24 Sep 2012
Teaching pt1: As we revisit this section, Alan will present teachings from the shravakayana and dzogchen.
According to the shravakayana, nama rupa should not be understood as two entities but as a single activity of experience. Nama (naming) is the subjective experience of identifying an object. Rupa (all appearances) is the objective experience of an object perceived or conceived through the process of identification. Mano/manas (mind/mentation) is the mental process of conceptualization which makes meaning out of the 6 sensory inputs.
According to dzogchen, dharmadhatu and primordial consciousness (yeshe) are of the same nature and extensive. Appearances are considered their creative expression or effulgence. Ignorance of this play when rigified becomes the substrate which is immaterial, blank, unthinking, and void. Substrate consciousness radiant and clear is the basis for appearances. It reflects but does not identify them. From the substrate consciousness, arises sense of I over here and substrate over there. As the sense of I cements, mano/manas becomes acitvated, and from that, appearances illuminated by the substrate consciousness. Reification leads to appearances becoming owners of those very conceptualizations. Thus arises samsara. By returning to the substrate in shamatha, we are reversing this very process.
Meditation: mindfulness of the body. Withdraw your attention from all 6 domains of experience, and just rest without knowing anything at all, as if in deep sleep. Arouse your attention just enough to become aware of awareness. Do you have a sense of being aware, present, or yourself as the subject? Attend to the space of the mind. Do you have a sense that you’re here and that the space of the mind is over there? Allow consciousness to illuminate all 6 domains. Apply mindfulness now to the appearances of the body. Observe the process of conceptualization of the body—e.g., my head with its attritbutes, moving on to other body parts. Attend to the subject experiencing the body. Is the body already there in appearances? Is the I already there in appearances?
Teaching pt2: Alan introduces the first 4 links of the 12 links of dependent origination. 1) ignorance – which is nature of the substrate. 2) mental formations (samskara) – karma or kinetic energy of the mind stirs or activates. 3) consciousness – substrate consciousnes becomes explicit, yet it is luminous without illuminating anything. 4) nama rupa which refers to appearances and identifying appearances. Mere labelling is not the problem, their reification is.
Q1. How does your diet affect shamatha practice?
Q2. What do you mean by appearance? Is it possible to have pure appearance without ignorance?
Q3. Is it possible to observe with introspection the entire evolution of manas and nama rupa at once?
Meditation starts at 31:30
We return for this week to the body and in doing so we cannot avoid the whole question about the relationship between the mind and the body because the only way to know about the body is by way of the mind. So we will approach this from two directions that converge again. Overall these four weeks is going to the four applications of mindfulness once again but now with the orientation more within the context of the Madhyamaka view and drawing most specifically from Shantideva. So this can be the larger framework.
But I would like to start today from two angles and the first of these is going to be from the perspective of the Pali Canon and the Theravada, the Theravada Abidharma (roughly the first half or so of the talk today), and then the second half will be from the perspective of Dzogchen. So if we consider that the shravakayana is the foundation of Yana and the Dzogchen is the pinnacle so all of the intermediate yanas are right there like a sandwich. So we’re just looking at the top bun and the bottom bun and everything else falls in between.
So let’s go right into this. I am going to be citing from a text which is actually a commentary to the Dharmapda by a man who was chief monk of a Singapore Buddhist meditation center. He was an accomplished scholar and his name is Aragoda Saradamatero but what he is addressing here is a theme that comes up a lot in Buddhism, actually in all Buddhist schools, and is “nama rupa”, literally “name and form”. But name and form does not tell us much at all. He will explain or unpack this in a way in a way that I found very helpful. So here’s what he says first of all that “nama rupa” is commonly translated as mind and body, or literally name and form, are not in fact two entities that coexist in relation to each other.
(3:34) So already very briefly here we are dealing with this in terms of modernity, in terms of the rise of modern science. Our starting point in a manner of speaking is Descartes, who drawing from introspection, and also being of course a brilliant mathematician, a natural philosopher, he introspecting and as a physicist, and a mathematician. To him it seems there are two fundamentally different types of reality: the type of reality that is extended in space, let’s call it the physical world, and then the realm of cognition, or the mind, and he saw each of these as being inherently existent, truly and absolutely existent but one being extended in physical space and being physical, composed of stuff, whereas the mind is soul, consciousness and has no physical attributes but it really, really exists. And so of course how do these two engage with each other becomes the big mind and body problem, which he never solved and which has not been solved to this day in modern science. And perhaps because the starting premise is false and that would be the Buddha’s response.
