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The "Substrate Consciousness"

The "Substrate Consciousness"
Answer
1/17/16 2:37 AM
I was reading BAW's book on Dreaming Yourself Awake, which I enjoyed, but part of it was a bit strange.

In his book, he mentions that if you are lucid dreaming and manage to close your eyes in the dream, you will see the "substrate consciousness".

Well, being a pretty good lucid dreamer, I have managed to do this twice, and here is what I saw.

Both times, what I saw was in garish 3D, like what you see through a stereoscope or when you are looking at a Magic Eye poster.

The first time, the images I saw were of this flat wall with a shifting, largely regular, clear pattern of orange, yellow and purplish shapes that interlocked, like tesslations, in the shape of something like horizontally oriented-skeleton keys.

The second time, I saw this gigantic, featureless white room with my wife standing at the far wall.

I have no idea why one would call this the "substrate consciousness" or give it some special status, but the book seemed to imply it had it.

Anyone out there have any training in Tibetan Dream Yoga or know anything else about this? I was underwhelmed.

RE: The "Substrate Consciousness"
Answer
1/17/16 3:10 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
I found this essay. It didn't really lend much to me about why he considers this important, though perhaps I missed something.

RE: The "Substrate Consciousness"
Answer
1/17/16 12:48 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel, the essay by B. Alan Wallace you linked equates Substrate Consciousness with consciousness during dreamless sleep. What you saw after closing your eyes is instead an instance of a dream within a dream. So I would say that you did not experience SC by how he defines it.

Do you have any experience of consciousness during dreamless sleep?

Personally, the first time I've achieved it was in retreat conditions. I didn't find the experience particularly "enlightening" in itself, but I got second path shortly after waking up from that sleep, so it may have been useful in ways I cannot understand directly. It has happened to me again several times, always as a result of practicing Mahasi noting immediately before lying down to sleep, better if stopping during EQ and before a Fruition. The missed-fruition-momentum kind of carries on the intention to meditate during sleep. I will generally then keep meditating during sleep (both dreamless and dreamy) until I finally get a dream-Fruition halfway through the night. Thereafter, my sleep reverts to non-lucid.

RE: The "Substrate Consciousness"
Answer
3/31/17 10:58 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Here is what I experienced reading this post.  So, "substrate conciousness" is another concept, reified as object or "Self", and is empty, impermanent, and dukkha, and if liberation is the goal, getting trapped in the conceptual proliferation of grasping and/or becoming or merging with an imagined "substrance consciousness" will likely be another "Self" to solidify and not provide liberation.  I am also curious why this concept would be important to others.  

RE: The "Substrate Consciousness"
Answer
1/17/16 8:12 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
The premise seems kind of confusing to me.  If you are asleep, typically your physical eyes are closed.  When dreaming, you are not experiencing your physical body so what 'eyes' are there to open and close?  Do you blink when you dream? Best I can tell, you are in a dream seeing with mind or consciousness only so then if you close your 'eyes' it's going to be some kind of thing where you are telling yourself not to see that particular dream any more.  What will you see instead?  I suspect that will depend on you and what is rattling around in your head at the time and perhaps also has a great deal to do with what you expect to see, want to see, etc. 

OBEers often use dreams for launching OBEs, you can get to all kind of states of consciousness from the dream state, not just any one particular one.  Maybe that guy had a particular one that he would often experience.  You might have the best luck mentally telling yourself when you close your supposed eyes you will experience the type of consciousness similar to what that guy was referring to when he coined the term.  Then maybe you can experience a bit of what he was talking about.  He likely experienced something so that might be the main question, what/which was it? 

When I used to do the lucid dream launch, I would find a wall in the dream and then fly at it and tell myself that when I hit the wall, I would do XYZ (whatever the project of the day was).  Soon I could just think it and it would happen without the flying part.  Probably a similar deal to the 'eye' closing thing, you are moving past the state of consciousness of the dream to something else.  Sometimes I would see swirly smear shapes, sometimes things looked warped like a hazy vortex, and then I saw something else.  A few times there was this kind of misty looking place I got the sense was some kind of inbetween place.  

What he means by substrate consciounessness may be anyone's guess.  IME there are a lot of states of consciousness that are weird.  Maybe that guy was assuming his equates with some from the books and maybe it did and maybe it didn't. 

RE: The "Substrate Consciousness"
Answer
1/18/16 7:52 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel, I agree with @neko's view. In the books section of the Integrated Daniel site, you mention the author Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche (TWR). In his Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep he talks about "Clear Light Dreams" (CLDs). While they are occuring, there is an intense light pervading all sensate experience. The first time I experienced it, upon waking up I felt very unsettled simply because it was an experience totally outside my frame of reference. In response, my first thought was "what the hell was that!"

He indicates that early on, any thoughts that come up can cause the meditator to loose their connection this state of consciousness. However,  he goes on to explain that once a meditator is more experienced with CLDs, that thoughts can arise and dissolve back into this "awareness." This notion hits home for me based on my experiences. The first couple of times I experienced a CLD, the state lasted for part of the time I was asleep and then I remembered the experience upon waking up. Subsequently, I had a night where I went into CLD strait from the hypnogogic state and it stayed with me until I woke up.

I remember during that night, I was aware of everything that was happening in the room around me. If the water pipes made a noise I would think "water pipes are knocking" and then the next moment of awareness seemed to be strait back to the uninterrupted light/awareness. When my room mate finally came home, well after 1am, I had the thought, "roommate's back" and then I was back into "it" without any further ruminations.  I'm using the word "awareness" a lot due to the fact that trying to describe the nuanced nature of the state is quite tricky. One of the defining characteristics of the experience for me was that the light and the awareness where not fundamentally different.

