Consciousness versus Awareness

M. C. Escher

Yes. I think taking “Consciousness” (j6) as an object brings the problem confronting awareness to the fore radically, implausibly. Not that I can think or talk my way out of this problem. Just sitting, just noticing, just sayin’.

This question of consciousness versus awareness is the crux, the crucial boundary that must be liberated. It is the consciousness that is to be seen through, to dissolve, to be liberated into the nature of awareness, which is empty and clear. This is what it means to realize that the jhanas are conditioned states, not liberation. The jhanas point, but, in being replicas, they throw awareness back on itself as something radically other than these replicas precisely because it cannot be pointed to, contained, found, or reduced to an “it.” Where a jhana’s distinqushing factors fail . . . to me, this kind of boundary leads the important dance to be done on the third path.

I’ve started reading this Mahamudra book that Daniel had recommended to me mainly for its poetic beauty (ostensibly for that reason, anyway). It is called Clarifying the Natural State, and it is really flipping me out. It gives simple instructions for samatha and then for vipassana. And then it says that these two practices, performed together at the same instant, are this problem-mind and its solution. 

It instructs one to be aware via vipassana “of” samatha. Pretty heady stuff. I had to translate it for use more in line with MCTB, where Daniel talks about making specific jhanas the objects of investigation. The MCTB practice is only a pointer to the natural state, however.

[Postscript — The ways in which the samatha jhanas, particularly the arupa jhanas, offer conditioned awareness as object, as “consciousness,” which seems to be other than the liberated awareness that holds it, will be key in my meditation manual. The consciousness-awareness interface is key to finishing MCTB third path and being well into fourth. It maps not only to certain source texts of Mahamudra, but also the difference between kunzhi and gzhi in  Dzogchen view. In addition, A. H. Almaas’s The Point of Existence: Transformation of Narcissism in Self-Realization distinguishes our usual sense of identity and our True Self. When one finds ephemeral the patterning of one’s identity, then one is flooded with emptiness in the sense of deficiency, loss. If one stays with this emptiness, it is soon felt as the shunyata kind of emptiness, a filling up with True Self, primordial essence that consists in illuminating while not itself being found.]

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