Writing Inquiry – How is Mind Unobstructed?

Posted by | December 10, 2007 | Blog | 4 Comments

My first writing inquiry was inspired by a quote a ran across in my continued reading of Reggie Ray’s book, Secret of the Vajra World.

Thrangu Rinpoche writes:

Although the essence of Mahamudra is non-existent, at the same time its manifestation is completely unobstructed. For instance, we can say our mind is empty because when we look for it, it is nowhere to be found. However, when we don’t look, it manifests everything. It is completely unobstructed in its nature.

What does this mean? How is the mind completely unobstructed?

“The essence of Mahamudra is non-existent” is the realization of the emptiness of phenomena. All phenomena are empty of existence, empty of self, and so they leave no trace. The minds nature is to manifest. When there is a preference towards emptiness mind’s manifestation is a problem—something to be overcome. This is the subtle reference point of emptiness as self. Reality is as it is—the need to control is extra. There isn’t a problem.

I found this inquiry extremely useful. When I ran across Thrangu Rinpoche’s quote, I felt like he was pointing to the non-dual in a profound way that seemed somewhat mysterious to me. The emptiness part didn’t so much, as lately there has been a continual access to the recognition of emptiness, but the statement about the mind being completely unobstructed was puzzling. Going into the question revealed new depths of identification and holding, especially with regards to being the empty or causal self.

About Vincent Horn

Vincent Horn is a mind hacker & buddhist geek. He has been practicing Buddhist meditation intensively since his freshman year in college–including a year on intensive silent retreats–and began teaching in 2010 with the support of his own teachers, Kenneth Folk and Daniel Ingram. In addition Vincent co-founded the popular media company Buddhist Geeks in 2006. His work focuses on the fusion of nascent technology and contemplative wisdom, and has been featured on the pages of Wired, Fast Company, Tricycle, and the Los Angeles Times. Along with his wife Emily, he makes his home in Asheville, North Carolina—that is until the distinction between atoms and bits dissolves completely.


  • Loden Jinpa says:

    >All phenomena are empty of existence…The minds nature is to manifest.
    How can something that is empty of existence – does not exist – have a nature?
    And therefore manifest anything. If something is non-existent how can it have a nature. It does not exist!

    Although I know the answer, I’d be interested in hearing your explanation :)

  • Vince says:

    Hi Loden,

    Thanks for the question. I guess I was making a distinction between phenomena and Mind in some way. I’m not really sure what it was, cause that was sort of how the inquiry process happened, just that the sentence and some sort of “ah ha” into what the sentence was pointing to kind of just popped in as I was writing. I really wasn’t paying a bunch of attention to the words, and so I feel like there’s a good possibility that in trying to answer your question it might come down to a question of Buddhist semantics, which I’m neither that well versed in or that interested in. I’m also not well-versed in the whole Madhyamaka approach, so it’s quite likely when I say Mind, emptiness, and phenomena they are linked more directly to the approaches, teachers, and experiences (and non-experiences) that I’ve associated with those words. So with that I’m afraid my answer wouldn’t be all that helpful, although there is something to your question that I appreciate and will definitely ponder.

    In fact, I think your question about Mind, which ties in with this question I want to explore, “What is Mind?” is probably a good one to add to my list to explore with this process.



  • Loden Jinpa says:

    I would say that mind if not ‘non-existent’ but rather ‘does not inherently exist’ and because of this very fact it is unobstructed by nature. It is this factor that allows the mind to manifest. If it existed inherently it could be anything…couldn’t change, improve over time etc.

    >I want to explore, “What is Mind?”
    when you work it out let ME know ;) hehe

  • Vince says:

    Thanks Loden,

    I appreciate your perspective. I’d also mention that this is the type of semantics I want to avoid when talking about these subjects. I clearly didn’t say that phenomena are non-existent (how would that be possible?), just that they are empty of existence, and what I was pointing to was emptiness of self-existence (not existence itself). The phrasing wasn’t extremely accurate, but that really isn’t the point of the writing inquiry and so I am not aiming for things to be phrased perfectly. What I’m aiming for is realization, pure and simple. What I said about the emptiness of phenomena is quite clear to me, both theoretically and more importantly on an experiential, moment-to-moment, always on, basis.



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