TWR states in his book that the ultimate goal of Tibetan Dream Yoga is to experience CLD every single night. I've experienced this state a handful of times, especially during periods of intense Vedanta-style practice ( was also working on lucid dreaming at the time). The notion however, that someone could do this every night is absolutely mind blowing! Part of the reason for this are the benefits of the experience.

In your descriptions of the jhanic-levels above the standard eight, you mention that they "write" large amounts of "healing" onto the body and mind. CLD is similar in that while it is occurring, it is co-present with an enormous sense of well being, which, if the practice is carried through to waking, carries over into the day. There is a definite after-glow quality to it, though in my experience this after-glow can fade relatively quickly (30 min to two hours on the short end).

RE: The "Substrate Consciousness"
Answer
1/17/16 10:00 PM as a reply to Shamadhi Sam.
Shamadhi Sam:
Daniel, I agree with @neko's view. In the books section of the Integrated Daniel site, you mention the author Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche (TWR). In his Tibetan Yogas of Dream and sleep he talks about "Clear Light Dreams" (CLDs). While the are occuring, there is an intense light pervading all sensate experience. The first time I experienced it, upon waking up I felt very unsettled simply because it was an experience totally outside my frame of reference. In response, my first thought was "what the hell was that!"
CLD eh?  Pretty funny.  Seeing bright light while sleeping is actually considered a very very classic sign of kundalini awakening in that community.  Kinda ironic to see a fancy name attached to it in another tradition but I guess it's not surprising that a lot of phenomenon are shared across groups.  Anyway, what Daniel described did not sound like that kind of light.
-Eva

RE: The "Substrate Consciousness"
Answer
1/17/16 11:16 PM as a reply to Eva Nie.
CLD eh?  Pretty funny.  Seeing bright light while sleeping is actually considered a very very classic sign of kundalini awakening in that community.

@Eva M Night,  a few questions, the first of which is, which community are you referring to when you say "that community"?

Secondly, just because kundalini awakenings can have lights associated with them and CDLs always has light associated with it, does not mean that the two experiences are once and the same.

I was reading BAW's book on Dreaming Yourself Awake, which I enjoyed, but part of it was a bit strange...

I have no idea why one would call this the "substrate consciousness" or give it some special status, but the book seemed to imply it had it.

Anyone out there have any training in Tibetan Dream Yoga or know anything else about this?

Third, in Daniels first post on this thread he is reaching out about this term "substrate consciousness" as it relates to lucid dreaming. He is basically saying, look, I've had the following experiences myself and they are my best guess as to what BAW meant by the term, anyone else have any ideas?

Why would you expect my experinces to match up with Daniel's when Daniel is asking for different points of view on the subject?

CLD eh?  Pretty funny.

Lastly, your tone sounds dismissive to me. I am new to the forum and you have clearly been around for a while. I am trying to understand, are you trying to encourage people to share their experiences or dissuade them?

-Sam

RE: The "Substrate Consciousness"
Answer
1/18/16 12:49 AM as a reply to Shamadhi Sam.
Shamadhi Sam:
CLD eh?  Pretty funny.  Seeing bright light while sleeping is actually considered a very very classic sign of kundalini awakening in that community.

@Eva M Night,  a few questions, the first of which is, which community are you referring to when you say "that community"?
Kundalini community, they are pretty wide ranging, I've seen this discussed in a number of places. 

Secondly, just because kundalini awakenings can have lights associated with them and CDLs always has light associated with it, does not mean that the two experiences are once and the same.
Correct, it doesn't.  HOwever, the accounts I am recalling describe it as a very bright light like the sun and constant, IMO they are describing similar phenomenon.  However, that makes sense to me, I woudl be suprised if the Tibetans were the only ones that ever experienced it.  There are probably even some accounts on Dho about it.  

Third, in Daniels first post on this thread he is reaching out about this term "substrate consciousness" as it relates to lucid dreaming. He is basically saying, look, I've had the following experiences myself and they are my best guess as to what BAW meant by the term, anyone else have any ideas?

Why would you expect my experinces to match up with Daniel's when Daniel is asking for different points of view on the subject?
Um, yes actually it DOES make sense to me that someone might post about expeirences he/she thought were similar to what Daniel was saying.  People typically post about similar things to a thread topic.  However if you were not, then I stand corrected. 

CLD eh?  Pretty funny.

Lastly, your tone sounds dismissive to me. I am new to the forum and you have clearly been around for a while. I am trying to understand, are you trying to encourage people to share their experiences or dissuade them?

-Sam
You are right, it was a tad dismissive, apologies for the rudeness. HOwever, I tend to be a bit dismissive of all fancy terminology and labeling something as if it was special to one group only.   It is also my personal opinion that mystifying these kinds of natural phenomenon is counterproductive to development.  And to me yes it IS amusing to me to see something I have heard about on internet usegroups and now on boards like these for 20 years suddenly being talked about as if it is a special Tibetan knowledge with a special name.  Although it's probably not 'sudden'  to the Tibetans who may well have the advantage of having more knowledge about it since it's something that at least that one group apparently specifically cultivates.    
-Eva

RE: The "Substrate Consciousness"
Answer
1/18/16 12:52 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
I think what substrate consciousness is is what Actual Freedom would call a PCE. If you in turn recognize this pure consciousness as empty, the clear light will emerge. What you saw are still normal objects...

RE: The "Substrate Consciousness"
Answer
1/18/16 1:52 PM as a reply to Superkatze one.
Hello all,

this is a long post to clarify/contrast the following terms
  • Substrate Consciousness / Storehouse Consciousness,
  • The three levels of the mind (coarse, subtle, very subtle),
  • Pure Consciousness Experience / Consciousness Without an Object,
  • Nirodha Samapatti,
  • Clear Light,
as used in the Theravadin and Mahamudra traditions and as used by Culadasa, Tashi Namgyal, Daniel Brown and Wallace. Do not expect complete 100% coherence, but it helps against throwing terms around randomly because of what they sound like, instead of what they are usually taken to mean.


