When the mind first encounters the concept of awakening, it becomes intrigued. Imagine — Buddhahood in this very life! That, despite the fact that it has no direct understanding of “Buddha”, or even “life” for that matter, except for the random hearsay it has collected in its file. It reads about the experience and testimony of various so-called “awakened” people, and immediately goes about trying to put itself into that frame. It begins speaking like them, parroting their phrases, and even comes to imagine that this fascinating condition of “awakeness” is now also true of it.
Mind becomes quite accomplished in this way — the more it reads, the more fine-tuned its mimicry becomes. Others seem impressed, and this serves to confirm mind’s assumption of its own spiritual attainment. Nevertheless, it eventually becomes bored by the awakening game, since mimicry is ultimately not very satisfying. When the expected benefits of awakening fail to materialize, the restless mind seeks out new adventures.
“Everybody needs somebody to love!” Mind hears such claims, and realizes that is exactly what it has been missing. “How foolish I have been!” It begins to seek out this loving “other”, convinced that only then can it be truly happy. It experiments with a number of relationships, but none are ultimately satisfying, because they all fail in one way or another to confirm mind’s image of itself. It fantasizes someone who will love it for itself, even though it has no direct understanding of this self it is longing to have confirmed. Since it does not understand itself, it collapses into the self-confirming condition of hopeless romanticism, until pining away is no longer that satisfying either.
Maybe it hears about the joys of wine. It explores that world, and realizes that wine is good. It loses interest in the awakening charade and the game of love, and pours itself into bottle collecting. What fun! Salud! Eventually, mind imagines that it has become quite an expert. It looks to others to confirm its marvelous depth of wine knowledge and astute collecting. Some agree, but not everyone. “What’s wrong with them, how arrogant people can be!” With that, mind begins to notice how everyone seems so interested in politics. It realizes that it needs to assume a particular position. What is a mind without a position, after all?
It references its file of memory associations, and eventually fabricates a political view based on various conditioning factors. “We need to take a stand!” It becomes quite passionate in that regard. Now it will fight to defend its view, without ever really questioning whether or not it is actually true. “This is my view!” Others may express different views, so mind becomes quite critical. “My view is the right view, yours is wrong! Let’s make war!”
After the war, mind is chastened. “Look at this mess I have created!” It becomes contrite. It hears about religion. Yes, it finds the religious stories soothing. It becomes devout. Praise God (even though it has no direct understanding of what God is). Eventually, it hears that “spirituality” is more refined than mere religion, so it becomes spiritual. It attends satsang and spiritual seminars. “Before I was just a dilettante, a spiritual materialist, but now I am serious!” The more spiritually serious it becomes, the more it considers the possibility of awakening. Imagine, Buddhahood in this very life!