This is a well-crafted question…. Student: We take vows before sitting for meditation to practice the six perfections of a Bodhisattva. The sixth of those is called wisdom. In meditation, in the context of karma or cause and effect, an effect of meditation would be the attainment of wisdom, is that correct? If it is, how do we differentiate between true wisdom and, to use your analogy, spam wisdom?
Rinpoche: Because all untransformed beings are working with an unreliable operating system, you have a challenge to remain as objective as possible with higher motivation while meditating. That means a certain part of the mind monitors what you are doing so that you can apply remedies as you find the problem. The problem with this is that many people have this observer already alive in them, but it is being employed for other functions. This is the one that chatters to them about trivial matters, blames them for every little error, or can even make meditation unbearable by discontent for the activity of meditation. In other words, an unskillful beginning meditator can prematurely identify with the critical observer who is already habituated to harsh methods rather than paying attention to the object of observation.
By meditating second-hand, through the observer, the energy to be trained or the needed transformations cannot happen because they are not present correctly. Some will avoid this suffering by escaping to what feels like a very interesting place, where there are reduction of stimuli from the mind that is pleasant, but no transformations of energy are possible. Many traditions actually encourage this kind of distancing one's self from the actual act of meditation, but tantric meditation is different and higher quality. Still, wisdom is far away, hidden behind veils of obstacles, and the substitutes by ordinary wisdom of judgment, and subjective decisions are non-nutritious “spam” by comparison. So, in a way we can say that true wisdom is what arises when the obstacles are destroyed.
A fault in meditation is called over-application of the remedy. Without knowing that objective observation was a remedy, perhaps you are already using a form of the observer as a way to punish yourself. For many, there is already an over- application of this natural and organic mental remedy in their ordinary life by inflicting self-criticism. Over- application means that the meditator ceases meditating in order to observe what they are doing, and does not actually get the benefit of meditation rather than a careful balance. This habit was developed before they began meditation and carries over into spiritual life.
Student: In that sense, would that be trying to control everything that is happening?
Rinpoche: You might be consciously thinking, 'How am I doing?' This is an indication of over-application of the observer. You have to leave your meditation in order to monitor yourself. Intelligent people easily fall into this fault of meditation. In fact, the application of this happens in everyday life also; people not only inflict it on themselves, but they are often harshly judgmental of others. This is a sign of the intellectualizing intelligent mind behaving badly.
There are all kinds of rules for clumsy and stupid people, but there are not as many rules for intelligent people who abuse their own intelligence! I am not advocating that you should try to be dumber! One position is not the opposite of the other. In fact, if you resonate with this criticism, you need to treat yourself, as well as others, with more respect and not be quite so rigidly judgmental and controlling. The delightful being that you are inside, a being of light, is emerging into a very delicate relationship with you by inner development and outer balance. It needs to be cared for, so please do not harm it, but act gently and appropriately when the mind is wandering. You might tell yourself, "Now calm down," gather the mind back in a little bit, and then again, you are a meditator. This requires experience and skill.
Have you ever had an experience where creativity blossoms suddenly in your mind during meditation? A steady mind understands that this is going nowhere and has ceased to be meditation. Some people want to be lost in a fantasy place, seeing pretty colors, fascinated away from meditation, like in a daydream, and will struggle to remain there against their own good judgment. This is when the observer, the one who holds the remedies and is also an aspect of your own mind, needs to step in. "Now we come back to the object of our meditation.” Then you go back to your sadhana practice, keeping focused.
For those familiar with the way programs and computers work, using the analogy of the unawakened mind like a faulty operating system, shows us that we might not have just one problem, but a variety of distinctive and unique delusions. For example, someone might suffer from anger, and probably jealousy as well. When anger interacts with jealousy or becomes mixed with jealousy, we do not have a name for that delusion. However, multiple poor strategies are not only talking to and influencing you, but they are talking to each other. That is very scary. We need to be very careful with our minds until we are enlightened or awakened.
Further, delusions mixing together can actually create a kind of separate super-ego that can gain the power to control the primary person, assuring them that the delusions are right and others are wrong. This can damage and twist the observer into the “shadow” ego that is described in psychology. We learn to gain control again by stabilizing, "Well, where is my sadhana? All living beings are waiting for me to finish this preparation and enter the awakened state so that I can help them! This is not about me!" You go back to meditation, after having become distracted by delusions or fantasies and having fed them your awareness. This time, they almost had you convinced that the delusional viewpoint was correct. To be continued…..