can consciousness witness it's own dissolution?

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can consciousness witness it's own dissolution?

Postby manas » Wed Aug 01, 2012 9:05 pm

Hi everyone

we are supposed to be seeing how even consciousness is impermanent, liable to arising and passing away and thus not fitting to be regarded as me or mine. And not just believing it, nor just accepting this after having pondered over it with a 'modicum of discenrnment', but more than this: 'knowing and seeing' it as such.

Here is the problem for me. I'm sitting in meditation and can perceive feelings arise and pass away. No problem - feelings are not self. I can perceive how thoughts appear and disappear (not with perfect clarity - rather murkily - but enough to know that thoughts do come and go), I can perceive how states of mind can change, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. No problem - states of mind are not self, since they are also liable to change & alteration. But through it all, some awareness is present. In fact, more present than usual. That awareness is consciousness, aware of the other four khandhas. But how on earth could consciousness see that it isn't the 'one who knows' the one who is witnessing all of this arising and passing away, *but rather* is actually just as dependent upon a cause as the other constituents of existence, unless it witnessed it's own dissolution? And that does not make sense. A man can stand by the side of the road and see that another man has been run over by a truck. But if he himself gets run over by the truck, he is no longer a witness, but rather the victim. And he won't witness himself 'standing there', and then: 'no longer standing there' - his last perception will just be, 'truck'. And a loud bang. But he won't perceive his own absence. How could he, if he is no longer there to witness it?

I welcome any advice that can be given. Feel free to wake me up by any means possible. Because this doubt needs to be cleared up.

with metta.
Last edited by manas on Wed Aug 01, 2012 9:33 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: can consciousness witness it's own dissolution?

Postby Alex123 » Wed Aug 01, 2012 9:21 pm

This is an interesting thing about consciousness, it cannot cognize its own ending. It can certainly take an object which rises & falls, but it itself cannot cognize its own end. It is impossible.

So I guess is that one can know this only in retrospect with another, existing, consciousness.
I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care."
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Re: can consciousness witness it's own dissolution?

Postby manas » Wed Aug 01, 2012 9:41 pm

Alex123 wrote:This is an interesting thing about consciousness, it cannot cognize its own ending. It can certainly take an object which rises & falls, but it itself cannot cognize its own end. It is impossible.

So I guess is that one can know this only in retrospect with another, existing, consciousness.


Alex,

then what was the Buddha's Enlightenment, then? How did he clearly know, as clearly as I can see my own hand before me, that 'consciousness is not self'?

(edited out part)

m.
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Re: can consciousness witness it's own dissolution?

Postby kirk5a » Wed Aug 01, 2012 9:42 pm

How about this?

"Just as if there were a roofed house or a roofed hall having windows on the north, the south, or the east. When the sun rises, and a ray has entered by way of the window, where does it land?"

"On the western wall, lord."

"And if there is no western wall, where does it land?"

"On the ground, lord."

"And if there is no ground, where does it land?"

"On the water, lord."

"And if there is no water, where does it land?"

"It does not land, lord."

"In the same way, where there is no passion for the nutriment of physical food... contact... intellectual intention... consciousness, where there is no delight, no craving, then consciousness does not land there or increase. Where consciousness does not land or increase, there is no alighting of name-&-form. Where there is no alighting of name-&-form, there is no growth of fabrications. Where there is no growth of fabrications, there is no production of renewed becoming in the future. Where there is no production of renewed becoming in the future, there is no future birth, aging, & death. That, I tell you, has no sorrow, affliction, or despair."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
"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: can consciousness witness it's own dissolution?

Postby Alex123 » Wed Aug 01, 2012 9:48 pm

manas wrote:then what was the Buddha's Enlightenment, then? How did he clearly know, as clearly as I can see my own hand before me, that 'consciousness is not self'?



Through the proper use of inference. There is no other way. Same about Parinibbana. One can't know it directly because there is no knowing there to know it, right? Also since Buddha did not come out of Parinibbana, He had to use inference. What else?
I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care."
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Re: can consciousness witness it's own dissolution?

Postby Cittasanto » Wed Aug 01, 2012 9:55 pm

manas wrote:Hi everyone

we are supposed to be seeing how even consciousness is impermanent, liable to arising and passing away and thus not fitting to be regarded as me or mine. And not just believing it, nor just accepting this after having pondered over it with a 'modicum of discenrnment', but more than this: 'knowing and seeing' it as such.

