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The Committee of the Mind

--by Thanissaro Bhikku (Sep 30, 2013)


There are many different ideas of “you” in your mind, each with its own agenda. Each of these “you's” is a member of the committee of the mind. This is why the mind is less like a single mind and more like an unruly throng of people: lots of different voices, with lots of different opinions about what you should do. Some members of the committee are open and honest about the assumptions underlying their central desires. Others are more obscure and devious. This is because each committee member is like a politician, with its own supporters and strategies for satisfying their desires. [...]

One of the purposes of meditation is to bring these dealings out into the open, so that you can bring more order to the committee—so that your desires for happiness work less at cross purposes, and more in harmony as you realize that they don’t always have to be in conflict. Thinking of these desires as a committee also helps you realize that when the practice of meditation goes against some of your desires, it doesn’t go against all of your desires. You’re not being starved. You don’t have to identify with the desires being thwarted through meditation, because you have other, more skillful desires to identify with. The choice is yours. You can also use the more skillful members of the committee to train the less skillful ones so that they stop sabotaging your efforts to find a genuine happiness.   Always remember that genuine happiness is possible, and the mind can train itself to find that happiness. […] 

There are many dimensions to the mind, dimensions often obscured by the squabbling of the committee members and their fixation with fleeting forms of happiness. One of those dimensions is totally unconditioned. In other words, it’s not dependent on conditions at all. It’s not affected by space or time. It’s an experience of total, unalloyed freedom and happiness. This is because it’s free from hunger and from the need to feed.   But even though this dimension is unconditioned, it can be attained by changing the conditions in the mind: developing the skillful members of the committee so that your choices become more and more conducive to genuine happiness.  [...]

You can think of the unconditioned dimension as like the fresh water in salt water. The ordinary mind is like salt water, which makes you sick when you drink it. If you simply let the salt water sit still, the fresh water won’t separate out on its own. You have to make an effort to distil  it. The act of distilling doesn’t create fresh water. It simply brings out the fresh water already there, providing you with all the nourishment you need to quench your thirst.

-- Thanissaro Bhikku


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On Nov 22, 2013 Sanjay Mali wrote:

        I have a great experience about meditation. When I started it, for first 4 -5 days I just continued in confusion. Then a stage slowly began to arise when I started forgiving everybody ( ? ). Then I started praying for well being for those I respect and for those I hate. Then a stage came I was doing just nothing and time passed by. I was so fresh and energized after meditation that I remained always happy and worry-less.
    Only thing I wonder is how I stopped it ? Is that also a stage of mind enrichment ?
 



On Nov 6, 2013 Lois wrote:

 I have acknowledged the 'committee of my mind' for a long time, have begun to recognize the various members which have produced much chaos often.    Recently I have opened to listening more to the voices and 'sorting them out', and listening deeper to which voice(s) has clarity.   This article has expressed simply and clearly what I've felt for a long time.  Thank you so much.



On Oct 1, 2013 Thierry wrote:

As far as I can understand, the author describes adequately the process one has to go through if one is ever to tap into the unconditioned dimension of the mind. The order that ensues being the outcome of a natural process, decantation, rather than an order artificially imposed by an outside agency, the conditioned mind itself. He makes it clear through his metaphor that meditation is not an escape from oneself but just about the opposite. One must face oneself as one is, one's double talk, one's avoidance of those things that may hurt and that have been brushed under the carpet out of complacency. That this requires a sense of order and responsibility, honesty, much skill needed in observation, sustained effort. A great master of meditation talks of meditation as the greatest of all arts. And this I understand to mean that the art of transcending one's very self ( conditioned self) is not only the most difficult by its subtlety but that it is primarily concerned w  See full.

As far as I can understand, the author describes adequately the process one has to go through if one is ever to tap into the unconditioned dimension of the mind. The order that ensues being the outcome of a natural process, decantation, rather than an order artificially imposed by an outside agency, the conditioned mind itself.
He makes it clear through his metaphor that meditation is not an escape from oneself but just about the opposite. One must face oneself as one is, one's double talk, one's avoidance of those things that may hurt and that have been brushed under the carpet out of complacency. That this requires a sense of order and responsibility, honesty, much skill needed in observation, sustained effort.
A great master of meditation talks of meditation as the greatest of all arts. And this I understand to mean that the art of transcending one's very self ( conditioned self) is not only the most difficult by its subtlety but that it is primarily concerned with perceiving the very essence of beauty. 
 

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On Sep 30, 2013 ganoba wrote:

 I like the two metaphors. Mind as a disjointed crowd with each member pushing its own agenda.
Meditation helps the members to realise that they are members of the same family.
The other metaphor of distillation of sea water is also very illustrative of the process of meditation.



On Sep 30, 2013 Rajesh wrote:

 This is a beautiful passage. Thanissaro Bhikku has illustrated the fragmented aspect of the mind in way that's clear and easy to understand. I am yet to experience the unconditioned dimension but his reminder that genuine happiness is possible is reassuring. The passage also made me think about how working with one's own desires and those of other family members is indeed like a committee and everyone's voice and opinion needs to be given due understanding and respect.



