28 Apr 2016

Alan starts explaining that throughout times, lamas have given pointing-out instruction on the nature of the mind. With respect to this it is crucial not to conflate the different dimensions of consciousness. During the day we experience different states of mind, like sleeping, dreaming, waking, or being immersed in a conceptual or non-conceptual mind. In all these cases the common nominator of the mind is consciousness. Alan explains that the defining characteristics of the mind are luminosity and cognizance. Furthermore, it has no material attributes. It is luminous in that it manifests all modes of appearances. It is cognizant like the in the Tibetan term “rigpa”, meaning being aware of something. He distinguishes between the coarse and subtle mind. While the coarse mind is a mode of knowing, which is embedded in conceptuality, the subtle mind is non-conceptual, discerning, and imbued with the five jhana factors (single-pointedness, coarse investigation, subtle analysis, well-being and bliss). Alan presents the pointing-out instruction for the essential nature of the mind from the Vajra Essence: While the substrate consciousness illuminates appearances, it does not enter into them. It is largely free of cognitive fusion. An understanding of this is crucial for the instructions on the shamatha practices “awareness of awareness” and “settling the mind”. In “awareness of awareness” we do our best approximation of viewing awareness from the perspective of the substrate consciousness. And in “settling the mind” we try to best approximate viewing the appearances arising in the space of the mind from the perspective of substrate consciousness as well. In both cases we illuminate the objects without grasping and distraction, and without cognitively fusing with them, i.e. without entering into them. Finally, Alan comes to the Dzogchen view of the nature of the mind. Here the pointing-out instructions refer to the synonym terms: primordial consciousness, rigpa, Dharmakaya, Buddha Nature and pristine awareness. These instructions are often nonverbal and symbolic in nature, but one classic way is giving teachings that draw sharp distinctions between mind and Dharmakaya or between substrate consciousness and rigpa. In addition to these three types of the nature of the mind, there exists a fourth one: emptiness of the inherent nature of the mind or the ultimate reality of the mind. Alan then emphasizes that if it is true, that subtle continuum of consciousness is empty of inherent nature, it is a real “game changer”. This would mean that we are sentient beings, only relative to a conceptual framework - this changes the view on the entire universe.

Alan summarizes that under the umbrella of the nature of the mind we have (1) the conventional nature of mind, (2) the substrate consciousness, (3) the emptiness of inherent nature of mind and (4) rigpa. He emphasizes that rigpa is not the same as “the emptiness of inherent nature of mind”, but is Dharmakaya.

When we first experience the luminous and cognisant nature of the mind we realize the most superficial level of rigpa, like looking at the moon through three layers of clouds. First we peel away the layer of the human mind and arrive at the substrate consciousness. Then we get rid of grasping onto true existence and finally we release the identification with the conditioned consciousness. Thus we arrive at rigpa which is like seeing the moon with no clouds.

At the end, Alan recommends to keep an ongoing flow of the cognizance and luminosity of our own awareness throughout the day.

Meditation is silent and not recorded.


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