(4:38) So let’s see what Aragoda Saradamatero has to say.
What about this nama rupa. There are, he says, only two ways of looking at the single activity called experience. This is a direct quote from his commentary which is in English:
Text: “There are only two ways of looking at the single activity called experience: nama, which he translates now as naming, is experience [in quotation marks] seen subjectively as the mental process of identifying an object.”
This is entirely phenomenological so it would be easy to say it is Buddhist philosophy so let’s start thinking about it a lot. Well there is nothing wrong with thinking but he is actually referring to our experience. What he is inviting us to do is, as in the spirit of four applications of mindfulness, to go right into experience and see whether what he says can be corroborated or tested with your own experience. So you can ask of yourself: is there due experience in the mental process of identifying an object? Does that ring a bell or do you have to say no I have never done that? Well if you can identify that process, this is where it gets fun because actually this is interesting. If you can recognize this in yourself that mental process of identifying an object then we can give to that the name of nama or naming.
(6:08) Rupa, which is not just form as in shape or color, but refers more generically, far more generically to all appearances.
So continuing the text: “rupa [appearances] is experience seen objectively as an entity [again entity in quotation marks] that is perceived and conceived through the mental process of identification.”
So you can ask of your own experience. Do you ever see entities that you perceive or conceive through the mental process of identification? Like say, gee, your body! Is your body an entity that you perceive and frankly also conceive through the process of mental identification? Then we would call that, whatever that is, so body, galaxies, elementary particles, mind center, whatever it is. These are seen objectively, they appear to us, oh, there it is and it’s perceived, conceived through the mental process of identification. Now he’s using these 2 terms, alien terms from another language, but he’s using them to refer to elements of our experience that we can identify.
(7:32) Now he brings in another term, “Mano” or another variation is “Manas” also translated as mind. So mano is another term from the Pali Canon of course. Mano refers to thought or the mental process of conceptualization which integrates and makes meaning out of the different percepts brought in by the different senses. So you check out one by one the different sense doors. So the shapes and colors coming in by way of the visual, sounds by way of auditory, right through the five senses and then mental images, thoughts, memories and so forth coming in by way of the mental sense door.
(8:13) But then we are not satisfied, we are not being able to live coherent lives if we did not make sense that all the appearances are coming in from six door kind flooding us, bombarding us. Even here [in the mind center] one of you mentioned that when I step off of the cushion everything is so busy, so much is happening. Ok, not that much, no but it is relative, I mean for another level, oh yeah that is quite lot, I mean vision, vision, and there is some sound, there are tactile sensations, there are thoughts, oh yeah I got a four ring circus going on here and that is when I am just sitting here, that is not even stepping outside of the mind center. So we want to make sense but we do not want to watch six movies simultaneously. Imagine being in the cinema and you got six screens each doing its own thing and you are just trying to see all the six screens simultaneously that would be very, very disintegrating and so you want to make sense of this and so it is conceptualization that takes us on that and then weaves us in a coherent hall, Ah, I am in the mind center, I know where I am. So that is “Mana” or “Mano” which integrates and makes meaning or makes sense out of the different percepts that is the sheer qualia, the appearances coming in through the different senses, this meaningful total experience, meaningful because manas has got in there and makes sense of that by way of concepts. And bear in mind as we have seen this before, concepts are not just at the verbal level, the unborn baby can recognize its mother’s voice presumably not by talking about it, right? How many fingers am I holding up? You do not need to think about it, you get it conceptually but you do not need to say “F O U R”, you just got it, right? And so conceptualization works at a very subtle level and gets right into and seems to witness itself into perceptions itself or certainly our experiences of the perception of the world.
(10:13) So we have the nana, process by identifying objects; rupa, the objects that are so identified appearing as entities objectively. And then “mano”, coming in and conceptually making sense of all that and so we have this meaningful total experience is viewed subjectively as identification of an entity, nama, the identification of an entity, nama. I need to get the intonation right because it is a very good final sentence:
This meaningful total experience is viewed subjectively as identification of an entity, that is nama, and objectively as the entity identified, rupa.
(11:00) So what he is saying here in this process of mano, the conceptual mind, we are actually having this ongoing flow of the process of subjectively identifying and the appearances that are identified, and then the conceptualization coming in and making objects and subjects, making sense of this so the world congeals into its parts and we can navigate through the reality that is populated with many entities. But we see there is a very powerful role of the subjective here, in others words it is not just: hey, here is my glasses, it is not just entities being dished up but appearances which are identified and then conceptualization getting in there and sorting everything out in a way that we can make sense of, that it becomes intelligible and then we can make ourselves a little bit at home.
