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TOPIC: Use of term Awareness

Use of term Awareness 07 Feb 2014 10:23 #18371

Can people chime in with their understanding of the (various?) ways the word "awareness" is used in meditation practices? I was discussing with two different people last week, and it seems a bit undefined and confusing. Sometimes referring more or less to consciousness, I think - the recognition of phenomena/sensory information. Sometimes more to the sort of meditative attention where one isn't lost in thoughts or daydreams. Sometimes seems to be a sort of substitute for the word "God" - the sense that there is a consciousness or recognition of sensory data that is "not me" but (eta: sometimes) is objectified, as if whatever "it" is that is recognizing/aware of phenomena is a "something somewhere" - even if its location, boundaries etc can't be clearly defined. Does the use of this term originate in certain traditions? Other thoughts?
Last Edit: 07 Feb 2014 10:31 by Ona Kiser.
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Use of term Awareness 07 Feb 2014 10:58 #18373

Yogacara philosophy has a lot of helpful descriptions that may be useful. It's worth pulling up on wikipedia.

I draw my understanding mostly from Nyingma/Dzogchen teachings, as far as I can tell.

In Buddhist terms, consciousness is always "consciousness-of" - as in eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, mind-consciousness, etc. Awareness - or primordial awareness, or the nature of mind, or ground luminosity, etc. - is the clear light awareness that remains when there are no objects on which a separate-seeming consciousness may arise. Awareness is the empty, cognizant, creative space that makes all appearance possible.

To make things more complicated, mind and the nature of mind are nondual. Sorting out the difference, and then the non-difference, is what the Dzogchen and Mahamudra pointing out instructions are all about.

Helpful?
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Use of term Awareness 07 Feb 2014 11:12 #18375

It's always going to be dependant on how you use it, rather than being a "right" usage... and eventually even clear usage becomes paradoxical --- but obviously most folks here know that! :)

Ona, what were you trying to accomplish in those conversations? Point out god/awareness/mind as opposed to experience/awareness-objects/mind-objects? Or pointing out the non-difference of god & experience / awareness & awareness-objects / mind&mind-object? What tradition language were you using and what tradition were the other speakers coming from?
Last Edit: 07 Feb 2014 11:14 by shargrol.
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Use of term Awareness 07 Feb 2014 11:39 #18378

In both cases it was people asking ME what it meant.

One was an advanced "traditionless" student who had read some articles using the term, and was trying to figure out what awareness was (as used in the article); the other was a fellow teacher/colleague who was puzzling over how many different ways it seems to get used. And then I recall seeing it pop up here - I think in Tom's thread - and was wondering what the range of meanings is.

I don't really use the term very often, except in a plain English sort of way (I was aware of the ants crawling on my foot); though Alan used to use "resting in natural Awareness" as a description of practice at one time. I don't use it that way now, because I don't really know what that means (when he told me that some years ago, it seemed to point to a kind of doing-less resting sort of sit that arose spontaneously at times). I also recall a teacher once saying something like: "Now feel the emotion, and give it to Awake Awareness, and let Awake Awareness offer a response."


It does seem that in context one can usually sense what the person is pointing at when they use the word. But I wondered if there's any consistency across usage, and I think there may not be. Actually "luminosity" "clarity" and "emptiness" all get thrown around rather broadly, too, no?
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Use of term Awareness 07 Feb 2014 11:55 #18379

Ona Kiser wrote:
It does seem that in context one can usually sense what the person is pointing at when they use the word. But I wondered if there's any consistency across usage, and I think there may not be. Actually "luminosity" "clarity" and "emptiness" all get thrown around rather broadly, too, no?

Providing basic definitions from one's own perspective is helpful, but not fool proof. Having a good, long conversation with someone about their actual practice experience, applied to the terms they use, is probably the best way to gain some kind of understanding. Common sense, really.

Yes, all those terms get thrown around often, and sometimes willy nilly. I still choose to use them, though, since they can be used in helpful ways at times.
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Use of term Awareness 07 Feb 2014 12:05 #18380

What's funny/sad/inevitable is when people argue at length and then realize they were using the same word a different way. "Mind" is one that seem particularly prone to that. Is mind awareness? Can you be aware of mind? Is "big mind" awareness? Is "one mind" mind at all? etc. etc. etc.
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Use of term Awareness 07 Feb 2014 12:22 #18381

shargrol wrote:
I...Point out god/awareness/mind as opposed to experience/awareness-objects/mind-objects? Or pointing out the non-difference of god & experience / awareness & awareness-objects / mind&mind-object? ...

Relating to the more recent replies by you and Jackson, too, I had got the impression that some people seem to use the word Awareness in a way that substitutes at least pretty much for God. But I never thought about Mind being in that category. I suppose some people may use Consciousness similarly, and that Self (with the capital S, as found in some Indian teaching) is in the same vicinity?