I will start with Culadasa on Cessation vs. PCE vs Nirodha Samapatti 


Culadasa, The Mind Illuminated:

The Mind-System model and unification process help us understand one of the most profound Insight experiences, the cessation event. A cessation event is where unconscious sub-minds remain tuned in and receptive to the contents of consciousness, while at the same time, none of them project any content into consciousness. Then, consciousness ceases—completely. During that period, at the level of consciousness there is a complete cessation of mental fabrications of any kind—of the illusory, mind-generated world that otherwise dominates every conscious moment. This, of course, also entails a complete cessation of craving, intention, and suffering. The only information that tuned in sub-minds receive during this event is the fact of a total absence.

What makes this the most powerful of all Insight experiences is what happens in the last few moments of consciousness leading up to the cessation. First, an object arises in consciousness that would normally produce craving. It can be almost anything. However, what happens next is quite unusual: the mind doesn’t respond with the habitual craving and clinging. Rather, it fully understands the object from the perspective of Insight: as a mental construct, completely “empty” of any real substance, impermanent, and a cause of suffering. This profound realization leads to the next and final moment of complete equanimity, in which the shared intention of all the unified sub-minds is to not respond. Because nothing is projected into consciousness, the cessation event arises. With cessation, the tuned-in sub-minds simultaneously realize that everything appearing in consciousness is simply the product of their own activity. In other words, they realize that the input they’re accustomed to receiving is simply a result of their own fabricating activities. This has a dramatic effect. The sub-minds of the discriminating mind have the Insight that everything ever known, including the Self, was nothing but a fabrication of the mind itself. The sub-minds of the sensory mind have a slightly different Insight: the only kind of information that ever appears in the mind that isn’t purely mind-generated is the input coming to them directly from the sense organs.

If the sub-minds are receptive but there’s nothing to receive, can a cessation event be consciously recalled afterward? It all depends on the nature of the shared intention before the cessation occurred. If the intention of all the tuned in sub-minds was to observe objects of consciousness, as with popular “noting” practices, all that’s subsequently recalled is an absence, a gap. After all, if every object of consciousness ceases, and there’s no intention for the sub-minds to observe anything else, then nothing gets imprinted in memory. However, if the intention was to be metacognitively aware of the state and activities of the mind, we would remember having been fully conscious, but not conscious of anything. We would recall having a pure consciousness experience(PCE), or an experience of consciousness without an object (CWO).

To be clear, there is no actual “experience” of “consciousness without an object” during the cessation event, nor could there possibly be. That experience, like any other, is a construct of the mind, and in this case is generated after the cessation event has already ended. How the memory of a cessation event is interpreted retrospectively takes many forms, depending on the views and beliefs held by the person whose mind is doing the interpreting. Thus, the cessation event itself is not a mental construct, but the subsequent interpretations are entirely constructed.

Regardless of what does or doesn’t imprint in memory, every sub-mind tuned in to consciousness during cessation must assimilate the event into its own representation of reality. As with any Insight experience, the new information forces a reprogramming of how all future experiences are interpreted and responded to. Realizing that all phenomenal experience, including the Self, are mere mental constructs, and therefore “empty” of any real substance, radically transforms how the mind functions. We understand, more clearly than ever before, craving and suffering as the grasping after mere mental constructs—and the more sub-minds are tuned in during the event, the stronger that understanding will be. Of course, it’s not that hard to acquire a conceptual grasp of these truths. Many have done so. But only Insight can establish this understanding at a deep, intuitive level.

The transformative power of a cessation event depends on how unified the mind was. Unification determines the overall size of the “audience” of sub-minds receptive to events in consciousness. Only the parts of the mind-system that were tuned in during the cessation are affected. If the mind were completely unified, then every sub-mind within the mind system would be affected simultaneously, and there would be a complete Awakening of the entire mind-system. [Footnote: nirodha-samāpatti]

However, if the mind was only partially unified, there are two possibilities: no transformation, or incomplete transformation. This is because a certain degree of unification is needed during the event to reach enough sub-minds to make any tangible, lasting difference to the whole mind-system. With too little unification, a person may have a very memorable peak experience, but with little or no lasting effect. However, if the critical threshold is reached, the second possibility is an incomplete transformation of the mind-system, limited to those sub-minds that happened to be tuned in at the time. Complete transformation must await subsequent cessations or other Insight experiences that have a similar impact on the remaining parts of the mind-system. This incremental process of transformation explains why Awakening is traditionally described as occurring in a series of stages.


So from this quote by Culadasa, it would appear that lucid dreamless sleep might be equated with a Pure Consciousness Experience and/or Nirodha Samapatti.

Substrate consciousness, which Daniel was referring to in his first post, is usually synonymous with storehouse consciousness. (Better yet, these are likely two different translations of the same Sanskrit / Tibetan term). So it is likely that Wallace was talking about the three levels of the mind:

Edit: No, substrate consciousness = subtle level. See this quote here and another post of mine further below.
Daniel Brown, Pointing Out the Great Way:


The essence viewpoint asserts three levels of mind: coarse, subtle, and very subtle.
- The coarse level pertains to mental content, such as thoughts, sense perceptions, and emotions.
- The subtle level is the fleeting mental activity surrounding sensory experience before that activity becomes full-blown mental content.
- The very subtle, or extraordinary, level is the level where impressions due to past actions are accumulated before these ripen in fresh experience. This very subtle mind is sometimes called the storehouse consciousness. The point of observation of this storehouse consciousness transcends our ordinary sense of self and individual consciousness. Like a vast ocean of awareness, this vantage point for the extraordinary meditation is typically referred to as the always-here mind or as awareness in and of itself. When the mind operates primarily at this very subtle level, the individual is significantly more prepared to realize the mind's primordial nature, which is always there, unaffected by all the mental activity at the coarse and subtle level. Thus, the essence perspective cuts right to the heart of the mind's natural state, and invites the practitioner to awaken to it in direct experience, the result of which is enlightenment.


