Reflecting on Awareness

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Reflecting on Awareness

Postby jackson » Fri May 07, 2010 4:30 pm

Hi everyone,
Let me start off by saying I hope this post makes sense, as it's getting into territory I'm rather inexperienced with. Anyway, I seem to recall hearing Ajahn Sumedho say that you can't see awareness (at least I think he said that), so what I'm wondering is if the mind takes awareness to be self then how does one go about uprooting that ignorance, and if you can't see the awareness then how can you reflect upon it in terms of the three characteristics of existence? And also is awareness considered the same as consciousness? Anyway, I look forward to your replies and thanks for your time!
Metta, :smile:
Jackson
"The heart of the path is quite easy. There’s no need to explain anything at length. Let go of love and hate and let things be. That’s all that I do in my own practice." - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Reflecting on Awareness

Postby Kenshou » Fri May 07, 2010 7:02 pm

I'll take a whack at it,

It's true that you can't "see" consciousness/awareness, but you can experience it. Whenever you are aware of anything, there it is.

When outside information meets one of our sense faculties, consciousness arises. Because of this, consciousness is what they call dependently originated, meaning that it arises and disappears when conditions are right. Understanding what causes consciousness to arise and pass away makes the discontinuity and impermanence of it apparent, and the other two characteristics logically follow.

Consciousness comes and goes, it's unstable and unreliable, there is no little man sitting between your eyes observing everything. Because it is unreliable, you know that clinging to it will only result in stress, and if it's unreliable and stressful, why identify with it?
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Re: Reflecting on Awareness

Postby Goofaholix » Fri May 07, 2010 8:31 pm

jackson wrote:Hi everyone,
Let me start off by saying I hope this post makes sense, as it's getting into territory I'm rather inexperienced with. Anyway, I seem to recall hearing Ajahn Sumedho say that you can't see awareness (at least I think he said that), so what I'm wondering is if the mind takes awareness to be self then how does one go about uprooting that ignorance, and if you can't see the awareness then how can you reflect upon it in terms of the three characteristics of existence? And also is awareness considered the same as consciousness? Anyway, I look forward to your replies and thanks for your time!
Metta, :smile:
Jackson


You can experience awareness, you can be aware that you are aware, you can be aware of how that awareness changes and fluctuates, and you can be aware that awareness is not self, there are meditation techniques that take awareness as the main object.

I think you've probably misunderstood what Ajahn Sumedho said as from what I've read/heard he encourages this kind of meditation, so if you can find the quote and post it we can take a look at it.

I can't say I can explain the correct definition of conciousness, I don't find the word used much by Theravadin teachers, I think it's more commonly used by Mahayana teachers but quite differently from the Pali definition.

Here are a couple of definitions I found on Wikipedia, some teachers prefer to use Awareness as a translation of sati instead of mindfulness as the word mindfulness brings up a lot of pre-conceived ideas in the meditators mind.

Conciousness: Viññāṇa refers to awareness through a specific internal sense base, that is, through the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body or mind. Thus, there are six sense-specific types of Viññāṇa. It is also the basis for personal continuity within and across lives.

Awareness: Sampajañña (Pāli; Skt.: samprajaña) means "clear comprehension,"[1] "clear knowing,"[2] "constant thorough understanding of impermanence,"[3] "fully alert"[4] or "full awareness,"[5] as well as "attention, consideration, discrimination, comprehension, circumspection."[6]
"Whenever we feel that we are definitely right, so much so that we refuse to open up to anything or anybody else, right there we are wrong. It becomes wrong view. When suffering arises, where does it arise from? The cause is wrong view, the fruit of that being suffering. If it was right view it wouldn't cause suffering." - Ajahn Chah
"Remember you dont meditate to get anything, but to get rid of things. We do it, not with desire, but with letting go. If you want anything, you wont find it." - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Reflecting on Awareness

Postby mikenz66 » Fri May 07, 2010 9:03 pm

Hi Goofaholix, Jackson,
Goofaholix wrote:I can't say I really know what the definition of conciousness is, I don't find the word used much by Theravadin teachers, I think it's more commonly used by Mahayana teachers.

When Theravada teachers use "consciousness" I assume they are talking about the khandha (aggregate) viññana, which is just a very basic "consciousness of" an object, without the extra implications that the English word "conciousness" has. However, sometimes it is being used as a general English word, so that can be confusing.

By "awareness" Ajahn Sumedho probably means perception (sañña), which is a different khandha, the knowing of what the object is.

Knowing you are seeing something is viññana ("consciousness"), knowing it is an apple is sañña ("perception").

See this dictionary entry on the khandhas: http://what-buddha-said.net/library/Bud ... tm#khandha

Mike
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Re: Reflecting on Awareness

Postby tiltbillings » Fri May 07, 2010 9:17 pm

mikenz66 wrote:

Knowing you are seeing something is viññana ("consciousness"), knowing it is an apple is sañña ("perception").

See this dictionary entry on the khandhas: http://what-buddha-said.net/library/Bud ... tm#khandha



Mike,

Drawing from the same source: ''Whatever, o brother, there exists of feeling, of perception and of mental constructions, these things are associated, not dissociated, and it is impossible to separate one from the other and show their difference. For whatever one feels, one perceives; and whatever one perceives, of this one is conscious M. 43. I would say that viññana is the field in which the other khandhas unfold, or the mental khandhas are all aspects of awareness (viññana).
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.
"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Reflecting on Awareness

Postby Goofaholix » Fri May 07, 2010 9:40 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Goofaholix, Jackson,
By "awareness" Ajahn Sumedho probably means perception (sañña), which is a different khandha, the knowing of what the object is.
'

In his book "Intuitive Awareness" he translates Sati Sampajana as Intuitive Awareness.

So I'd be surprised if he also translates Sanna as Awareness, it's normally translated as perception or ideation (the process of identifying objects on the conceptual level).
"Whenever we feel that we are definitely right, so much so that we refuse to open up to anything or anybody else, right there we are wrong. It becomes wrong view. When suffering arises, where does it arise from? The cause is wrong view, the fruit of that being suffering. If it was right view it wouldn't cause suffering." - Ajahn Chah
"Remember you dont meditate to get anything, but to get rid of things. We do it, not with desire, but with letting go. If you want anything, you wont find it." - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Reflecting on Awareness

Postby mikenz66 » Fri May 07, 2010 10:00 pm

Goofaholix wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:Hi Goofaholix, Jackson,
By "awareness" Ajahn Sumedho probably means perception (sañña), which is a different khandha, the knowing of what the object is.
'

In his book "Intuitive Awareness" he translates Sati Sampajana as Intuitive Awareness.

So I'd be surprised if he also translates Sanna as Awareness, it's normally translated as perception or ideation (the process of identifying objects on the conceptual level).

Thanks. I find it very easy to to get confused about what concept someone is talking about without asking what the Pali expression is...

Mike
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Re: Reflecting on Awareness

Postby jackson » Sat May 08, 2010 4:50 am

Thanks for your replies, they've been helpful. :smile:
I probably did just misinterpret what Ajahn Sumedho was saying, I heard it a few years ago in a talk, so can't recall the source. Anyway, I'm now beginning to understand why you guys are always using Pali terms, they really do bring out the nuances of what the Buddha meant. Thanks again and metta,
Jackson
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