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Dependent Origination: Formations of Mind (2)

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Teacher: Rodney Smith
Date: 2013-04-16
Venue: Seattle Insight Meditation Center



We continue our exploration of the second link of Dependent Origination, Mental Formations. Mental formations consist of everything “formed” by the mind. We can understand why some spiritual traditions call these displays “dreamlike” and “illusory” when they come from nothing and seem to form into something meaningful, but the meaning is an internal response to the image and not intrinsic to the image itself. We can directly observe their transparency, and yet at the same time be fooled by their presentation.  In the same way we become mentally enmeshed in the rapid succession of two dimensional celluloid still pictures (called a movie), likewise we translate our mental formations into our life’s story. The reality we give life is derived from these mental images. They form us and the world and establish a hunger (called desire) to reconnect with what is true and lasting.  At first we attempt to discover this through our worldly pursuits, but we eventually awaken to the fact that  what is true and lasting cannot be found within those images.


Look into a mirror and acknowledge the reflection. Notice your comments, judgments, and criticisms about what is revealed in the mirror. It is just the appearance of you, as thin as the light that reflects off the glass. Notice the complexity of the emotions and the accompanying narrative that makes it so much more. Now pause, relax and own those emotions and comments as coming from your mind, not inherent in the reflection. The mirror reflects only what it sees, and everything else you bring to the reflection. As you quiet notice how simple the image becomes. It is not even owned or possessed by you. In fact there is nothing there that is yours. You identify the image as being you, but can you sense the formless surround that cannot be reflected by the mirror? The sense-of-you and this image have been paired over time so that you are held within the image. The quieter you become the less this pairing is confirmed.


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