Are we nothing but awareness?

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Are we nothing but awareness?

Postby cherrytigerbarb » Sun Apr 14, 2013 7:17 am

I've been thinking for a while now about non-dualism, and just recently this has started to have a knock-on effect during my meditation. I concentrate on my breath allowing my thoughts to come and go until they subside of their own accord, and it is at this point I begin to see the world centred around my awareness begin to break away from it. This is hard to explain. It is as though my awareness appears as a bright dimensionless point surrounded by a spherical region of black nothingness which after a small distance hits up against the world and everything in it. It starts with the realisation that this ‘world' is an artificial mental creation beginning with my body, and expanding outward to include the sum total of everything. In one way it feels lonely and frightening, the contemplation of this dimensionless point of awareness making me feel like I'm nothing at all. Then I see that this dimensionless point of awareness is there in every-body, and is at one moment nothing (since it is dimensionless), and in the same moment everything (as awareness). I conclude that our total essence is nothing other than 'naked awareness' stripped away from everything else. Does this make sense?
"The foolish reject what they see, not what they think. The wise reject what they think, not what they see." - Huang Po.
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Re: Are we nothing but awareness?

Postby Reductor » Sun Apr 14, 2013 7:26 am

Yet, if there were nothing else, what would awareness be? What would it see, how would it call itself? What is there about awareness that makes it special and essential?

Don't take too much comfort in the qualities of awareness you are now perceiving, as I don't think you've quite understood everything about it that you need to. You can lead yourself into a false understanding that you become committed too, to the detriment of long term peace of mind.

EDIT:

to answer the pointed question your title raises: we are not awareness. Awareness is the most fickle of things, and blinks out faster than a lightbulb in a dark room when the power-grid goes down. Ain't nothing special.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: Are we nothing but awareness?

Postby manas » Sun Apr 14, 2013 8:32 am

Hi cherrytiger,

you could try investigating awareness and see if it's always present. For something to be fitting to be regarded as 'this is what we essentially are', one criterion ought to be that it is permanent, stable and is not liable to alter and decay.

So a question: is awareness always present? What about during deep sleep? In fact never mind deep sleep, what about the countless times we just drift off into mindless trains of thought in daydreams, only to 'come to' suddenly and realize we had a muddled mind for the last few minutes, dull and foggy. Where was awareness then?

So since awareness is not constant, but rather can increase, decrease, or even temporarily disappear sometimes (as in deep sleep), it is not fitting to be regarded as 'my self'. Although I do understand how it can seem that way at first. But we need to use the Teachings of the Buddha to really examine this issue, the various views regarding self we cling to. It's not easy to do if you are relatively new to Buddhism though. I can recommend a few links that explain it more thoroughly:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... self2.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... tself.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... tions.html

A personal note here. When I was first confronted with the Buddha's teachings regarding this issue, I found it quite grating to read about. I wanted to know 'who I really am'. Now while I am still open to that sometimes, I am also aware of the fact that there is not even one thing in my actual life experience that is permanent, lasting, stable, and not liable to alter or decay. When I contemplate this, sometimes I feel a sense of relief. Like, identifying with things that arise and pass away all those years before, was a precarious and sad state to be in. Now, as to the question of "who am I?" well I just don't ask that question so much. Because it's darn hard to get an answer to something like that, when there's nothing in our direct experience that is lasting and stable and could thus be a fitting candidate. In any case, I've not found anything as yet. So I try to make an effort to redirect my mind to contemplate the questions the Buddha invites us to: What is suffering & stress? What is it's cause? What is it's cessation? What is the Path leading to it's cessation? These questions, by comparison, do have answers.

Kind regards :anjali:
Last edited by manas on Sun Apr 14, 2013 8:53 am, edited 1 time in total.
The greatest warrior of all time turned out to be the most peaceful one.
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Re: Are we nothing but awareness?

Postby Rasko » Sun Apr 14, 2013 8:41 am

cherrytigerbarb wrote:This is hard to explain. It is as though my awareness appears as a bright dimensionless point surrounded by a spherical region of black nothingness which after a small distance hits up against the world and everything in it.


That part reminded me of these practice instructions:

If I were to describe it in line with how I investigated it, or to condense it so as to give the gist in a reasonable amount of time, I'd summarise quickly by saying whatever makes an appearance, investigate it. Whatever makes an appearance is a matter of conventional reality - I'm referring here to the refined phenomena that appear in the heart. Ultimately, even that very point with its brightness is the point of genuine avijjā. Focus down on it, using paññā. Just as all phenomena in general are simply phenomena, this nature is also simply a phenomenon in exactly the same way. We can't latch onto it as being "us" or "ours" - but our protectiveness shows that we hold to it as being us or ours, which is a mistake.


I then came back to understand clearly the matter of, "If there is a point or a centre of the knower anywhere, that is the essence of a level of being." That was when I understood, "Oh - I see. The words "point" and "centre" refer to just this." Before, I hadn't understood. It really was a point. No matter how marvellous, it was the point of the marvelousness. It was a point there to be known. Once that disintegrated, there were no more points, because every point is a conventional reality. No matter how refined, each is a conventional reality.

This is why I am always teaching my fellow meditators: "Once you've reached that point, don't be protective of anything. Investigate on in. Even if the citta should actually be demolished by that investigation, let it be demolished. Whatever is left to be aware of the purity, let it be aware - or if everything is going to be demolished so that there is nothing left to be aware of purity, then at least find out. Don't be protective of anything at all." I say this out of fear that they'll be protective of this thing. If they aren't warned that forcefully, then no matter what, they're bound to get stuck. All I ask is that they find out: "Whatever is going to vanish, let it vanish. Even if the citta is going to vanish from the power of the investigation, let it vanish. There's no need to protect it." When investigating, you have to take it that far.

-Ajaan Mahā Boowa, Straight from the Heart
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Re: Are we nothing but awareness?

Postby kirk5a » Sun Apr 14, 2013 2:11 pm

cherrytigerbarb wrote: I conclude that our total essence is nothing other than 'naked awareness' stripped away from everything else. Does this make sense?

It's the conclusions we have to watch out for ("our total essence" etc.) Then we can keep investigating whatever it is, in light of the 4 noble truths.
"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: Are we nothing but awareness?

Postby polarbuddha101 » Sun Apr 14, 2013 4:40 pm

(Edit: I hope I'm not coming across as harsh, that's not my intention. I'm just writing out my current understanding of the Buddha's teachings.)

Awareness cannot be separated from that which it is being aware of. Awareness arises dependent on contact, contact is impermanent and subject to change, therefore awareness is impermanent and subject to change. What is subject to change is unsatisfactory, what is unsatisfactory is not-self. Therefore, awareness is not-self and you should treat it as you would grass or leaves, having no passion for it. In this way you would be following the Buddha.

Then Ven. Ananda went to the Blessed One and on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One, "It is said that the world is empty, the world is empty, lord. In what respect is it said that the world is empty?"

"Insofar as it is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self: Thus it is said, Ananda, that the world is empty. And what is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self? The eye is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self. Forms... Eye-consciousness... Eye-contact is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self.

"The ear is empty...

"The nose is empty...

"The tongue is empty...

"The body is empty...

"The intellect is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self. Ideas... Intellect-consciousness... Intellect-contact is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self. Thus it is said that the world is empty."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


Thus have I heard. At one time the Buddha was staying at Sāvatthī
in Jeta's Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika's Park. At that time the Blessed One said to the monks:

“Form is impermanent. The causes and conditions for the arising
of any form are also impermanent. Any form that has arisen from
impermanent causes and impermanent conditions, how could it be
permanent?59
“In the same way feeling ... perception ... formations ... consciousness
is impermanent. The causes and conditions for the arising of any
consciousness are also impermanent.60 Any consciousness that has
arisen from impermanent causes and impermanent conditions, how
could it be permanent?
“Monks, like this form is impermanent, feeling ... perception ...
formations ... consciousness is impermanent, what is impermanent is
dukkha, what is dukkha is not self, what is not self is not mine.
“A noble disciple who contemplates like this becomes disenchanted
with form, disenchanted with feeling ... perception ... formations
... consciousness. One who is disenchanted does not delight [in
consciousness]. Not delighting [in consciousness] he becomes
liberated. [2b] Being liberated he knows and sees: ‘Birth for me has
been eradicated, the holy life has been established, what had to be
done has been done, I myself know that there will be no receiving of
any further existence.’”
Then the monks, hearing what the Buddha had said, were delighted
and received it respectfully.
http://www.buddhismuskunde.uni-hamburg. ... o/SA01.pdf



