14 Sep 2012

Teaching: Awareness of awareness is the most subtle and profound of all the shamatha practices. From the dzogchen perspective, we suffer because 1) we grasp onto that which is not I and mine as being I and mine and 2) we fail to recognize who we are. Normally, we grasp at gross manifestations of body and mind as being I and mine. Shamatha takes us past all that down to the substrate. From there, there are two paths: 1) break through the substrate to rigpa or 2) realize the empty nature of the substrate. 

In short, we probe the nature of everything we thought we were and were ours in order to totally release grasping. Just as we must first know the conventional nature of mind in order to realize the ultimate nature of mind, we must first find the substrate in order to break through to rigpa. This is the direct path.
Meditation: awareness of awareness. Let eyes be open, and rest gaze evenly. For a while, just be present, without doing anything or focusing on any object. Be aware of what’s left over, resting in the luminosity and cognizance of awareness knowing itself. When thoughts arise, either sever them immediately or let them dissolve naturally into the space of the mind. For the oscillation, 1) inversion – arouse attention and withdraw from all appearances into the sheer luminosity and cognizance of awareness and 2) release – utterly release awareness into objectless, empty space. Gently sustain the flow of awareness of awareness throughout the oscillation. As an aid, you can couple the oscillation with the in and out breaths. Let the oscillation come to rest in the center, with awareness being still, luminous, cognizant, knowing itself.

Meditation starts at 18:58

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This morning we return to the practice of awareness of awareness as a preliminary, a platform, a foundation to closely apply mindfulness to the mind to gain insight into the nature of the mind. Now, the Buddha himself taught such a practice, it was called viñana kasina, just the awareness of awareness, consciousness of consciousness, he said this is the most profound of all shamatha practices. Don’t expect me to disagree! So there it is in the Pali Canon and it runs all the way through Dzogchen. The most profound turns out to be this practice. And it’s also the simplest! Not the easiest necessarily, but it’s simplest. The awareness of awareness itself. So even though we are presenting this here as a foundation for engaging in this very fundamental, foundational approach to vipashyana, the four applications of mindfulness, nevertheless as you have being able to tell I think over the last three weeks, my background background for all of these teachings is all Dzogchen. It’s Dzogchen. I can’t help it! Dzogchen means “the Great Perfection” but I think another very useful translation is “The Great Encompassment,” and that is from that perspective everything else make sense.

(2:03) So from the Dzogchen perspective, the biggest nest: what is the difference between a Buddha and a sentient being? It is kind like a Dzogchen koan. I’ll just give you the answer: Buddhas know who they are and sentient beings don’t. That’s simple.

Ok, one more. Second noble truth, Dzogchen: why are we suffering at all? It’s a simple question; deserves a simple answer. And the answer is twofold, so it’s not quite as simple as one might hope, but you have to live with that. Twofold: why are we suffering at all? Because we grasp onto that which is not “I and Mine” as being “I and Mine”. That’s the half, first half. The 2nd half is that we fail to recognize who we are. And that’s it, that’s the whole story.

(3:19) But it does suggest then that there is a sequence, that it’s not just go for initiation, vajrasattva or whatever it may be and then come out of the initiation thinking, “oh, boy that’s a relief, I am a Buddha!” No, you’re full of bullshit! That’s the phrase. There is a lot of work to be done before you can authentically adopt this divine pride and pure perception. A lot of work to be done. It’s like having a limb that’s festering, that’s rotting, but you want to save the limb. Well you don’t wrap the limb – there’s at least one medical professional here, so tell me if I’m wrong – you don’t take this festering limb and then just wrap it in a gauze and say, “I’m sure it’s going to turn out fine, and here’s my healthy limb.” No, you can’t do that. So, whether this is medically correct or not, I would suggest that I’m going to stick by the metaphor, and that is you have to cut off all the dead tissue. You have to get all the infection out, right down to the last cell. You have to get all of it out, because that’s not your limb, that’s infection, that’s disease. If you have to go down to the molecular level and get every molecule out; if you have to go down to elementary particle level, go down to the elementary particle level. But get it all out so there’s none left. And when it’s only healthy tissue, then you wrap it, and you let it heal. But you don’t want a fusion, a mixture, and a growth of something that’s a mixture. So is that ok, medically? Good!

