Pure Awareness

Discuss your personal experience with the Dharma here. How has it enriched your life? What challenges does it present?

Pure Awareness

Postby rachmiel » Sat Oct 05, 2013 4:25 pm

Most of the time, awareness works in cahoots with intelligence (in Western philosophy, P- and A-consciousness). We detect something (via awareness) and act on it (via intelligence).

But some Eastern meditative traditions talk about a state of pure awareness, in which there is only awareness/reception (of sensory input, body feelings, mindstream, etc.). The acting upon, interpretation, "making sense of the world" component is in effect switched off. Pure qualia.

The usefulness in awareness working with intelligence is obvious: it enables us to fathom the world and ourselves in it, function effectively, act appropriately, do the right thing.

But the usefulness of pure awareness is less obvious. In my experiences of being purely aware (i.e. as close as I come to it), it is a pristine and beautiful state, but I sometimes wonder "what it's good for."

In your experience of pure awareness, is it good for anything? If so ... what? If not, why continue spending time being purely aware?
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Re: Pure Awareness

Postby dimeo » Sat Oct 05, 2013 5:01 pm

I sometimes wonder "what it's good for." In your experience of pure awareness, is it good for anything? If so ... what?


Interesting!

Off the top of my head... It's "good for what ails ya". We're learning to stop clinging, to let go of attachment and be free of aversion. Practicing pure awareness and learning to exist in that state transforms the mind. We believe in a dharma path of purification, transformation and ultimately liberation! Isn't the middle way a path where one realizes the inherent spaciousness (shunyata) of all things and abandons the one-sidedness of a selfish perspective? Dualistic conceptions are abandoned. A mode of being where one experiences "things as they are" means the mind has no target, and rests in an unelaborated manner. Pure awareness results in utterly releasing. The teachings say that all phenomena (dharmas) are just mind itself. Doesn't the practice of pure awareness lead the mind to know mind as it is?

Samputa Trantra says:
All things, external and internal / are imputed by the mind. / Apart from the mind nothing else exists.


Looking forward to watching this thread evolve! :popcorn:
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Re: Pure Awareness

Postby rachmiel » Sat Oct 05, 2013 5:22 pm

Most of what you say makes sense to me. Especially the part about pure awareness being a way to experience emptiness firsthand. Thanks. :-)

A teacher of mine once said that emptiness is the absence of concepts. So this "intelligence" thing I'm positing that works with awareness (yin-yang-ishly) to enable us to fathom/navigate the world ... can it do its thing without conceptualizing? I think it can. Which means that awareness+intelligence (rather than pure awareness) is also a way to experience emptiness. Just thinkin' out loud here ...

dimeo wrote:Pure awareness results in utterly releasing.

Utterly releasing what?
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Re: Pure Awareness

Postby Jesse » Sat Oct 05, 2013 8:14 pm

But the usefulness of pure awareness is less obvious. In my experiences of being purely aware (i.e. as close as I come to it), it is a pristine and beautiful state, but I sometimes wonder "what it's good for."


I've had the same experience, and it seems the very drive that makes us ask 'what is it good for"", is the thing keeping us from the state. It's the rational, thinking mind creeping back in attempting to label and make sense of what's happening. I suppose you could also call it clinging. If you let go of the need to explain the state, and just sort of let things come and go, there aren't really any problems. The problems arise when we start attaching to the need to explain, figure out, seek, etc.

To be honest, that's just my impression.
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Re: Pure Awareness

Postby rachmiel » Sat Oct 05, 2013 8:33 pm

Jesse wrote:
But the usefulness of pure awareness is less obvious. In my experiences of being purely aware (i.e. as close as I come to it), it is a pristine and beautiful state, but I sometimes wonder "what it's good for."


I've had the same experience, and it seems the very drive that makes us ask 'what is it good for"", is the thing keeping us from the state. It's the rational, thinking mind creeping back in attempting to label and make sense of what's happening. I suppose you could also call it clinging. If you let go of the need to explain the state, and just sort of let things come and go, there aren't really any problems. The problems arise when we start attaching to the need to explain, figure out, seek, etc.

I (think I) understand.

So how about if I started telling people: Lie down on the floor in a dark quiet room and move your arms and legs as if you were swimming. Do it one hour a day, every day.

Let's say they asked me: What is it good for? Couldn't I say: Asking that kind of question is your problem. Just do it without thinking about it and you won't have any problems.