The very subtle level of mind is very closely related to clear light in Mahamudra (I am too lazy to provide a quote for this).

Last but not least, in response to Eva's comments, the clear light of Mahamudra is mostly metaphorical, rather than an actual light that one sees, and is not related to the actual lights that are seen in phenomena such as A&P, Kundalini Awakening, or the Luminous Jhanas of Cualdasa:

Tashi Namgyal/Namgyel, The Moonlight:
Numerous sayings convey that the "real nature of the mind is said to be clear light." The term clear light means "pure, not obscured by the elaboration such as arising and passing away," and not particles into elements or aggregates. Clear
light has no impurities. It is like space, with aspects nowhere existent. So this explains the real nature, said to be like space and nondual.


It can, in my experience, be accompanied by a general sense of things being actually more luminous and/or brighter, but that is by far not its most relevant characteristic.

RE: The "Substrate Consciousness"
Answer
1/18/16 5:15 AM as a reply to neko.
This post of Ken Folk on Nirodha Samapatti vs. falling asleep may be relevant

http://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/84731


and here there is a post of mine trying to compare falling asleep lucidly with 8th jhana:

http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5806288


Now of course NS is quite different from Clear Light or Lucid Dreamless Sleep, since consciousness powers itself down with NS, while it is very much on during CL and LD. But it is interesting that
  • KF finds it useful to compare NS with falling asleep,
  • Culadasa finds it useful to compare NS with PCE,
  • Culadasa's description of PCE seems very similar to Lucid Dreamless Sleep,
  • tradition associates NS with Anagamihood and Daniel Ingram associates some degree of obsession with Luminosity with Anagamihood.
So I think comparing and contrasting these attainments is a useful thing to do.

RE: The "Substrate Consciousness"
Answer
1/18/16 10:38 AM as a reply to neko.

The very subtle level of mind is very closely related to clear light in Mahamudra (I am too lazy to provide a quote for this).

Last but not least, in response to Eva's comments, the clear light of Mahamudra is mostly metaphorical, rather than an actual light that one sees, and is not related to the actual lights that are seen in phenomena such as A&P, Kundalini Awakening, or the Luminous Jhanas of Cualdasa:



Neko, I agree with you that the Clear Light is most definitley not the same as a Kundalini Awakening.

Tashi Namgyal/Namgyel, The Moonlight:
Numerous sayings convey that the "real nature of the mind is said to be clear
light." The term clear light means "pure, not obscured by the
elaboration such as arising and passing away," and not particles into
elements or aggregates. Clear light has no impurities. It is like
space, with aspects nowhere existent. So this explains the real nature,
said to be like space and nondual.


It can, in my experience, be accompanied by a general sense of things being actually
more luminous and/or brighter, but that is by far not its most relevant characteristic.

Where I disagree with you is in the idea that "the clear light of Mahamudra is mostly metaphorical". In my experience with Clear Light Dreams, the light, luminosity, brightness, etc. is a salient feature of the experience. Other relevant features include those mentioned in my first post, namely an extreme sense of well-being during the experience and a possible after-glow when the experience is carried on to waking.

It's good of you to point out Tashi Namgyal's quote, since it brings up yet more noticeable features. During the some of the more intense Clear Light Dreams I've had, the luminosity carries on in all directions. There are no observable points of reference in the continuous field, so notions of the size of the light/luminosity become moot.

In Sekida's Zen Traininng, he uses the Japanese term "nen", which is usefull in describing another characteristic of the experience.  

From the Editor's Introduction to the 2005 edition...

Mr. Sekida draws a picture of the operation of the mind. His scheme is worked out in terms of nen, a Japanese word that has no precise English equivalent, which may be translated as "thought impulse" but which as somewhat wider meanings than that, since it can be used to denote (among other things) a distinctive type of action of the mind.


He goes on to build a model the mechanism of human thought based on three types of nen. In his model, the first nen is an individual thought. The second nen the thought immediately following. It could be in the form of "Hey, I just had a thought", "You shouldn't think that, that's horrible" or "wow, that's a great idea!" One of the points that Sekida draws attention to is that second nen can come so close on the heels of first nen, that the two can sometimes seem to "intermix... with each other". The third nen includes the perception and registering of both of these events, it's framed as a subtle form of pre-processing which occur before any further ruminations can take place.

One of the very unique features of this "state" of consciousness, in my experience, is that first nen and second nen always seem to happen happen simultaneously (thinking in terms of Mahasi-style noting, the noting happens automatically for each and every thought), arguable without any trace of third nen and zero follow-up thoughts. You could make a strong case that during Clear Light Dreams the thought and the "noting" that thought has occurred, are one and the same process, just an instant reflective registering in awareness. Such thoughts seem to come rarely and are often triggered by outside stimuli (like noises in the area you are sleeping).

RE: The "Substrate Consciousness"
Answer
1/18/16 1:32 PM as a reply to Shamadhi Sam.
Shamadhi Sam:

Neko, I agree with you that the Clear Light is most definitley not the same as a Kundalini Awakening.

Tashi Namgyal/Namgyel, The Moonlight:
Numerous sayings convey that the "real nature of the mind is said to be clear
light." The term clear light means "pure, not obscured by the
elaboration such as arising and passing away," and not particles into
elements or aggregates. Clear light has no impurities. It is like
space, with aspects nowhere existent. So this explains the real nature,
said to be like space and nondual.


