Author Topic: A thought on awareness  (Read 3014 times)

Offline humanitas

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A thought on awareness
« on: November 27, 2009, 09:21:51 pm »
Quote from: Optimus Prime
One other point, the "awareness" itself is not necessarily yours either. It's not "my" awareness - it's not a personal thing either.

Something Optimus Prime (from Buddhist Community) wrote in a thread that has stuck with me for days.

My response was originally:

I like this point. This is a really interesting point to learn to relax in. In some ways it's like a relief when you think about it. This whole weight of awareness is not JUST your burden to bear in this mess of samsara. Awareness is awareness and we all share it. Who's to say what awareness is my own and what is yours? How is it divided? When we look for awareness like an object where is it to be found in man? One cannot see, touch, smell, taste, or touch, or hear yet one is always seeing, touching, smelling, tasting, and hearing as long as one can perceive, one can hold awareness. But holding is not the same as owning.

:meditating:

A whole motion of reflection has taken place in me in the last few days and today, after meditating a while, something occurred to me.  What if non-duality extends further and it's not just that there's no separation between me and other, like Bodhisattvas train and practice, but drilling down even further, there is no separation in all of awareness.  There are no multiple beings even, all manifestation is form and all form is manifestation of the awareness.  There are just multiple manifestations of the same awareness -- in every way the awareness can manifest it manifests -- like light bending through a prism, it's all from the same, but looks blue and pink to some, asura and deva to others, human and animal to others yet, etc?  Could the non-duality of samsara/nirvana extends to (all) awareness/form?  And could it be the very form within awareness that experiences samsara/nirvana, so that all sentient beings (sentient with this awareness) experience samsara/nirvana.  Right now it's experiencing samsara but at some point in existence it is experiencing nirvana, just our current experience is samsaric and not an experience of nirvana...  

Maybe too wild of a thought, even far-fetched, but definitely that feels like there's some weight to the question...
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Offline Monkey Mind

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Re: A thought on awareness
« Reply #1 on: November 27, 2009, 09:52:24 pm »
I am not typically a deep thinker, so I usually pursue these matters from a pragmatic viewpoint. When I meditate, I sometimes can feel "myself" as pulsating energy atoms, and I can feel that my energy is exchanging with the energies of the environment. Literally, little particles of energy that used to be "me" are zooming off and becoming part of the air, the ground, this chair I am sitting in, etc. And in return, I am absorbing energy atom particles into "me" from the air, the ground, the chair, etc.

So I wondered one day, "How far away from me do my [previously "me" atom particles] go, and from how far away do these [previously "not me" but "now me" particles] come from?" I became pretty convinced that everything I saw in the environment was either once or will someday be part of "me". Hmmm....

And then I heard an expert meditator speak about this subject, and how everything derives from a "big bang", so all material was once from the same source. This is where my head explodes...

Offline humanitas

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Re: A thought on awareness
« Reply #2 on: November 27, 2009, 10:01:34 pm »
What is interesting is the non-duality of the origin of matter and particles.  In a way it's like expressions of this thing we call "universe."  Awareness (would this be the primordial wisdom?) is to manifestation what emptiness is to form is what samsara is to nirvana?

Ok, maybe that's pushing it.  

But it is a pretty stunning realization, isn't it?


I'm SORELY missing:

Namdrol, Ven. Huifeng, Ven. Shi Hong Yang, Srimala, Dechen Norbu, caritas, Keith BC... does anyone know how to contact them and ask them if they'd like to honor us by joining this forum?
« Last Edit: November 28, 2009, 11:29:02 am by Ogyen Chodzom »
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Offline Dae Bi

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Re: A thought on awareness
« Reply #3 on: November 27, 2009, 11:56:36 pm »
When anyone has an idea in Zen about right/wrong, yes/no, You/me or even  form/void,   there comes to fore a typical saying,  "Not Two!"
There is also the point of the Bodhisatva vow on saving all before one saves themself.     But here is the paradox,   if one saves themself, then they are also saving all.
Ogyen Chodzom, it appears you may have had a big bang of your own.   
I am he as you are he and we are all together.
                                                                           The Beatles

First there is a mountain then there is no mountain,
then there is.
                       Donovan

m0rl0ck

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Re: A thought on awareness
« Reply #4 on: November 28, 2009, 12:03:20 am »
check the sig

Offline Optimus Prime

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Re: A thought on awareness
« Reply #5 on: November 28, 2009, 07:33:13 am »
OK, let's see what the Buddha had to say about this matter of form and emptiness, because Ananda actually had a debate about this with the Buddha.  So you hear about this in the Heart Sutra, but what does it mean?  The Buddha explained it in the Shurangama Sutra, Vol 3, p150:

Let's say you divide form/solid matter into the smallest units you can get - so small that they are at the boundaries of form (The Buddha called these "motes of dust bordering on emptiness").  They are so small that there's nothing smaller than them. 

