There are many layers to self-deception.
The more you practice and investigate things, the less you feel like claiming to know. Instead, you’ll simply see the harm of your own many-faceted ignorance and foolishness. Your examination of the viruses in the mind gets more and more subtle. Before, you didn’t know, so you took your views to be knowledge — because you thought you knew.
But actually these things aren’t real knowledge. They’re the type of understanding that comes from labels. Still we think they’re knowledge and we think we know. This in itself is a very intricate self-deception.
So you have to keep watch on these things, to keep contemplating them. Sometimes they fool us right before our eyes: That’s when it really gets bad, because we don’t know that we’ve got ourselves fooled, and instead think we’re people who know. We can deal thoroughly with this or that topic, but our knowledge is simply the memory of labels. We think that labels are discernment, or thought-formations are discernment, or the awareness of sensory consciousness is discernment, and so we get these things all mixed up.
As a result, we become enamored with all the bits of knowledge that slip in and fashion the mind — which are simply the illusions within awareness. As for genuine awareness, there’s very little of it, while deceptive awareness has us surrounded on all sides.
We thus have to contemplate and investigate so as to see through these illusions in awareness. This is what will enable us to read the mind. If your awareness goes out, don’t follow it out. Stop and turn inward instead. Whatever slips in to fashion the mind, you have to be wise to it. You can’t forbid it, for it’s something natural, and you shouldn’t try to close off the mind too much.
Simply keep watch on awareness to see how far it will go, how true or false it is, how it disbands and then arises again. You have to watch it over and over again. Simply watching in this way will enable you to read yourself, to know cause and effect within yourself, and to contemplate yourself.
This is what will make your mindfulness and discernment more and more skillful. If you don’t practice in this way, the mind will be dark. It may get a little empty, a little still, and you’ll decide that’s plenty good enough.
This reflection by Upāsikā Kee Nanayon is from “Reading the Mind,” by Upāsikā Kee Nanayon, translated from the Thai by Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (Access to Insight (BCBS Edition), 30 November 2013.