(11:43) I wonder sometimes why so many people especially not only scientific community quite broadly, why so many people are drawn to and have a very deep allegiance to a materialistic view of the world in which there are simply brains, there are just bodies and they do not really exist, the mind is simply an illusion or a subjective experience but very illusory, deceptive, fundamentally we do not even have free ill, we are brains that operate. I wonder unless we have to believe that how would anybody want to and clearly people do want to and cling to it tenaciously but that is not a very happy picture. Why would anybody want to believe that unless you are absolutely compelled by the evidence to do so but clearly that is not the case because there is a wide variety of philosophies among modern philosophers there are people like Thomas Nagel* among of a lot of very sharp people who are not reductionist, who are not materialist and they are very intelligent, they have also published in periodic review philosophical journals, there are scientist too that are not reductionist so if the evidence is simply compelling and totally compelling then every intelligent philosopher and scientist just should accept it just like they accept how many planets there are, how big the sun is, there is a lot of conceptual knowledge in modern science. Given the evidence and intelligent people accept it. Well there is not compelling evidences that all intelligent knowledgeable philosophers agree, they do not and its also not true that all scientists agree that we are simply brains and so forth and so on, they do not all agree. So I just want to find the reason, why does anybody want to believe this if they do not have to? It is so dehumanizing, disempowering and demoralizing and I think there is a very good reason why people do believe. We, not they, we all desperately want to make sense of our lives, we want to make sense of the world we are living in, so that is intelligible. I feel like I want to navigate and even it is bleak and if its meaningless it is just reductionist at least I know my way around and I have gotten some pretty nice hedonic pleasures, I can get by, it makes sense now, everything comes from the big bang and out inorganic matters comes organic matters and out of organic matter comes life and out of life comes consciousness we are evolved amoeba to me who I am, events amoeba but at least make sense, it is really smart and there is a lot of evidence behind it, not just loony and ok, now at least, now I can make sense of things and I think we have a very powerful earth institute [Alan is talking about The Earth Institute, www.earth.columbia.edu] and that is one story that a lot of people find very compelling and I think I understand why but so there it is.
*For one who is reading this transcript see below informations about Thomas Nagel:
Thomas Nagel (/ˈneɪɡəl/; born July 4, 1937) is an American philosopher, currently University Professor of Philosophy and Law atNew York University, where he has taught since 1980. His main areas of philosophical interest are philosophy of mind, political philosophy and ethics.
Nagel is well known for his critique of reductionist accounts of the mind, particularly in his essay “What Is it Like to Be a Bat?” (1974), and for his contributions to deontological and liberal moral and political theory in The Possibility of Altruism (1970) and subsequent writings. Continuing his critique of reductionism, he is the author of Mind and Cosmos (2012), in which he argues against a reductionist view, and specifically the neo-Darwinian view, of the emergence of consciousness.
(14:55) But one sees here then the whole notion of mind and body being two separate entities like in Descartes’s view God infusing, sending a soul into matter and then linking them up (soul and matter/body) and then this immaterial soul controlling the body and then science finding no evidence for that and says well never mind the soul is just the body and the soul of consciousness is nothing other than function of the body. That problem since the very beginning because he is saying specifically the mind and the body are not two separate things that come together but rather we have this flow of appearances, a flow of the mental process of identifying, and out of that conceptualization, forms create the categories, matter, energy, space, time, consciousness, forms creates the categories, matter, energy, space, time, consciousness,
mental process, memory, me, etc, conceiving all of these objects and subjects out of the flow of experience which is identified by the process of rupa, in other words the very categories of mind and body are formulated out of that flow which is not already disintegrated into two separate types of entity. It is through this interface of the nama and rupa and then mano, mano coming in and I think, my translation of mano would be mentation, I translated as far as mental cognition, I think mentation is probably good so the functions and the activities of the mind in terms of identify this and that by way of conceptualization. But again in short we have this flow of appearances, the flow of identification and out of that the formation of construct of mind and body flowing from the same source rather than two separate things, one absolutely physical and the other one absolutely non-physical coming together and somehow causally interfacing which nobody has never being able to figure out. So there is one and I cannot linger there, that is more less half of my time.
(17:10) And now we are going to another very juicy quote and this is from Dudjom Lingpa, 19th century Dzogchen master from his classic text, “Mind Treasure” on Dzogchen, the Vajra Essense. And this again, he like our Theravada master there, he is going to talk about our experience so let’s see what he says. He is referring to the practice. The preface just before these two paragraphs is nature of reality and specifically the nature of emptiness, the nature of rigpa because the two are co-extensive.