Here is the problem for me. I'm sitting in meditation and can perceive feelings arise and pass away. No problem - feelings are not self. I can perceive how thoughts appear and disappear (not with perfect clarity - rather murkily - but enough to know that thoughts do come and go), I can perceive how states of mind can change, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. No problem - states of mind are not self, since they are also liable to change & alteration. But through it all, some awareness is present. In fact, more present than usual. That awareness is consciousness, aware of the other four khandhas. But how on earth could consciousness see that it isn't the 'one who knows' the one who is witnessing all of this arising and passing away, *but rather* is actually just as dependent upon a cause as the other constituents of existence, unless it witnessed it's own dissolution? And that does not make sense. A man can stand by the side of the road and see that another man has been run over by a truck. But if he himself gets run over by the truck, he is no longer a witness, but rather the victim. And he won't witness himself 'standing there', and then: 'no longer standing there' - his last perception will just be, 'truck'. And a loud bang. But he won't perceive his own absence. How could he, if he is no longer there to witness it?

I welcome any advice that can be given. Feel free to wake me up by any means possible. Because this doubt needs to be cleared up.

with metta.

what sprang to my mind was the "continuation of consciousness" as mentioned in the cetana sutta, not consciousness itself, so maybe one could be aware of the passing away of a "continuum" of consciousness?
I am also reminded of P.A.Payuttos discussion of the Dependent Cessation sequence where he notes in an apendix that it is possible that the wording means "when X ceaces to be a problem Y ceases to be a problem"

so to tred on shaky grouns as I am aware there are probably BIG holes in this,
if consciousness is not being a problem then it could see the cessation of the continuum of consciousness?
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: can consciousness witness it's own dissolution?

Postby Kim OHara » Wed Aug 01, 2012 10:19 pm

manas wrote: I welcome any advice that can be given. Feel free to wake me up by any means possible. Because this doubt needs to be cleared up.
with metta.

Okay ... I will try to wake you up. Literally. :tongue:
I agree, consciousness can't observe its own non-existence. But it can observe that it has been existent, non-existent and is now existent again.
You wake up in the morning: consciousness is present. You remember that you were awake the night before, and consciousness was present. You observe the gap between the two. Consciousness may have been present intermittently (in which case the argument applies to the bits in between) but let's assume you slept soundly.
Consciousness was not present, was it?
It arose as you awoke, and will pass away when you go to sleep again.
That is validated by repeated observation ... is that close enough to 'observed' for you?

:namaste:
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Re: can consciousness witness it's own dissolution?

Postby Kenshou » Wed Aug 01, 2012 10:22 pm

I'm sitting in meditation and can perceive feelings arise and pass away. No problem - feelings are not self. I can perceive how thoughts appear and disappear (not with perfect clarity - rather murkily - but enough to know that thoughts do come and go), I can perceive how states of mind can change, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. No problem - states of mind are not self, since they are also liable to change & alteration. But through it all, some awareness is present.


When you are seeing these things come and go you are also seeing the arising and dissolution of consciousness. Consciousness isn't a singular unit which illuminates other objects, but it can be easy to assume that. It is a process that is bound up with the object. So when you see the dissolution of a thought or feeling, you are also experiencing an instance of dissolution of mind consciousness, so on and so forth for the other 5 senses.

In experience the flow of consciousness is more or less seamless, but that seamless flow is made up of many fluctuating processes and lacks any real singularity. Because of this plurality you don't necessarily have to experience consciousness stopping altogether at once, in order to see that it is impermanent and not-self. Though that is supposedly possible through higher meditative attainments.

So it isn't as if there is an individual who paradoxically needs to observe that he has died. Even as your state of being conscious (as opposed to knocked out or whatever) persists, its lack of permanence is potentially noticeable. Un-proliferative mindfulness can reveal this lack of singularity. But it isn't easy, since this general assumption of a core in ourselves or things has been with us for a long time, and all of our individual perplexities are tied up a little differently.
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Re: can consciousness witness it's own dissolution?

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Aug 01, 2012 11:39 pm

Greetings manas,

Consciousness is the presence of a dhamma at one of the six-sense doors, as opposed to a separate thing in and of itself.

That "presence of a dhamma" dissolves due to anicca, but it is not self-aware of its own dissolution. Rather, it is known by the subsequent "presence of a dhamma" or "absence of a dhamma" that is qualitatively different to the earlier experience.

That is how I understand it, at least.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: can consciousness witness it's own dissolution?

Postby manas » Thu Aug 02, 2012 1:47 am

I thank all who have replied. Sorry I cannot express my appreciation individually at this time. I have so many things on my mind to do with lay concerns. I wish life were more simple; but that cannot be had by mere wishing...anyway I am already reflecting on your helpful answers.

metta
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Re: can consciousness witness it's own dissolution?

Postby ground » Thu Aug 02, 2012 4:02 am

Can your thinking take its own absence as object? Thinking can stop. If thinking stops there cannot even be knowing what thinking is or whether it is present or absent.
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Re: can consciousness witness it's own dissolution?

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Aug 02, 2012 4:10 am

Greetings,

ground wrote:Can your thinking take its own absence as object? Thinking can stop. If thinking stops there cannot even be knowing what thinking is or whether it is present or absent.

