In relation to the nature of mind, what is luminosity? In this respect it might be interesting to reflect on a passage which one finds in certain texts which says that ‘between the arisal of different instances of conceptual thought, the clear light nature of mind arises uninterruptedly’.
Say you look at an object which doesn’t have bright colours but is rather subdued in colour and not very attractive. And you look at it for a while. Then, while looking at this object, you make the determination: ‘I shall retain my concentration in order to focus my attention upon my own perception, upon my own experience. And I shall not allow myself to be distracted by other objects, external or internal.’ With such mindfulness you will be able to recognise the very moment your mind is distracted. For example, you hear a beautiful tune and you are distracted by it, but you immediately realise you are distracted, reinforce your mindfulness, and withdraw from it. Similarly, if you recollect past events, you will immediately realise that you have become distracted. Or if you have preconceptions of the future, you will also be able to identify that your mind has become distracted.
So, normally, it is these types of thoughts which come into being at any given moment and which obscure the essential nature of our minds. When this technique of mindfulness is utilised, therefore, of maintaining attention on the perception of the object in front of us, as and when a distraction arises, we are able to identify it and to withdraw from such distractions. Thus, eventually all these conceptual events, the cognitive processes that obscure the natural state of the mind, will be cleared away. And the result will be a very stable and lucid state of mind.
The mind is an affirmative phenomenon, but on the ordinary level it is obscured by concepts, different states of thinking and preconceptions, and so on. In order to recognise the essential nature of the mind, therefore, we have to peel off these different layers and clear away these obscurations. Then we shall see the true face of our own minds.
If you undertake such practices, such experiments, when you say ‘consciousness’, it will not be a mere word. You will be able to understand what it is. Consciousness is a phenomenon that is nonobstructive; it is nonphysical and has the quality of luminosity. It is analogous to a crystal. If a crystal is placed on a coloured surface, the real clarity of that crystal will not be seen. If it is removed from anything coloured, however, then its real form will be seen.
The luminosity of the mind, the nature of clarity of the mind, is something that I cannot simply explain in words to you. But if you undertake this kind of experiment on your own, you will begin to understand,’ Ah, that’s the luminosity of the mind!’
More teachings by the Dalai Lama.
[From teachings given by HH Dalai Lama
in London in April 1988
from Buddhism Now Aug 1995]