(5:45) Which is to say we have to clean out completely right down to the last elementary particle, every bit of false grasping that we indulge in. Every bit. You don’t bring one molecule of it with you into pure vision, into divine pride. You don’t bring one molecule, not one bit. You have to clean it all out. Are you your body? No you are not even any molecule of your body. Are you your personality, your personal history? Not any of it; none of it’s you. Are you your mind? No, not a smidgen. Are you your consciousness? No, I am not even a moment. Dissolve your whole coarse mind, die, die happily, lucidly so you come right back again but achieve shamatha and go right down to the substrate consciousness; now you’ve scraped out all the dead tissue of everything you thought you were in this lifetime, right? Because all of our identification: what differentiates Daniel from Martha? Why do you think you are different people? It is because you’re identifying with stuff that is manifest to you, that is evident to you that you think this is what makes you unique and it is pretty much all the stuff that arises in your body and in your mind. Right?

So, well, scrape all of that and die, die, die, like a submarine going dive, dive, dive and go right down, right down to the ground so your submarine has hit the deck, hit the bottom of the ocean, and you’ve come down to an area that was pre-you. Everything you’ve identified with: man, woman, this, that, human being, not human being; deeper than that! Right down to the substrate, come right down there. So now you’re looking up and say, “ok, all that stuff, that’s not me!” That’s just bubbles, little effervescent bubbles that last a few decades and then Pff! Gone! Never was me! But now you’ve come down to a ground and say, this ground, this has been around for a long time, the substrate consciousness, you look back and you do not see its beginning, look forward and you do not see its end, might this be who I am? Well look into it, probe into it, and see that’s just more dead skin that is not me either, investigate it and see that all of these identifications look like dead skin, that is not me either. Is it unique? Yeah, so what! It is not what you are. It is just a continuum of consciousness, heavily configured by a bunch of memories, karma and all that stuff but it is not you and it is not yours.

(7:56) When you’re probing to that level and you actually identify substrate consciousness, then you really have two options and it’s not necessarily an option that you choose, but it is a fork in the road and you’ll go this way or that way. Something is going to happen once you’ve achieved shamatha, once you’ve penetrated to that depth, to the substrate consciousness, and that is: one route — and they’re both good routes, so this is not a good and a bad, this is just different routes, right? They’re both good. And they may not be for you to choose anyway, but it’s good to know that they’re both authentic, and

  • One is to tap into that substrate consciousness and recognize that beyond is simply self-grasping, the grasping onto “I am”, the grasping onto the self of a person and the reification of that. That’s one type.
  • But there is something much broader, it is a like an ocean of delusion; while this is a nucleus of delusion, there’s also an ocean of delusion and that is grasping onto the inherent existence of phenomena in general. That’s the whole universe, everything else.

So there is “me”, the grasping onto the nuclear “I am” inherently existent, and then there is the grasping onto the inherent existence of everything else too, and they’re both delusional. So once you’ve tapped into, you really have ascertained that substrate consciousness, then you’ve come right to the nucleus of your personal existence; this is the one that’s been around for a long time, out of which the mushrooms of this identity, this identity, this identity emerge from lifetime to lifetime, but they wither away and vanish leaving their imprints and then you just have that continuum carrying on. When you come to that level, that dimension, then you really have two avenues you may follow, and one is to probe like with a vajra and pierce it, shatter it, break through like breaking glass, shatter it, this envelopment, this enclosure of I versus everything else, of mine versus everything else, my continuum versus everything else and shatter it.

You break through, “tregcho.” “Cho” means to cut and “treg” means something hard. So you take your vajra and you just smash the hell out of it. You break through and you just break through directly, having ascertained the substrate consciousness, you just break through that right into rigpa, then you are home, now you are really home, now you know who you are. That is one possibility! And knowing rigpa, viewing reality from the perspective of rigpa, then you just have to see, it is not possible not to see that all phenomena are empty of inherent nature. If you are viewing reality from the perspective of rigpa there’s just no way you can be viewing reality from that perspective and simultaneously be reifying anything at all. It’d be like being really lucid and still grasping onto thinking someone is really over there in my dream. Well, that’s not happening! If you think someone is really over there then you are not lucid. If you are lucid, then you know that someone is not really there from his own side and you as a persona in a dream are not really here from your side, everything is empty. How do you know that? Because you are awake, because you are lucid! So one possibility, straight, is just to smash right through that cage of an individuated consciousness, to smash it, to shatter it, to break through it, and to realize who you are. That’s one possibility. That’s good! That’s very direct. This is Padmasambhava speaking. I mean, I’m just quoting directly from Natural Liberation, or if not quoting, it’s saying exactly what he was intending.