Explanation for one that is reading this transcript: from now on Alan is reading a text and introducing his comments.
Ignorance of this nature is determined as the cause of delusion. How? Mere ignorance of the nature of the play of the all-pervasive ground acts as the cause. As that becomes somewhat fortified, it dwells as the true substrate, which is immaterial like space — a blank, unthinking void. Entering that substrate corresponds to states such as fainting, abiding in meditative absorption, a trance induced by meditative stabilization, becoming engulfed by deep sleep in the substrate, in which appearances have dissolved into
absolute space, and reaching the point of death, in which appearances have vanished. That is called the true substrate. Free of mental clinging to actualization, one is
absorbed in a ground that is empty of matter.
Ignorance of this nature, of this fundamental nature, the ground nature of awareness, fundamentally the ultimate nature of reality, ignorance of this is avidia, unawareness, not awareness. Ignorance of this nature is determined as the ground of delusion, in other words not knowing, being unaware is the ground, the fertile ground for the emergences of something active and that so this avidia giving rise to morra and morra, delusion is the active misapprehension of reality.
This is very familiar, this is classic Buddhism.
Ignorance of this nature is determined as the ground of delusion. How does this occur? Mere ignorance of the nature of the play of all pervasive ground acts as the cause, the nature of the play is a very literal translation.
Mere ignorance is simply not-knowing.
The nature of the play of all pervasive ground is exactly that total co-extensiveness of the dharmadatu, absolute space of phenomena and primordial consciousness (yeshe), they are of the same nature and they are co-extensive.
And then in the Dzogchen view, all appearances, all phenomena, everything is arising out of this primordial non-duality of the absolute space of phenomena, dharmadatu and primordial consciousness. This is all the play, it is called the play, the rupa, literally it is the play or creative expressions, effulgences, as you like.
So mere ignorance of the nature, how is this the case? Mere ignorance of the nature of the play of the all-pervasive ground, primordial and non-duality of rigpa or yeshe, primordial consciousness and dharmadatu, mere ignorance of the nature of the play of the all-pervasive ground acts as the cause primary cause, fundamental cause, core cause as that becomes somewhat fortified it sets in, ok, that is ignorance. It sets in as that become somewhat fortified or crystalized, rigidified, locked in, as that becomes somewhat fortified it dwells as the true substrate, the alaya which is immaterial like space, it is blank, unthinking and void.
Now the substrate, this is not something you have to imagine, this is something we fall into every time we fall sleep, when your consciousness actually dissolves into, merges into and becomes veiled, lie a sword going into is scabbard. Consciousness is still there but you cannot see because it is veiled. So consciousness does not know anything it is just submerged into the substrate and the very nature of the alaya is avidia, not knowing, unawareness. So we know that is true when we are in a non-lucid dreamless sleeping, there we are resting in a state of not knowing anything at all not even that we are sleeping.
So that is that very nature of the alaya, you are the alaya, is that very nature of avidia, not knowing, being unaware. Being unaware of what? It is the nature of the play of all pervasive ground which is the cause of all phenomena, the source, the origin, the achievement as well of all appearances.
And what is the nature of this alaya? Immaterial like space so has no physical attributes whatsoever, it is blank, unthinking, void or vacuity.
Second part of the text:
Entering that substrate corresponds to states such as fainting, abiding in meditative absorption, entering a trance induced by meditative stabilization, becoming engulfed by deep sleep in the substrate, in which appearances have dissolved into the substrate, and reaching the point of death, in which appearances have vanished. That is called the true substrate, the actual alaya Free of mental clinging to actualization, one is engulfed in a ground that is empty of matter.
Entering that state correspond to states such as fainting, there is one way to get there, abiding in meditative absorption when you are sleeping into state away, beyond, beyond in the formless realm or entry in trance induced by meditative stabilization or becoming engulfed by deep sleep in the substrate in which appearances have dissolved into the substrate (absolute space), and reaching the point of death, it is one more opportunity where you tap into the substrate, in which appearances have vanished. So those are the vary occasions someone gets natural and someone gets only by cultivation.
(23:11) That is called the true substrate, the actual substrate, the actual alaya free of mental clinging to actualization, actualizing anything, anything becoming real, free of mental clinging to actualization one is engulfed (absorbed) in a ground that is empty of matter, it is just utterly immaterial, non-physical.
