Bhante Gunaratana on Seeing Things as They Really Are

This excerpt is from Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana. Mindfulness in Plain English was one of the first books on meditation I read, and I often go back to it for “check ups” to see how I’m doing. I never fail to learn something new or be reminded of something important skill I had lost sight of. Highly recommended!  (At the end of this excerpt I’ve provided a link for downloading the entire book.)

Mindfulness in Plain English

Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

“The mind cannot be purified without seeing things as they really are. “Seeing things as they really are” is such a heavily loaded and ambiguous phrase. Many beginning meditators wonder what we mean, for anyone who has clear eye sight can see objects as they are.

When we use this phrase in reference to insight gained from our meditation, what we mean is not seeing things superficially with our regular eyes, but seeing things with wisdom as they are in themselves. Seeing with wisdom means seeing things within the framework of our body/mind complex without prejudices or biases springing from our greed, hatred and delusion. Ordinarily when we watch the working of our mind/body complex, we tend to hide or ignore things which are not pleasant to us and to hold onto things which are pleasant. This is because our minds are generally influenced by our desires, resentment and delusion. Our ego, self or opinions get in our way and color our judgment.

When we mindfully watch our bodily sensations, we should not confuse them with mental formations, for bodily sensations can arise without anything to do with the mind. For instance, we sit comfortably. After a while, there can arise some uncomfortable feeling on our back or in our legs. Our mind immediately experiences that discomfort and forms numerous thoughts around the feeling. At that point, without trying to confuse the feeling with the mental formations, we should isolate the feeling as feeling and watch it mindfully. Feeling is one of the seven universal mental factors. The other six are contact, perception, mental formations, concentration, life force, and awareness.

At another time, we may have a certain emotion such as, resentment, fear, or lust. Then we should watch the emotion exactly as it is without trying to confuse it with anything else. When we bundle our form, feeling, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness up into one and try to watch all of them as feeling, we get confused, as we will not be able to see the source of feeling. If we simply dwell upon the feeling alone, ignoring other mental factors, our realization of truth becomes very difficult. We want to gain the insight into the experience of impermanence to over come our resentment; our deeper knowledge of unhappiness overcomes our greed which causes our unhappiness; our realization of selflessness overcomes ignorance arising from the notion of self.”

If you find this excerpt helpful, you can download Gunaratana’s entire book in PDF format here:

Mindfulness in Plain English by Ven. Henepola Gunaratana

May the light of mindfulness brighten your path!

♥♥♥

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About Steven Goodheart

"I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them." Spinoza

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