Not worth arguing over such things! Besides ones (direct) understanding of what they mean is going to change over time even within a tradition. But helpful to understand the range of influences that might be at play when someone uses these terms. "Mind" comes from what tradition? Buddhist?
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Use of term Awareness 07 Feb 2014 12:24 #18382

And if God is Love, then Mind, Self, Awareness etc are all Love too? ;)
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Use of term Awareness 07 Feb 2014 12:56 #18385

Ona, here's my earliest recollected hearing of "Mind"-- from one of the two group recitations at my weekly Sunday School:

"The scientific statement of being:

There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter. All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all. Spirit is immortal Truth; matter is mortal error. Spirit is the real and eternal; matter is the unreal and temporal. Spirit is God, and man is His image and likeness. Therefore man is not material; he is spiritual."

At the time, the phrase "All-in-all" was much the most mysterious. ;)
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Use of term Awareness 07 Feb 2014 13:08 #18388

I think the quandaries around words like mind, awareness, consciousness, energy, love, spirit, even God-- are generated by a resolutely materialist culture trying to talk about things that are NOT material. We do not have an agreed vocabulary that doesn't drag in all sorts of inapropos concepts analogizing immaterial things to material things we think we understand better (e.g., "mind" = "brain"; "energy" = "electricity"; "meridians = "nerves").

Probably there is no general solution-- just what we work out one-to-one in our communications.
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Use of term Awareness 07 Feb 2014 13:09 #18389

I'd recognize Mary Baker Eddy anywhere! I had a Christian Scientist violin teacher when I was in college, and studied with her in Boston, locale for the Mother Church. I even attended a few times.
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Use of term Awareness 07 Feb 2014 14:42 #18390

Ona Kiser wrote:
And if God is Love, then Mind, Self, Awareness etc are all Love too? ;)

Coooooould be.

:D

There was a funny example of this "term" problem in the "Sorrows and Fear" thread. In the "Still Crazy after all these Years: Why Meditation isn’t Psychotherapy" article, Patrick Kearney says:

The Zen teachers Rubin talks about follow a practice which is designed to give rise to this experience of emptiness. They are not following a practice which is designed to give rise to the experience of nirvâna. Nothing which these Zen teachers say or do can tell us anything at all about the Theravâda ideal of enlightenment, since we have no evidence that any of them have ever experienced it.

Those poor Zennies searching for emptiness when they should have been searching for Therevada nirvana! I suppose it could have been worse, they could have been searching for mind, christ consciousness, true self, god, no self, love, non-duality, the source, awareness, cosmic consciousness....

:D
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Use of term Awareness 07 Feb 2014 15:13 #18393

shargrol wrote:
...Nothing which these Zen teachers say or do can tell us anything at all about the Theravâda ideal of enlightenment, since we have no evidence that any of them have ever experienced it....

ROFL

But you know, all traditions seem to think they have really nailed down the only correct/effective practice. Any other view seems to mostly belong to modern westerners of a certain social/cultural sector who don't like traditional anything, so go for the "who cares, do what you like" approach. (Although see intense spats on dharma forums about who has the better enlightenment, so...)

Have you seen the intense inter-lineage Zen arguments that occurred at various times? It's like locking some Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses in a room together.
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Use of term Awareness 07 Feb 2014 15:54 #18399

:)
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Use of term Awareness 07 Feb 2014 20:40 #18405

Ona Kiser wrote:
shargrol wrote:
I...Point out god/awareness/mind as opposed to experience/awareness-objects/mind-objects? Or pointing out the non-difference of god & experience / awareness & awareness-objects / mind&mind-object? ...

Relating to the more recent replies by you and Jackson, too, I had got the impression that some people seem to use the word Awareness in a way that substitutes at least pretty much for God. But I never thought about Mind being in that category. I suppose some people may use Consciousness similarly, and that Self (with the capital S, as found in some Indian teaching) is in the same vicinity?

Not worth arguing over such things! Besides ones (direct) understanding of what they mean is going to change over time even within a tradition. But helpful to understand the range of influences that might be at play when someone uses these terms. "Mind" comes from what tradition? Buddhist?

Since you mentioned my thread in particular, I will chime in with my very rudimentary description, and I can assure you it is most certainly not God. As Abre and I use it together, its most direct synonym would be consciousness. And as I refer to it in my recent descriptions, it is that "thing" that is behind attention to a particular sense, the "thing" that knows I am listening to something, seeing something, etc. Honestly, I am just feeling my way around this, and lack the proper words because I cannot be 100% sure that I know what I am looking at. But it is meta-attention, to throw in another possibly confusing term and, while I lack the words, I feel something different now that I am looking for it.
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Use of term Awareness 08 Feb 2014 13:57 #18419

This question reminds me of something I read in Pointers from Nisargadatta Maharaj:
Awareness is the primordial original state, prior to the concept of space-time, needing no cause, no support. It simply is. However, the moment the concept of consciousness arises on this original state of unicity, the sense 'I am' arises, causing a condition of duality. Consciousness is with a form, a reflection of awareness against the surface of matter. One cannot think of consciousness apart from awareness; there cannot be a reflection of the sun without the sun. But there can be awareness without consciousness.

