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Awareness, mindfulness and consciousness 101

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  • Eamonn McGrath
    started a topic Awareness, mindfulness and consciousness 101

    Awareness, mindfulness and consciousness 101

    Dear Ajahn Brahmali,

    I have been trying to find a clear defintion of Awareness, Consciousness and Mindfulness and what are their fundamental differences. A search of the intenet does not provide an answer in simplistic terms and I hope you may assist.

    Can you provide a simple definition of each, what are their main differences and subsequent to this...why is consciousness one of the five aggregates, ie something to overcome? My conflict here, is that other spritual teachings allude that consciousness is something to attain?

    I tend to go in circles when I try to distinguish and define each of these. Awareness I am happy with, but conciousness and mindfullness I am having difficulty.

    Your help will be much appreciated.

    with Metta
    Eamonn

  • Ajahn Brahmali
    replied
    Dear Eamonn,

    I'm specifically referring to the faculty of knowing. We identify with our ability to experience. For most people it is difficult to give up the desire for and attachment to conscious experience.

    With metta.

    Leave a comment:


  • Eamonn McGrath
    replied
    Dear Ajahn Brahmahli,

    Your quote "Consciousness is one of the five aggregates because it is such an important part - I would say the most important part - of what we are. Because consciousness, in the end, is what defines us - because we identify with it so powerfully - we also hold on to it very strongly. As long as we have attachments and craving we will get reborn, and thus suffer. The only way to end suffering is therefore to overcome our attachment to consciousness."

    Are you referring to the ego here? Is this the part of consiousness which is what we identify and attach to?

    Thankyou again.

    With Metta

    Leave a comment:


  • Sylvester Lam
    replied
    Dear Bhante

    Thank you very much for replying. This requires a lot more reflection!

    With metta

    _/\_

    Leave a comment:


  • Ajahn Brahmali
    replied
    Dear Sylvester,

    If the latter, does it mean that we take to be loss of consciousness in sleep is largely due to the fact that we cannot remember much of what transpires in our sleep?
    Yes, that's how I see it. You know consciousness is there because if someone touches you, or there is a loud noise, you will normally wake up. You also know that consciousness is present from dreams. If you get woken up on the middle of the night, you may be aware that you have been dreaming. However, if you sleep through to the morning, you will normally only remember the dream you had just before you woke up. So clearly there may be consciousness present in the middle of the night and yet you may have no recollection of it.

    Do you think there is such a thing such as a mind that persists without consciousness?
    The way I understand MN43 is simply that the ability to cognize mental phenomena, as bound by the existing physical organism, has not come to a final end with nirodha-samāpatti. This is parallel to what happens with the other five senses. All of them stop during nirodha-samāpatti, but then they restart when one emerges. The six senses are thus intact in the sense that they are able to restart and the restarting happens within the same organism (which would seem to mean that the brain and the nervous system form (part of?) the manāyatana, for human beings at least). So the mind does not really persist in any ordinary sense of the word; it is just that the possibility of experiencing mental phenomena at some future point remains.

    As for MN28, if the mind is not interrupted by sense-input from a particular sense, it will just continue its natural trajectory, whatever that may be. In other words, it will be attending to one of the other five senses.

    What do you think?

    With metta.

    Leave a comment:


  • Sylvester Lam
    replied
    Originally posted by Ajahn Brahmali View Post

    Consciousness is that which allows you to be conscious of anything. Every waking moment of life (and in fact every moment of sleep as well) includes consciousness.
    Dear Bhante

    I'm very intrigued by the above! How does this happen? Do you mean this in the broad sense that the mind as sense base (manāyatana) persists in sleep, or in the specific sense of referring to consciousness as aggregate (viññāṇa)?

    If the latter, does it mean that we take to be loss of consciousness in sleep is largely due to the fact that we cannot remember much of what transpires in our sleep?