I'm being a bit silly ... but I'm sure you see my point. :-)
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Re: Pure Awareness

Postby Jesse » Sat Oct 05, 2013 8:38 pm

I (think I) understand.

So how about if I started telling people: Lie down on the floor in a dark quiet room and move your arms and legs as if you were swimming. Do it one hour a day, every day.

Let's say they asked me: What is it good for? Couldn't I say: Asking that kind of question is your problem. Just do it without thinking about it and you won't have any problems.

I'm being a bit silly ... but I'm sure you see my point. :-)


The difference is, once in a state of 'pure awareness', the point is obvious but we dismiss it and continue searching for some greater meaning, some higher purpose that only exists in our imaginations. We're just chasing our tails.
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Re: Pure Awareness

Postby Qing Tian » Sat Oct 05, 2013 8:40 pm

Not sure this is going to make much sense... we employ a kind of pure awareness all the time, every moment we are awake. Why? because if we didn't our intellect would be overloaded by the sheer volume of information flooding in. I think people forget just how much information is available to the senses moment by moment.

What I find curious though is that occasionally I feel that I am aware of my awareness. Like I am abstractly watching myself. Bit weird really.
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Re: Pure Awareness

Postby rachmiel » Sat Oct 05, 2013 8:53 pm

Jesse wrote:... once in a state of 'pure awareness', the point is obvious but we dismiss it and continue searching for some greater meaning, some higher purpose that only exists in our imaginations. We're just chasing our tails.

When I'm in a state of pure awareness*, yes it is engaging, there is no sense of anything missing. But there is also no sense of any intrinsic rightness. There's just the reception of meaning-less ... stuff. And eventually, typically after 5-10 minutes at the most, it becomes tiresome and even unpleasant.

It's the interaction of awareness and what I'm calling intelligence (perhaps this is Buddhist discernment, or wisdom?) that really feels whole and right to me. Awareness alone feels empty ... like a shortwave radio receiving signals but no one being there to hear and understand them. But maybe this feeling of emptiness is the point? If so ... I don't see the point of the point. :-)

* To the extent I've ever been in this state
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Re: Pure Awareness

Postby Qing Tian » Sat Oct 05, 2013 9:02 pm

But there is also no sense of any intrinsic rightness.


Surely you are ascribing a quality to something that does not require it?
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Re: Pure Awareness

Postby Jesse » Sat Oct 05, 2013 9:42 pm

When I'm in a state of pure awareness*, yes it is engaging, there is no sense of anything missing. But there is also no sense of any intrinsic rightness. There's just the reception of meaning-less ... stuff. And eventually, typically after 5-10 minutes at the most, it becomes tiresome and even unpleasant.


The state itself isn't anything special, a means to an end. Because you can take what you learn there and apply it to everyday life. The lesson ? I suppose is attachment to our ideas, thoughts and per-conceptions are what causes us pain, anxiety, and dissatisfaction.

You don't need to be in an 'altered state', to enjoy the benefits of not clinging. In fact I imagine the experience of nirvana is not an altered state of consciousness at all, but rather pure and simply non-clinging. Nothing is the matter, everything is perfect as it is.
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Re: Pure Awareness

Postby rachmiel » Sat Oct 05, 2013 10:29 pm

Qing Tian wrote:
But there is also no sense of any intrinsic rightness.


Surely you are ascribing a quality to something that does not require it?


I'm really just stating a subjective feeling; pure awareness feels neither wrong nor right to me. It's clear to me why I'd continue doing something that felt right. But why continue doing something that doesn't?
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Re: Pure Awareness

Postby Qing Tian » Sat Oct 05, 2013 10:46 pm

Without noticing it you are ascribing not-feeling-right to equal feeling-wrong. Perhaps to put it another way, it seems as if you are seeking validation for the practice. I say this in the spirit of discussion and not as any form of criticism. Just chewing the fat really!
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Re: Pure Awareness

Postby rachmiel » Sat Oct 05, 2013 10:52 pm

Jesse wrote:The lesson ? I suppose is attachment to our ideas, thoughts and per-conceptions are what causes us pain, anxiety, and dissatisfaction.

I can see that this is a valuable lesson. And I guess I understand how spending time in pure awareness would help bring this home.

But, again, it seems to me that the full flowering of humanness is in the yin-yang interaction of awareness and intelligence. If being in pure awareness is a means to this interaction, then sure. But if it's pure awareness for the sake of pure awareness, because this is taken to be Truth (with a capital T) ... intelligence just gets in the way ... that's where I start scratching my head.
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Re: Pure Awareness

Postby rachmiel » Sat Oct 05, 2013 11:00 pm

Qing Tian wrote:... it seems as if you are seeking validation for the practice.

