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Meditation is Keeping the Mind Before Thinking

Thursday, April 6, 2017 10:06
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By Adam J. Pearson

Photography by Claire Droppert.

The path of Realization

And the practice of meditation,

Are very, very, very simple.

We just don’t think so.

And so, we trust thinking it out

Over abiding

In the empty Mind before thinking,

And think constantly

About enlightenment, consciousness,

Awareness, the absolute.

Thought is helpful for many things,

But not for realizing

The essential nature

Of Mind before thought–

Still out of habit, we rely on it.

Out of an innocent mistake,

We trade in the simple radiance of consciousness

For the murky confusion of concepts,

Thinking they will lead to clarity.

Do they? Have they?

Or is all this thinking

Only generating more confusion

*Within* the clarity of Mind?

Why do we turn to thinking

More often than abiding?

Humbly, it seems to be because

Thinking is more familiar,

And thus feels safer

Than abiding in the Mind before thinking,

Which is always vibrantly clear and available.

Even though the thoughts seem to drive us crazy,

Thinking seems familiar and known,

While abiding in the Mind before thinking

Seems unfamiliar, unknown,

And therefore, scary.

In truth, when we abide in the Mind before thinking,

We find we’ve been confused

And gotten it all backwards–

It’s thoughts that generate unfamiliarity and fear,

And there is nothing more familiar and safe

Than abiding in the Mind before thinking.

But how else can we see this,

Except by doing the abiding

And resolving the matter directly?

Until then, we we won’t believe it.

We’ll think otherwise,

Having faith in thought above all,

And holding on to delusion.

Nearly everyone we know seems to trust thought,

Nearly no one at all does the work of abiding,

So, innocently, not knowing better,

We learned to follow their example.

But whom should we trust?

Whose example should we follow?

Those who live in confusion,

Ever-unsatisfied, always swept this way and that,

By fear, craving, and delusion?

Or those who’ve done the work,

Reached the goal,

And out of great love and compassion,

Are sharing how they did it?

The Mind before thinking is very trustworthy,

When thought isn’t needed,

With great intelligence,

It resolves everything, takes care of everything,

Moment to moment,

The more we abide in it,

The more this becomes clear.

But if it’s not yet clear,

We must start somewhere and find out.

Thinking helps with many things,

But not with realizing the Source of all thoughts.

Here, thinking only generates more confusion,

And postpones the practice

That alone can deliver what thought cannot.

If we can’t have faith in Mind itself,

Then we can keep it simple,

And trust the great masters,

Who’ve done the work.

What do they say?

Ramana Maharshi says,

“Quiet thinking and be free.”

Zen Master Seung Sahn says,

“Keep the Mind before thinking.”

Zen Master Bankei says,

“Abide in the Unborn Buddha Mind

And don’t trade it for thoughts.”

Nisargadatta Maharaj says,

“Keep quiet and stay with the sense of being.”

Zen Master Bassui says,

“Put aside thoughts,

And look penetratingly

Into your own inherent nature.”

The verdict is in,

And it isn’t easy,

But could it be any more simple?

When thought isn’t needed for a practical task,

Put it down

And abide in the Mind before thinking,

Moment to moment, here and now.

“Stop making use of your mind and see what happens.

Do this one thing thoroughly. That is all.”

~ Nisargadatta Maharaj

“For a seeker of Reality, there is only one meditation
– the rigorous refusal to harbor thoughts.
To be free from thoughts is itself meditation.”
~ Nisargadatta Maharaj
“Buddha-Nature, the Self of all beings, is the simple Truth.
From Buddhas to insects, it is the seer, hearer, and mover.
~ Zen Master Bassui

Part of a series on Nonduality, Jana Yoga and Zen:
Throw Out Your Spiritual Answers

Great Doubt Expresses Great Faith

Beyond Experiencing

Movements of the Immovable

One Step is One Too Many: Waking Up as Stripping Away

Beauty, Wonder, and the Invitation Home

Glimpses vs. Stabilization on the Way of Jnana Yoga

The Heart of the Way: Not One, Nor Two

Everything You Experience “Now” is Remembered: Neuroscience and Nonduality

Read More from Adam Pearson at


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