The Buddha poses a hypothetical:

IF you could divide these motes of dust bordering on emptiness further, THEN they would actually become emptiness itself - there would be no appearance of form.

BUT if this were so, then the Buddha questioned the validity of this assumption by asking Ananda:
-  How much emptiness do you need to make up a mote of dust bordering on emptiness?  (Since it doesn't make any sense to say that a mote of dust bordering on emptiness is made up of another mote of dust bordering on emptiness, since they are already the smallest things you can break matter up into).
-  How many motes must you have to make emptiness?

The Buddha then gives the answer:
- “When these motes of form mass together - a mass of form does not make emptiness;
-  When emptiness is massed together - a mass of emptiness does not make form.
-  Besides, although form can be divided, how can emptiness be massed together?"

The Buddha concludes by saying:
“You simply do not know that in the treasury of the Thus Come One the nature of form is true emptiness, and the nature of emptiness is true form. Pure at its origin, it pervades the dharma-realm. It accords with living beings’ minds, in response to their capacity to know.  It is experienced to whatever extent is dictated by the law of karma. Ignorant of this fact, people in the world are so deluded as to assign its origin to causes and conditions or to spontaneity. These mistakes, which arise from the discriminations and reasoning processes of the conscious mind, are nothing but the play of empty words which have no real meaning."

Master Hsuan Hua's explanatory notes at this point say:
The Treasury of the Thus Come One is the true mind, the real appearance. You don’t know that if you investigate the question of emptiness and the motes of dust bordering upon emptiness to its primary source, you still won’t be able to resolve it. But the principle is found in the treasury of the Thus Come One: The nature of form is true emptiness, and the nature of emptiness is true form. At its ultimate point, the appearance of form is true emptiness; and at its ultimate point, the nature of emptiness has true form. Basically, it is not defiled, not pure, not produced, not extinguished, and it neither increases nor diminishes. Basically, it is unmoving. In its basic nature, pure at its origin, it pervades the dharma-realm with nothing in excess and nothing deficient.

Offline humanitas

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Re: A thought on awareness
« Reply #6 on: November 28, 2009, 10:37:23 am »
M0rl0ck,

I understand that.  To name something is to lose the experience of its essence.  I think that may be why there is so much focus in meditation to focus on the breath, it's an activity which "clears names" we put to things, thereby removing the imposition of our notions to then allow whatever it is to be experienced without names and notions.  That is a very powerful process. 

Optimus,

I tend to have a real philosophical edge, therefore I can really appreciate the discussion between the Buddha and Ananda on this.   The Buddha's words seem to convey that if we focus on emptiness and form as objects, in a logical sense the two ne'er shall twine.  By logic and words, there is no way to make them the same or part of each other, therefore even language conveys dual implications simply by defining the object as separate from other reality.  This is an interesting point because it illustrates the paradox that inevitably is contained at the schism point in any logical system.  But that's not what I find interesting, that's just a given -- all logical systems will reach a point where another truth/object conflicts with the system and therefore paradox is created.  What I find interesting is that the Buddha seems to be saying: "Hey, don't focus so much on the concepts, look at the experience of emptiness/form, they are not separate.  While we can logically separate emptiness and form, in the experience of emptiness/form we can't pull apart the emptiness out of the form and viceversa." 

So here is where I go a bit... quantum.  If we don't look at these as objects and we look at them as experiences of our perception the previous logic that hinged on object-based definitions now functions as an experience, thus emptiness and form cannot be separated...  It's the human element of experience/perception which extinguishes the dichotomy the logic creates.  This is what I find really interesting.
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overmyhead

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Re: A thought on awareness
« Reply #7 on: November 28, 2009, 01:48:42 pm »
I tend to think of human experience as that logical experience.  There is something decidedly non-human about rejecting dualism.

Is this a good time to bring up Schrödinger's cat?

Offline humanitas

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Re: A thought on awareness
« Reply #8 on: November 28, 2009, 03:03:56 pm »
I tend to think of human experience as that logical experience.  There is something decidedly non-human about rejecting dualism.

