- capable of being extended, shaped, bent
- capable of being changed so as to fit new uses or situations1
In buddhist sutras and commentaries the true nature of beingness and mind is often compared to gold. Generally the idea is held that gold, in a refined state, is precious, pure and indestructible and so when hearing that the nature of the mind is like gold I have mostly thought of a solid, unwaverable, changeless essence. When practicing meditation there has been a subtle striving for this perfect state of flawless stillness and purity with an absence of thought. But in addition to invulnerability, gold has the quality of malleability. When heated it is impressionable, moldable and receptive to any application while still retaining its purity and indestructibility.
Meditating is the practice of working with the mind, similar to the way a metallurgist works with gold, meditation is the practice of understanding that the mind’s true nature, like refined gold, is not only pure but malleable and workable. When I approach meditation with a specific goal of getting something out of it like ease, peace or enlightenment, the practice becomes fixed and inflexible rather than responsive. It is like trying to craft a wedding ring out of sedimentary rock that contains gold without breaking down the rock and heating the ore in order to refine it into a material that can be worked with.
Each practice period is like a different rock containing gold ore. Each time I sit I work with what is present in this moment, by letting go of agendas or trying to get that peace that I got the last time I practiced. So there is malleability in the beginning.
Over time the metallurgist develops the skill of being able to quickly identify the rocks that are most likely to contain gold ore and so discards or does not even pay attention to the ones that don’t, giving them more time to work with the gold ore. Similarly, wIth continued practice, the recurring, habitual thought streams are recognized as being fixed, inflexible and empty of value and so I discard them and eventually don’t attend to them at all. These thoughts are usually judgments about my ability to practice correctly, judgments about how others are doing it, or thoughts about all the things that I think need to be done once meditation is over. They also show up as clinging to feeling good, getting caught up in feeling bad, or feeling pride about how profound my understanding is, or shameful about my lack of understanding. These are all just empty habits built up over time obscuring the true nature of beingness, like the sediment in the many layers of earth that hide the gold. Seeing this is the malleability of the middle.
When the metallurgists crushes the sedimentary rock and blows or washes away the dross, the gold ore is treated with intense heat and the gold is revealed and refined until it is in its pure state. In this state it responds to the wishes of the craftsperson to create something beautiful that may bring joy and delight to the owner.
Likewise, with the continued practice of seeing the habitual mind stream for what it is, discerning thoughts and feelings that are empty, fixed and inflexible and then discarding this dross by not attending to it, the natural pure beingness or the true nature of mind is revealed under the warmth of open hand attention and concentration. The mind is found to be not only pure, precious, and indestructible but completely malleable. Acting, speaking, feeling and thinking from this pure mind are all perfectly responsive to what arises in the present. It moves in these expressions without an agenda for the habituated self. It is not out to get something to enhance “me” or make things better for “me”. It constantly lives out of the question “What is here?” and then responds to just that. This experience within the practice of meditation begins to bleed into the everyday experiences in life like molten gold bleeds out into empty vessels or cracks or molds. This malleability begins to gradually inform and guide every experience in this life. When others experience it they may see beauty and experience joy and delight, that awakens an awareness of their own hidden gold buried in the sediment of their fixed, habitual way of being. This is the malleability of the end that may inspire the malleability to begin to practice.
With these words I pay homage to all buddhas, bodhisattvas, sentient beings, and the totality. May these words not confuse, bring doubt, or harm, but bring ease and warmth and an end to suffering for all beings throughout all times and in all directions.
1.Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/malleable.
Practicing in sangha, even virtually, supports the practice of meditation differently than practicing solitarily. The members of the Sangha of the Pandemic, invite you to practice with us. No experience is required. There is no cost. Everyone is welcome.
We practice on ZOOM:
- Mondays – Calm abiding. 6:30 AM Pacific Time
- Tuesdays – Body awareness. 6:30 AM Pacific Time
- Thursdays – Tonglen, 6:30 AM Pacific Time
- Wednesdays and Fridays – “Formal” Practice 7:00 AM Pacific Time.
- Sundays – Paramitas. 7 AM Pacific Time
ZOOM Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89989680789
Please feel free to reach out with questions or insights. Please also feel free to forward this post and invite others to join the sangha. You may find more reflections, poetry, art at sanghaofthepandemic.org . If you would like to comment or offer feedback and insight you may do so in the comment section on the website or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have questions about meditation practice, or would like to have a conversation about the practice or anything else, you can check in with William by making an appointment. Go to “Check In Appts.”