(12:01) There is another route, absolutely authentic, and that is when you’ve tapped into this kind of nucleus sense of your own continuum, then realize its emptiness of inherent nature. Realize the emptiness of inherent nature of consciousness itself, your own consciousness, realize that emptiness and then from that emptiness, by having direct realization of the emptiness of your own mind, not only of your coarse psyche but the emptiness of your substrate consciousness, that it does not inherently exist, by really realizing that emptiness. I’m going to do something corny! You remember – you have to remember, otherwise you weren’t alive in the latter part of the twentieth century – the Death Star? And how Luke Skywalker comes in and he finds that one soft spot, that one little vulnerable spot in the Death Star, and then he takes over in manual and he sends his nuke right into there, and by hitting that one spot it goes KA POW! Right? He hit the one spot, and it just reverberated, and the whole thing went to smithereens. The soft spot in your reification of the Death Star of samsara is realizing the emptiness of your own mind. You realize that, and the reverberation carries right on through, and it’s kind of like a nuclear bomb: you see all the buildings just go WHEW from the center, out. The grasping onto inherent existence around that everything else just wilts, not automatically, but everything’s a pushover. From that nuclear insight, everything else is a pushover. If my awareness itself does not inherently exist then how can any object of my awareness possibly inherently exist? WHOOSH! And that reification goes away. Realizing the emptiness of your own mind and then all phenomena, now you’re ready for pointing-out instructions to realize who you really are. There’s a sequence there.

(14:03) So as we go into this meditation, following Padmasambhava, we are going to be probing right into the nature of awareness and then releasing into space with no object and then probing right in, deeper into awareness, like a swing, like a father pushing his child on the swing. It’s really for fun! You start a little bit gently, and then the child says, “More!” And then “More” And it’s all fun, and the father’s being very careful, taking care of the child all the way through, but the child wants that thrill. Going deeper, deeper and deeper; don’t scare yourself but just keep on going deeper and probe through everything you ever thought you were until you see from your own experience that whoever you thought you were is empty; it is a fabrication, like a dream, like a hallucination, whoever you thought you were. Just probe right through it, right into awareness itself until you see that with our fierce, tenacious, obnoxious and stubborn grasping onto the sense, “I am a sentient being, I am a sentient being.” It starts out on the thinnest, goofiest layers: I am a man, I am a woman, I am a human being, I am American. Ok, just cut through all of that, cut through all of that right through, cut through “I am a human being,” you’ll get over it, it’s a short time, so don’t get hung up there; it will pass.

(16:08) But come right down to the core, right down to the level of “I am a sentient being”. What is your basis for saying that? Substrate consciousness! It’s conditioned with karma, mental afflictions; it is samsara, it is your express train through samsara with no end. And go into there and see there is no one here who is a sentient being. There is no one here who is a sentient being. Your dream that you are a sentient being is something you have concocted. And then you’re fiercely hold onto it and thinking “what can I do to become a Buddha?” Nothing! Get over it! You created the problem, delusion created the problem, so let wisdom undo the problem. But you cannot bring the problem into the solution. If you bring one micron of your ordinary sense of identity into “I am a Buddha” then you are – and sometimes these words are very well – you’re full of bullshit. And then you delude other people as well. Some fusion of your ordinary sense of identity and you say: by the way I am also a Buddha. It is complete bullshit. It happens a lot, oh, look at me I am someone especial. Not only got a Stanford Ph.D, but I’m also a Buddha! You have to clean it out, all the dead tissue right down to the last smidgen, totally release all grasping onto that which you are not, and only then can you realize who you are.

(18:22) It is very freeing! And so much unnecessary confusion just evaporates, but it is step by step. So first of all release all grasping onto everything that you are not and everything that is not yours, all of it, totally empty out, and then realize who you are and who you’ve always been and then you’ll know you are free.

Find a comfortable position.


(19:44) Settle your body, speech and mind in their natural states, calm the mind, make it serviceable for a little while by way of mindfulness of breathing.

(23:09) Let your eyes be open and evenly rest your awareness in the space in front of you. But now is the time to reboot and that is, turn off your mind, all the activities of the mind, the focusing of the mind, outward, inward, anywhere else. Do nothing, focus on nothing, do not focus on anything and just be present. Do not be distracted, do not be grasping. Rest in unwavering mindfulness without meditating on anything or taking anything as an object.

