I’m often reminded in my own practice about the different states of consciousness that the mind can reach. I was doing a Sam Harris meditation with my husband a few days back and it very much stressed the idea of anatta (no self). This is a great meditation for realising that you have no self at all but it slightly ignores the different stages of consciousness that can reach towards this one point. For beginners, this would be an extremely difficult meditation as it doesn’t pin point the necessary conditions that are needed to reach the state of no-mind.

In Chan Buddhism there are four states of consciousness. The first is often called “scattered mind”. This is the condition that most people are in throughout the course of their lifetime. A scattered mind clearly thinks their thoughts are real and are guided by every passion and emotion that they feel. Every mood they feel or thought they have is truth (even if some thoughts are contradictory to others they might have a few minutes later). A scattered mind is likely to make decisions based on emotions and will constantly be in the midst of a raging storm. But like a Sharknado, the storm doesn’t actually exist. One could imagine sharks of all kinds swirling on the edges of the storm but in reality NONE of these thoughts are real. Osho calls this “the state of unsanity” in which most people live every day.

The second state of consciousness in Chan is “simple mind”. A person realises that their mind is the Master and seeks to address the imbalance. A simple mind is a beautiful, calm mind but it is in constant awareness of the storms that can beset it. Simple mind can have moments of great peace whilst doing art work or watching a flower, but at other times simple mind can once more slip into the world of illusion and think that the world around us is real. Simple minds are few and far between, and for them the mind is war of heaven versus hell. The outside world can still impact a simple mind substantially.

The third state is one mind. This mind has moments of Samadhi but still needs to cling on to a doctrine, Guru or way to achieve these moments. The final state is subtly different and is referred to as no-mind. You no longer need any doctrine or method to cling on to as you have become the living method. This is often referred to as achieving Buddhahood. You fully return in a circle to your own nature. Like Jesus, the Buddha or Lao Tzu you no longer need to follow a Master as you are the Master.

I am nowhere near that state yet, but you never know; you might be!

“If, moment by moment, you can keep your mind clear, then nothing will confuse you” Master Sheung Yen

“Treat every moment as your last. It is not preparation for something else.”
― Shunryu Suzuki

“One moon shows in every pool. One moon” Anonymous