It can, in my experience, be accompanied by a general sense of things being actually
more luminous and/or brighter, but that is by far not its most relevant characteristic.

Where I disagree with you is in the idea that "the clear light of Mahamudra is mostly metaphorical". In my experience with Clear Light Dreams, the light, luminosity, brightness, etc. is a salient feature of the experience. Other relevant features include those mentioned in my first post, namely an extreme sense of well-being during the experience and a possible after-glow when the experience is carried on to waking.

Hey Samadhi Sam, thanks for bringing this up. Trying to clarify something, I have actually conflated and mixed up two different things:
  • clear light dreams,
  • clear light.
The quote by Tashi Namgyal above is about clear light (without dreams). When I said that actual physical luminosity is not a salient feature of clear light in my limited experience, I was talking about "waking" clear light.

About what I call lucid dreamless sleep: in that case too, I had no experience of bright lights: only very faint swirling coloured lights, or strobing shades of darkness. Also the other features you mention from "clear light dreams" (extreme sense of well being, afterglow) were not present in my lucid dreamless sleep. So, at this point, it is likely that we have yet a third, different phenomenon:
  • lucid dreamless sleep.
I wonder what B. Alan Wallace was talking about in Daniel's first post. And also about the relationship between a clear light dream and (waking) clear light.

RE: The "Substrate Consciousness"
Answer
1/18/16 1:50 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
More context. I have found Wallace's quote about substrate consciousness:

B. Alan Wallace, Dreaming Yourself Awake:
The practices of dream yoga are based upon a three-tiered
theory of consciousness. According to this view, the most coarse
and superficial level of consciousness is what we in the West
call the psyche. The psyche comprises the five physical senses
along with conscious and unconscious mental phenomena—
thoughts, feelings, sensations, and so forth. This is our ordinary,
conditioned mind. The psyche emanates from a deeper,
intermediate level, the substrate consciousness. This is described
as a subtle mind stream containing latent habits, tendencies,
and attitudes tracing back to previous lifetimes. The deepest and
most fundamental layer, primordial consciousness—encompassing
both the psyche and the substrate consciousness—is an ultimate
level of pure wisdom where the “inner” (mind) and “outer”
(phenomenal world) are nondual. The realization of primordial
consciousness is the gateway to full enlightenment.

So what BAW is talking about is not, like I had thought before, storehouse consciousness, the "bottom level of the mind", related to (waking) clear light, the natural state, and so on, but rather the "intermediate level". However, he goes on to say, somewhere else in the same book,

One way to directly enter lucid dreamless sleep is to close one’s
eyes during the activities of normal lucid dreaming.
and then

In Natural Liberation, Padmasambhava presents an advanced
practice for recognizing pristine awareness in the dream state.
Utilizing this, students who have already fully accomplished
shamatha and vipashyana may be able dwell in rigpa, or pristine
awareness, in the dream state. However, a person lacking
these prerequisites may also attain glimpses of primordial consciousness
by allowing awareness to descend into the substrate
consciousness, using the methods presented in chapter 4 (closing
ones eyes during a lucid dream, falling asleep while meditating
on a visualization at the heart chakra, and practicing
awareness of awareness). When you release the dream but
sustain your lucidity and your awareness dissolves from the
psyche of the dream consciousness into the substrate consciousness,
obviously that is an opportunity for directly realizing the
substrate consciousness. But you may, in that state, practice
Dzogchen in the lucid dreamless state. And by releasing all
grasping in this panoramic, 360-degree open awareness, your
awareness may break through the substrate consciousness and
be realized as pristine awareness. It is clear from some of the
earliest teachings by Prahevajra on the Dzogchen practice of
trekcho, of “breakthrough,” what you are actually breaking
through is your substrate consciousness

So the procedure seems to be. 
  • 1. Lucid dream
  • 2. Close your eyes
  • 3. Experience substrate consciousness (the intermediate level)
  • 4. Start to meditate using the awareness of awareness technique
  • 5. Wait for the dream to fade
  • 6. You find yourself in rigpa / pristine awareness.
And I guess this last step is a clear light dream or lucid dreamless sleep or something like that. I am starting to think that a clear light dream might be sort of "lucid dreamless sleep + rigpa", by the way, so I would say that you get a clear light dream this way.

RE: The "Substrate Consciousness"
Answer
1/18/16 8:26 PM as a reply to neko.
Neko, I really appreciate your last post. The three-tiered model of mind that BAW provides is quite interesting in relation to what can be done with the mind outside of waking consciousness.

In Natural Liberation, Padmasambhava presents an advanced
practice for recognizing pristine awareness in the dream state.
Utilizing this, students who have already fully accomplished
shamatha and vipashyana may be able dwell in rigpa, or pristine
awareness, in the dream state. However, a person lacking
these prerequisites may also attain glimpses of primordial consciousness
by allowing awareness to descend into the substrate
consciousness, using the methods presented in chapter 4 (closing
ones eyes during a lucid dream, falling asleep while meditating
on a visualization at the heart chakra, and practicing
awareness of awareness).

I think the procedure you laid out make a lot of sense and that it is one of several possible methods that can help one get to "substrate consciousness" and possibly beyond. The method of Vedanta I use instructs the meditator to focus on the heart-center while performing self-inquiry. This is Ramana Maharishi's method as described in the books of Arthur Osborne. Done for an extended period, enough momentum can be built up that a state of consciousness very similar to "substrate consciousness" can often be glimpsed by focusing on the heart-center.

If this is done while falling asleep (especially at the end of a long day of practice), either at home or on retreat setting, the connection to that state can be maintained through the hypnogogic state. Once past that state, that "glimpse" or small connection can open up into something much wider.