From that state arises radiant, clear consciousness itself as the basis of the emergence of appearances, and that is the substrate consciousness. Moreover, no objects are established that are not expressions of its own luminosity, and while it can give rise to all kinds of appearances, it does not enter into anything. This is like planets and stars
appearing in limpid, clear water; like reflections appearing in a limpid, clear mirror; and like the animate and inanimate world appearing in limpid, clear space. In the
same way, appearances emerge in the empty, clear, substrate consciousness.
From that state, we are talking about the experience every night or whenever you faint and so forth or always you achieve shamatha, etc, sleeping into that substrate and then from that state arises the state of simply unknowing. Now you emerge from that state, soon or later, you emerge from that state, you cannot stay there, it is not an option, you emerge from that state that arises radiant, clear, consciousness itself as the basis of the emergence of appearances, and that is the substrate consciousness.
So the sword comes out of its sheath, radiant, clear by nature is a basis of the emergence of appearances and that it is a light called radiant, called luminous and it illuminates, makes manifest all appearances that arise in the substrate. That is the substrate consciousness, at this point all you are conscious of is the substrate and it’s called substrate consciousness. I find it very useful, I have not seen that anywhere else apart from Dzogchen. The substrate consciousness is called that because its conscious of the substrate. I find it very useful and true to experience.
(24:51) Moreover, no objects are established: established means to be identified, just like as in that earlier case of nama.
No objects are established: Ah, there it is: that are not its own luminosity, in other words there is no access to any object at all except by way of their illumination by way of or from substrate consciousness. And while it, the substrate consciousness, can give rise to all kinds of appearances, it does not enter into any object, It doesn’t jump out of its own state and leap into the object, it simply illuminates them like a projector projecting images on a screen but without the projector getting caught up in the screen.
(25:39) This is like the ability of the planets and stars to appear in limpid clear water: he is referring of course to the reflections. So there they are but you look down there and say, ah, there is an illumination of those appearances, but they do not actually come down into it.
This is like the ability of reflections to appear in a limpid clear mirror and like the animate and inanimate world appearing in limpid clear space In the same way appearances can emerge in the empty clear substrate consciousness or by way of the empty clear substrate consciousness.
So he is talking about these transition which if you could be in deep dreamless sleep and be lucid, and then watch yourself come out of that then you could actually observe this process taking place. But actually if you are lucid in deep sleep then your consciousness has already come out. That’s the difference.
Whereas if your consciousness is inserted in and dissolved into the substrate, there you are, you do not know anything so therefore you cannot be lucid. But you can watch yourself become lucid, that is a possibility. You may actually watch the sword come out of its sheath.
Now we have this transition from the substrate to substrate consciousness but now it is luminous, it is radiant.
Recalling, also those four mindfulness, remember? Single pointed mindfulness, manifest mindfulness, absence of mindfulness. We slipped into the substrate, natural luminous mindfulness when the substrate consciousness is reborn, come out of the substrate and you achieve shamatha, remember that, this relates.
From that state arises the consciousness of the mere appearance of the self, called I. There’s some coagulation of the sense of I. Following the emergences of the substrate consciousness. Its preverbal, primal, not sophisticated. The self is apprehended as being here, so the ground appears to be over there, the ground being the alaya, thus
establishing the appearance of immaterial space. I attending to it. So something really primitive, some unfolding, some bifurcation, some splitting, some symmetry breaking has just taken place. Now, they’re not equal, they’re not the same. There’s the sense of I over here, and that over here. That’s not symmetry, bifurcation has taken place. As that becomes entrenched, hardened, fortified, it is made manifest, and so-called mental cognition or mano – the same term used earlier, mentation, manas, arises — which is the basis for the
emergence of appearances — and the aspect of luminosity is revealed. In other words the luminosity of awareness, the substrate consciousness which has no appearance, is now revealed, is now illuminated in the sense that it is illuminating all appearances. From that the five types of appearing objects arise, and with the reification of them, there is clinging and delusion.
From that state (from the substrate consciousness emerge) arises the consciousness of the mere appearances of the self, called I (so there is some coagulation of the sense of I).
Following the emergences of substrate consciousness the self is apprehended (this is preverbal, it is very primitive, not sophisticated) as being here, so the ground appears to be over there (the ground of being the alaya).
Thus establishing the appearances of immaterial space, immaterial space seems to be which I am attending to, “I” attending to “it”. So it is something really primitive.
Now they are not equal, they are not the same there is a sense of “I” over here and a sense of immaterial space over there that is not symmetry that is different, bifurcation is taking place.
