Freeing the Heart from being Overwhelmed and the Whip of ‘Should Be’

Hello!  I have transcribed for myself the bulk of a wisdom teaching and am sharing that here with you for your consideration and discernment.  Is this what most of those on the spiritual path don’t already know — maybe (maybe not) but the description of the mind and the heart and world and life challenges are worded in such an important way.  At least that is how I felt about it when I first listened to this audio.  I’ve been known to transcribe audios in order to slowly process each word and integrate the teaching deeply while typing.  Once upon a time many years ago I worked for a major insurance company as a transcriptionist.  Now it must be said that it wasn’t my idea to share this typing in a newsletter or blog until the next day.  There may be a few typos here in what follows but time being a factor, the hope is that the material is more important and it won’t be distracting.  Another thing.  This isn’t necessarily a quick read so one should know that going in as to perhaps read this when there is adequate time provided you are is interested in doing so.  I found this material quite useful and helpful at this time and I post it here hoping that it may be helpful for you as well.  Here we go with the title of the talk which was given on May 24, 2020 and with my transcription that follows.

 Freeing the Heart from the Whip of ‘Should Be’

The mind; the horror and the beauty of it;

the incredible agitation of it;

the sweetness and freedom of it;

the possibilities of moving from one to the other.

 The mind which could be a treasure could be like a whip beating us and it reverberates as it gets stirred up and gets more agitated and continues to operate in this way.  Reverberation.

There is trembling with agitation and trembling with compassion. 





Two aspects of mind . . . MANAS and CITTA

FROM WIKIPEDIA:  Manas roughly corresponds to mind as an organ of thought, but in fact, it is more than that, for it is also a strong power of attaching itself to the result of thinking. … The Citta is thus a storehouse where the seeds of all thoughts and deeds are accumulated and stored up.

Comparing Manas to the eye. . .

Manas the iris of the eye that causes the pupil to expand or contract.  Then the eye scans around and when it sees something, it focuses on it, and then the pupil narrows.  Doing that.  That is what manas is about.  It helps us to see an object clearly.  And in this way, also, mental attention scans around and finds something that it is attracted to or disturbed by and it focuses on it and narrows down upon that.  That is the organ, the manas, which is a natural function.

Citta we might liken to the retina; how the impression of light is rendered; much more quality of vision. Whereas Manas has to deal with focus, citta is due to overall vision.  Now you could say that in terms of ordinary functioning, you need both.  You need to focus on an object and then you can’t have vision without that.

Manas can form the focus and citta is that which is the vision or the visionary aspect… the faculty of seeing.

Now that analogy is simple but it is not entirely accurate because, of course,  citta and manas are very much a pair or two aspect s of the same thing.

And why manas does the focusing is because citta tells it to.

In this case, I’ll use the example of the citta being the boss; she sits in the office and the secretary is manas and she says “go out and get me something to eat or get me this” and manas runs out into the world and brings something back.

So manas is the organ and citta always sits inside.  It doesn’t go out.  Manas goes out to sense objects.  Citta drives it out because it’s hungry and wants something. Therefore, it runs out and tries to get a hold of something and brings it back. It is always looking fundamentally for pleasure and stability and of course, the long story is that we do get a degree of pleasure and stability in sights, sounds, and so forth but not much.  So because of that the manas and citta come up with the world of thought… an idea.  Which isn’t so much dependent upon sights and sounds which clearly we don’t have much say over.  But we can think and plan and dream and create so this creates something pleasant, agreeable, comfortable, interesting, stimulating, and whatever and sit in that and so that’s what happens. 

Of course, that’s the sort of reflex that occurs but the mind is an organ; it’s the one organ that doesn’t shut down.  You can close your eyes but you can’t close the mind organ—not normally anyway.

In searching for this sense of pleasure, stability, comfort, and then trying to come up with qualities that would provide that it gets very stressed.  And therefore it comes up with feelings … with frustration like “Why can’t I fulfill my wishes?  I’ve got this great idea.  Why doesn’t it happen?  Why don’t people listen to me?  Why does he/she get in my way?  Why doesn’t he/she behave like I want them to? Why doesn’t this, that and the other.”

And therefore there is this stirring up as the projections of the mind start to play out into the world around us or our own body and mind and it doesn’t come up with the satisfaction that it was seeking.

