Knowing that the mind’s afflictions are overcome through penetrating insight [clear seeing] suffused with stable calm, you should first seek the peace of calm abiding, which is found in joy and non-attachment for the world. Santideva
Yogis are famous for quoting the benefits of practising and living from a state of clear seeing and calm abiding, but in practical terms what do these two conditions really mean? On the surface, these terms are simple enough for us to understand their intent. Clear seeing reflects the awareness or special insight of wisdom or right action. Calm abiding registers the tranquillity that emerges from a mind capable of silence and concentration.
However, when we penetrate the surface and dig deeper into clear seeing and calm abiding, we discover greater challenges buried within both. As Santideva alerts us, when seeking wisdom or truth, it is necessary to have a stable mind. For example, if we are looking through eyes of fear, insecurity, anxiety or depression, what we see is different than if we are looking through eyes of love, confidence, calm and joy. In the fearful conditions, distraction and misperception inhibit our ability to see clearly. Our inner world is chaotic with self-doubt and confusion. It is only when we can view conditions from a place of peaceful calm that we access the special insight needed to see the truth of reality.
Without the attainment of calm abiding, special insight will not occur. Therefore make repeated effort to accomplish calm abiding. Atisha Dipamkara
To understand these concepts more clearly, I’ll describe a recent situation as told to me by a friend. At my friend’s extended family supper, two of his elder male relatives made several homophobic remarks. My friend countered the prejudicial statements with factual data. As a result of his opposition and the other men’s further retorts, the elder female relatives felt uncomfortable and wanted to change the subject of the conversation. Amidst this turmoil, and just prior to the conversation coming to an end, one of the elder males commented, “I’m old,” which my friend took as recognition of not clear seeing.
I shared this brief anecdote because it beautifully illustrates what Santideva and Atisha wrote. Simply, if the elder males and females had looked to (been aware of) their inner experience when the homophobic statements were made, they would have felt their inner discomfort. Where there is inner discomfort, there is confusion and not clear seeing, thus, no truth or wisdom.
Clear seeing + calm abiding = truth is a formula for both understanding what is driving our behaviour and then transforming the behaviour that no longer serves our wellbeing. In essence, if you want to know your truth, take your awareness to your inner experience. If you are not calm inside, then an inner war is ensuing, which reflects confusion and uncertainty, not confidence and clear seeing. If you are calm inside, then no inner battle is taking place between truth and delusion.
If you find yourself doubting what you just read, then I encourage you to test out its validity. The next time you think you are speaking the truth, check out your inner experience. Are you calm and peaceful or are you uncomfortable in some way? If discomfort exists, ask yourself, “What is the source of this discomfort?” Listen for your answer.
From my own experience, clear seeing follows calm abiding, and in concert, they demonstrate integration. From a psychological perspective, integration is the process by which a well-balanced psyche becomes whole, and the state which results or which treatment seeks to create by countering the fragmenting effect of defence mechanisms.
Clear seeing and calm abiding, that is truth, emerges when our whole person is present to the experience. Clear seeing does not imply that you won’t feel insecure or anxious. It just means you will recognize when you are feeling that way, and you can correct yourself from taking the anxiety path rather than the authenticity path.