This is my understanding:
the comparison of a mirror to the nature of mind is one which has been around for a while.
A mirror only assumes the appearance of whatever is reflected in it.
So, this is compared to the mind which has no color or shape of it own,
but is usually only experienced when thoughts occur.
Thoughts are the motion of the mind.
-How can here reflections be seen in a mirror?
When you look into a mirror, are you looking at the mirror -- or what is being reflected in the mirror, or both?
So, if you look at thoughts, you are looking at the mind and at what is reflected in the mind.
However, when thoughts are quieted, it isn't the experience of "no thought" compared with "a thought" .
it is just open space awareness.
If we say that thoughts arise in the mind, this is only partly accurate.
It is true in the relative sense. But it might be more accurate to say, "When the mind manifests as thought".
It's like when we say "the wind is blowing".
It sounds like there is something called "wind' which can either be blowing or not blowing.
But of course, if it isn't blowing, there it isn't wind. But there is space.
If we say, "the mind is thinking" it's the same way.
Without thoughts blowing around, there is no "thing' which is the mind, but there is space.
- Where do the reflections come from?
If you put a mirror into a dark room, it ceases to be (to function as) a mirror because there is no light to reflect. Yet, the causes of reflection, the quality of a smooth surface and metalic substance is still there, but they just aren't doing anything. But as soon as light hits it, the causes of reflection are instantly activated, and 'within' that mirror is the appearance of something.
Likewise, thought becomes the activity of mind when something activates the senses, or when we dream.
Then, thought arises with the characteristics of whatever that that event is.
If a firetruck roars by, thought takes the shape or sound of a firetruck. If it roars by while you are meditating, then mayne thought takes the shape of being startled, or of interruption.
But "thought" is the reflection, not the mirror.
There is not a lump of some "thing" which is "mind" simply waiting around in dark space until a light goes on or a fire truck roars by, like a sleeping dog that suddenly jumps up and starts barking when the doorbell rings.
In one sense, mind can only be compared with a mirror while thoughts are occurring.
However, the analogy of a mirror is also used to describe the clear and non-discriminating awareness of mind.
Otherwise, mind is just like space.
In India a while back, it was thought by some Buddhists, that perhaps the mind was a permanent thing like a soul or "atma" but this idea was refuted.
Profile Picture: "The Foaming Monk"
The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth. Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.