The Five Levels Of Impurity Of The Mind

The five levels of impurity of the mind

Meditation is the practice of making the mind and serene, and the mind has 5 levels of impurity, from low to high, as below:

The first level is to have no unwanted thoughts. Many people mistakenly believe that just stopping unwanted thoughts will make the mind pure and serene. This is the lowest level.

The second level is to have no feelings of love, hate, anger, and resentment

The third level is to have no natural emotions.

Feelings and emotions are different and we often get confused. In the Twelve Dependent Origins, Buddha distinguishes them very clearly. For example, looking at a beautiful flower, we will experience two psychological effects. The first is a feeling of joy and peace, for example. The second is a love for the flower. Or looking at a very ugly face, we will also experience two psychological at very psychological effects. The first is displeasure, and the second is contempt. Displeasure is an emotion, and contempt is a feeling. These two things are different. 

For example, an elderly married man shook his whole body when he saw a very beautiful young girl, He had no reason to love her but her beauty stirred his very emotions. Feelings, we can control, but emotions, we can’t because they are very deep, very strong, and very natural, so very scary. 

In the process of inner purification, we must first calm down thoughts (disturbed thoughts), secondly feelings of love and hatred, and thirdly, emotions. Calming our emotions means that when we look at an ugly person we don’t feel uncomfortable, or when we look at a beautiful one, we aren’t disturbed by pleasant feelings.

Fourth is to no longer have bad habits. Bad habits are accumulated in many lives and are difficult to overcome. But the pure mind in meditation will help us realize them and get over them.

For example, smoking is a habit, addictive to the brain and hard to overcome. When our minds become pure and serene in meditation, we will see that habit, as Buddha says, is an unpleasant thing, a thorn, and we can give it up effortlessly. At the fourth level, when our craving for smoking arises, we see this craving and it immediately goes away. The same goes for other habits, for example, shopping. Many people are addicted to shopping because it gives them the pleasure of receiving the item they like and the admiration of the sales clerk when they pay. But when our minds are purified to the 4th level, we will realize our mentality of liking to spend money, to take goods, and to receive sales clerks’ admiration. We will find that it is an addiction, a habit, so we should give it up. Later, when we shop, it’s not because of our shopping addiction but because of someone’s need or our purpose of helping the shop to sell its goods. 

The fifth is instincts (in the Buddhist scriptures, it calls fetters) 

The Five Levels Of Impurity Of The Mind
The Five Levels Of Impurity Of The Mind

Instincts are things that lie deep in the mind, secretly controlling the souls of sentient beings. Usually, people can’t get over them, only Buddhist Saints can. Because our minds are not pure and serene enough to realize our instincts, we still have them (anger, greed, hate, resentment, selfishness, etc.). Practicing meditation will help us deal with them though cannot eliminate them. For example, because we have an instinct of greed, we always want to take good things for ourselves. But thanks to our practice of meditation, when we are faced with a situation involving the benefits of ourselves and others, we will take reasonable actions, not just focus on our own benefits. We still have to struggle with our instincts and can’t defeat them, but that’s a lot better. Buddhist Saints gently subdued all instincts, even the deepest ones, although in many past lives they may have loved or been infatuated with something. Again, remember that there are 5 hindrances that we need to overcome for our minds to be pure and serene:

  • The first is unwanted thoughts 
  • The second is feelings of love and hate 
  • The third is emotions of happiness and unhappiness 
  • The fourth is bad habits 
  • The fifth is instincts 

Walking on the meditation path, we must get rid of all these five things (that’s why meditation is said to be so difficult). Many people mistakenly think that they have achieved Sainthood when they no longer have unwanted thoughts in meditation, but this is only the lowest level. There are 4 higher levels that we don’t understand and have no reasoning about them, which means we haven’t reached them. When we have reached all these levels, we will understand them very clearly.

There are many levels of purity and serenity of mind and one can talk only about the level he has reached. One who has reached the first level cannot talk about the 4 higher levels but only about the state of mind when it has no unwanted thoughts; One who has reached the second level no longer has ordinary love and hate; One who has reached the third level will realize his feelings (of happiness, unhappiness,…) when he comes into contact with something. As for habits, deep instincts, only those who have reached the corresponding level can talk about them. Those who often say that living is also meditating, drinking tea is also meditating, walking and standing is meditating, eating and drinking is meditating, only attaining purity of mind in the first (lowest) level. You see, meditation is so difficult.

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