Difference between awareness and mindfulness?

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Difference between awareness and mindfulness?

Postby himalayanspirit » Wed Apr 25, 2012 6:06 pm

These two terms have always been quite confusing to me, so much so I that i believe these aren't really distinct things.

Mindfulness and 'pure awareness' seem to be complimentary to each other. If you have "pure awareness" then the mind doesn't settle on any thing (it doesn't grasp anything ) but just makes the six senses be completely functional without any thoughts about anything.

Is my understanding of "pure awareness" correct?

And what exactly is mindfulness? Shouldn't we rather strive to not keep our mind "full" of things and strive for "pure awareness" instead? Emptying the mind of thoughts? And where does the mind settle in this ideal state of "mindfulness" ? Is it the four stations of mindfulness on which the mind should constantly be settled?

Thanks!
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Re: Difference between awareness and mindfulness?

Postby Sarva » Wed Apr 25, 2012 6:09 pm

Hello
This article helped me to better understand these two terms:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... cmind.html

To quote: "mindfulness means being able to remember where you want to keep your awareness".

It may not answers all your quesitons, for example, I am still curious if thoughts stop with the "cessation of consciousness"?
:anjali:
“Both formerly & now, it is only stress that I describe, and the cessation of stress.” — SN 22:86
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Re: Difference between awareness and mindfulness?

Postby daverupa » Wed Apr 25, 2012 8:52 pm

Colloquial English usage of the term 'mindfulness' tends to encompass some aspects of the denotative realm of sampajañña(/awareness) alongside the denotative realm of mindfulness qua sati, which can be a source of confusion.

Ven. Ñānavīra wrote:The Pali for 'awareness' (as you are no doubt aware) is sampajañña. In the Suttas it is frequently linked with 'mindfulness' or sati, in the compound sati-sampajañña, 'mindfulness-and-awareness'. In the Satipatthāna Sutta awareness (of bodily actions) is included in the section on mindfulness of the body, so we can perhaps conclude that, while it is not different from mindfulness, awareness is rather more specialized in meaning. Mindfulness is general recollectedness, not being scatter-brained; whereas awareness is more precisely keeping oneself under constant observation, not letting one's actions (or thoughts, or feelings, etc.) pass unnoticed.

Here, to begin with, are three Sutta passages to indicate the scope of the practice of awareness in the Buddha's Teaching...
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Difference between awareness and mindfulness?

Postby kirk5a » Thu Apr 26, 2012 5:05 am

himalayanspirit wrote:These two terms have always been quite confusing to me, so much so I that i believe these aren't really distinct things.

Mindfulness and 'pure awareness' seem to be complimentary to each other. If you have "pure awareness" then the mind doesn't settle on any thing (it doesn't grasp anything ) but just makes the six senses be completely functional without any thoughts about anything.

Is my understanding of "pure awareness" correct?

And what exactly is mindfulness? Shouldn't we rather strive to not keep our mind "full" of things and strive for "pure awareness" instead? Emptying the mind of thoughts? And where does the mind settle in this ideal state of "mindfulness" ? Is it the four stations of mindfulness on which the mind should constantly be settled?

Thanks!

Can you say where you are getting the term "pure awareness" from, specifically? It might help to see the context this appears.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: Difference between awareness and mindfulness?

Postby himalayanspirit » Thu Apr 26, 2012 6:19 pm

kirk5a wrote:
himalayanspirit wrote:These two terms have always been quite confusing to me, so much so I that i believe these aren't really distinct things.

Mindfulness and 'pure awareness' seem to be complimentary to each other. If you have "pure awareness" then the mind doesn't settle on any thing (it doesn't grasp anything ) but just makes the six senses be completely functional without any thoughts about anything.

Is my understanding of "pure awareness" correct?

And what exactly is mindfulness? Shouldn't we rather strive to not keep our mind "full" of things and strive for "pure awareness" instead? Emptying the mind of thoughts? And where does the mind settle in this ideal state of "mindfulness" ? Is it the four stations of mindfulness on which the mind should constantly be settled?

Thanks!

Can you say where you are getting the term "pure awareness" from, specifically? It might help to see the context this appears.



I was attracted to Buddhism since as far back in my early childhood as I can remember. Initially I took great interest in Mahayana, especially the Chinese Chan schools, and this is where I came across terms like "pure awareness". They describe it as a radiating light outwards. There is just awareness of things, no judgment or discrimination however. So I was wondering about the contradiction between having a no-mind, as in Zen/Chan, and having mindfulness, as in Nikaya Buddhism. Could you resolve it for me? Which one should I strive for or are they both the same?