In a way, yes. There is an implicit promise in Buddhism: Do this (meditate) and that will eventually happen (enlightenment).

So I spend quite a bit of time doing this (many years, off and on) ... but cannot detect a movement towards that. And the process itself of doing this (pure awareness) feels a bit clinical, leaves me a bit cold.

So, like any other curious human being, at the point when I recognize what appears to be a practice that leads to a cul-de-sac, I feel the need to explore it, understand it, validate its worth.
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Re: Pure Awareness

Postby Qing Tian » Sun Oct 06, 2013 2:11 am

Understandable I guess, but...
So I spend quite a bit of time doing this (many years, off and on) ... but cannot detect a movement towards that.


Is there a distinction between 'this' and 'that'?
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Re: Pure Awareness

Postby rachmiel » Sun Oct 06, 2013 2:17 am

Qing Tian wrote:Is there a distinction between 'this' and 'that'?

What do I know? (See my signature. ;-) )
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Re: Pure Awareness

Postby dimeo » Sun Oct 06, 2013 3:53 am

rachmiel wrote:
dimeo wrote:Pure awareness results in utterly releasing.

Utterly releasing what?


The Tibetian word "lada" means utterly releasing. Letting go.

Tilopa's words of advice say it best:
Let go of what has passed. Let go of what may come. Let go of what is happening now. Do not try to figure anything out. Do not try to make anything happen. Relax, right now, and rest.


Abandon doubt, worry, or hesitation. The idea of lada is similar to togal in Dzogchen. It's like a shortcut to the goal which may be difficult to perform if not yet ready to take the leap. It is where you settle on the nature of what mind is. Rest your mind unconditionally in the spaciousness of pure awareness and don't hope for anything to happen. Recognize the nature of your mind as it is. And not just in meditation but through the whole day, every day.
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Re: Pure Awareness

Postby rachmiel » Sun Oct 06, 2013 1:53 pm

dimeo wrote:Tilopa's words of advice say it best:
Let go of what has passed. Let go of what may come. Let go of what is happening now. Do not try to figure anything out. Do not try to make anything happen. Relax, right now, and rest.

These were very helpful for me when I was doing vivid awareness meditation. They still are.

It's like a shortcut to the goal which may be difficult to perform if not yet ready to take the leap.

The leap.
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Re: Pure Awareness

Postby lobster » Mon Oct 07, 2013 9:53 am

rachmiel wrote:In your experience of pure awareness, is it good for anything? If so ... what? If not, why continue spending time being purely aware?


Are you purely aware now? What has time got to do with pure awareness?
Why are you discontinuing? Doing, going, coming, leaving - all aspects of impure awareness.

Pure awareness is 'in and of itself', not a direction, not a purposeful being.

Now what? :shrug:
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Re: Pure Awareness

Postby futerko » Mon Oct 07, 2013 11:04 am

rachmiel wrote:Most of the time, awareness works in cahoots with intelligence (in Western philosophy, P- and A-consciousness). We detect something (via awareness) and act on it (via intelligence).

But some Eastern meditative traditions talk about a state of pure awareness, in which there is only awareness/reception (of sensory input, body feelings, mindstream, etc.). The acting upon, interpretation, "making sense of the world" component is in effect switched off. Pure qualia.

The usefulness in awareness working with intelligence is obvious: it enables us to fathom the world and ourselves in it, function effectively, act appropriately, do the right thing.

But the usefulness of pure awareness is less obvious. In my experiences of being purely aware (i.e. as close as I come to it), it is a pristine and beautiful state, but I sometimes wonder "what it's good for."

In your experience of pure awareness, is it good for anything? If so ... what? If not, why continue spending time being purely aware?


I think you've laid it out very clearly here. The issue in these terms is that A-consciousness can start to act as a replacement for P-consciousness, so for example in the formation of a phobia or a prejudice, the first experience of something gets represented as a concept, and then subsequent experiences become coloured by that concept rather than remaining open to any new encounters.

Related to this is also the idea of taking the object to actually exist when we have only really experienced one aspect of it, so gradually as we get older and more "experienced", we risk reacting to our own concepts of what the "thing" is, rather than allowing any new experience to flow. There can become a kind of stagnation within a closed loop which not only reifies the object but also ourselves.
we cannot get rid of God because we still believe in grammar - Nietzsche
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