Is this a good time to bring up Schrödinger's cat?

Do you really think that? That's interesting.  I find the experience to be completely the opposite.  Rejecting dualism seems to put one in touch with such a primal state of awareness, that's the part that seems the most human to me. 

HAHA!  Actually, I was thinking more of Godel,Escher,Bach rather than Schrödinger's cat when I was thinking of logical meaning and experience of that meaning.

just because you asked... by me it's always a good time to bring up Schrödinger's cat...  :namaste:

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overmyhead

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Re: A thought on awareness
« Reply #9 on: November 28, 2009, 10:52:51 pm »
I'm playing with definitions really.  To me, to be human is to be like all those other things which call themselves human.  Rise above it, and yeah there's something much more intense, however not more "human".  For me, the word "human" has no special connotation, just a smart animal.

Schrödinger's cat:

When asking whether a cat is alive or dead, it is pretty clear that such questions depend on which logical category we place the cat in, since designations such as "alive" or "dead" are empty and they are inapplicable in an objective sense.  What is interesting is how to interpret quantum states.  For a while I was convinced that quantum states are similarly empty, and you need  something like a human to give the designations any meaning.  However I have just begun to question that conclusion.  I wonder if some sort of primal awareness (maybe the same awareness that the Dharma talks about) has an innate nature to grasp, cling, and attach to impermanence, and is not dependant on something like a human to foster this grasping, clinging, and attaching.  Possibly something that is far too small for even the most refined human mindfulness to observe directly.  Empty in a sense, but somehow valid even in the absence of human awareness.  As you can see I'm confused. :-P

Offline humanitas

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Re: A thought on awareness
« Reply #10 on: November 29, 2009, 01:17:47 am »
I'm playing with definitions really.  To me, to be human is to be like all those other things which call themselves human.  Rise above it, and yeah there's something much more intense, however not more "human".  For me, the word "human" has no special connotation, just a smart animal.

We were entering definition territory... slippery terrain.  I see what you mean by human and what I meant by human weren't quite coinciding, but I think we get what the other meant past the language and that's quite human too.  ;D

Quote
Schrödinger's cat:

When asking whether a cat is alive or dead, it is pretty clear that such questions depend on which logical category we place the cat in, since designations such as "alive" or "dead" are empty and they are inapplicable in an objective sense.  What is interesting is how to interpret quantum states.  For a while I was convinced that quantum states are similarly empty, and you need  something like a human to give the designations any meaning.  However I have just begun to question that conclusion.  I wonder if some sort of primal awareness (maybe the same awareness that the Dharma talks about) has an innate nature to grasp, cling, and attach to impermanence, and is not dependant on something like a human to foster this grasping, clinging, and attaching.  Possibly something that is far too small for even the most refined human mindfulness to observe directly.  Empty in a sense, but somehow valid even in the absence of human awareness.  As you can see I'm confused. :-P

Like you I went through a stage where I really thought, past the empty states one needs the "host" to attribute meaning.  And like you I came to question that as well and now I reject it somewhat, but not fully.   Do we know what the primal awareness spoken of in Buddhist dharma is composed of (at the compositional level)?  That question had me a bit stuck till I've made an interesting "leap of faith."  If the nature of perceiving is this primal awareness and the nature of human, animal, deity, etc is to grasp, cling and attach to impermanence, then why wouldn't its nature be that to seek comfort in craving and avoid discomfort through aversion maintaining an even (but steady and comfortable) ignorance that we can "kind of have our cake and eat it too" (and continue the cycle of samsara)...  So if we were able to look through the three poisons of samsara (craving, aversion, ignorance) like they were a veil, would the primal awareness (pre-form-human/animal/etc) be present even without "hosts" to take form and manifest as human, animal, etc?  That is a philosophical question I am not advanced enough to answer skillfully. 

It's something we'll have to study more and perhaps asked more advanced students of the Dharma.

One thing I would like to note in all this.  When I say emptiness, I've been having a new experience of emptiness that is not so much an absence as we perceive it in the English language but a spaciousness, an openness between objects, between manifest energy, between "laws" of nature.  That openness is something that in the Tibetan lineage we spend a lot of time investigating.  And lately I've been coming to a new place with it. 

I have to go, but I will add more later.  :)


I might be confused too, so take it all with a grain of salt.
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overmyhead

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Re: A thought on awareness
« Reply #11 on: November 29, 2009, 10:43:31 am »
I'm having trouble understanding your "leap of faith", do you think you could re-explain?

