Last week’s Hardcore Dharma’s early sutta readings about relinquishing desire to attain enlightenment weren’t my favorites.  The idea of not wanting filled me with dread.  The thought that the enlightened response to the loss of a loved one would be unflappable equanimity seemed more android than awakened.  In  last week’s post I wrote that sometimes, when I think of enlightenment as void of desire/attachment then maybe I feel as though I don’t want to become enlightened.

However this week, HC Dharma’s reading of the early suttas, collected and organized in Bhikku Bodhi’s In The Buddha’s Words were teachings grouped under the heading “Mastering the Mind.”  Hello.  I mean, enlightenment in accordance to last week’s reading seemed lonelier than a Hank Williams song.  But the concept of mind mastery?  In the words of Ric Okasek: I think you’re just what I needed.

First and foremost, I strongly recommend this collection of suttas from the Pali Canon.  For anyone who sometimes loses patience with modern soft-core namby Buddhist speak, it’s pretty liberating to read these early teachings for yourself, draw your own conclusions, develop your own interpretations.  The language is interesting, forcing a reconsideration of various Buddhist catchphrases.  The repetition is super catchy.  And it’s amazing to contemplate, as one tends to do more readily while reading olden-timey sounding text, that this level of insight about our minds was not only understood but written down over 2000 years ago.
Especially when it comes to the suttas that deal with mastering the mind: because these texts are not about renunciation, which seems typically ancient.  They’re not speaking of asceticism, which is practically archaic.  They’re not talking about the all time classics of moral conduct or sin or reward. They’re talking cognitive psychology.  They provide take home exercises to help one get wiser, happier and more concentrated.  They offer antidotes for almost every problem one could have with said exercises.  They make those New York Science Times neurological breakthrough studies look like kindergarten.  To me, knowing and harnessing the mind is the gleaming carrot on the Buddhist path.  Developing completely clear seeing, clearing the mind of all the gunk that prevents seeing the truth of a situation, the truth of a relationship, the truth of limitations or potentiality is so exciting.  The first time that I, in a systematically Buddhist way, discarded an obsessive thought like a gum wrapper, was a moment of profound liberation.  Reading these sutta’s reminded me once again how impressionable the mind is, in the best sense of the word, and how effective the mindfulness practice is in helping one to grab hold of their mental reigns and steer one’s non-self self toward a better tomorrow.
So let me ask you this: is mastering the mind the same thing as enlightenment?  Is it simply different wording that suits Western conditioning better?  Frankly, mind control sounds more interesting and fun than detachment from desire.  I also wonder what people’s experience is with early texts – do you find them inspiring?  Too distant?  Other?  How do you feel about The Cars?
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