November 13, 2012

Student: Master, how do we deal with wandering thoughts in our practice?

Master: Consider this example: The room we are in is full of junk, dust and trash, so what can we do? This is similar to a mind full of wandering thoughts, attachments and ego. What can one do but find a broom and begin sweeping the floor. Sweep it gradually. Later, once the cleaning is done, set the broom aside. The broom is, after all, a tool. Now we need to use the broom, because we are in the middle of the cleaning process. Once we truly achieve enlightenment, we can put the broom aside. If we remain attached to the method or the tool after we no longer have a need for it, this means one still has attachments. Once we have cleaned the entire room, if we still place the broom in the middle of the floor or the corner, it becomes the biggest piece of junk in the room. But now we have many attachments and wandering thoughts in our mind. So, be honest and practical. What can we do? We need a method. Meditation is a method. Learning sutras is a method, and reciting mantras is another one. We have a lot of wandering thoughts and, as expected, they will come up. So we need a method by which to focus, to bring forth calmness. The wandering thoughts will put up a fight, though. They are like a crowd of enemies, constantly getting closer. What can we do? We should gather our own army in order to fight against the other side. We should group our soldiers in order to hold back or attack the enemy.  However, once the fight is won you should dismiss your army. When counting our breath during meditation we are focusing on numbers, on the method. It is necessary to do so. Think about this: A person is sweeping the floor with a broom. Picture it. Now, isn’t the person with the broom the biggest, dustiest thing in the room? Can you picture that? We are doing this right now. But we have to, because there is no alternative. The trash will not simply disappear.  We must first remove the trash!