Since Vedanta is an "awareness of awareness" practice and this heart-focused method is in many ways cognate to the Tibetan heart-center visualizations, this approach is somewhat of a fusion of the other two paths which Padmasambhava presents for accessing these states.

RE: The "Substrate Consciousness"
Answer
1/18/16 11:44 PM as a reply to neko.

So the procedure seems to be. 
  • 1. Lucid dream
  • 2. Close your eyes
  • 3. Experience substrate consciousness (the intermediate level)
  • 4. Start to meditate using the awareness of awareness technique
  • 5. Wait for the dream to fade
  • 6. You find yourself in rigpa / pristine awareness.
And I guess this last step is a clear light dream or lucid dreamless sleep or something like that. I am starting to think that a clear light dream might be sort of "lucid dreamless sleep + rigpa", by the way, so I would say that you get a clear light dream this way.
Like I mentioned, you don't have eyes in a lucid dream so there is nothing to 'close.'  Instead I'd say for number 2, you set your intent for what you want and try to clear your mind of obstructions, self doubt, etc.  It's the equanimity thing again, you want to have clear intent but not have a lot of clingy emotion about outcome, just let it happen kind of thing.  If you get too excited or tense, it probably won't work.  The dream is gone the second you don't see the dream, that will probably happen the second you set your intent to get another state and start ot make the shift.  I'd be surprised if you were able to strongly alter state of consciousness and the dream still hang around,  I've never seen that happen but then again I won't say it can't either, just does not seem to be the norm. 

There are likely just a few things that will determine outcome, one will be how clearly and calmly you set your intent and the second will likely be the leading edge of accomplishment you are currently capable of.  The thing with LD and OBE is that in that state, belief, intent, and clarity are yoru main powers.  If you believe a certain state is achieved a certain way, then it will probably work, just because you believe it.  If Daniel gets an ld and tries something while confident and relaxed and patient that it will work a  certain way, it's WAY more likely to work that way than if he does the same thing but with an attitude of skepticism or unsureness about any aspect of it.  If he goes in (just as a hypothetical, I don't know what he was really tilnking at the time) with an attitude of thinking it is bs but he will try it just in case, he might likely prove himself right.  ;-P  

So say someone comes up with an idea that he/she can maybe reach a certain state while in an ld by donig a certain activity there, like closing eyes, if he/she is fairly confident about it, then it may work.  Once it works once, he /she may be even more confident the next time and it may well work repeatedly.  However, it's not the trick that did the job, it was the intent and confidence that was behind it.  You don't have eyes to close in a lucid dream but if you believe that such would work, then the outcome will tend to go as you expect and believe. 

A more direct way though, especially if you do not believe in the trick, is to just set your desire directly on what you want, now I will experience XYZ (whatever your goal is) and let it happen.  Believe in yourself instead of some trick.  LDs are a very easy launch point for all kinds of altered states maybe because LDs are already a very altered state to start with.  The hardest part can be getting the LD in the first place, then you have to remember what it was you had planned to try (ld state can be a very air headed state), other than that, just try to remain equanimious in your endeavors and success is likely.  It's one of these 3, getting the ld, remembering the plan, and keeping calm, that are the 3 main sticking points for most.  But other htings like fear, distraction, and having preset assumption and expectations can also derail a plan.  It's good to keep a beginners mind full of curiosity and try to put aside doubts, assumptions, etc.  

For many years, I moderated an OBE mailing list, we often used LDs to launch OBEs and that was my favorite method personally.  I speak from my own experience along with that of many many others, back then I even read many OBE books, I was totally into it.  On the astral, thoughts and emotions are king.  Tricks and methods are only good in as much as they influence thoughts and emotions.  People develop tricks and methods that work for them but that does not mean the same method will work for someone else because it may result in diff thoughts and emotions in someone else.  This is one way a guru can be useful because followers will more likely believe what the guru says, do this and it will work, and so if the followers believe, it can become self fulfilling.  But in the end it's your own mind and emotions and thoughts that rule the show, tricks and methods only work in as much as they help you wrangle your own mind in the direction you want to to go, they are just tools.
-Eva   

RE: The "Substrate Consciousness"
Answer
1/21/16 7:28 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
I was reading BAW's book on Dreaming Yourself Awake, which I enjoyed, but part of it was a bit strange.

In his book, he mentions that if you are lucid dreaming and manage to close your eyes in the dream, you will see the "substrate consciousness".

Well, being a pretty good lucid dreamer, I have managed to do this twice, and here is what I saw.

Both times, what I saw was in garish 3D, like what you see through a stereoscope or when you are looking at a Magic Eye poster.

The first time, the images I saw were of this flat wall with a shifting, largely regular, clear pattern of orange, yellow and purplish shapes that interlocked, like tesslations, in the shape of something like horizontally oriented-skeleton keys.

The second time, I saw this gigantic, featureless white room with my wife standing at the far wall.

I have no idea why one would call this the "substrate consciousness" or give it some special status, but the book seemed to imply it had it.

Anyone out there have any training in Tibetan Dream Yoga or know anything else about this? I was underwhelmed.


What you described here is not the substrate consciousness.

I haven't read BAW's book but a quick flip through his book made it clear.

BAW:

"...When this exceptional degree of attention balance is achieved, it is said that discursive thoughts become dormant and all appearances of oneself, others, one's body, and one's environment vanish. At this point, as in the state of sleeping and dying, the mind is drawn inward and the physical senses become dormant. Tibetan contemplatives repot that what remains is a state of radiant, clear consciousness that is the basis for the emergence of all appearances to an individual's mind stream. All pheonmena appearing to sensory and mental perception are imbued with the infinite luminosity of this substrate consciousness. Like the reflections of the planets and stars in a pool of limpid, clear water, so do the appearances of the entire phenomenal world seem within this empty, clear, ground state of the psyche. Dudjom Lingpa, a Dzogchen master of the Nyingma order of Tibetan Buddhism, wrote "The substrate consciousness, with its vacuous and clear nature, abides as the cause of everything that is emanated. The psyche that emanates from the substrate consciousness present forms, which are stabilized by a continuous stream of consciousness."