Thanks.
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Re: Difference between awareness and mindfulness?

Postby kirk5a » Thu Apr 26, 2012 7:03 pm

himalayanspirit wrote:I was attracted to Buddhism since as far back in my early childhood as I can remember. Initially I took great interest in Mahayana, especially the Chinese Chan schools, and this is where I came across terms like "pure awareness". They describe it as a radiating light outwards. There is just awareness of things, no judgment or discrimination however. So I was wondering about the contradiction between having a no-mind, as in Zen/Chan, and having mindfulness, as in Nikaya Buddhism. Could you resolve it for me? Which one should I strive for or are they both the same?

Ok, thanks that helps. Trying to cross reference terminology and practices between Zen/Chan and Nikaya Buddhism is a tricky business. Some say it's best to deal with the terminology within its respective context - to work with the understanding as it is presented in that context. I think that's probably a good idea. However I also like to know where a teaching can be "traced back to the suttas," whether that's something a Theravada teacher says or a Zen teacher.

So maybe the thing to do is develop a solid experiential understanding of whatever is being taught as "pure awareness" - on it's own terms. And then study what is meant by "sati-sampajañña" - which has become translated as "mindfulness" but really it's worth taking a more careful look at what is meant by that.

Then you'll be in a position to compare/contrast for yourself.

Have a look at this video by Ajahn Jayasaro - I found it quite helpful in that regard.

"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: Difference between awareness and mindfulness?

Postby Goofaholix » Thu Apr 26, 2012 7:58 pm

himalayanspirit wrote:this is where I came across terms like "pure awareness". They describe it as a radiating light outwards. There is just awareness of things, no judgment or discrimination however. So I was wondering about the contradiction between having a no-mind, as in Zen/Chan, and having mindfulness, as in Nikaya Buddhism. Could you resolve it for me? Which one should I strive for or are they both the same?


One of my teachers talks about Awareness being a field through which objects pass through, or arise and pass away within, one merely needs to be open and receptive to whatever is passing through your field of awareness.

I think this is likely what your Zen teachers are referring to as "pure awareness" and "radiating light outwards" however i find these phrases unhelpful as I think it creates the idea of something spiritual for something which is just a natural faculty of mind.

As has been pointed out previously mindfulness means remembering however in it's modern usage it usually means an active engagemenmt with experience in allowing the attention to move from object to object.

On one level Awareness and mindfulness are synonyms but I believe mostly when people choose the word Awareness instead of Mindfulness they are talking about a passive, open, receptive quality. Wheras mindfulness implies actively moving from object to object Awareness is an passive, open, expansive receptivity.

Where it gets confusing is tying these ideas to pali words.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: Difference between awareness and mindfulness?

Postby Aloka » Thu Apr 26, 2012 9:02 pm

I believe mostly when people choose the word Awareness instead of Mindfulness they are talking about a passive, open, receptive quality. Wheras mindfulness implies actively moving from object to object Awareness is an passive, open, expansive receptivity


I think that 'awareness' as well as being receptive might perhaps also have an intuitive non-conceptual quality of knowing/understanding.
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Re: Difference between awareness and mindfulness?

Postby Goofaholix » Thu Apr 26, 2012 9:08 pm

Aloka wrote:I think that 'awareness' as well as being receptive might perhaps also have an intuitive non-conceptual quality of knowing/understanding.


Yes, as does Mindfulness the way the word is normally used.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: Difference between awareness and mindfulness?

Postby Alex123 » Fri Apr 27, 2012 1:53 am

himalayanspirit wrote:I was attracted to Buddhism since as far back in my early childhood as I can remember. Initially I took great interest in Mahayana, especially the Chinese Chan schools, and this is where I came across terms like "pure awareness". They describe it as a radiating light outwards. There is just awareness of things, no judgment or discrimination however. So I was wondering about the contradiction between having a no-mind, as in Zen/Chan, and having mindfulness, as in Nikaya Buddhism. Could you resolve it for me? Which one should I strive for or are they both the same?
Thanks.


From what I've read, "no mind" or "no thought" is term which means that one should not add thoughts to what is there. This is similar to bare awareness where you observe things without judging and interpreting them.
    "Instead, Huineng stresses the perspective of “no-thought” (wu nian), an open, non-conceptual state of mind that allows one to experience reality directly, as it truly is. " http://www.iep.utm.edu/huineng/#SSH4aiii

As for radiating light outward:
    "Luminous, monks, is the mind.[1] And it is defiled by incoming defilements." {I,v,9} AN1.49
”Even the water melting from the snow-capped peaks finds its way to the ocean."
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