:anjali:
Last edited by polarbuddha101 on Tue Apr 16, 2013 5:01 am, edited 1 time in total.
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."
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Re: Are we nothing but awareness?

Postby PadmaPhala » Mon Apr 15, 2013 9:11 am

"consciousness without feature"
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Re: Are we nothing but awareness?

Postby ground » Wed Apr 17, 2013 2:27 am

Are we ...?

Something which may be nothing is at a loss for words. :sage:
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Re: Are we nothing but awareness?

Postby SarathW » Wed Apr 17, 2013 3:07 am

We are just an ever changing five aggregate. Awareness is only one aspect of it.
The object of meditation is to have the direct knowledge of this truth.
Do not get attached or frightened (aversion) to these multitude of experiences.
They all are stressful (Dukka) Just note them.
Let them go. :)
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Re: Are we nothing but awareness?

Postby pegembara » Wed Apr 17, 2013 5:29 am

A few ways to skin this cat.

1. Who/what is this that speaks of awareness?
2. Can awareness be aware of itself? If not, which awareness are we if any?
3. If there is really nothing to experience (this does not include the concept there is nothing), can there be an experiencer? And vice versa. The experiencer and the experience are dependently coarisen phenomena, subject to arising and passing away. There is awareness but is not us.


"Now tell me, friend Sariputta: is consciousness self-made or other-made or both self-made & other-made, or — without self-making or other-making, does it arise spontaneously?"

"It's not the case, Kotthita my friend, that consciousness is self-made, that it is other-made, that it is both self-made & other-made, or that — without self-making or other-making — it arises spontaneously. However, from name-&-form as a requisite condition comes consciousness."

It is as if two sheaves of reeds were to stand leaning against one another. In the same way, from name-&-form as a requisite condition comes consciousness, from consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form. From name & form as a requisite condition come the six sense media.

"If one were to pull away one of those sheaves of reeds, the other would fall; if one were to pull away the other, the first one would fall. In the same way, from the cessation of name-&-form comes the cessation of consciousness, from the cessation of consciousness comes the cessation of name-&-form.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.
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Re: Are we nothing but awareness?

Postby Aloka » Wed Apr 17, 2013 6:57 am

pegembara wrote:A few ways to skin this cat.


I would prefer not to have to read expressions like that, thanks pegembara!

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Re: Are we nothing but awareness?

Postby pegembara » Wed Apr 17, 2013 2:48 pm

Okay, okay.

There are many ways to cuddle this cat with dazzling eyes. :smile:

Image
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.
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Re: Are we nothing but awareness?

Postby Aloka » Wed Apr 17, 2013 2:56 pm

pegembara wrote:Okay, okay.

There are many ways to cuddle this cat with dazzling eyes. :smile:

Image



Oh dear, with all- black eyes like that, your cat likely to be a blind cat.

Returning to the subject of awareness here's something Ajahn Sumedho said in 'The Sound of Silence' :


...It (the Buddha's teachings) is always pointing to the here and now. Awareness here and now, liberation here and now, nibanna here and now. Its not about "if you practice hard during this retreat you might attain nibbana by the end of it." That's another preception isn't it ? Its learning to recognise, realize, reality: " all conditions are impermanent - not-self". The unconditioned, then, isn't something that you can find as an object - you are that.

Unconditioned awareness, the Deathless, is our refuge. That's an intuition, and through intuition, through awareness, we recognise, realise , the Deathless, or the Dhamma: the amata dhamma or "the Deathless truth"




.
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Re: Are we nothing but awareness?

