More on AWA and Objects

This is part of my Start Here series of posts aimed at teaching beginners the basics of the meditative journey.

Using objects with Awareness Watching Awareness is absolutely fine. In fact, distant sounds are perhaps the easiest and most accessible trigger for the meta-awareness circuit.

The trick however is simply to notice you are aware of the object, rather than to fixate upon the object as a thing in itself.

Sit or lie with eyes closed. Gently tune into ambient sounds. The distant sounds of birds, wind, or traffic are ideal. Now notice, “I am aware of that sound”. Allow attention to move to another sound if it wants. Repeat, “I am aware of that sound”. Notice that the sound is making an impression in something (in awareness itself). Continue allowing this process to unfold.

I find there is an initial “hump” to get over, as if the mind has some resistance to noticing it is aware. This may take 20 seconds or so to overcome, first thing in the morning. Stay with the process. Soon, a rhythm develops wherein the quality of being aware of the sound begins to dominate, rather than the quality of the sound itself. Allow this rhythm to continue via choiceless awareness. The awareness may move between sounds, body feelings, and other objects, seemingly of its own accord. Notice, “I am aware”.

Eventually, the sense of an “I” who is aware of objects drops out, and you are left with just the awareness of the object itself, ever-changing, ever-moving. Rather than objects making an impression in awareness, just the awareness itself is left. This mode then wishes to continue, because it is peaceful, blissful, and relaxing.

Objects may shimmer and burst apart. Sound may be “seen”. The awareness itself is found to fully permeate the object, because there never was a separate object. There is just a continuum of awareness, aware of itself, in itself, for itself. This is the bliss of being.

This process is the transition from hard “subject–object” duality – a thinker “here”, thinking about things “over there” – to simple, nondual, eternal, timeless and infinite awareness, aware of itself, for its own sake, because awareness itself is blissful.

Be kind to yourself. Allow yourself lots of time to find this rhythm. Allow yourself to make mistakes, and to get stuck on objects before gently bringing awareness back to the fact that “I am aware”.

When the session is done, hard duality will tend to recoalesce almost immediately. However, the sense of what you have just touched into will remain on some subtle level for the rest of the day, manifesting as a sense of peace, a sense of things being in their right place, and a feeling of connection to something beyond what is immediately apparent. Over time, this sense will blossom into abiding nondual awareness.

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6 Responses

  1. Jrager says:

    Nice clear explanation.

    This is actually mentioned in the Anapanasati Sutta.

    “For this, I refer to the very first passage the Buddha recites, but which everyone ignores for some strange reason:
    There is the case where a monk, having gone to the wilderness, to the shade of a tree, or to an empty building, sits down folding his legs crosswise, holding his body erect, and setting [sati] to the fore. Always [using sati], he breathes in; mindful he breathes out.

    This instruction is given even before the 16 steps. Not only is this instruction given before everything else – one should refer to the teachings outside of these two sutras and study what the Buddha means by sati (translated as mindfulness). For example, what did the Buddha mean by sati in the Aggi sutta?
    To help you understand this meaning of sati, which has been vaguely translated as ‘mindfulness’ but yet does not capture its complete meaning, we can refer to a different language to which it has been translated – from Sanskrit as recorded in the Eastern Tripitaka (called the Agamas). The reason for this is that the suttas diverged in India, Sanskrit travelled north-ward while Pali travelled east-ward. However, they have a correspondence rate of nearly 90% as shown by many Buddhist scholars.

    In the Sanskrit-Chinese version, the title of the Sutra is called: The Great Anapana Yi-Abiding Sutta. From history, one can see that many Buddhists were extremely meticulous about translations from Sanskrit to Chinese, and they were normally done by actual Buddhist masters such as Kumarajiva and various other sages, not scholars. They mastered both Sanskrit and Chinese and very extremely prolific in both languages – therefore we can depend on their exact transliteration.
    When writing his commentary on the Diamond Sutra, my late teacher even chose Kumarajiva’s translations because it was the most prolific – with what we call literacy-prajna, or the wisdom that comes with literacy-flair.

    So what does Yi-abiding mean?
    Yi is referred to as the 6th consciousness in the Yogacara school. It is the nature that recognises thoughts, perceptions and sensations. It is that which knows whether one is thinking, feeling or sensing. In Hinduism, this was referred to as Manas or Mano.
    When you raise a hand, do you know that you are raising your hand? When there are thoughts in the brain, do you know that you are thinking? That which knows is the Yi. It is not necessarily the function of the brain – it can know whether there are thoughts in the brain. The Yi is what knows.
    According to the definition of the Sanskrit title, sati, its direct correspondence simply means staying with this ‘knowing-nature’. Having stayed with this knowing-nature, not associating itself with thoughts, keeping the brain clean, bright and pure – one enters samadhi.
    This Yi is not just what is in the brain! Whatever you see around you, stretching to the furthest limit in your mind that you can imagine into the infinity of space or time, all of this only happens because it is known by the Yi.
    In the teaching of Dependent Origination, this Yi would represent a portion of Consciousness, which arises before Nama-rupa (name and form). Along with this Yi in Consciousness, is the 7th consciousness level termed, in layman, the “Egoic mind”. The last is the 8th level which is Alaya-consciousness that stores ‘mental formations’ or samskara, and is where ignorance, avijja, arises.

    What is the simplest explanation for Yi-abiding?
    Just sitting here, you know there are thoughts in your brain. In the same way, you know you have a body sitting down. In the same way, you know all five senses feeding its sensory contact. This entirety, this whole immense construct of experience, is Yi.
    What is the simplest instruction for Yi-abiding?
    Just sitting here, if you sweep away all the thoughts in your brain (and by that, I mean paying no attention to them and letting them disappear naturally as they always do), you will enter a state of mental clarity.
    Whatever arises, sweep away. Just be with that knowing-nature, that Yi, that which knows. When done in a long time, you will enter Samadhi. You may even enter this Samadhi for 3 days without leaving it.

    What is Anapana? The contraction and expansion of prana, energy or ‘breath’. This is only used as a tool. You are quite correct in thinking this:
    Apart from this, (from my experience) mind’s attention is not able to be with more than one object at the same time. Although it might appear, it simply is not possible.

    Knowing is not cognitive labelling! What you are using here is a discriminative function, a sense of distinguishing things – this is namarupa, not Yi, not sati.
    What happens in meditation is that everything quietens down. When meditating, your body quietens down and its bodily functions adapt to that of quietness and tranquility. When it does not produce that much feedback through the five senses, it seems as if you are only knowing whatever you are meditating on at that point.
    If you were not able to know the feeling of the ground, to know the appearance of the ground, to know the sounds around you, to know that you are engaging your muscles – all at the same time – then how can a person walk around in the world?
    Here is the key – as you walk around in the world, it is very difficult for someone to enter Samadhi like that without training. It is much easier to do it while being static – whether standing, sitting or lying down.

    When you are engaged in sati, it is as if you were a castle guard watching over all 6 senses. When a thought comes, you know. When a breath comes, you know. When a vision comes, you know. When a smell comes, when a sound comes, when a taste comes – regardless, you know. No matter what happens, the castle guard is that which knows. He is not part of the gates.
    If you can remain in this purity that is unstained by any of the 6 senses, just pure knowing, you are then knowing when the breath goes in, and knowing when the breath goes out. You do not need to chase after the breath. Just being what knows, you do not have to move a single inch, because this Yi is omnipresent. ”

    Source: A teacher in a now deleted subreddit.

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