As that become entrenched (hard, fortified), it is made manifest, and so-called mental cognition or mano (the same term used earlier, manas, metacognition or mentation), mental cognition (manas) arises which is the basis for the emergences of appearances. So he is actually suggesting a causality there due to the presence of this mana or mano in dependence upon that all these different appearances can arise and the aspect of luminosity is review, in other words the luminosity of the awareness which of the substrate consciousness which by itself has no appearances, it now is reviewed in the sense that is illuminating all of those appearances.
From these arouse or these emergences of mano (mental cognition, mentation) the five types of objects of appearances arise (that is now the five sensory fields open up, let alone the mental which is already opened up) and reifying them (so now this is where conceptualization comes in), seeing them as they really are out there, really in here, there is clinging and delusional.
So that is completely phenomenological account, it does not mean that its absolutely true and we have to accept it but he is talking about our experience which means we can test it by closely examining our own experience.
I will read one shorter quote from Dudjom Lingpa and then we finish.
Instructions for one that is reading this transcript: see below the text that Alan read and his commentaries are together with the text.
(30:09) When all appearances and mental states arise in their natural order from the substrate to the substrate consciousness, from the substrate consciousness to this “I maker”, the sense this primal sense of “I”, bifurcating “I” from everything that is not I, and then mano or mentation arises and with that this whole array of appearances and then conceptualization comes in and makes sense of objects here and objects there such that the appearances now become attributes of objects and the appearances become attributes of subjects like my mind is really confused, my mind is clear, my mind is dull, the dullness, the appearances, the experiences of dullness, clarity and so forth are now attributes of something. The color of Patricia’s shawl is blue, oh, no, no, that is not just appearances in my substrate that is a quality of her shawl so this is mentation, mano and conceptualization that coagulates the world into objects and subjects where all the appearances now have owners, they belong to something, they are attributes of something else, of objects and of subjects.
(31:28) When all appearances and mental states arise in their natural order the whole of samsara appears and by reversing their natural order (which is exactly what we do when we are practicing shamatha successfully), by reversing their natural order they enter into the womb of the substrate (that is the third type of mindfulness, absence of mindfulness) and they suddenly vanish without a trace, all those appearances dissolve back into the substrate.
That is the theory let’s now put into the test of experience.
(32:48) Step by step settle your body in its natural state and your respiration in its natural rhythm and settle your mind at ease in stillness and clarity for just a short time by way of mindfulness of breathing.
(36:25) And now withdraw your awareness which is to say withdraw your attention with your eyes closed not only from the visual field but from all the five sense domains to the best of your ability. Withdraw your awareness away from the space of the mind and the contents of the mind. Withdraw your awareness from all appearances which is to say do not deliberately give attention to any appearances of any kind like a snail going into its shell. Withdraw your awareness from all six domains of experience and just for a short time, an act of your best approximation, sit there without knowing anything at all as if there is a blanket over your head, just quiet, dormant as if you are deep asleep without knowing or paying attention to anything.
(38:30) And now arouse your awareness just enough to be vividly aware of your immediate experience of being aware. Draw forth your substrate consciousness, the awareness of awareness, and rest for a little while, clearly, knowing the experience of being conscious without attending to anything else.
(40:20) And now attend closely. Do you have a sense of being one who is aware, one who is present? Do you have a presence of being you, a sense of being you, a subject, single not-multiple and discreet, different from all else?
And continuing with your eyes closed but attending now to the space of the mind, do you have a sense of being something other than that space of the mind that objectively appears to you, a sense of being over here whereas the space of the mind is over there?
(43:01) The borders, the defining characteristics of that space of the mind may not be so clear, may not be any clearer than the actual nature of yourself as the subject rather amorphous, , perhaps embryonic, not clearly defined, nevertheless distinct, a subject over here and objective space over there. Is that true or not?
(44:15) Now let your eyes be open, all of your senses open, let your consciousness illuminate, make manifest appearances in all the six domains. And can you identify this process of nama, of naming? This is not necessary implying verbalization rather simply the identification with or without labels of the appearances of sound, of tactile sensations, the visual impressions, thoughts, mental images and so on.
(46:07) The ability to differentiate one type of appearance from another. Do you have a clear sense of doing that, of mentation of sorting things out? And then the emergence of conceptualizations when you literally conceive of a world consisting of objects, having attributes, parts, located in space, and subjects, mental processes having attributes. This is the process of conceptual designation, imputation, the process of objectifying and subjectifying.
