The bottom line is that you can take responsibility for how you occupy your mind. You can convert negativity into positivity in your life by opening yourself up to the ancient and well-proven philosophies available from the teachers of liberation who have flourished in history. You can study their teachings, not only as a spiritual seeker but also as a scientific investigator, and you can find what makes sense and see if it is verifiable in experience in the world. In so doing, you will transform not just your own individual existence, but also the lives of those around you.
Each of us is like a bubble of awareness. When we transform ourselves, free ourselves from inner knots and blemishes and blossom out our inner beauties, our new openness and blissful pleasure resonates instantaneously and reinforces liberation and satisfaction in the other bubbles.
Changing ourselves for the better changes the world for the better. Rehearsing positive changes through intelligent meditation practice makes us more capable of performing the more positive world, creating it in our infinite living and sharing it with others.
Vipashyana—Critical Seeing of Self and Selflessness
We can take great encouragement from the fact that the Buddha told us we could escape from our suffering. Still, we cannot merely accept someone else’s report. No one else can do the job of replacing misunderstanding with understanding for us. We must look at reality and verify for ourselves whether our habitual sense of having a fixed self or the Buddha’s discovery of selflessness is ultimately true.
In this way, we can begin to transform the self-preoccupation that causes chronic suffering into the insightful, gradual opening and letting go of the self that is, paradoxically, so self-fulfilling. We want to be happy, but ironically we can only become happier to the extent that we can develop an unconcern for our “self.” This process is long and gradual, though you will experience frequent breakthrough moments that will thrill you and motivate you to continue.
Before we actually engage in the meditation practice used to discover the true nature of the self, we must set up our parameters in practical, clear terms. When we look through a darkened house for a misplaced key, we first remember what the key looks like, and then we search for it carefully, room by room, turning lights on as we go. We use a flashlight to look under beds and in hidden corners. When we have looked everywhere exhaustively and not found it, we decide we’ve missed it somehow, so we go back and repeat the process. However, after one or two searches of this kind, we come to a decisive conclusion that the key is not in the house. We know we could continue looking endlessly, but that would be impractical. So we decide to proceed accordingly with our lives.
In the case of the quest for the self, we will look through all the processes of our body and mind that we can find and investigate them thoroughly. Our physical systems, sensational feelings, conceptual image bank, emotional energies, and consciousness itself constitute the house through which we will search. There are also various vaguely defined areas such as “spirit” and “soul” that, like a dusty attic or dank cellar, we may feel the need to explore. It is easy to get lost in these murky, dank, and oft-forgotten quarters of the mind. So we must get a clear picture of what we want to find ahead of time. And most important, we must set some limits to the exercise, since practically speaking we cannot continue to search indefinitely.
Excerpt from Infinite Life Robert AF Thurman, Published by Penguin Publishing Group.