    It's somewhat connected to another issue concerning nirodha-samāpatti. MN 43 says that the faculties (indriyā) are intact in nirodha-samāpatti, and I presume that this would include the mind as an āyatana/indriyā. Do you think there is such a thing such as a mind that persists without consciousness? I note that MN 28 allows the mind and dhamma to be present, but the corresponding consciousness to be absent, if there is no tajja samannāhāra (attention).

    With metta

    _/\_

    Leave a comment:


  • Eamonn McGrath
    replied
    Dear Ajahn Brahmali,

    Thanks for your time once agian. I am more clear on this, although it does seem that a defiintion of each and knowing their differences is not easy to put into words. Its not as simple as "a banana is yellow and an orange is...orange".

    With Metta
    Eamonn

    Leave a comment:


  • Ajahn Brahmali
    replied
    Dear Eamonn,

    "Awareness" is not as easy to pin down as "consciousness" or "mindfulness". This is because consciousness and mindfulness are standard translations of Pali words (viññāṇa and sati respectively), whereas awareness is not. This means that the exact meaning of awareness will depend on how it is used, that is, which Pali word it refers to.

    Sometimes awareness is used for sati, such as in "awareness of the breath", in which case it is simply equivalent to mindfulness. At other times it is used synonymously with consciousness, as in "six-sense awareness", in which case it is a translation of viññāṇa. At still other times the expression "full awareness" is used for sati-sampajaññā. In this use the meaning is that you have a degree of wisdom about your actions: you know why you are doing something and how it leads to the desired goal. Sometimes the word awareness is used quite loosely and may not have any direct relationship to a Pali word. In these cases the meaning is whatever the context requires or whatever is given in an ordinary dictionary.

    Also, a reduction in the five hindrances doesn't automatically mean the mind is more concentrated, but just that it is more pure. Such purity makes it easier to still the mind in meditation, but it is not the same as stillness. Mindfulness is a prerequisite for stillness, but stillness is more than just mindfulness.

    With metta.

    Leave a comment:


  • Eamonn McGrath
    replied
    Thankyou very much Ajahn Brahmali,

    This does help considerably, however one more question resulting from this.

    What is the difference now between Consciousness and Awareness? Would I be right in saying that there is Consciousness, which includes the five hinderences running wild, then there is Awareness, which is consciousness somewhat refined, so the mind is more concentrated and then you have Mindfullness which is, as you mentioned "a particular degree and strength of awareness" and thus the mind concentrated even more?

    Also with Metta and appreciation.

    Eamonn

    Leave a comment:


  • Ajahn Brahmali
    replied
    Dear Eamonn,

    Consciousness is that which allows you to be conscious of anything. Every waking moment of life (and in fact every moment of sleep as well) includes consciousness. Without consciousness there's not even nothing - just complete emptiness. The Pali word that is usually rendered as "consciousness" in viññāṇa.

    Mindfulness is a particular degree and strength of awareness. It is the sort of awareness you have when the hindrances are weak, when the mind is clear and bright, and when there are few thoughts. Mindfulness (sati in Pali) is a spiritual faculty that gives you a sense of being in charge of your mind. Instead of the hindrances dragging your mind into the past, the future and endless thinking, you are able to stay in the present moment and focus your mind on whatever object you wish to focus on. This is why mindfulness is required before meditation really takes off - only the mindful mind is able to focus on an object at will.

    Consciousness is one of the five aggregates because it is such an important part - I would say the most important part - of what we are. Because consciousness, in the end, is what defines us - because we identify with it so powerfully - we also hold on to it very strongly. As long as we have attachments and craving we will get reborn, and thus suffer. The only way to end suffering is therefore to overcome our attachment to consciousness.

    To end our attachment to consciousness we first of all need to refine it. Deep states of samādhi are often referred to as refined states of consciousness. I guess this is what you mean when you refer to consciousness being "something to attain". Based on such refined states of consciousness, one is able to gain the insight that leads to the end of attachment.

    With metta.

    Leave a comment:

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