Sanna / perception (a form of mind-consciousness) doesn't require vicara or vittaka.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: can consciousness witness it's own dissolution?

Postby ground » Thu Aug 02, 2012 4:12 am

Huh? The topic was "thinking", one aspect of consciousness of several aspects. And knowing what is or what is not, has been considered to be thinking because it is assigning a name to an object. Assigning a name requires thinking a name before it can be assigned.
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Re: can consciousness witness it's own dissolution?

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Aug 02, 2012 4:25 am

Greetings Ground,

Your post was about thinking - the topic isn't... the topic is about consciousness (vinnana) and its impermanence (aniccata)

Thinking doesn't need to be introduced into the topic, and as I said, the absence of vittaka and vicara (which collectively cover all aspects of thinking) can be discerned/perceived without introducing the need for self-referential thoughts.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: can consciousness witness it's own dissolution?

Postby ground » Thu Aug 02, 2012 4:32 am

retrofuturist wrote:.. and as I said, the absence of vittaka and vicara (which collectively cover all aspects of thinking) can be discerned/perceived without introducing the need for self-referential thoughts.

Okay. This seems to be the discrepancy of understandings. No problem.
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Re: can consciousness witness it's own dissolution?

Postby Ben » Thu Aug 02, 2012 5:22 am

Greetings Manas

At some stage you may wish to read A Comprehensive Manual of the Abhidhamma, edited by Bhikkhu Bodhi.
It should provide some illuminating insights into your current line of enquiry and others.
with metta,

Ben
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Re: can consciousness witness it's own dissolution?

Postby vinasp » Thu Aug 02, 2012 5:34 am

Hi manas,

Quote:"we are supposed to be seeing how even consciousness is impermanent, liable to arising and passing away and thus not fitting to be regarded as me or mine."

First, "impermanent" means: capable of ceasing, vanishing completely and
permanently.

It is said that "consciousness" is dependently arisen, but that is why it can cease.

Obviously it is not actual consciousness that vanishes so what does "consciousness"
mean?

It means the false knowledge that consciousness is "mine", that is what vanishes.

The ordinary man sees consciousness as permanent, a source of pleasure, as related
to self, and as "mine". So he has desire for consciousness and holds onto it.

It is this thought-object of desire which must be seen as impermanent or capable
of vanishing, as suffering, as non-self, and as "not mine".

It must be seen in this way in order to reduce and eliminate the desire for this
thought-object and the holding-on to it.

What is important in the teachings are the things which persist in the mind, not
the things which are constantly changing.

The misunderstanding of "impermanence" together with modern meditation methods
combine to obscure the real teachings.

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: can consciousness witness it's own dissolution?

Postby Spiny Norman » Thu Aug 02, 2012 12:40 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings manas,

Consciousness is the presence of a dhamma at one of the six-sense doors, as opposed to a separate thing in and of itself.

That "presence of a dhamma" dissolves due to anicca, but it is not self-aware of its own dissolution. Rather, it is known by the subsequent "presence of a dhamma" or "absence of a dhamma" that is qualitatively different to the earlier experience.


So do you mean consciousness is always aware of something, even if it's just an absence?
Well, oi dunno...
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Re: can consciousness witness it's own dissolution?

Postby vinasp » Thu Aug 02, 2012 12:43 pm

Hi manas,

"In conceiving consciousness, bhikkhu, one is bound by Mara; by not conceiving
it one is freed from the Evil One." [BB, CD, page 907, part of SN 22.64.]

"And what is it that he dismantles and does not build up?
He dismantles form ...
He dismantles feeling ...
He dismantles perception ...
He dismantles volitional formations ...
He dismantles consciousness and does not build it up.

And what is it that he abandons and does not cling to?
He abandons form ... feeling ... perception ... volitional formations ...
He abandons consciousness and does not cling to it.

And what is it that he scatters and does not amass?
He scatters form ... feeling ... perception ... volitional formations ...
He scatters consciousness and does not amass it.

And what is it that he extinguishes and does not kindle?
He extinguishes form ... feeling ... perception ... volitional formations ...
He extinguishes consciousness and does not kindle it."

[Bhikkhu Bodhi, Connected Discourses, page 917, part of SN 22.79]

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: can consciousness witness it's own dissolution?

Postby kirk5a » Thu Aug 02, 2012 2:45 pm

I find it helpful to look at suttas where a comprehensive survey of what is impermanent is given. For example, in MN147 there is the list below which is all inconstant, stressful, and not fitting to regard as "This is mine. This is my self. This is what I am."

the six sense bases:
eye
ear
nose
tongue
body
intellect

their objects:
forms
sounds
aromas
flavors
tactile sensations
ideas

and:
whatever there is that arises in dependence on contact at the [eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, intellect] as a mode of feeling, a mode of perception, a mode of fabrication, or a mode of consciousness

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
"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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