(48:17) This is a week for the close application of mindfulness to the body so let’s apply mindfulness closely to our experience and our conceptualization of the body attending first of all to the appearances themselves. The appearances arising in the alaya, the substrate, the appearances themselves being non-physical having no physical attributes, no location in physical space, no mass, no velocity, no charge, no nothing, non-physical.
Then observe how you conceptualize the body, experientially or phenomenalogically bringing into existence by the process of conceptual designation as you think: my head, in which certain sensations arise. Has a shape, has a texture, has color, has feelings arising in it.
But apart from conceptually designating the head on the basis of appearances which are not a head, when do you ever perceive a head? Likewise observe how you conceptually designate your torso, your arms, and your legs.
(53:09) While these labels, these conceptual imputations, are designated on the basis of appearances, the appearances themselves are empty of those labels, empty of those conceptual designations. They do not exist in the appearances themselves, unless you can find them.
(54:20) As you attend to yourself as a subject experiencing your body. What do you experience apart from mental appearances? None of which are you, but on the basis of which you designate, you impute, you project, “I am”. But apart from the conceptual designation, is there any evidence that you are already there in the very nature of these subjective appearances. Are you already there any more than the body is already there in the objective appearances of tactile sensations of forms, sounds and so on?
Alan introduces the first 4 links of the 12 links of dependent origination.
(56:20) I am just adding a foot note to try to, something that is very easy to become just a matter of conceptualization, theorizing, something very objective, very intellectual and try to draw into experience and that is the first 4 links of the twelve links of dependent origination. For those of studying Buddhism, how does samsara unfold and in the reversible order how do you unfold or fold back in samsara and achieve nirvana? I’m just going to cover the first 4.
The first of these 12 links is avidia, not knowing, unawareness. If we bring this to experience, well we do not need to look any further than the substrate. It is the very nature of unknowing. In all those cases, when we fainted, when we in comatose, anesthesia, in deep sleep, in the dead zone when you come to the culmination of the dying process. In all of these cases, t we do not just remain unknowing. But now very interesting, the sequence is really quite interesting, it is provocative, and that is in the very next link is actually the mental formations, samskara.
Samskara, activities, formations, configurations, kinetic energy of the mind, karmic impulses, something stirs. There is that mere vacuity, there is that mere amorphous unknowing but then something stirs it, activates it, stirs it into motion showing that there is no nothing. We can call that karma, we can call that by the generic term of mental formations, configurations, activities of the mind, samskara. Thus again bring it back to experience, and that is we’ve all been deep asleep Some people having practiced dream yoga or it happens spontaneously maybe in deep sleep and then become lucid. The transition from just being in a state of unknowing where your substrate consciousness has dissolved into the substrate becoming knowing, something needs to activate that, something needs to arouse it, to wake it up, that is called samskara.
And so then samskara activate and then the third link emerges and it is all this, it is not predetermination, it is simply saying in dependence upon the presence of avidia, unknowing, there is the activation of the samskara, in dependence upon the activation of samskara there is the emergence of consciousness, the third link consciousness and it is mental consciousness. Let’s call that the substrate consciousness.
So now out of the substrate there is some movement and it is not happing for no reason. So again in Buddhism we never have an effect with no cause. The cause does not predetermine the effect but the effect does arise in dependence upon the cause. It is a subtle distinction and very important.
So there is some type of activation, call it karma, call it mental formation, and the third link emerges, mental consciousness emerges.
So now there is explicit consciousness. It does not make any sense to speak of avidia, not knowing, unknowing in the total absence of consciousness. It doesn’t make any sense to say this paper is ignorant, you flatter it too much, it hasn’t risen to the state of consciousness, it is an error to say it is ignorant or not ignorant.
(1:00:33) So in the state of ignorance, the first link, that has to be consciousness but it is must be implicit. It is activated with this samskara, the act of formations, karma call it what you will and then consciousness becomes explicit, raw, primal and not Buddha nature. This is within the conventional reality called samsara, it emerges that mental consciousness called substrate consciousness there is the third link.
(1:01:06) And then the forth link emerges in dependence upon the presence, the luminosity of the substrate consciousness or simply consciousness then arises nama rupa. Prior to that substrate consciousness simply being luminous but illuminating not much of anything, it is like having a brilliant bright light in deep space with nothing for it to illuminate, it is bright but it is not illuminating anything else, it is just bright. But how do you know that it is bright unless you are something else looking at it which you cannot do? And so in dependence upon that sheer luminosity of substrate consciousness, then nama rupa. Naming that very process by means of which we identify appearances. And appearances that manifest that which is identified, that is a color, that is a sound, that is the tactile sensations all of that without verbalization that is another layer on top of that.
