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Thread: Pure Consciousness

  1. #1

    Pure Consciousness

    I found this fascinating talk at the Buddhism Now website. It was given by Ajahn Sumedho in Thailand on 21st December 2020.

    "What the heck is pure consciousness?"





    Comments welcome if you've listened to the video. Please give the video time reference if you're referring to anything specific.


    [note: "sankharas" = formations]

  2. #2
    I'd be really interested in reading the views of others in connection with this talk.



  3. #3
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    Pretty much a commentary on the Heart Sutra, if you look at the talk that way. I don't agree with his term 'pure consciousness' but that's a minor point. It's kind of the the Heart Sutra in reverse, starting off with what you experience when you get beyond what arises as a result of consciousness, in turn the result of the conditioning imposed on us by the society we happen to be born into. The talk is a journey to the practice which allows us to get beyond our conditioned awareness so that we too can experience the pure consciousness that we 'return home' to (minute 29). We can return to experiencing in a way which gets beyond our conditioning.

    How do we do this? Not by 'belief' in anything but by trusting to the practice of 'open awareness' (37.50). he mentions that the Buddha never taught Buddhism, so that arguments amongst Buddhists about the 'best' way to teach Buddhism are largely meaningless, as any practice is still 'sankhara' (37 min). He tells how he learned about open awareness even though he was in Thailand where his teachers could only speak Thai and he only English. He realised that it didn't matter that he was never taught anything about Buddhism since he eventually could stay in open awareness and witness impermanence. He ends with a look at the whole question of God and hell and heaven, with ultimate reality described as loving kindness and peace.

    Well worth a listen.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by philg
    I don't agree with his term 'pure consciousness' but that's a minor point
    American Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield has an article on his website with the title "Awakening to Pure Consciousness " and this is an excerpt:


    In the monastery Ajahn Chah would point us back to rest in the pure knowing, consciousness itself. Sometimes he would notice that we were caught up in a state of worry or anger or doubt or sorrow. He would smile with amusement and urge us to inquire, Who is doubting? Who is angry? Can you rest in the consciousness that is aware of these states?

    Sometimes he would instruct us to sit at the side of a person who was dying, to be particularly aware of the mysterious moment when consciousness leaves and a person full of life turns into a lifeless corpse.

    Sometimes he would say, “If you are lost in the forest, that is not really being lost. You are really lost if you forget who you are.”

    This knowing or pure consciousness is called by many names, all of which point to our timeless essence. Ajahn Chah and the forest monks of Thailand speak of it as the Original Mind or the One Who Knows. In Tibetan Buddhism it is referred to as Rigpa, silent and intelligent. In Zen it is called the mind ground or mind essence.

    https://jackkornfield.com/awakening-...consciousness/
    Just as an aside, my own understanding of the Tibetan word "rigpa" (mentioned by Jack Kornfield), is as defined here:


    "rig pa" is a Tibetan word, which in general means ‘intelligence’ or ‘awareness’.

    In Dzogchen, however, the highest teachings in the Buddhist tradition of Tibet, rigpa has a deeper connotation, 'the innermost nature of the mind’. The whole of the teaching of Buddha is directed towards realizing this, our ultimate nature, the state of omniscience or enlightenment—a truth so universal, so primordial that it goes beyond all limits, and beyond even religion itself.

    http://www.rigpawiki.org/index.php?title=Rigpa


  5. #5
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    Yes, the terminology doesn't really matter unless it gets misinterpreted. It refers to that timeless instance of insight or enlightenment when you get beyond thought. On returning to everyday consciousness it is the attempt to describe the experience, and so is frustratingly beyond words. Anything you say is in the terminology of regular consciousness and so not really up to the reality of the experience.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by philg View Post
    Yes, the terminology doesn't really matter unless it gets misinterpreted. It refers to that timeless instance of insight or enlightenment when you get beyond thought. On returning to everyday consciousness it is the attempt to describe the experience, and so is frustratingly beyond words. Anything you say is in the terminology of regular consciousness and so not really up to the reality of the experience.
    I think its important that one doesn't get too carried away by any experiences that one has of thoughts being stilled though, because then a person might start thinking that they're enlightened !



  7. #7
    Forums Member Olderon's Avatar
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    I don't know about the word "pure", however, I agree, due to personal experience, and education with AJahn Sumedho's opinion / idea of "consciousness".

    Modern Medical Science teaches that consciousness arises from the brain as a result of the not so simple fact that it is living. "Awareness", however, is a different thing. We cannot be aware without first being conscious. We cannot be conscious without first being alive and having developed the basis (supporting) physiology required to allow consciousness. For example as neonates in the womb we can, as a result of our consciousness arising from our brain and nervous system's development become aware of physical conditions such as our environment's temperature, touch sensations, tastes, smells and sounds which we carry with us into our growth cycles of birth, aging, disease, death and rebirths. Our consciousness (pure or not) is but a consequence of the development of our neurophysiological systems as instructed by our DNA.

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    I listened to the whole talk, and it communicated nothing to me. I would like to give my view on what was said, but the truth is I didn't understand what Luang Por Sumedho was telling us.

    I understood so little that I can't offer any comments on the talk, at all.

  9. #9
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    There is some evidence that the 'thinking person' we think we are is an illusion, that our 'real' consciousness requires something additional to make sense of the world and to be sure that it hasn't missed anything dangerous. To that end it creates an illusory 'lookout' self which thinks it is the whole consciousness but is really created by it, an identity which thinks it makes decisions but which doesn't really. The decisions which we think we make were made by this other consciousness seconds before, and we are tricked into thinking that 'we' made them.

    If this is the case them meditation perhaps taps into this other 'us', the one really in control. We realise that we are part of something much bigger, but something hard to understand because we are usually kept from it. It may be the 'pure consciousness' which we glimpse during meditation and may explain the feeling of 'coming home' which is described by many having insight experiences. For a split second we are 'whole' as a person and 'one' with what we are usually separated from. I read such cutting edge science for the same reason I read Dogen; they both bring much the same thing to my practice. They keep me open to new ideas.

  10. #10
    To avoid any confusion, there's more from Ajahn Sumedho that might be helpful in this video:

    Sense Consciousness and Pure Consciousness






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