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Big Mind / Small Mind

To help us understand that we are not what we are thinking, Buddhist teachings make a distinction between what is called Big Mind, or Natural Mind, and "small mind," or ordinary, deluded mind. Small mind, or deluded mind, is the buzzing, unpredictable, frequently out-of-control ordinary mind.

This is our finite mind, our limited conceptual mind; our ordinary, rational, discursive, thinking mind. The deluded mind has so many impulses and needs; it wants so many things. It's frequently confused; it's subject to mood swings; it's restless. It gets angry; it gets depressed; it becomes hyper.

Some ancient traditional texts refer to this small mind as "monkey mind," where it is pictured as an untamed mustang or an adorable but chaotic little monkey jumping from tree to tree, looking for satisfaction in all the wrong places.

What is meant by Big Mind is the essential nature of mind itself. This is what we call Buddha-nature, or natural mind. This is our true nature - the pure boundless awareness that is at the heart, and part, of us all. The Buddha described it as still, clear, lucid, empty, profound, simple (uncomplicated), and at peace.

It's not really what we usually think of as our mind at all. It is the luminous, most fundamental clear light nature of our ground of being. This is Rigpa, the heart of enlightenment. This is our share of nirvana here on earth.

Dzogchen teaches that all we have to do to become enlightened is to recognize and rest in this natural state of mind. In Zen they call this original mind. This is raw, naked awareness, not something we've learned or fabricated.

This is the Buddha within - the perfect presence that we can all rely on. Waking up to this natural mind, this Buddha-nature, is what meditation is all about.

- Awakening The Buddha Within by Lama Surya Das


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