Mind and Its World I and II are the first two courses in Nitartha’s curriculum, and several more will be offered at this year’s Summer Institute in July. The topics are incredible. Don’t miss out! Register for the 2022 Nitartha Summer Institute here: https://bit.ly/si22mind

Mind and Its World I: Valid Cognition

This course explores the question: How do you obtain accurate and valid knowledge about the world? That’s the subject of Pramana, or Buddhist epistemology. We typically assume that what we know about the world is valid. But is it? Our mind processes and responds so quickly to what’s happening around us that we normally don’t realize when we are having a conceptual experience that is not actually in agreement with the object we are experiencing.

In this course, we will learn to distinguish between what our mind tells us versus the way things are. We start to see that there is a difference between our conceptual understanding of a thing and our direct experience of it. In fact, when we study Pramana, we discover that nearly all our experiences are conceptual, and that conceptuality is a rather fuzzy representation of the way things are.

What is it that is having these experiences? We can call it mind, consciousness or awareness. In Pramana those are all equivalents. But we can further differentiate between a conceptual mind, a non-conceptual mind, a valid mind and a non-valid mind.

What makes a mind or cognition valid? What makes it non-valid? To answer these questions, we delve into the definitions of mind, consciousness, and awareness, and of valid and non-valid cognition. We explore how valid cognition can be ascertained either directly through our senses, or inferentially through valid concepts. That’s right, in Pramana, not all concepts are non-valid!

In Pramana, the task of the dharma practitioner is first to differentiate between valid and non-valid cognition, and then to clarify whether a valid cognition is direct or inferential. That’s the path, in other words, direct valid cognition is even more valid than inferential valid cognition. For example, consider the difference between thinking about chocolate and eating it. Inference is good, but experiencing it through direct valid cognition is delicious!

In addition to exploring how mind cognizes, this course also breaks down the types of objects that our mind experiences. We have things and non-things, objects, existents and non-existents, conditioned phenomena and non-conditioned phenomena. We discover how to classify everything under the sun… and then some.

Classifying what our mind experiences is not just an intellectual exercise. It is essential for understanding your own mind and perceiving your world more clearly. And once we understand just how much of what we experience is our own mental projection, then we can start to question our reactions, and perhaps begin to change them.

Mind and Its World I is followed by Mind and Its World II — Modes of Engagement and Mental Events, which will also be taught at this year’s Summer Institute. These two courses are offered as Study Level 1, and is included in the Summer Institute tuition. All 27 classes will be recorded for those unable attend live, and will be available for two months after the Summer Institute ends.

Join us at this year’s Summer Institute to discover more about the intent of the Buddha as well as Mahamudra teachings given by Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche!