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Space is self-aware?

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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

Space is self-aware?

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: tina_g
Forum: Dharma Overground Discussion Forum

From Kenneth Folk's post 20. RE: The Shadow Knows...

"There really isn't any thing called space; space is just emptiness.

But space is not only empty; it is also self-aware. This space doesn’t come from anyplace or go anyplace. It’s just here, being empty and self-aware. And the entire Solar System and the entire Universe is not other than this space. The ten thousand things arise and disappear within this empty, self-aware, and timeless space. That’s when we realize that the happiness that is not dependent upon conditions is our essential nature. This primordially aware, empty space is all around us and inside of us. We are this space and this space is us. The happiness that does not depend upon conditions is already here. So we stop and rest. And in that resting, which happens now... there is only this perfect timeless moment. This perfect moment of pure awareness is the most precious jewel of all the Buddhas. The Buddha is you. May you realize Buddha-nature now."

Kenneth - I am new to much of this, and probably because of my lack of realization, I may not understand your answer, but I am curious anyway.

What does it mean when you say that space is self-aware? I mean, when I try to turn my attention to the one who is aware, I cannot find anything. I can't seem to be aware of my awareness. It always seems that my awareness has objects.

Please, can you explain this to me? Also, to anyone else who understands this, please chime in! I need all the help I can get!

Thanks in advance - Tina
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RE: Space is self-aware?

Posts: 439 Join Date: 4/30/09 Recent Posts
Hi Tina,

Yes, this recognition that the essential nature of all things IS awareness is the basis of Advaita Vedanta as well as the Dzogchen and Mahamudra traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, among other traditions. The Dzogchen masters, e.g. Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche and Tsoknyi Rinpoche, often use the words "cognizant emptiness" to describe primordial awareness. This cognizant emptiness is not theoretical, however; as is the case with all mystical traditions, the non-dual traditions provide methods for the direct apperception of reality.

In the case of Advaita, the student learns first to dwell as "the witness," which is done by turning awareness around to take itself as object. I call this the "no-dog," after the expression "I have no dog in this fight;" the witness has no stake in what happens. It's just awareness knowing awareness, and it is complete. This witness is eventually seen as something extra, and dissolves into pure non-dual awareness. At that point, the practice is just to be this awareness many times throughout the day and gain stability in it.

Dzogchen does not teach the witness, and in fact warns against it as a kind of pseudo-enlightenment and potential dead-end. My feeling is that the witness is a valuable transitional understanding and can help scaffold a student as they work toward the final recognition of primordial awareness. This final, irreducible reality is called non-dual because although it can be distinguished from phenomena for the purposes of communication, it cannot be separated from the manifest universe. So, emptiness is form, and form is emptiness.
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RE: Space is self-aware?

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: tina_g

Hi Kenneth,

Thanks for your response.

The eyes cannot see themselves but see objects "out there", and a flashlight doesn't illuminate itself, but illuminates other objects.

So, how does one practice turning awareness back onto itself to take itself as object? And how would one know when this has been done? How would one recognize his/her source awareness?

Tina
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RE: Space is self-aware?

Posts: 439 Join Date: 4/30/09 Recent Posts
Hi Tina,

I'm so glad you asked! One very good way to get in touch with this eye that sees but cannot see itself is to ask the question "Who am I?" Dispensing with whatever discursive answers the mind comes up with, e.g. "I am Tina, I am a woman," etc., see if you can find out, directly, who or what it is that knows about this experience. There is, in every moment of experience, an awareness that knows the experience. By asking the question "Who am I?" you keep pointing the mind back toward itself. Eventually the answer comes back, "I, I." This is what Ramana Maharshi called the "I AM." It is the eternal witness. It's always looks the same, so you can find it by noticing that while everything around it changes, this sense of "I AM" remains constant. Ramana's core instruction was "Let what comes come. Let what goes go. Find what remains."

In each moment of conventional experience, there is some intelligence that knows about it. But it isn't you, per se. The "I AM" is a transpersonal intelligence that has no stake in whether Tina lives or dies. As such, it's a tremendous relief from our usual neurotic state. Later, when even the witness dissolves, there is only pure, non-local awarness, which pervades and is not other than the entire manifest world. This is what the Tibetans call rigpa, or buddha-nature. It is the happiness that has no opposite, the happiness that is independent of conditions. But you don't have to be in any hurry; if you can first discover the witness, you will have made an enormous step toward freedom.

Kenneth
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RE: Space is self-aware?

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: tina_g

Kenneth,

I've been lurking on this site for quite a while, and when you posted about the book of Ramana Maharishi's teachings, Be As You Are, I took your recommendation quite seriously and I purchased it.

Besides using noting, I now ask myself the questions, who am I?, who is it that that sees/hears?, etc. Once, I even tried to deconstruct myself by asking what would be called "I" if the senses disappeared one by one, or if parts of the physical body were gone. I had a really weird, quick and somewhat scary feeling of no "I"-ness. It was fleeting and indescribable.

I will keep practicing in this manner and report back with any realizations!

Thanks - Tina
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RE: Space is self-aware?

Posts: 439 Join Date: 4/30/09 Recent Posts
"Once, I even tried to deconstruct myself by asking what would be called "I" if the senses disappeared one by one, or if parts of the physical body were gone. I had a really weird, quick and somewhat scary feeling of no "I"-ness. It was fleeting and indescribable."-Tina

See if you can do this again. The question is, who knew about it? As you say, there was a feeling of no "I"-ness... but the experience was clearly known. That knower, or more precisely, that knowing is what you want to get in touch with. Even now, as you read this, there is knowing. That knowing isn't Tina. That knowing *knows* Tina. You'll laugh when you see how simple it is; the knowing is the one constant in our experience and we overlook it precisely because it is always here. We are always looking for what changes, rather than the one constant, which is the knowing itself.

Who is looking out of your eyes? If you say "*I* am looking out of my eyes," the question is "Then, who knows about *me*?" Is it an infinite regress, a hall of mirrors... or is there just this knowing of every experience, including this seemingly endless procession of "I"s?

edit: spelling
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RE: Space is self-aware?

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: garyrh

From a purely conceptual point of view (that I read somewhere and the sources I cannot remember) I found it helpful to think of consciousness as being singular. So there is not one consciousness observing another rather one consciousness observes a memory of itself. This idea is more intuitive to what is actually observed while being mindful or in meditation. There is only ever a single stream of consciousness with objects arising and passing and the light off awareness is always thru that one stream. When the mind points back to itself the conscious stream has a previous moment of consciousness as the object. So it is always consciousness and object and I use this framework to not "think" too much about what all this is. (do not try to conceive awareness of awareness)

What I have said here is by no means definitive, so I welcome comments with regards to it's application to others.
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RE: Space is self-aware?

Posts: 97 Join Date: 5/6/09 Recent Posts
Hi Tina,

Kenneth's comments have been perfect. He's been my primary coach through my exploration of this territory, and I am grateful for that.

I will add this... once you get a good sense of the Watcher (aka, no-dog), you may wish to carry the practice in to your every day life. It doesn't have to be done on the cushion alone. For example, one of my favorite practices a few months ago was what I call "Taking no-dog for a walk." It's as simple as it sounds. Go for a walk, and let awareness know itself. It not only increases the amount of practice time during the day, but also helps to develop the capacity to rest in awareness out in the real world.

Keep us updated on your practice :-D

~Jackson
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RE: Space is self-aware?

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: tina_g

"You'll laugh when you see how simple it is; the knowing is the one constant in our experience and we overlook it precisely because it is always here" - Kenneth

I use this framework to not "think" too much about what all this is. (do not try to conceive awareness of awareness) - garyrh

It's as simple as it sounds. Go for a walk, and let awareness know itself. - Jackson

Kenneth & Jackson, you mention the simplicity of this, and Gary you emphasize not thinking too much...my problem exactly. Wanting to understand this, using the "mind" in this way & engaging in this lifelong habit of trying to figure it all out is what complexifies this. Letting go of conceptualization, just surrendering to the simplicity is the key,
Another question: something I've heard (Hurriance Ranch talk) & read about. What does it mean when the background becomes the foreground, when the "thing" flips? I'm asking because this sounds related to this discussion.

Thanks to you all - Tina
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RE: Space is self-aware?

Posts: 19 Join Date: 7/7/09 Recent Posts
Tina, welcome and thanks for opening up.

When you do have this experience of knowing you WILL laugh. You may cry out in joy, too. I can't even talk about this without welling up. You will also realize just how special everything is, and how much love you have for the world and everything around you. It's not something that I can put into words adequately, but when you hear Buddhists talk about the love and compassion that arises naturally when you perceive the nature of things, believe them (but verify!). Rigpa is the word Kenneth taught me to use for this. Love and compassion -- and knowing -- will stream through.

(I just edited this comment for typos. I cannot type very well so I edit a lot.)
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RE: Space is self-aware?

Posts: 46 Join Date: 7/20/09 Recent Posts
I messed with this practice a lot on my last retreat, and really ended up tieing myself in knots. In particular the instruction to "let awareness take itself as object" was what got me. Maybe other people "get it" from this instruction, but I just ended up dwelling on all kinds of subtle *sensations* of "awareness" that obviously weren't the witness. Also various attempts to see my experience "from underneath" and all other kinds of tricks! (there are lots!)

When Wilber talks about the Witness (I highly recommend his descriptions of the Witness and the non-dual - see http://is.gd/1lO1k), his essential instruction is dis-identification - whatever you can see cannot be the seer. So just relax, remain non-distracted and "loosen" any identification - these things aint you!

As soon as I worked from that angle, I think I began to get somewhere. This seems quite different to the "Letting awareness take itself as object" instruction, which in my case just had me chasing my own tail. Surely the "letting awareness..." instruction implies some doing or directing, which will just have you identifying with other sensations? I can't see how beginners could get to the witness from this instruction, but of course it could just be my own shortcomings =) Thoughts?
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RE: Space is self-aware?

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: tina_g

"When you do have this experience of knowing you WILL laugh. You may cry out in joy, too. I can't even talk about this without welling up". - Chris

"When Wilber talks about the Witness (I highly recommend his descriptions of the Witness and the non-dual - see http://is.gd/1lO1k), his essential instruction is dis-identification - whatever you can see cannot be the seer. So just relax, remain non-distracted and "loosen" any identification - these things aint you!" - Dan

Chris, this sounds too wonderful to be true, at least from where I am right now! But it is something wonderful that I hope to realize. You mention not being able to talk about this without welling up. Does this indicate that you practice has brought you that realization already?

Dan, thanks for the link! I sometimes try to practice as Wilber suggests, by noting that if I'm aware of an object or sensation, if I witness it and know that I'm witnessing it, then it can't be I, me, or mine. Or as in Advaita - neti, neti, - neither this, nor that. I do agree that this may be difficult for beginners, and that's why I think Kenneth's ideas about using practices like vipassana along with the practice of self-inquiry or who am I? can be a complete package for realization.

Thanks for your thoughts! Tina
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RE: Space is self-aware?

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: tina_g

Kenneth, I think what happened was that I actually had a flash of realization that there was no "I" among the bodily aggregates and senses, and when this happened fear jumped in along with the formation of self again. It was totally unexpected and it just jolted me, that's all I can say about it.

Also, I'm always ready for a good laugh, even if it's at myself when I finally realize the joke's been on me all along!

Tina
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RE: Space is self-aware?

Posts: 19 Join Date: 7/7/09 Recent Posts
"Chris, this sounds too wonderful to be true, at least from where I am right now! But it is something wonderful that I hope to realize. You mention not being able to talk about this without welling up. Does this indicate that you practice has brought you that realization already?"

Tina, I'm privileged enough to have been made aware of something that has heretofore been covered up by a life-long battle to protect a very insignificant little me. I'm over 50. I have a lot of baggage ;-) I'm not quite sure what happened but it's oddly profound and it pretty much fits the description Kenneth has posted here.
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RE: Space is self-aware?

Posts: 0 Join Date: 5/12/09 Recent Posts
Hi Tina,
What you have reported about your practice shows good development. The fear reaction is typical early on. Later, after you have done this form of inquiry again (and again) it will be all smiles.
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RE: Space is self-aware?

Posts: 50 Join Date: 8/17/09 Recent Posts
Great, helpful thread, thanks everyone. Got another question:

Teachers usually use widely different metaphors when teaching bhakti or vedanta, but they both have this doing-nothing-quality.
So is "surrendering to the Absolute" in a bhakti way where you give your small self up to experience God the same as witnessing/no-dog, just from a 2nd-person-perspective?
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RE: Space is self-aware?

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: Adam_West

Yes, I agree Dan. Better to just let-be. Just be aware. Relax, like one would relax one's tensed fist. Just let it let go and just sit there. Do that with you mind. For it is the mind that is tense, not awareness. Awareness sees that which is tense. Awareness is you. Mind is your tense fist. Just drop 'doing mind' and sit there aware. No object is taken. Just sit, be aware and let go of everything else. If you can achieve this, mind opens up and depth of spacious awareness becomes apparent. As does non-dependent joy, happiness, ease, bliss, energy, a sense of immensity, infinity, power etc. You find you were sitting on a nuclear reactor, and that you are that reactor - that spacious, empty, fullness awareness. The sense of me as a little separate self goes out of phase or breaks down more and more. At first they both coexist. Later openness predominates. Just keep siting. Less and less self-reference becomes apparent. There is just seeing, just hearing, just sitting. This is the path to realization. Simple but hard. Easy but difficult. See my Shikantaza post for further practical details.

That is it people. Get sitting and see for yourself.

In kind regards,

Adam.
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RE: Space is self-aware?

Posts: 46 Join Date: 7/20/09 Recent Posts
Thanks Adam, very elegantly put, just what I needed! Short detour to the Shikantaza thread and then back to the cushion :-)
Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Space is self-aware?

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
I will take a stab at it.

Basically, I think the answer is a qualified, "Yes". Bhakti, when it 'works' leads to profound non-dual realization. Probably most Bhakti yogis get stuck in dualistic relationship with the object of their devotion, but it definately can take you all the way. One thing that most western readers of Ramana Maharshi don't really know, or forget, is that he encouraged Bhakti practices. The book, Be As You Are goes into all this in several places. I should make it clear that the Bhakti yoga that Maharshi talked about was not a dualistic practice, but one in which the 'I' was surrendered to the One True Self/God. Here is a brief quote:

"There are two ways. One is looking into the source of 'I' and merging into that source. The other is feeling 'I am helpless by myself, God alone is all-powerful and except by throwing myself completely on him, there is no other means of safety for me.' By this method one gradually develops the conviction that God alone exists and that the ego does not count. Both methods lead to the same goal. Complete surrender is another name for jnana of liberation.

By whatever path you go, you will have to lose yourself in the one. Surrender is complete only when you reach the stage, 'Thou are all' and 'Thy will be done'."

Edit to add:

So, clearly, there is no second person perspective in this, at least not when you get to the goal. There is just The One Without a Second.

Ed

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