When you are awake, in the usual, human sense, you get bombarded with sensory inputs. If your eyes are open, light enters through the holes in the middle of them. Sound enters through the holes in the sides of your head. The air you breathe carries smells in through your nose.
But these are all concepts. The labels, “light,” “sound,” and “smell” are all arbitrary labels we choose to put onto the corresponding sensory experience. We also put arbitrary labels on what we perceive through these sensory inputs. We see cars and trees and grass and buildings and myriad other things, usually all of which we have some label for. Buddhists want to keep well in mind that the labels are arbitrary and can help, but can also get in the way. The goal is experience as unmediated by labels and categories as possible. Labels and categories are both indicators and one of the mechanisms that keep us bound to our puny human identities.
In Buddhism, mind, monkey mind in this case, is a sense along with the usual five we recognize in most western cultures. Mind is what slaps the labels on sensory experience. Those “photons” coming through your eyes are just doing their thing. They have no selfhood and know nothing of any names. They are just photons until your mind organizes them into things with names according to your knowledge and belief.
As your internal thought stream gets quieter and slower with meditation, you can separate out the labeling process and focus just on the sensory inputs without adding any concept.
Then, look behind the sensory inputs to find out what or who has those sensations. You will find nothing. The mind that labels sensory inputs is also the mind that constantly tells you who you are and that you are. When it gets really quiet, you find out that you actually are not. There is no you. “You,” your name, your age, all those other details that make up your individual identity, are just more labels.
This is not self. Looking behind your eyes is a good way to notice that. What you are looking for is what is looking. What is looking is not self. The luminous emptiness of consciousness. It’s pretty amazing.
So keep meditating.
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