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From Alienated Awareness to Integrated Awareness

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by Sangharakshita

Aspects of the Higher Evolution of the Individual

Lecture 84: From Alienated Awareness To Integrated Awareness I think everybody knows quite well that at present we are engaged in the study of what we have come to call the Higher Evolution, and I am sure that it is also appreciated that we are studying this vastly important subject not in the abstract - not just in very general terms - but very much in the concrete, very much in particular terms. We are studying not just the Higher Evolution of man but even the Higher Evolution of the Individual. This whole process of the Higher Evolution of the Individual is something very difficult, something very arduous, something involving a great deal of effort, a great deal of determination, even a great deal of strain; even, we may say, a measure, at least, of suffering. We may even go so far as to say that this particular type of effort, this particular kind of development, this Higher Evolution, is by far the most difficult thing that any human being, any man or woman, could possibly attempt. But even as it is the most difficult, the most arduous, it is also the most worthwhile. And being difficult, being arduous, being something that demands, we may say, everything that we have got, involving as it does every aspect of our nature, involving as it does a great deal of self-understanding, self-knowledge, a great deal of coming to terms with ourselves in various ways, we also find that in the course of this Higher Evolution of the Individual all sorts of difficulties, all sorts of problems, even, arise: problems that demand to be resolved if further progress is to be made. It is some of these problems - not just ordinary problems, ordinary difficulties, pressing as these sometimes are, but problems arising directly out of the Higher Evolution, directly out of our effort to evolve and to grow, that we shall be considering - or at least we shall be considering some of the more important of them.

Last we did not explore any specific problems. Last week we were more concerned with laying the general - we may say theoretical - foundations for the whole course; concerned with coming to understand certain principles which will be applied in different ways, in different fields, week by week throughout the course. We began by reminding ourselves very briefly of some of the things that we learned when we considered the Higher Evolution of Man. We reminded ourselves, you may remember, about the universality of the great principle of evolution. We reminded ourselves of the nature of the distinction - a distinction absolutely fundamental for this whole course - between the Lower Evolution on the one hand and the Higher Evolution on the other. We saw again that the Lower Evolution is collective, whereas the Higher Evolution is individual, concerning the individual and his individual effort.

Last week we were mainly concerned with the question of how consciousness evolves, and this was indeed the title of the lecture; and we were concerned with this question of the evolution or development of consciousness, because the Higher Evolution of man, the Higher Evolution of the Individual, consists essentially in an evolution of consciousness. We saw last week that, broadly speaking, there are four different levels, four different degrees or grades, of consciousness. Very briefly, these are: simple consciousness or sense consciousness, that is to say, awareness of sensations experienced through the sense organs as a result of contact with the external world, and this type of consciousness we of course share with the animals. Then, secondly, self-consciousness, which we also called subjective consciousness. Here one is not just aware, one is aware that one is aware. One not only experiences sensations, feelings, emotions, thoughts and volitions, but is conscious of oneself as experiencing them. This form of consciousness, self-consciousness, we do not share with the animals; this is distinctively human. We are, in fact, only human to the extent to which this form of consciousness, self-consciousness, has been developed in us. Thirdly, transcendental consciousness or what we also called objective consciousness. This consists in the awareness of a higher spiritual reality, a reality which embraces both oneself and the whole of conditioned existence, the whole world. This higher spiritual reality is not in itself an object, but at this stage of our evolution, by means of this type of consciousness - transcendental consciousness - we experience it as an object; but in itself it transcends the subject-object distinction. Sometimes, we also saw, this type of consciousness, this transcendental consciousness, is experienced as a sort of flash of Insight that momentarily lights up, illuminates, the whole of existence. And fourthly and lastly, absolute consciousness or universal consciousness, which is altogether beyond our present understanding so that there is no point in saying anything at all about it. It is sufficient to indicate its existence as what we cannot but think of as the culmination of the entire process of the Higher Evolution.

Lecture 84: From Alienated Awareness to Integrated Awareness Page 1 Having enumerated these four levels or degrees of awareness or consciousness - simple consciousness, self-consciousness, transcendental consciousness and absolute consciousness - we went on to see that simple consciousness belongs to the Lower Evolution, whereas transcendental consciousness and absolute consciousness belong to the Higher Evolution; and self-consciousness, we saw - the second degree or second level of consciousness - comes somewhere in between. Self- consciousness is the culmination of the Lower Evolution and the inauguration of the Higher Evolution, a sort of watershed between these two great divisions.

We also saw last week - just to finish the recapitulation - that the individual, in the course of his development, recapitulates the evolution, the development, of the race to which he belongs. But we also saw that this principle applies only so far as the Lower Evolution is concerned. So far as the Higher Evolution is concerned, we are on our own. The Lower Evolution takes us so far and then leaves us there, deposits us there to struggle on, on our own, by means of our own efforts. So further development, further evolution, depends not on nature, not on nurture, even; it depends on us, on our own individual efforts. So we concluded by understanding that the immediate task before us - before not just man but the individual man - is to develop present rudimentary self- consciousness to perfection as well as to develop at least the beginnings of transcendental consciousness; and only if we are doing this, or at least trying to do this - perfecting our self- consciousness, beginning to develop our transcendental consciousness - only if we are engaged in this sort of effort, in this sort of work, can we be said to be leading truly human lives.

So much, then, for last week's lecture and some of the main points touched upon therein. Not that, in proceeding to this week's lecture, we leave last week's lecture and its subject matter behind; not that we can afford to forget what we learned last week. The theoretical principles that we studied last week are like, we may say, the foundation of a building; and however high we may build, however many stones we may pile one on another, the foundation remains there all along.

This week we come to the first of our problems. We come to a problem that, at least in the West, arises quite early in the spiritual life. At any rate, it arises quite early in the spiritual life of those who follow the path of Buddhism. It is a very important problem indeed. It is all the more important inasmuch as it arises in connection with awareness; that is to say, arises in connection with self-consciousness. Awareness, as we saw last week and as we have repeatedly insisted on other occasions, is the growing point of the whole process of the Higher Evolution; so that, if there is any misunderstanding in connection with awareness - if any misunderstanding arises in connection with the practice or development or cultivation of awareness - then the whole subsequent course of the Higher Evolution may be affected - even, perhaps, made impossible, just as if the bud is damaged the flower will not be able to unfold, at least not to the full measure of its perfection.

This is not to say that awareness itself is a problem. Awareness itself is no problem at all.

Awareness is the resolution of many of our problems. The problem here lies in our confusing what I term alienated awareness with what I term integrated awareness; and tonight we are primarily concerned with this question. It is for this reason that tonight's lecture is entitled `From Alienated Awareness to integrated Awareness' We are going to proceed slowly. We are going to proceed step by step; and we are first of all going to consider awareness in general, especially the way in which awareness is to be cultivated according to the traditional Buddhist teaching. Here many of us will find ourselves for a while on quite familiar ground. After that, we shall be striking out in a new direction. We shall be exploring comparatively unfamiliar territory. We shall examine the nature of the difference between alienated awareness and integrated awareness. We shall try to see how alienated awareness arises and also how integrated awareness arises, and also how integrated awareness can be developed.

First of all, awareness in general. In books and writings about Buddhism, awareness is very often referred to as mindfulness; that is the more familiar term for many people. There is a detailed account of awareness, in the sense of mindfulness, along traditional lines, in the first chapter of my Survey of Buddhism. As perfect awareness, ...

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