(1:02:04) This becomes especial interesting if you are in lucid in dreamless sleep so the substrate consciousness has emerged from the substrate and it is knowing and it is knowing itself and the substrate and for the time being nothing else. But that is something that is explicit. And you are hanging out there lucid in dreamless sleep, this is possible. And then something moves again another symmetry is broken and then you see that vacuity emerging as a dreamscape having no existence apart from the alaya. But then all those appearances arise and then simply substrate consciousness manifesting as your mind, now you are a person, maybe you are the same person you were in awaking state maybe not, maybe you are older, maybe you are younger but you arise as a persona within the dream, the dreamscape having a mind. And then your mind attending to the various appearances, then starts labelling, this is this, this is that, that is her, that is him.
(1:03:27) And then not knowing the nature which you are experiencing you get it wrong and that is you apprehend it as being really there and this is being really you and you think this is who I am, this is all I am, this is me. And now you are now reified and completely cognitively fused with the persona appearing in the dream, you are not only identified and then labelled but you also reified all the appearances in the dream. Oh, there is my mama, there is a lake, there is my house and so forth, oh, there they are, they are really out there, really from their own side and I am really from my own side, ok, now what can happen? It is called the dream.
So I think it is quite interesting to see how the Theravada account of nama rupa, it is not identical to but certainly dovetails with the Dzogchen account from the substrate to the substrate consciousness from the substrate consciousness just congealing of the sense of “I” . That in turn triggering mentation together with the appearances and then out of that comes the further elaboration of conceptualization now identified, there is my mother, there is my father and so forth which is simply a label. And labelling is not delusional, The Buddha labelled, Arhats labelled, it is not a problem. But then the reification. And the reification where it gets fortified, it is locked in and we see that is really from its own side, that is over there from its own side and I am here really from my own side, and now how we do interact.
(1:05:15) So there is the sequence. To relate this to our very experience of the body takes us beyond the three ever so important marks of existence of the body, impermanent, by nature dukkha, by nature non-self and it moves us over into the forth characteristic and that is, especially it is there in a Pali Canon but it is much more elaborated and clear, developed in the Perfection of Wisdom sutras and then systematized by Nagarjuna and that is not only are our own conditioned phenomena impermanent, by nature of dukkha, not-self, but also empty. It is not really there from their own side objectively and not really there from their own side subjectively. It is all empty.
So that is where we are going this week, to try to see beyond the three marks of existence and venture into experientially as much as we can at least to get a tiny taste.
What are they talking about when they say the form is empty? Is that all appearances are empty? What do they mean by saying that the body, which is composed of molecules, atoms, that we never denied that, cells, neurons, all that is known by modern physiology. Is empty?
One of the great of Alan’s Lama that taught Madhyamaka, said:
Alan, the Madhyamaka view we are never refuting the existence of atoms, we are never saying atoms do not exist but we are just questioning how they exist?
They are already there, these elementary particles, matter, energy and so forth, they are already there and we are simply placing a label on them, they are already totally there. It is just like saying that is Patricia, no, no, let’s change her name, her name is Mary. But she is the same person. |We are just calling her Patricia or Mary, as if she is already totally there and we are just lightly liying a label on top. Is that how it is. Or the very act of labeling and conceptualization itself bring forth the emergence of objects and subjects into conventional reality.
(1:08:22) Such as if you are in a dream and you are lucid, clearly lucid you are awake in the dream. So just imagine right now I am dreaming and I am dreaming that I am teaching and here we are, and someone asked me: is Rose here? I say, yes, she is right over there. I could be utterly lucid and Monica says, I am looking for Rose have you seen her today? Yes, Monica she is right over there. And I can say that in a dream it would be perfectly correct and I am lucid. I am knowing this illusory Monica has asked the illusory me if the illusory Rose is here and I am saying, yeah, she is right over there. All of this functionality, all of this causality is taking place, she asked if she is here, I respond yes, and by the way she is taking notes of the teachings, etc. And all of this network of meaningful causality is taking place. She caused me to say this, I cause him to do that and so forth. All of this is taking place, causality, sequences going on meaningfully and she is not really there, I am not really here and there are no notes.
From the perspective of emptiness there is no Monica, there is no me, there are no teachings, from in the context of the dream I gave the right answer, Is Rose here, yes she is right over there. So conceptualization is not the delusion, the reification is the root of all mental afflictions.
Transcribed by Rafael Carlos Giusti
Revised by Fran Gianquito
Final edition by Alma Ayon