Being an ex-IT guy, I obviously was positively surprised to find the term "automation" when I learned to meditate. After all, I had worked on the automation of various processes for 30 years.
For example, in my first and so far only meditation retreat with the late Daniel P Brown I learned that there is such a thing as "automatic emptiness". I am going to explain it here.
(Sorry for the graphic. I had no better idea how to represent "automatic" "emptiness". So I overlaid an automatic gearshift on the idea of black emptiness.)
Bing doesn´t know about meditation automation - but Bing is wrong
So, before updating this blog post, I checked out with the Bing Chatbot what it will find about "automation" or "automatic" in Buddhist meditation.
I tried a variety of prompts, from simple to complex, but there is nothing in sight of Bing. Instead, it teaches me that meditation is about mindfulness, not automation.
Bing Chat Replay 2023.04.14
What is the meaning of automation in meditation?
I’m sorry, but I couldn’t find any specific information about automation in meditation. 😊
Are there meditation practices in buddhist meditation where the buddhist literature mentions "automatic" or "automation"?
I’m sorry, but I couldn’t find any specific mentions of “automatic” or “automation” in Buddhist meditation practices. Buddhist meditation practices focus on mindfulness and awareness rather than automation. 😊
However, this is not quite true. For example, there are number of mentionings in the fundamental "Moonbeams of Mahamudra" (Namgyal, 2019)
When the essence of mind is realized to be emptiness, the essence of appearances will automatically be realized to be emptiness .
So, I still have a job in explaining the concept, despite Bing.
What is automation in meditation?
So, in meditation, what does automatic emptiness mean? Which process is automatic, and what (apparently) is automatically transformed into emptiness?
The two terms mean this:
Emptiness: in Mahamudra, this term does not denote nothingness or absence of something. It means that something is "empty of self-nature". This signifies, that whatever appears in consciousness is a fabrication, a construct by the mind itself. It has no independent existence as a self-standing object of perception, whether outer or inner.
Automatic: this term refers to the meditation activity. As soon as a mental event (a thought, an emotion, a sensation) arises and is seen by the "watcher", it it recognized or "noticed" as a fabrication, a construct - as empty. For the experienced meditator, this is no longer an effort - hence it has become automatic, or self-driven.
Automatic emptiness therefore means that without any effort, the trained meditator immediately (ie at the moment when they arise in awareness) recognises all mental events. And they recognise it as insubstantial, as empty.
And that is a good thing, because this recognition is liberating: in simple terms, one doesn´t have to take everything so serious any more.
In terms of Western psychology, the automatic reaction to "triggers" can come under control, since now, one has time to "think before reacting".
This term is related to a few other concepts:
Sealing: In Tibetan Mahamudra, this term denotes the idea that as soon as a mental event occurs, it is "sealed" with the seal of consciousness, with the knowledge that it is empty. Sealing is a practice where one tries to recognise any mental event as close to its source as possible. An equivalent term is "nailing".
Self-liberation: the idea that a thought as soon as it becomes object of awareness "dissolves" (in concentration meditation), or that the thought is seen as "irrelevant" (in insight meditation), as it is just another manifestation of mind. Both types of self-liberation of thought are good for equanimity.
Mind Only : It is related to the Mind Only concept in Buddhism (and, in a scientific form, in modern contemplative science). This is just another expression for the idea that "everything is made of consciousness". An example for the modern version is Donald Hoffmann's book "The Case Against Reality".
"It´s just a thought"
Chandaria (2022) depicts this process of reversed fabrication like this:
Shamil Chandaria. (2022, October 30). The Bayesian Brain and Meditation [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eg3cQXf4zSE
Gebel, T. (2022i, August 11). Sealing and nailing in Mahamudra - and emotional triggers in Western psychology. Till Gebel. https://www.till-gebel.com/post/emotional-triggers-and-meditative-sealing-nailing
Gebel, T. (2022k, August 29). Sam Harris’ Daily Meditations: Self arising / Self liberation. Till Gebel. https://www.till-gebel.com/post/sam-harris-daily-meditation-2022-08-26-automatic-self-liberation
Gebel, T. (2021h, September 5). Pattern recognition in reverse: Emptiness through drawing, meditation, psychedelics. Till Gebel. https://www.till-gebel.com/post/meditation-pattern-recognition-in-reverse-how-to-have-a-taste-of-emptiness-fast
Namgyal, T. D. (2019). Moonbeams of Mahamudra (Tsadra). In E. Callahan (Trans.), No Title. Snow Lion. https://www.amazon.de/dp/1559394803/