His description seems like it equates awareness to God, or an aspect of God. And that's probably closer to the understanding of awareness that I currently have myself. Before starting any spiritual practice, I think I would have defined awareness as something much more personal - like the totality of what I could perceive through my senses. Now, it seems like my experience of awareness has moved beyond the "little me" to something much greater than me, while somehow still including me.
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Use of term Awareness 09 Feb 2014 01:52 #18428

I think the term 'consciousness' has its own issues - one of the big things both for it and 'awareness' is, are we talking about the META level (reflexive awareness/consciousness) or simply about, being aware/conscious of anything at all? The Advaitin and other non-dual traditions use these terms quite a lot, and on the one hand, a common perspective is that Brahman (impersonal God, for Advaitins) or Shiva (for Kashmir Shaivites) is consciousness/awareness, so that consciousness/awareness IS God, and realising that everything that is ever experienced is consciousness/awareness means that one realises that one, and everything, is God.

In one sense, this is also the hook for neo-Advaitins, because the thing they argue for is that you are always already awake, it's simply that that has to be realised, and we are all already aware/conscious, otherwise we wouldn't have any experience of being or existing or anything at all.

Re the Patrick Kearney quote, I'm not into sectarianism these days, but there may be a useful pointer here toward You Get What You Optimise For?

And I do think it's useful to remember that scriptures are talking about different things - unless you're a perennialist - so for example, to read a Zen scripture and a Pali canon scripture and think they're talking about the same thing may lead to various problems - like we get when we're using a term that has no agreed meaning.

My take is that the gross errors might be ironed out (e.g. mind vs brain), but even in the Indian tradition there are extremely complex and subtle terminologies for different aspects of mind/experience/consciousness but they change over time and in different traditions, etc - and of course it's also a modernist position to want to create an agreed grammar or taxonomy of anything (one which is useful for communication, but has inherent reductive tendencies).

One of the things about any conversation about this is that it's basically trying to eff the ineffable, right? In that way that certain teachings at one point seem fluffy, useless or bleedingly obvious but unhelpful, and at another seem deeply true and the only way to express truth (and so the cycle goes...) It's like describing the elephant... what would you say if someone who hadn't had the experience of being conscious or aware (in whatever sense, and even 'the person who hasn't had the experience' leads us into highfalutin philosophical realms) was to say, 'describe being conscious' or 'describe being aware'?
Last Edit: 09 Feb 2014 01:57 by every3rdthought.
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Use of term Awareness 09 Feb 2014 06:38 #18431

There is some neat stuff I just found on:

embodiednonduality.org/

including:

a set of notions we could call the folk theory of nondual enlightenment (FToE) becomes the primary means for understanding and communicating about nonduality, and also, a primary cause for the prevention of nondual realization (this is a link from this page of the blog: www.embodiednonduality.com/defining-the-starting-point/

shimmeringdeadend.wordpress.com/2009/10/...ry-of-enlightenment/

I've been enjoying reading through the blog this AM.

Edit:

A provocative (I think in a good way) set of slides by the same author, explaining the FToE more sequentially:

www.slideshare.net/jodyr1/ftoe-15614697#
Last Edit: 09 Feb 2014 06:54 by shargrol.
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Use of term Awareness 10 Feb 2014 08:54 #18441

every3rdthought wrote:
there may be a useful pointer here toward You Get What You Optimise For?

During my commute I started to listen to Anadi () and he presents a model very similar to Adyashanti's where there is awakening in three dimensions: mind, heart, being/gut. I'm starting to appreciate the explainitory power of this model. One of the interesting things that Anadi puts back into the model is the idea of individuality and the alignment of the individuality with the "not me" type openings at the mind, heart, and being/gut. His contention (which is a positive expression of the posts on the embodiednonduality blog, linked previously) is that opening to awakening/not-self needs to be integrated with individuality, otherwise the person is essentially fragmented. The embodiednonduality blog says a similar thing but in the inverse: a fragmented person will strive to fixate their realization as being "i am nothing", "i am perfected" or "i am all powerfull", and interestingly those seem very similar to mind (not-self), heart (perfection), and power (being/gut).

... is anyone else as geeked out by this as me? It seems like a pretty neat convergence to me. :)
Last Edit: 10 Feb 2014 08:55 by shargrol.
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