshā, or Equanimity is pointed to using the image of a perfect mirror. The Equanimous mind faithfully and objectively reflects reality, letting everything be as it is, and free of egoic distortion. But if we let it, the mirror symbol takes us much deeper. The mirror is a primary symbol of the experience of Consciousness.
When we look for Consciousness in self-inquiry, we cannot locate it. What we ‘see’ as we search for Consciousness is a boundless emptiness, that is vibrant and powerfully affirming, and appears to provoke a deepening of our experience of Being as we witness it. What we are ‘seeing’ or rather experiencing, in our meditative-inquiry is the threshold between the Classical and Quantum Mechanical dimensions.
The Stuart Hameroff – Roger Penrose Hypothesis
The Quantum Mechanical world, of the sub-molecular and sub-atomic scale, operates according to mysterious and entirely different physical laws, and is not knowable in the way that the Classical world is, but we can experience the threshold between the two worlds because that threshold exists at a molecular level within the micro-tubules within the neurones of the brain – as Stuart Hameroff and Roger Penrose have explained so beautifully. And one of the metaphors that comes closest to describing our subjective experience of that threshold, is the symbol of the mirror.
Nothing Sticks to the Cosmic Mirror of Consciousness
The traditional pointer that invites us to think of the ultimate nature of mind as mirror-like, is an invitation to rest in identification with that Quantum Mechanical threshold – with Consciousness. We are invited not only to peer into that mirror, but to be that mirror – to recognise that ultimately the mind is mirror-like.
It is of the nature of Consciousness that it is unaffected by anything that happens in the Classical world, even though it interpenetrates and profoundly effects that world. So, all phenomena arise in Consciousness and are experienced in Consciousness, like images moving on the surface of a mirror – but the experiences never effect that mirror. The conditioned perceptions of ourselves and our world are like the images in the mirror. We, in our essence however, are not the images – but the mirror itself. Hence the mirror is an eloquent symbol of the imperturbable quality of Consciousness – untouched, unstained, primordially pure.
Being, Equanimity, Oneness and Peace
While our experience of looking into the mirror of Consciousness is an intensification of our experience of Being, if we allow ourselves to identify with that mirror, and look out at the Classical world from that place, we get a glimpse of the attitude of true Equanimity. And the more we rest as Consciousness, the more we are effected by its omnipresent peace. And the more familiar we become with this entirely non-reactive place, the more we integrate its qualities of mental stability and mental unity. If we make upekṣā, or Equanimity, integral to our meditation practice, we find over time that the peace and oneness, which is our ultimate nature, starts to inform our thinking mind and our personality – showing itself as non-reactivity, objectivity and penetrating intelligence.
The Capacity to Reflect and Use our Minds
As we rest as Consciousness, our own minds become mirror-like; the Thinking function of the mind develops into a capacity to reflect and understand things in a distinctively human way. It is only by the fact of Consciousness that we are able to use our minds rather than function like biological robots, subject to the mental programming of our neural networks.
There is much more that could be said about the power of the mirror symbol as a pointer to the ultimate nature of mind, and I shall be returning to it, but I need first to touch on another phenomena that is inseparable from our meditative-inquiry into Equanimity and the eastern quadrant of the mandala. This phenomena is the Mental Body. I will be talking much more about the subtle bodies in future posts, especially the four surface bodies, without which, I believe, the actual felt experience of the four functions of Consciousness and of the four brahmavihāras cannot be fully understood.
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