Luminosity or clear light here does not mean seeing a visual image of brightness or white light as in the case of A&P, but rather mind cognizing its very own cognizance, awareness, clarity, vivid presence which is formless.

This substrate consciousness description is quite similar to what I would call "I AM". In my experiences of consciously being awake to my own Mind as the substrate consciousness spontaneously in a state of dreamless sleep (often after a lucid dream dissolves), Mind's very Presence is incredibly blissful and there is absorption in that bliss, clarity, and non-conceptuality (these three qualities occur simultaneously as that Beingness/Presence), but there is no seeing of anything visual -- that substrate consciousness is completely formless and colorless, it is just boundless Beingness. I believe this may be what you call the pure land jhana of the all-pervading watcher.

Then, BAW says there is a 'state' beyond substrate consciousness:

"While the substrate consciousness is aware of the substrate -- the relative inner space of the mind -- primordial consciousness is indivisbly aware of the absolute space of phenomena (dharmadhatu), which transcends the duality of external and internal space. All the phenomena that make up our intersubjective worlds of experience -- appearances of external and internal space, time, matter and consciousness -- emerge from this absolute space and consist of nothing other than its configurations. In the limited, relative vacuum of the substrate, as in the case of deep sleep, mental events specific to one individual emerge and dissolve back into that subjective space of consciousness. But all phenomena throughout time and space emerge from and dissolve back into the timeless, infinite vacuum of absolute space. While the relative vacuum of the substrate can be ascertained by means of cultivation of samatha, the absolute space of phenomena can be realized only through the cultivation of contemplative insight (vipasyana).

The realization of absolute space by primordial consciousness transcends all distinctions of subject and object, mind and matter, indeed, all words and concepts. Such insight does not entail the meeting of a subjective mode of consciousness with an objective space, but rather the nondual realization of the intrinsinc unity of absolute space and primordial consciousness. They are coterminous, nonlocal, and atemporal. While absolute space is the fundamental nature of the experienced world, primordial consciousness is the fundamental nature of the mind that experiences the world. But since the two have always been of the same nature, the view of Great Perfection is not of philosophical idealism, dualism, or materialism. All such distinctions between subject and object, mind and matter are regarded as mere conceptual fabrications. The indivisibility of absolute space and primordial consciousness is the Great Perfection, often referred to as the 'one taste' of all phenomena.

On the relative level, the substrate consciousness is different from the substrate, and it is internally qualified by distinct experiences of bliss, luminosity, and nonconceptuality. It is experienced only when the mind is withdrawn from the external world, and it is bound by time and causality -- specific to a given individual. The unity of absolute space and primordial consciousness, on the other hand, is also imbued with the qualities of bliss, luminosity, and nonconceptuality, not present as distinct attributes but as an ineffable unity. This absolute vacuum is fathomed while letting consciousness comes to rest in a state of nonduality, open to the entire universe. Devoid of all internal structure, it embodies a unique, absolute symmetry that transcends relative space, time, mind and matter."



There is no doubt that what BAW is saying here is what in my own terminology I would call "One Mind". In this phase of realization and experience, the sense of a separate subject and object completely collapses into an indivisible mind-space without inner and outer, is subsumed into a single field of Awareness where its contents are 'contained' within and as awareness, so instead of being a mind/watcher in here experiencing everything else out there, "everything" is just the modulation of the field of non-dual Mind.

However, this is still different from what I call the realization of Anatta, because there is still this subtle reification of this boundless non-dual field of awareness as something transcending and pervading its manifestation indivisibly, being the unchanging source, substance and substratum of its transient manifestations. The experience is non-dual, but at this point due to the view of 'inherency' or 'inherent existence' still deeply entrenched, they will see Awareness as being a mirror, which does not reflect objects at a distance as the reflections are completely inseparable from the mirror, yet the unchanging mirror transcends the mere transient reflections, so it is clearly not a two-way equation as reflections are made of the mirror but the mirror is not merely its reflections. In Anatta, there is doubtless and clear insight that there is no 'Awareness' or 'Mirror' besides self-luminous aggregates, so there is the effortless and complete openness to manifestation without a trace of an Absolute.

As a side-note -- The blissful, radiant and expansive qualities of experiencing substrate consciousness in dreamless sleep can enter into dream, without any subject/object duality, as I wrote about my experiences in http://dharmaconnectiongroup.blogspot.com.au/2013/06/lucid-dreaming-dreams-of-clarity-more_22.html

Actually I would add that in my experience of substrate consciousness in dreamless sleep, the three qualities can also present itself as an ineffable unity. There are also different degrees or 'levels' to the I AM experience, so at some levels they not appear in a unity.


My own terminologies: http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.sg/2014/07/insight-diagnosis-simplified_11.html

RE: The "Substrate Consciousness"
Answer
1/31/16 10:46 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
I was reading BAW's book on Dreaming Yourself Awake, which I enjoyed, but part of it was a bit strange.

In his book, he mentions that if you are lucid dreaming and manage to close your eyes in the dream, you will see the "substrate consciousness".

Well, being a pretty good lucid dreamer, I have managed to do this twice, and here is what I saw.

Both times, what I saw was in garish 3D, like what you see through a stereoscope or when you are looking at a Magic Eye poster.

The first time, the images I saw were of this flat wall with a shifting, largely regular, clear pattern of orange, yellow and purplish shapes that interlocked, like tesslations, in the shape of something like horizontally oriented-skeleton keys.