On Sep 29, 2013 david doane wrote:

 My understanding is that the unconditioned dimension of my mind is the dimension that is in union with Life/Infinite Being/God, or whatever we call that Incomprehensible Mystery.  I like the author's saying that the unconditioned  dimension is like the fresh water in salt water.  It's all me, fresh water and salt water combined, and part of growth, purification, and enlightenment is to distil the salt water to release and allow and have the fresh water, the soul, the unconditioned dimension.  I think it's what John Dewey meant in saying that it is important for each of us to get ourselves in line with the moral axis of the universe.  What has helped me is times when I am listening closely, paying attention, open to consider and learn.  It's when I use my eyes to see and ears to hear what is and not what is my preconceived thinking.  It's when I have the beginner's mind, as the Buddhists say.  My sense is that I tap into the unconditioned d  See full.

 My understanding is that the unconditioned dimension of my mind is the dimension that is in union with Life/Infinite Being/God, or whatever we call that Incomprehensible Mystery.  I like the author's saying that the unconditioned  dimension is like the fresh water in salt water.  It's all me, fresh water and salt water combined, and part of growth, purification, and enlightenment is to distil the salt water to release and allow and have the fresh water, the soul, the unconditioned dimension.  I think it's what John Dewey meant in saying that it is important for each of us to get ourselves in line with the moral axis of the universe.  What has helped me is times when I am listening closely, paying attention, open to consider and learn.  It's when I use my eyes to see and ears to hear what is and not what is my preconceived thinking.  It's when I have the beginner's mind, as the Buddhists say.  My sense is that I tap into the unconditioned dimension periodically and briefly, and in those moments I feel a sense of being right on which is satisfying.  Then I'm back to the salt water.  

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On Sep 27, 2013 Conrad P Pritscher wrote:

 It seems to me that the unconditioned dimension of a mind is a free mind. What has worked for me is noticing my present experience. I am helped every day when I say: "May I be  generous and helpful. May I be virtuous. May I be patient. May  I be able to bear and forbear the wrongs of others. May I be strenuous, energetic, and persevering. May I meditate and achieve concentration and oneness. May I be wise and use the wisdom for the benefit of everyone and everything."  this is said not to a separate being as a reminder to myself that I am one with everyone and everything. As I notice that I am a whole which is more than the sum of the parts, at times, I begin to come near seeing myself not as one, but as "ONE". As Einstein said the true value of a human being can be found to the degree that that he gets rid of his separate self. Noticing yourself as the ocean full of drops and waves can help you see that you are more than one drop or one wave. As you notice you ar  See full.

 It seems to me that the unconditioned dimension of a mind is a free mind. What has worked for me is noticing my present experience. I am helped every day when I say: "May I be  generous and helpful. May I be virtuous. May I be patient. May  I be able to bear and forbear the wrongs of others. May I be strenuous, energetic, and persevering. May I meditate and achieve concentration and oneness. May I be wise and use the wisdom for the benefit of everyone and everything."  this is said not to a separate being as a reminder to myself that I am one with everyone and everything. As I notice that I am a whole which is more than the sum of the parts, at times, I begin to come near seeing myself not as one, but as "ONE". As Einstein said the true value of a human being can be found to the degree that that he gets rid of his separate self. Noticing yourself as the ocean full of drops and waves can help you see that you are more than one drop or one wave. As you notice you are more ONE, you also notice there is no separate one to have desires. When you have desires you are not free. Desires are a condition that keeps one from being unconditioned. Thank you for the opportunity to respond. Warm and kind regards to everyone.

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On Sep 27, 2013 navin sata wrote:

 when mind is 1.quite ,2.absorbed fully in unconditional love for all living being 3.when all positive virtues reflects in our daily living, distilation process is purifying mental  and physical action,[in bhgvad geeta shri krishna explains as ones life must be like YAGNA] =where everything we do is for all humanity,including birds,animals all creation. this process reminds me coconut trees,it is always close to salty sea water,but gives fresh sweet coconut water,our mind is bottomless well,with never ending desires,rising and merging like sea waves ,in meditation when mind is quite we can experience tap in to unconditioned dimension of our mind,it is a must during the distilling process to do introspection of our thoughts and action ,without judging it.when we peel onion and try to take each layer out what remains inner most is seed.[seed of awareness,joy happiness all blissful virtues] when we are traveling in jungle its easy to get lost unless we have guide  See full.

 when mind is 1.quite ,2.absorbed fully in unconditional love for all living being 3.when all positive virtues reflects in our daily living, distilation process is purifying mental  and physical action,[in bhgvad geeta shri krishna explains as ones life must be like YAGNA] =where everything we do is for all humanity,including birds,animals all creation. this process reminds me coconut trees,it is always close to salty sea water,but gives fresh sweet coconut water,our mind is bottomless well,with never ending desires,rising and merging like sea waves ,in meditation when mind is quite we can experience tap in to unconditioned dimension of our mind,it is a must during the distilling process to do introspection of our thoughts and action ,without judging it.when we peel onion and try to take each layer out what remains inner most is seed.[seed of awareness,joy happiness all blissful virtues] when we are traveling in jungle its easy to get lost unless we have guide to guide us[in life jungle we need expert guide=GURU,SPIRITUAL MASTER LIKE SHRI KRISHNA, LORD BUDDHA, JESUS ,MOHMAD,and many more scripture shows guideline ,,,,,,,,,saints of all faith and cultures are guiding lights in dense jungle of desires.MAY WE ALL TRAVEL JOURNEY OF LIFE WITH PEACE OF MIND is joy,bliss,and much more

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