What happens when we follow Ricard's advice and do the relevant meditations.? He says this: "The first things we notice are the currents of thought that are continuously flowing without our even being aware of them." He thinks that our countless thoughts are born of our "sensations, our memories and our imaginations" which constantly stream through our mind. He tell us that underlying them and behind them, there is something else. "There is a quality of mind that is always present no matter what kind of thoughts we entertain", something he calls "pure consciousness." Pure consciousness is "what remains in the rare moment when the mind is at rest, almost motionless, even as it retains its ability to know.". He says, "That faculty, that simple open presence" is called "pure consciousness" because "it exists even in the absence of mental constructs." What is it like? It has neither any particular localization, nor color nor shape and has no intrinsic features of their own. He says, "In pure consciousness, we experience the mind as empty of inherent existence." He realizes that this notion of emptiness is very foreign to Western psychology and I might add, even to the busy mind of the contemporary city man.
Ricard explains. When a powerful emotion or thought arises e.g anger arises, "we are very easily overwhelmed by this thought, which multiplies into numerous new thoughts that disturb and blind us and prompt us to utter words and commit acts, sometimes violent ones, that can make others suffer and soon become a source of regret" But instead of unleashing our anger, we can examine the angry thought itself and come to see that it has been nothing but "smoke and mirrors from the start.". His experience is that "thoughts emerge from pure consciousness and are then re-absorbed in it, just as waves from the ocean and dissolve into it again." Once we understand this, we would have taken a great leap forward toward inner peace. From the moment we realize that, then the force of that anger will have lost its power to disturb us. He asks us during such moments when such angry thought first arises, to try to see where it came from and when it disappears, ask ourselves where it went. He says, "In that instant when past thoughts have fallen silent and future ones have yet to emerge, you can perceive a pure and luminous consciousness unadulterated by your conceptual constructs.
Ricard does not say that it is easy to attain such a state of pure consciousness. But he says it is possible. He cites an example, his friend Francisco Varela, a cognitive scientists who researches on consciousness and who died of cancer and who before his death told Ricard that he had managed to spend all his time in that kind of pure consciousness. According to Varela, the physical pain seemed "very distant to him" and was "no hindrance to his inner peace" and he only needed weak doses of painkillers and his wife, Amy, told Ricard that Varela maintained that "contemplative serenity" until his very last breath.
Ricard gives us an exercise to stay in awareness
Look at what is behind the curtain of discursive thoughts. Try to find a waking presence there, free of mental fabrications, transparent, luminous, untroubled by thoughts of the past, the present, or the future. Try to rest in the present moment, free of concepts. Watch the nature of the gap between thoughts, which is free from mental constructs. Gradually extend the interval between the disappearance of one thought and the emergence of the next. Remain in a state of simplicity that is free of mental constructs, yet perfectly aware,; beyond effort, yet alert and mindful." According to Ricard, we we thus observe the wellspring of thoughts, it is possible to break their endless proliferation.
(To be cont'd):