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Mind Reactive and Creative

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by Sangharakshita

... words it doesn't function spontaneously. It doesn't function, it doesn't work, it doesn't operate or manifest out of its own inner fullness. It doesn't as it were burst forth. It requires some external stimulus, some provocation as it were, to set it going, to set it in motion. And usually, for most of us, this stimulation, this provocation, comes in one way or another through the five senses. Just Lecture 31: Mind - Reactive and Creative Page 2 imagine or just recollect, you are walking along the road, just idly, for the most part perhaps unawarely, just walking along, and you happen to look around, and your eye catches a very vividly coloured and attractively phrased advertisement. So at once what happens? - your mind is captured by this, and you react. You don't know most of the time what you are doing. You're not aware of what is happening. And a reaction arises, usually one of greed or interest, craving, something of this sort, depending on what you've seen with, or through, the eye, the organ of sight. So we can therefore say that the reactive mind, because it is reactive, is a conditioned mind. It's conditioned by its object. We see the advertisement, then automatically the craving arises. It doesn't come, as it were, from within spontaneously. Even that would be something, but it's prompted, it's activated, stimulated, from without. It's conditioned by its object. So the conditioned mind is not free. It's another very important characteristic of the reactive mind. The reactive mind is not free. We are not free so long as we merely re-act instead of just acting.

And because the reactive mind is conditioned in this way, conditioned by its object or a series of objects, the reactive mind is also, we may say, a mechanical mind. Sometimes I describe it therefore as the `penny-in-the-slot' type of mind. That is to say you insert the coin in the machine, in the slot, and out comes a package of peanuts or cigarettes or whatever it may be. So most of our so-called thinking is of this type. There's a stimulus from outside in one way or another. A penny is put in the slot and we respond, we react, and most of our thinking, our so-called thinking, is of this reactive type. For instance, suppose you take this question of politics, suppose you belong to a certain party, well, obviously the party has conditioned you to think it its own way. So you open your favourite morning newspaper, if that's the newspaper which is somehow connected with your party and reflects its views, well, as soon as you open it you react favourably, without thinking. If it's of another type; if it's connected with some other political viewpoint, you react unfavourably. It's just a re-action. The penny is put in the slot: out comes the package, out pops the package. This is what happens most of the time. We're conditioned in this way and react in this way. We very rarely think for ourselves. Most of our thinking, practically all our thinking, is re-active thinking. Not just, as it were, inspired by something from without, taking it as a point of departure, but fully and totally determined by the impact of external sensations, stimuli, perceptions, even ideas, and so on. So it's a terrifying, it's a staggering thought, that we may even say that in the course of our whole life, sometimes we have not a thought which is really ours. Nothing which we really originated from within. Nothing to which we have really spontaneously given birth from the depths of our own being. Every idea, every thought, even our so-called ideologies, even our so-called religion; it all comes, as it were, from without. And our so-called religiosity, very often, is just a reaction - a religious type of reaction admittedly - to external stimuli but still a reaction, and still, therefore, of the conditioned mind, the relative mind.

So this is what happens to most of us most of the time, if not all the time. There's an absolute paucity in most of us of original thought on any subject whatsoever. Of course we know some people try to be original and they think that originality consists in being different from other people, but real originality consists in producing something out of one's own inner resources. It doesn't matter whether it coincides with what somebody else produced fifty or a hundred or a thousand years ago, that's quite irrelevant. If we produce it from our own inner resources, it's spontaneous and it is original. But some people, as I have said, try to be different, but this is only another kind of reaction, only another kind of conditionedness. If you try to be different, as when you try not to react, this is itself reactive. So it can be a subtle form of conditionedness, because still determined by the object. You are determined by the object or conditioned by the object from which you are trying to be different. So you are still re-acting - you have your eye on the object - you are not really acting out of your own inner fullness, your own inner depth.

Now the reactive mind is also a repetitive mind. The reactive mind tends to do the same thing over and over and over again. That's another reason why it's like a machine. It gets the same stimuli - the same old newspaper open, the same weather or whatever it may be - and it reacts in the same way. And in this way the whole of life becomes a matter of a sort of routine. You just go on mechanically functioning, just like a machine; chug, chug, chug, chugging away, and this is one's life, and if we're not careful we see that a very tragic thing happens, and that is that even our religious life becomes incorporated in the routine, becomes part of the machine. We get into a sort of religious habit, and there's just the same reactive mind functioning, but a portion of it or a particular part of its functioning is labelled `religious'.

We can see this happening when our life, when our activities, fall into too set, too rigid, patterns. As I said the other evening, some people think like this, `Monday I go to the cinema, Tuesday I go and have lunch with my Grandmother and Wednesday I go to the meditation class.' And this is how it goes on.

It becomes incorporated into the routine, and you feel sometimes uneasy if you haven't fulfilled that little bit of your routine. It's just become a pattern, just become a habit. It hasn't become anything real and living, which you do, as it were, afresh each time. So with all our religious activities, our religious life, we have to be careful that they don't become part of the pattern, they don't become part of the routine, and this is of course a great danger to all of us who are trying to fit in a lot of activities, even religious Lecture 31: Mind - Reactive and Creative Page 3 activities, into a very small and very narrow timetable. We tend to try to regularise and do this on that day and something else on another day and yet something else on a third day; but in this way it all becomes incorporated into a pattern, into a mechanical machine-like sort of repetition. And it becomes in this way, as I've said, re-active. But I'll have more to say about this danger perhaps a little later on.

But above all characteristics of the reactive mind, it must be said that the reactive mind is the unaware mind. This is perhaps its most important characteristic from our point of view. Most people, most of the time, are unaware. That is to say most people, most of the time, are really asleep. This might surprise, this might even astound you to be told that you are asleep, but actually this is what is happening. I won't go so far as to say that you're dead - some people do even go as far as that - but certainly all asleep. In a sleep you come here, in a sleep you sit here, in a sleep you listen to the lecture, in a sleep, even, you meditate, but it's all sleep, because awareness - full, pure, bright awareness, is not there. So we have to start with this truth, with this realisation, that most of the time we are in fact asleep. And if you're at all spiritually perceptive, if you're at all aware yourself, if you look round at other people, you can see that they are asleep. Their eyes may not be closed, they may be talking, may be laughing, may be playing, may be doing all sorts of things, but they're doing it, as it were, somnambulistically. They are like puppets, as it were pulled and jerked by strings. They're not really aware, so they're not really alive, they're not awake.

So it's with the awareness, we may say, that we are not aware that the spiritual life begins. When we become aware of how conditioned we are, how reactive our minds are, how we're just like tiny puppets jerked all the time by these strings and wires; how we've no freedom, how we don't originate anything freely, spontaneously, creatively, when we've become aware of our own reactive nature, aware of our own unawareness, as I've said, then there is the beginning of the spiritual mind.

Then we may say not only spiritual life but even human life begins. One is not really human until one has at least a modicum, at least a seed, at least a shoot, of awareness. It's that which really differentiates us from the animals. We may be well fed, we may be well clothed, we may watch the television set every night, but if we don't have awareness, then we're not really human after all.

So these are the characteristics, or some of the more important characteristics of the reactive mind. Now we come on to the creative mind. What are the characteristics of this creative mind? The characteristics of the creative mind are obviously opposite to those of the reactive mind. The creative mind does not merely react. The creative mind is, as it were, active on its own account. The motive power, the force, the drive, the inspiration, as it were, of the creative mind, comes from the depths within the mind itself.

Not just from external stimuli. ...

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