Also, I understand what you mean by emptiness, I have pretty good familiarity with the Dharma.

Offline humanitas

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Re: A thought on awareness
« Reply #12 on: November 29, 2009, 12:25:17 pm »
Apologies for being unclear.

The "leap of faith" was trusting that the following idea was true and believing what I'd formed an opinion about thus far which I went into in the following sentences

If the nature of perceiving is this primal awareness and the nature of human, animal, deity, etc is to grasp, cling and attach to impermanence, then why wouldn't its nature be that to seek comfort in craving and avoid discomfort through aversion maintaining an even (but steady and comfortable) ignorance that we can "kind of have our cake and eat it too" (and continue the cycle of samsara)...  So if we were able to look through the three poisons of samsara (craving, aversion, ignorance) like they were a veil, would the primal awareness (pre-form-human/animal/etc) be present even without "hosts" to take form and manifest as human, animal, etc?

I'm not sure if that still makes any sense.  But to experience that at the not-just-intellectual level but be in tune with the experiential level of it and be aware of the experience as it's happening, that was something that pushed me a little further to trust the process...

Something that might help you understand better is that I mostly tend towards not believing my own opinions.  I realize at all times (or as much as I remember to) that my opinions are formulations that emerge from my level of understanding of reality and are in no way necessarily truth or close to the truth.  Taking a leap of faith is believing that what my opinion is (at this point) is also true and not just my opinion.   I hope that clarifies where the leap of faith occurred.
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Offline Pema Rigdzin

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Re: A thought on awareness
« Reply #13 on: November 30, 2009, 01:31:24 am »
A whole motion of reflection has taken place in me in the last few days and today, after meditating a while, something occurred to me.  What if non-duality extends further and it's not just that there's no separation between me and other, like Bodhisattvas train and practice, but drilling down even further, there is no separation in all of awareness.  There are no multiple beings even, all manifestation is form and all form is manifestation of the awareness.  There are just multiple manifestations of the same awareness -- in every way the awareness can manifest it manifests -- like light bending through a prism, it's all from the same, but looks blue and pink to some, asura and deva to others, human and animal to others yet, etc?  Could the non-duality of samsara/nirvana extends to (all) awareness/form?  And could it be the very form within awareness that experiences samsara/nirvana, so that all sentient beings (sentient with this awareness) experience samsara/nirvana.  Right now it's experiencing samsara but at some point in existence it is experiencing nirvana, just our current experience is samsaric and not an experience of nirvana...  

Hey Daphne,

Traditionally, one of the refutations of the idea that there's just one all encompassing awareness and that all beings are manifestations of it is that if that were the case, then when one being realizes buddhahood, all beings would too. This is clearly not the case. There are buddhas and there are samsaric beings. The meaning of non-duality in Buddhism (which is a Mahayana concept) is that no phenomena - whether physical or mental - are beyond the 4 extremes. In other words, since due to being interdependently arisen and thus merely appearing, they cannot be said to be one OR many. When subjected to analysis, they cannot be said to (1) exist, (2) not exist, (3) both exist and not exist, or (4) neither exist or not exist. These four extreme views cover the entire scope of positions a person could hold, and they're all defeated by analysis aimed at the ultimate truth.

For another thought regarding awareness... the mere fact that it never stays the same from one minute to the next means that it's not one, single, static thing, and thus no single awareness can even be established for one being, let alone all beings.

Offline humanitas

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Re: A thought on awareness
« Reply #14 on: November 30, 2009, 11:30:30 am »
I was reading the Aggi-Vacchagotta Sutta: To Vacchagotta on Fire after I wrote the original post.  I don't think I was so much thinking of an awareness as one single "being" and in rereading what I wrote, I can see how it came across that way.  What I was thinking of is the phenomena of infinite awarenesses are sharing the "awake" "now" "here" thread that all awareness (appears to) share.  Not that the sharing makes one being, but the sharing connects all sentient beings together as if sharing something akin to the same blood and flesh, form, etc.  But it helps what you wrote to refine what I was thinking, that non-duality means no phenomena is beyond the analysis of the four extreme views. 

It makes most sense to say there are neither one or many.  Because there are elements shared by all sentient beings (feeling pain for example), and elements only shared by some and not others. 

As always, you've given me more to think about and meditate on.  Thank you.
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