(25:57) And now be aware of what is left over, when your mind to the best of your ability has been deactivated and you are no longer fixating on any object out there or in here. What dawns on you? Where is the sun that arises above the clouds of the obscurations of the mind? Where is that sun other than the luminosity of awareness itself, knowing itself? Rest in that luminous, cognizant knowing of awareness knowing itself.

(28:13) Whatever thoughts come up, you may simply allow them to dissolve of their own accord, fade right back into the space of the mind, or you may sever them as soon as they come up. Either way, sustain a flow of non-conceptual awareness of awareness itself.

(31:24) Now begin the oscillation — gently at first — by inverting, focusing, concentrating your awareness, arousing your attention, and focusing right upon your experience of being aware, which is to say withdraw forcefully from all appearances and withdraw your awareness right into the nucleus of being aware, awareness itself, sheer luminosity, sheer cognizance and then utterly release your awareness into space with no object, sheer emptiness and absence of thoughts and non-objectivity, but while ever so gently sustaining the flow of awareness of awareness itself.

(32:57) And then return back to the center, arousing, focusing, energetically concentrating your awareness right in upon itself and then releasing into space with no object, inversion and release, inversion and release. If you are new to the practice and if you find it helpful you may as a preliminary exercise conjoin the oscillation with your breath just to give you a point of orientation. As you’re breathing in, of course, invert your awareness right in upon itself and as you breathe out, release; do this only if it is helpful. You may find it more helpful to set your own rhythm, perhaps much more leisurely than the in-and-out of the breath, but choose for yourself, inverting into awareness itself of the nature of luminosity and cognizance and releasing into non-conceptual, empty, objective space while all the time sustaining to the best of your ability a non-conceptual flow of awareness of being aware.

Let’s continue the practice now in silence.

Teachings after meditation:

(43:28) So there are these two routes: to realize rigpa by way of emptiness or to realize rigpa and get realization of emptiness free. To realize the emptiness of the nature of your awareness, hard to imagine how you can do that if you have not gotten a very clear direct insight into the nature of your awareness, conventional level, relative level. What is consciousness? It’s that which is luminous and cognizant! So do you know that or not? If you just think you know it, then you don’t know it. It’s like thinking you know chocolate without ever having tasted it. You don’t know chocolate; there’s only one way to know chocolate, and that’s to put it in your mouth and taste it. So I really do not know how one can possibly realize the emptiness of your own mind if you have not realized the conventional nature, as Panchen Rinpoche is talking about, that is the culmination of shamatha.

(44:28) And likewise when comes to “tregcho”, this breakthrough. What are you breaking through? It is good to have the right answer because there is only one right answer to that question and it is not my opinion, my opinion is irrelevant, I’m not an authority on anything except for my name and I’m not that sure about that! I was just told that’s my name! So I’m not an authority on anything. But Garab Dorje? Ok, he is an authority on Dzogchen. What are you breaking through? There is only one right answer and that is your substrate consciousness; that is what you are breaking through. Not your coarse mind! If you want to break through your coarse mind, achieve shamatha, right? You are breaking through substrate consciousness; that’s the breakthrough to rigpa. How are you going to break through substrate consciousness if you haven’t found it, if you do not realize it? What does it mean to break through something you have not even encountered in the first place? You are probably going to be break through something much more superficial and then think, Oh, I’ve realized rigpa. Maybe not! It’s not that easy. To realize rigpa is to realize something that an arhat has not realized while still alive; which an arya-bodhisattva on the sutra path has not realized. So maybe be a bit careful about making any claims in that regard. My realization on rigpa this, my realization of rigpa that! And you are making a claim now that an arya-bodhisattva following the sutrayana path would not make. But you are? An arhat would not make! But you are! “Vidhyadaras” make and they know what they are talking about.

You are actually viewing reality from the perspective of dharmakaya, and an arhat doesn’t know how to do that. An arya-bodhisattva on the sutrayana path doesn’t know how to do that. A vidhyadara does. So to break through to that perspective you have to break through substrate consciousness. And that’s Dzogchen. It’s very straight, very direct, very unelaborated. It’s for people who have short lives. For people who have a lot of time in their hands, then we can go for a much more elaborated path. But if you have the sense that maybe your life is a bit short, then you might want to go to the core and stay there. Good! Let’s stay in the center. Enjoy your day!

Transcribed by Rafael Carlos Giusti

Revised by James French

Final edition by Rafael Carlos Giusti

Posted by Alma Ayon


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