Postby pegembara » Thu Apr 18, 2013 7:04 am


...It (the Buddha's teachings) is always pointing to the here and now. Awareness here and now, liberation here and now, nibanna here and now. Its not about "if you practice hard during this retreat you might attain nibbana by the end of it." That's another preception isn't it ? Its learning to recognise, realize, reality: " all conditions are impermanent - not-self". The unconditioned, then, isn't something that you can find as an object - you are that.

Unconditioned awareness, the Deathless, is our refuge. That's an intuition, and through intuition, through awareness, we recognise, realise , the Deathless, or the Dhamma: the amata dhamma or "the Deathless truth"




But the Buddha said- Sabbe dhamma anatta: all dhammas (this includes the Deathless) are not self.
By the way "I am That" is a book title by Nisargadatta Maharaj on Advaita (Nondualism) philosophy.

"He directly knows Unbinding as Unbinding. Directly knowing Unbinding as Unbinding, he does not conceive things about Unbinding, does not conceive things in Unbinding, does not conceive things coming out of Unbinding, does not conceive Unbinding as 'mine,' does not delight in Unbinding. Why is that? Because, with the ending of delusion, he is devoid of delusion, I tell you.
MN1

Ajahn Chah agrees:

Don't be anything! Don't be anything at all! Being a Buddha is a burden. Being a Pacceka is a burden. Just don't desire to be. ''I am the monk Sumedho,'' ''I am the monk Ānando''... That way is suffering, believing that you really exist thus. ''Sumedho'' is merely a convention. Do you understand?
http://what-buddha-taught.net/Books/Aja ... Enough.htm
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.
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Re: Are we nothing but awareness?

Postby Aloka » Thu Apr 18, 2013 8:35 am

pegembara wrote:But the Buddha said- Sabbe dhamma anatta: all dhammas (this includes the Deathless) are not self.


And that is what Ajahn Sumedho is saying.

By the way "I am That" is a book title by Nisargadatta Maharaj on Advaita (Nondualism) philosophy


This is completely irrelevant. I don't think you've understood the quote.

pegembara wrote:Ajahn Chah agrees...


Having spoken to Ajahn Sumedho personally on more than one occasion, as well as having been to many of his talks before his retirement, I definately got a feeling that he has a high level of realisation - so I don't think its wise to be dismissive of what he has to say.

Something else from Ajahn Chah which is a good reminder :

"Most of us just talk about practice without having really done it"

(from "Leaking Roof " in the Ajahn Chah similes book "A Tree in the Forest")



Have a good day, pegembara :)
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Re: Are we nothing but awareness?

Postby pegembara » Thu Apr 18, 2013 5:27 pm

Actually Ajahn Sumedho is one of my favorite teachers. I don't actually think you quoted him in the proper context or maybe I am misreading you. And he is no advaitin either.

You're breaking through that illusion that you're a mortal thing -- but I'm not telling you that you're an immortal creature either, because you'll start grasping at that! 'My true nature is one with the ultimate, absolute Truth. I am one with the Lord. My real nature is the Deathless, timeless eternity of bliss.' But you notice that the Buddha refrained from using poetic inspiring phrases; not that they're wrong, but because we attach to them. We would settle for that identity with the ultimate, or one with God, or the eternal bliss of the Deathless Realm, and so forth. You get very starry-eyed saying things like that. But it's much more skilful to watch that tendency to want to name or conceive what is inconceivable, to be able to tell somebody else, or describe it just to feel that you have attained something. It is more important to watch that than to follow it. Not that you haven't realised anything, either, but be that careful and that vigilant not to attach to that realisation, because if you do, of course this will just take you to despair again.

But this particular emphasis of the Buddha is on recognising the way things are rather than believing in what other people tell us, or say. This is a path of wisdom, in which we're exploring or investigating the limits of the mind. Witness and see: 'sabbe sankhara anicca', 'all conditioned phenomena are impermanent'; 'sabbe dhamma anatta', 'all things are not-self.'


Sumedho[/quote]

:anjali:
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.
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