It’s Monday and if you are reading this online then you weren’t hit with the dreaded “dns changer” malware. If you want to double check to see if you are infected, go to this site and if the color is green, you’re cool. If it’s red, oh oh – better clean your computer.
We all use a program or two to protect our PCs from viruses, malware and spyware, or should. I have several that I use in conjunction with each other. I also use a “system cleaner,” a program that will clean up temporary files and the registry.
Now – how’s this for a segue – Buddhism is a bit like a system cleaner. After all, our brain does function like a computer, or vice versa. Interestingly, we assume that a computer is more powerful than the human brain, but I’m not sure that is true. Brains are efficient and compact. According to Scientific American, even a cat’s brain, about the size of a macadamia nut, “smokes the newest iPad—1,000 times more data storage and a million times quicker to act on it.”
Back in the day, when the great Zen teacher, Shunryu Suzuki, was giving his famous dharma talks at the center in Los Altos, California, no one had personal computers. As recorded in Zen Mind, Beginners Mind, he used the analogy of housecleaning:
So we say true understanding will come out of emptiness. When you study Buddhism, you should have a general house cleaning of your mind. You must take everything out of your room and clean it thoroughly. If it is necessary, you may bring everything back in again. You may want many things, so one by one you can bring them back. But if they are not necessary, there is no need to keep them.”
This applies to practice, too. In meditation, we sweep the mind clean, clear the temporary files of discriminating thoughts, and remove reflections of the past and anticipations of the future from our registry. This is also called “emptying the mind,” what Suzuki meant when he said true understanding comes out of emptiness.
The Sixth Patriarch of the Ch’an school said,
Our self-natured Bodhi is fundamentally pure and clean. Use this mind of yours for your direct understanding and realization of awakening.”
Normally a house starts out clean. When it becomes dirty, then we use a broom or vacuum to return it to its original clean state. The same is true of our personal computers. They get cluttered up with garbage wasting space that slows the performance and we need to use a system cleaner to clear that stuff out.
In meditation, we use mind to clean mind. Han Shan, a Ch’an monk from the Ming Dynasty, in his Collection of Dreams, wrote,
If you can make effective use of your mind, by concentrating on that which is self-existent before your mind is disturbed by a thought, you will gradually become accustomed to it, and with the passing of time, realization is bound to follow.”
That’s why I say Buddhist meditation is an effective maintenance tool. It removes viruses like the three poisons of greed, anger, and ignorance. It cleans malware that Suzuki called our “preconceived ideas” and “subjective opinions” from the mind’s system.
Cleaning the mind is a big job. Unlike cleaning your computer’s system, it takes more than a few minutes. It’s the process of a lifetime.