And the untrained mind just keeps going and getting agitated with what we call THE WHIP… THE WHIP OF ‘SHOULD BE’. 

This whipping effect gets enacted upon us. And so this is the reverberation, the stirring up of complaining, or ‘feeling hard-done-by’, or it’s not fair or why don’t people listen?  Or I don’t see why they should do THAT and this kind of thing goes on.  And I want to be comfortable and stable and happy and why aren’t you doing this? And this? That and the other?

And this makes the Citta (the boss) very confused and agitated because it’s always searching for something in manas (the secretary) and manas can’t provide it.  Looking either into its own material which is THOUGHT for its own functioning which is the focus on senses so manas focuses on sight, sound,  touch, and tries to assemble a reality that feels comfortable.

You walk around in your world and there are many things that potentially you could see but you don’t see.  You see the door, you see the keys, you see the phone, you see the particular thing that is going to get you where you want to go and the rest of it is background.

So it’s a very selective organ, isn’t it? What our world is… is very much a selection of sense data.  And the selecting is done through citta … citta asks for a selection and manas performs the selection.

Our attention, as you know, is only 10% of what we could potentially see or hear or think about.

But our world gets built on that.

And it’s a very fragile world.  And our mind organ has to keep active to make this happen and it can’t quite achieve the results that it wants.  And so, therefore, the citta gets this unhappy quality.  Not happy, not contented… SO THEN IT STIRS UP THE MIND ORGAN… what’s going on? Or it finds something to complain about or somebody to complain about or it complains about itself. Or it craves something because the citta is not contented AND IT’S STILL SEARCHING IN THE WRONG DIRECTION FOR WHERE THAT SOMETHING COULD BE.

If you buy one of these, then you’ll be happy.  If you vote for me then everything’s going to be wonderful.  If you go to this place, things will be just what you want. If you eat in this restaurant, things will be wonderful.  That’s the story of it. 

The energy of citta is depleted by all of that and it feels hungry and it feels needy.  Like I feel bad; I want to feel good.  And it still keeps looking in the wrong direction to where that could come from.  AND THIS IS WHERE ADDICTION TAKES OVER … OF VARIOUS KINDS.  Food addiction, drink addiction, needy addiction… still searching in the wrong place.  And this is experiencing more and more SUFFERING AND THE MIND WHIPPING THE HEART with this craving and agitation and irritation and disappointment.

And the nature of it is that the manas can always find something to blame that on.  It’s a very agile organ. 

So citta and manas together create the problem. Citta because it’s not contented and it’s still looking in the wrong direction and manas because it builds up and focuses on objects and creates objects—creates thoughts and ideas as objects and not just thoughts but whole philosophies:  it should be; psychologies: I need to have THIS.  Critiques:  she’s not the way she should be.

This stuff goes on.  AND WHEN YOU SEE ONE OF THOSE COMING, YOU WANT TO BE VERY CAREFUL – DON’T LET YOUR MIND SIT ON IT BECAUSE IT’S GOING TO PROLIFERATE [MULTIPLY] AND WHIP AROUND AND START WHIPPING YOU.  Now, you DO need to engage but engage in a place of heart that has been resonating with the stress but not acting on it, not following, but is actually sympathetic to itokay, it’s stressful, just relax, it’ll be okay; you don’t have to seek fulfillment in THAT. We can find fulfillment in a steady, pure heart.

The Buddha explained it quite clearly.  He says that with any of the senses including the mind organ/manas, the consciousness is dependent upon this particular object-seeking-mind . . . something is seen, heard, remembered, or imagined, or planned… i.e. it’s Friday and we have something planned on Friday and something’s gone wrong so we’ve got this mental object by which we fundamentally steer our lives and they’re purely mind-created… so contact—we touch into ‘it’s Friday morning….. oh!’  Contact and then the hit and some kind of feeling arises—pleased by that, not please, perception:  I’ve got to go to work or oh it’s great; it’s my cousin’s birthday. Something agreeable or disagreeable –it’s a perception… a meaning interpreted.. and then what one feels, what one perceives, what one thinks about… then the mind cascades into agitation or maybe the mind proliferates like I’ve got to buy my cousin a present and she may not like this or that.  And as the mind proliferates, the experience is being flooded by the proliferations—they overwhelm the mind and the heart gets overwhelmed.

The Buddha says IF the mind, the mana, the mental consciousness doesn’t do that –STOPS; DOESN’T CREATE FRIDAY BECAUSE FRIDAY IS JUST AN IDEA—therefore, there can be no agitation associated with that idea because the idea hasn’t been created.   So similarly, if we don’t have the idea ‘it should be this way’ then we don’t get the contact, the feeling, the perception, and the proliferations that occur around that mental concept.  Where there is no mind/consciousness, no mind-object being created, then you don’t get the contact, the perception, the feeling, the proliferation.

And now you might say surely we must have mind-contact.  This is true except that the ability to switch it off or to moderate it so that we hold these concepts lightly… should be what I like, what I dislike, what I favor … hold them lightly and then suddenly STOP, DON’T NEED THAT ONE.  So therefore the mental object doesn’t get created and therefore proliferation doesn’t occur.

Now when we say the manas/thoughts, the heart doesn’t stop—so there can be this heart or citta wishes to experience silence, openness … its soft, it’s spacious, it’s unrestricted …it’s not being agitated because a mental object is not tapping it; therefore, silence—using that metaphor, using that language.

And this is practice.  I think in anybody’s life certainly even in this rather pleasant monastery, my mind is still able to say look at that, it’s aesthetically un-pleasing or begins complaining and I can sense this moment where the mind wants to stick to that… and if you hold onto that you are about to get the whip crashing down on you again.

Now, this doesn’t mean that as we see in the life of the Buddha that you don’t do anything.  It means that the center of the action comes from citta—heart sympathy, or compassion, or clarity—these qualities naturally arise because that is the nature of citta. 

Citta turns to the conditioned realm with the qualities of sympathy.   The citta of the Buddha:  he’s not searching for fulfillment in it and he doesn’t seek stability in that, he doesn’t seek pleasure in that, he doesn’t seek an identity in that –in sound, sight, position, organization, status. . .  he doesn’t seek it; therefore he can’t suffer from it; not proliferate around it.   He can’t be frustrated by it because he’s not buying into it.  So the Citta of the Buddha is free from those underlying tendencies.  Free from views and opinions about ‘how it should be’.  Free from trying to seek for himself as to identity in that. He views the conditioned realm with a mind sympathy, a resonance which brings for the qualities of goodwill, compassion, sympathetic joy, equanimity, and those act as the guiding motivations for the Buddha’s action, clarity, compassion, and teaching.

So from the awakened mind, the primary resonance is sympathy and then these measureless qualities arise; goodwill, compassion, appreciation, gladness, equanimity, and then they act as the background underlying spirits that the Buddha moves into the world with and then this clarity is his focus based upon those tendencies.  So it’s pretty much a purely internal motivation rather than something that is being pulled out by searching in the world around.

So we can remember that – the stopping of the mind doesn’t mean the stopping of the heart.

The stopping of the mind itself is not something that is a constant but the mind can be stopped and arrested from fruitless activities so that it’s put to the service of the purified citta …so that’s it’s not receiving the signals of fear or agitation or irritation or frustration.  Therefore, it serves what needs to be served.  Citta doesn’t need to be served by the mind organ because citta’s content in itself.

Now how does this come around?  We could recognize… well, one of our fundamental meditation practices, isn’t it, is just to keep that manas, the organ of the mind, the pupil of the mind just steady so it doesn’t keep fluctuating and moving around.  Keep it steady in a comfortable way; and what you’re centered upon doesn’t have to be microscopic; it could be something just very broad in your visual field –wide-open eyes, breathing in and out, centered in the body or silence.   Just so that the mana is stopped from contracting and generating its own objects and that’s a fundamental meditation.

But by and large most people’s need a bit more than that; they need some soothing, comforting because they ARE depleted, they ARE undernourished, they ARE confused but they don’t need more mental objects—thoughts, ideas, opinions and ‘I should be this; I should try to concentrate; I should be more loving and I should, I should, I should, I should…”   They don’t need more of these whipping activities.  What they need is more receptive—can I be more loving toward myself?  Can I be more patient with myself? Can I relax the tension in my body? Can I deepen and make my receptivity more fulfilling?

And this could be done through the body—breathing in and out, letting the breath go very deep and slow so that it encourages the citta to soften and widen and deepen.   And as it does so, it is a NATURAL process whereby the agitations and the depletions in the citta are resolved.

The heart begins to fill with SAMADHI [single pointed blissful concentration that is effortless] or METTA [universal kindness].  Fundamentally, it provides a comfortable abiding.

This is something to practice and again, just be cautious of making meditation itself into another mental object, or manas, —getting too stuck in ideas, techniques or goal orientation—the signs you can recognize are the sense of “should be”, “want to be”, “ought to be” or when comparing one’s self to others, looking in a book, “Am I doing it right?”  These are all the ways it’s going out; it’s creating a future and a self.

To check that what I encourage you to do is to form a sympathetic relationship to experience –the agitation and the dullness cannot be with this in a way that is sympathetic to it.   Be sympathetic like a nurse, be sympathetic like a mother—just holding it carefully and soothing it, and steadying it.

So that through this the citta is more fulfilled and contented by its own qualities of sympathy and steadiness and begins to enrich.

One of the features of this… or one of the processes that’s encouraged in various ways is called pervasion or suffusion.  One pervades the world.  One suffuses the world.  This refers to the quality when there is a degree of comfort, stability, well-being, goodwill, compassion –when you’re touching into the qualities of the fruitful citta—then the process when you’ve touched into that, you start to widen it. You bring it – you suffuse which is a process whereby you keep gently and steadily widening this sphere, the focus, of your attention to include more and more of your world so that rather like if you’ve got a tense place in the body you find somebody to soften it maybe to massage that and the tension around it begins to dissolve.  And then you are spreading the quality of goodwill or calm to the entire world which can be your body, can be your mental world – and generally what is recommended is both.  Yeah, because if your body feels tight and uncomfortable, citta doesn’t have the resource of the sheer energy to cultivate – the energy has to come from the body.

But naturally, a lot of your experience is not about your body but about  . . . people you have problems with or people you are missing or anything you feel disappointed by so it has to move out through the psychological world and emotional world too.   And so here we’re having contact… but instead of contact being something that’s whipping the mind, now the contact is turned the other way so that its citta contact/heart contact rather than contact that’s driven by manas.  And the heart contact touching, suffusing such that it’s even said that citta touches the deathless—it moves into it.  That’s its qualities; it’s something like the quality of touch that spreads through your experience and you get a really palpable, not conceptual, but a palpable experience of release.  And openness and warmth that satisfies and comforts the mind; therefore, no longer being agitated it doesn’t run out and no longer being disappointed it doesn’t curl up and huddle.  No longer being frustrated it doesn’t get forceful and pushy and it doesn’t crash down in sorrow and grief–it remains steady in itself.

This is the work, this is the cultivation; ah, I just think it’s beautiful [he says].  And to have this opportunity where we see the human potential that in some ways we also have the human potential for making ourselves extremely miserable but we notice this.  You know, in quite affluent countries there are people who are extremely miserable and argumentative and forceful and frustrated and short-tempered and frightened and anxious and depressed—it is mind-driven.

But at the same time we can realize the example of this mendicant [beggar] living on nothing –thin air – with a rag robe under a tree feeling the possibility of the bright, the calm, not being afflicted by the sights, the sounds, the touches because the mind doesn’t pick them up and beat him with it. And the mind organs say, oh it’s not comfortable to be beaten with that when you’re sitting under a tree – it doesn’t fantasize about meditation or when sitting in a meditation hall it doesn’t fantasize about being under a tree –it just doesn’t do it!  You trained it to STOP DOING THAT and then you find that you’re not bonded to the world.


So these are some thoughts that you can bring into your own world.  Be aware of that tendency of the mind to create options or alternatives and should be’s and complaining and frustration and just keep returning.  You just have this one moment of awareness and you have that and that will never be taken from you—to your dying breath, you will have that.  The rest of it is very much uncertain and unpredictable –don’t depend upon it.  Look after yourself.  Look after your treasure and enjoy it—the quality of bright, open awareness—enjoy it.  Be watchful for things that will restrict it.  Life can be tough.  Don’t make it any worse with your mind.  This is my advice to you.

–Ajahn Succito, a Buddhist monk

Audio of talk given on 5/24/20 – transcribed by Joy Star