Mt. Root Sangha Readings
Who Is Meditating?
Narayan Liebenson Grady
In the Bahiya Sutra the Buddha says, “You should train yourself thus: Whenever you see a form, simply see; whenever you hear a sound, simply hear; whenever you taste a flavor, simply taste; whenever you feel a sensation, simply feel; whenever a thought arises, let it just be a thought. Then ‘you’ will not exist; whenever ‘you’ do not exist, you will not be found in this world, another world, or in between. That is the end of suffering.”
Remember that everything the Buddha taught had to do with suffering and the end of suffering. His teaching was not so much a philosophy as a practical path leading to the end of sorrow and lamentation.
Our practice is to investigate the nature of reality in such a way as to bring inner freedom. The key is to let go of clinging, clinging to thoughts or experiences; and clinging to the sense that these thoughts or experiences are happening to an inherently existing solid self. We see that what we call the self is empty of intrinsic reality and that identifying with anything as being me, mine, or myself is dukkha, suffering. The meditating mind is also empty of inherent existence.
What we call ‘mind’ is not a single thing. Sometimes we mean it as the activities of mind: thoughts, intentions, perceptions, mental states. Other times we mean consciousness or awareness. In a way, there are many minds, not just one. Sometimes when we meditate the observer appears to be real and we create a sense of self out of the observer. At some point, however, we become curious about the observer and turn our attention to the observer itself. In giving attention to the observer, the observer dissolves into ungraspable spaciousness. One might say this is who we actually are, but claiming this spaciousness as me or mine is not quite true.
There is a Burmese saying, “You are not meditating, meditation is meditating.” Earnest investigation leads to a nonverbal understanding of the empty nature of all things. The expressions of this realization of emptiness are joy, ease, compassion, and inner freedom. When we question who or what is meditating, it is well worth asking. An authentic answer only comes from continuing to silently contemplate.