The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Conceptual Proliferation”
This conceptual proliferation has a lot to do with view. Incorrect view results from the idea of self-nature being inherently real. There’s no way that we can exist in samsara without incorrect view resulting. Now on the path of Vajrayana, the most important directive that we are given is to attain pure view through devotion. That is extremely important. In that way we will awaken the wisdom sense, or the wisdom mind, and move closer to realization. We’re given many different ways to do that. One of the ways that we’re given is to meditate on emptiness; and in meditating on emptiness we do not instantly assume self-nature to be inherently real. We also are given the directive to meditate on compassion, and to practice compassion, so that we remove the clinging to self-nature, and the desire and grasping that comes from the belief in self-nature.
One thing that we might also do is to challenge our own conceptual proliferation. We might actually challenge our view as it is. Here’s something that’s an interesting thought, and we can think about this every day. And it’s a scary thought too. You are now engaging in conceptual proliferation because you have ideas about what you’re seeing and hearing. These ideas tell you something about your environment; something about me, who you think to be separate from you; and something about you, who you think to be separate from me. So all of these things are going on. And basically you’re in a process right now, even as we speak, of super-structuring. You’re building a structure and then building a structure on top of that and another one on top of that and another one on top of that. And your life, your continuum, actually exists in that super-structure; it is that super-structure. That is your experience. But if you trace it down, the conceptual proliferation can be traced to hope and fear; can be traced to attraction and repulsion; can be traced to duality; can be traced to ego identification or the assumption of self-nature as being inherently real. The Buddha teaches us that from the get-go, from the beginning, this is all tainted and all wrong.
We walk around all day long feeling angry and justified because we’re angry. And if we are not justified, we try to find justification; and we will, given enough time. We spend the rest of our day, when we’re not angry, feeling self-righteous, good or bad about ourselves, guilty, morose, elated, blissful, happy, victorious, like failures—all these things; and often we can feel both victorious and a failure within the same five minute time span. We just walk around with this kind of continuum going on. That is the experience of our lives; and it is our continuum.
Based on that, we act. We act a certain way because we’re angry. We act a certain way because we’re sad. We act a certain way because we’re happy. We act a certain way because of all the feelings that we feel. And then we react to the response that we get because of the way we acted. Where does it stop? Well, it doesn’t until we die. And then we get reborn again. That is the experience of continuum.
It can all be traced back to the idea of self-nature being inherently real; and the Buddha teaches us that that is a false assumption, because our nature does not contrive in such a way. Our nature is the fully accomplished, spontaneously liberated primordial wisdom view. But if instead we are having all this other stuff go on, the first thing that you can say to yourself every day, and the thing that you can say to yourself every moment of every day, is that I don’t know what the heck is going on here. And that should be the first thing that you do every day. Rather than assume self-nature to be inherently real, the first thing you should assume is that you do not know your derriere from a hole in the wall. Did I say that nicely enough? This is, after all, a temple. You can safely assume that you don’t know what’s going on.
So perhaps you can challenge yourself by taking a moment to just breathe, just be. The Buddha teaches us a meditation in which we watch thoughts and think of them as coming to the surface of the mind like bubbles that come from the bottom. You can think of your mind as a lake; and you can think of thoughts that simply rise to the surface. Now if a bubble rises to the surface of a lake, where will it go when you pop it? It simply pops. Now supposing we were to think of thoughts in the same way. Whatever conceptual proliferation that rises to the surface of the lake of your mind, supposing you weren’t to follow it. Supposing you were to simply let it go. Let it pop. Look at it square in the eye and say, ‘Oh that’s another one of those conceptual proliferation things.’ What if you didn’t let it dictate your life?