Starting by quoting Shunryū Suziki Roshi: “the goal or fruition of mediation is to keep a beginner’s mind,” Jack talked about the possibility for us to step out of the blinder of our ordinary perception, such as fear and prejudice, and see with an eye of understanding – a beginner’s mind.
He taught that meditation isn’t about having a goal for a particular experience. But as things start to settle, we realize we are actually not in control – we cannot tell the mind to stop thinking or the heart to only have positive emotions. We are a river of thoughts and feelings – they are changing and unstable. But in sitting, we learn to shift our identity – we realize that these thoughts and feelings are not really “us.” Instead, we develop a loving awareness that clearly witnesses the thoughts, feelings, opinions, and experiences that are happening and changing every moment. We do not turn our gaze away from the suffering of the world; in fact, we become more aware of them, and they teach us in a different way. We become engaged with the world because we have developed that capacity to do so. We learn that, in the midst of suffering in life, we can forgive, we can let go of our view of how things should be, and we can love anyway.
A heart that is truly free is one that is at peace and feels fulfilled no matter what is happening. Whatever the circumstances of life, we can return to this place of loving awareness, with a more spacious perspective, witnessing all the thoughts and feelings as simply part of being human while being able to compassionately decline being grasped by any of them. We become more and more comfortable with change and uncertainty and develop trust in our capacity to be present with a loving heart and with wisdom in any situation that we face.
Jack encouraged us to set an intention or a vow to see the world in a different way – such as vowing to bring our goodness to this world, vowing to meet each experience and each person with compassion, vowing to see beauty wherever we are, and vowing to be kind to ourselves and others.
During group discussion, members expressed appreciation to the teaching for reminding them to see things with fresh eyes, to see Mara (vexations like greed, hatred, ignorance, judgement, etc.) as a friend and not an enemy, to find our “true self,” and to love amidst suffering.
Scroll down to listen to Jack’s talk. Happy Learning!
From the Teachers: Seeing Anew with Beginner’s Mind
“Seeing Anew” by Jack Kornfield*
* Jack Kornfiled is an American writer and teacher in the Vipassana movement in American Theravada Buddhism. In the late 60s, he trained as a Buddhist monk in the monasteries of Thailand, India, and Burma, studying under Buddhist masters Ven. Ajahn Chah and Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw. He returned to the United States in 1972. In 1975, he co-founded the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, with fellow meditation teachers Sharon Salzberg and Joseph Goldstein, and in 1987 he co-founded the Spirit Rock Center in Woodacre, California.
Over the years, Jack has taught in centers and universities worldwide, led International Buddhist Teacher meetings, and trained many of the Vipassana teachers in America. He has worked to make Buddhism accessible for Westerners, focusing on combining loving kindness and self compassion with the practice of mindfulness, and incorporating together the wisdom of Eastern and Western psychology. A prolific writer, his books have been translated into 20 languages and sold more than a million copies. Jack holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology.