The Island: An Anthology of the Buddha’s Teachings on Nibbana
By Ajahn Pasanno and Ajahn Amaro
Chapter Twelve: Knowing, Emptiness and the Radiant Mind, first half
Read out loud: 12.3, 12.4, 12.5, 12.8, 12.10
This month let us reflect on our experience simply as, “events being known in consciousness.” (Page 195) What is the effect on the mind when this understanding is sustained for a period of time? Munindra, one of Joseph Goldstein and Kamala Masters’ teachers used the phrase, “empty phenomena rolling on.” Empty in this context means that the mind discerns that it is just this experiencing happening, nothing more)! It isn’t projecting or imagining anything additional beyond the immanent activity of knowing. The mind begins to understand the unnecessariness of always adding on a thought and feeling such as, “I am knowing this and I want it to go away.”
The authors write at the beginning of the chapter, “Buddha-wisdom is the ultimate subject, Dhamma is the ultimate object; the field of their interplay is supremely bright; all these elements are empty.” (Page 192) Getting interested in Buddha, “the one who knows”, is getting interested in emptiness. With practice, the mind understands this empty nature as a refuge because it liberates the mind or heart from its unhealthy relationship with the activity of the body and mind – the objects being known.
As the chapter title suggests, knowing, emptiness and radiance is a description of the natural awakening process. Instead of continuing our usual sticky relationship with objects being known, the mind is trained (rewired) to recognize the emptiness of knowing. As this work teases out the mind’s tendencies to cling, the activity of the mind becomes more simple and clean. There is less mental friction and agitation so the mind becomes bright or radiant. The practice continues by discerning that the bright and beautiful mind is also empty of self. This is the liberation of mind that the Buddha’s teachings point to.