The second time, I saw this gigantic, featureless white room with my wife standing at the far wall.

I have no idea why one would call this the "substrate consciousness" or give it some special status, but the book seemed to imply it had it.

Anyone out there have any training in Tibetan Dream Yoga or know anything else about this? I was underwhelmed.


Daniel,


In B. Alan Wallace's audio recordings from retreats (probably one of the first few of these--I'll search for a quote later, if there's interest) he suggests that, within a lucid dream, when the dreamer stops intending, the dream world dissolves into substrate consciousness.  Instead of just your closing eyes, he says to try stop doing anything at all (after reading all of the above posts, it seems Eva M Nie in this post suggests something similar).  This disrupts the fabrication of the dream world, leaving only the substrate consciousness.  In the few dozen hours of his talk's that I've heard, he once gave a brief phenomenological description of this, equating it to the empty holodeck on the Enterprise.  As a side note, he says that the meditative experience of bhavanga is equivalent to the "attainment of shamata", which is no small feat, as it takes on the order of 5000 hours mat time (compare that to the mat time expected for the rupa or even arupa jhanas here at the DhO--I guess he has high standards for "shamata").

I have, two or three times, when becoming lucid within a dream, sat down and done nothing, intending to drop all intentions, per BAW's suggestions.  Each time, the dream world disappeared, leaving something like the empty holodeck on the Enterprise, a mostly dark world with hints of faint green lines.  I took this to be bhavanga, although its possible that, in attempting to drop all intentions, I actually just picked up the subtle intention to build this mostly empty world, perhaps having been scripted.  I haven't been able to stabilize or maintain this subtler state for more than a short while, on the order of seconds.

Now here's where I think it gets interesting.  The only time I remember clearly, the dissolution of the dream world was rather terrifying.  In that dream, I was on my bed and I stopped doing everything and I sank through the bed into the holodeck world, which was accompanied by harsh sounds similar to an industrial/noise song and a feeling of drowning.  I only stayed in the holodeck world, which I'll assume for now really was bhavanga, for a few seconds.  I'm not sure if the fear I experienced was due to the suddenness of the transition, which might fade if the bhavanga stabilized, or if it was inherent in the bhavanga.

I spent a few afternoons searching the web for the "experience of bhavanga", but I couldn't find any phenomenological accounts.  What I did find was Nina Van Gorkom's "Abhidhamma in Daily Life", which explains bhavanga in some detail.  From Van Gorkom, bhavanga is colored by the rebirth consciousness of the present life, which is in turn colored by the death consciousness of the previous life (this is also evident from Neko's BAW quote in this previous post).  From this, it follows that bhavanga is unique to each rebirth, so it must have some kind of unique feel to it.  So this led me to wonder if the terror that I experienced was inherent in "my" bhavanga.  It might explain some things if an unnoticed undercurrent of terror pervaded every moment of my life emoticon (this has lessened considerably since I started meditating). Although I'm not sold on the concept of rebirth, I still find this interesting, like maybe it points to something real that explains the differences in temperments between people that might underlie even the conditioned patterns of behavior that seem to the be basis of so many of people's unenlightened (at least in my case) actions.  Even if we unravel all of our active conditioned habit patterns, there's still another layer, bhavanga, that contains latent habit patters, because it's colored by the death consciousness of the previous life or, if you prefer, by some native neural configurations or whatever.  Does this place limitations or barriers in the way of an aspiring yogi?  I had been laboring under the assumption that awakening is possible for everyone, but what if someone just has a rotten bhavanga that colors every moment in a way not conducive to insight?

I'd love to see, from a range of yogis, some phenomenological descriptions of what's left after the collapse of a lucid dream following BAWs suggestions to stop intending everything.  I wonder if any of the more advanced yogis can equate this state to one of the arupa jhanas or something post-8th jhana, like the pure lands or NS.  To echo some of the earlier posters here, like Neko and As Eternal Now, experiencing bhavanga is not the goal in BAW's tradition--that would be rigpa, which is realized by "piercing" bhavanga.

This is my inaugural post here at DhO, after lurking here for about a year.  I realize I have no gravitas here, and I've attributed a lot to BAW without providing sources.  If there's any interest, I can go through the recordings i've listened to and extract direct quotes.  

I really, sincerely appreciate all the work you (Daniel) have put into this site and MCTB.  Your descriptions of the path helped me put a pretty wild A&P episode into context, and helped fan a passion for Buddha Dhamma that's roaring pretty strong right now.  Thank you, Daniel, and thanks to all the other helpful contributors here too.

All the best,
Kevin

edited:  fixed  a link, added the bit about finding quotes, typos
edit 2: more typos

RE: The "Substrate Consciousness"
Answer
1/25/16 2:01 PM as a reply to jhana sais quoi.
Kevin A


...  In the few dozen hours of his talk's that I've heard, he once gave a brief phenomenological description of this, equating it to the empty holodeck on the Enterprise.  As a side note, he says that the meditative experience of bhavanga is equivalent to the "attainment shamata", which is no small feat, as it takes on the order of 5000 hours mat time (compare that to the mat time expected for the rupa or even arupa jhanas here at the DhO--I guess he has high standards for "shamata").
...

I'd love to see, from a range of yogis, some phenominological descriptions of what's left after the collapse of a lucid dream following BAWs suggestions to stop intending everything.  I wonder if any of the more advanced yogis can equate this state to one of the arupa jhanas or something post-8th jhana, like the pure lands or NS.  To echo some of the earlier posters here, like Neko and As Eternal Now, experiencing bhavanga is not the goal in BAW's tradition--that would be rigpa, which is realized by "piercing" bhavanga.



Very strange, or some confusion here somewhere.

Dwelling in bhavanga is, if anything, the very opposite of awakening, let alone samadhi.