Joseph Goldstein – Insight Hour – Ep. 26 – The Four Mind Changing Reflections


In this episode of the Insight Hour Podcasts, Joseph examines the state of Bardo and delivers an insight of The Four Mind Changing Reflections.

“When we are just resting, the empty, open, aware nature of the mind becomes evident. The non-clinging nature of awareness reveals itself in these Bardo moments.” – Joseph Goldstein

Show Notes

00:40 -Joseph introduces the state known as Bardo, from the Tibetan tradition. In the Tibetan Book of the Dead, there are descriptions of what happens between lives and the opportunities for awakening which are presented.

For most of us, however, the Bardo between lifetimes is hypothetical. Bardo means to transition, and Joseph shares a Bardo experience that illuminated the possibility of the Bardos of transition with this life.

09:10 – What can remind us, again and again, to truly wake up? In the Buddhist tradition, we have four reflections that have this power. These practices which turn our mind towards the dharma are called The Four Mind Changing Reflections. In a state of spiritual retreat, The Four Mind Changing Reflections can profoundly influence our state of consciousness.

16:30 – The first Reflection is made on the preciousness of our human birth, and it’s potential. Joseph tells the story of the Indian meditation teacher Dipa Ma. Dipa Ma who lost her family and how her suffering and practice transformed her. Left bedridden with grief, Dipa Ma was encouraged to go to a local monastery where she experienced an incredible spiritual awakening. Her suffering is what motivated Dipa Ma to pursue this awakening and let it transform her entirely.

19:45 – The second Reflection turns us towards the Dharma and that awakens us in the midst of our busy lives is the contemplation of impermanence. The truth of change is not a mystery. We understand it intellectually that everything is changing, but we do not appreciate it.

The gifts of this contemplation are two-fold. First is the opportunity to train the mind moment to moment to be aware how things are happening. The second is the appreciation that death is simply the end of birth. It allows us to reflect on our attachment to death and how it influences our behavior in life. Joseph explains how to better perceive change and put this contemplation into practice.

37:50 – The third Reflection is what in Buddhism is called the Law of Karma. This is the understanding that all of our actions have consequence. The Buddha went one essential step further in his understanding of Karma. Our comprehension of this furthest step offers the possibility for real happiness in our lives.

The Buddha said, “Everything rests on the tip of motivation.”  Success or failure of an action is irrelevant because we cannot control the outcome.There are too many forces in the world out of our control. But what we can do is train ourselves in purifying our motivations. This intention is where the value of our actions lie.

50:20 – The fourth Mind Changing Reflection is the reflect on of the defects of Samsara. Samsara means perpetual wandering. According to the Buddhist teaching, until we awaken from the dream-like state of ignorance, we roam between the higher and lower realms. Samsara is also happening in this life. When we look at just one day, how many worlds do we create in our mind? This endless wandering and attachment to our thoughts are the Samsara of the mind.

Between these thoughts, however, is the opportunity to notice the awakening of the next idea. The place where the first thought ends and the next begins. Noticing this moment of awakening from being lost in a previous thought or mood allows for mindfulness to occur. When we do not pass over these moments, we let in the light of wakefulness instead of the judgment of the thought. This action allows for an infinite number of opportunities for happiness.

For more on the topic, Tsoknyi Rinpoche offers more insight on The Four Mind Changing Reflections.

Image via Space Wind