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Anapanasati Retreat 2005 - Pure Awareness Total Immersion - Introductory Talk Notes

by Viveka

Introduction to Pure Awareness

Notes from Viveka


Zen: Silent Illumination or Shikantaza, Just Sitting

o Mahamudra, Great Seal
o Dzogchen, Natural Great Perfection

FWBO – Pure Awareness (the current terminology which could change)

Theravada – Satipatthana/anapanasati practice brings us to this kind of practice as well
although there’s not a formal name for it. Contemporary teachers speak of choiceless
awareness or bare attention.

In all these traditions, the pure awareness type of meditation is practiced in a larger
mandala of both samatha and vipashyana practices. It would be a mistake to see it as a
stand alone approach.

My background

o Naturally I found breath awareness opening to pure awareness – probably closest
to the Zen apprach
o When I was ordained I found that Formless practice, not visualization, was where
I wanted to explore the vipashyana dimension of my meditation practice
o 8 years ago, went on a 10 day silent retreat with Joseph Goldstein which provided
experience with the “vipassana” approach method of the Insight Meditation
Society and also led to taking up the 16 step anapanasati method in ‘99
o In 2001 I explored Dzogchen on retreat with Lama Surya Das which whom I’ve
done retreat every year in the 4 years since. I consider Lama Surya Das a root
guru with whom I verified the teachings. This year I formally asked became a
Dzogchen student formally
o My pure awareness practice was also significantly boosted by a Zen encounter
with Kwong Roshi (one of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi’s earliest students in San
Francisco) in April 2004 that confirmed the Dzogchen pointing out to the nature
of mind.

o I do not have direct experience with Mahamudra teachers (except to the extent
that Lama Surya Das has also been introduced to Mahamudra).

What Makes Pure Awareness Practice Distinct?

1. The VIEW of Pure Awareness as our basic nature.

Total Immersion 2005 – Viveka’s intro to Pure Awareness
"This mind, O monks is luminous, but it is defiled by adventitious defilements. The
uninstructed worldling does not understand this as it really is; therefore for them there is
no mental development.” – ‘The Buddha, Anguttara Nikaya Suttas of the Pali Canon’

In Pure Awareness practice we are learning to recognize the luminous nature that is
inherently there and does not need to and cannot be created. Fully recognizing this nature
is to enter into deep entrusting of our basic OK-ness or purity and a deep relaxation or
releasing of all contracted states which is to know enlightenment, nirvana, peace.

This view really came into its own as a teaching with the development of Buddha Nature

From Sallie King’s book, ‘Buddha Nature’, on the original Buddha Nature Texts:
o All sentient beings possess Buddha nature and are thus guaranteed the realization
of Buddhahood.
o Not only will we be Buddhas in the future, we already are Buddhas now.
o Insofar as we do not experience ourselves as Buddhas, we are deluded and not
experientially Buddhas
o In such a case our Buddha Nature is covered up or concealed by adventitious
defilements such as greed, hatred and delusion. These defilements are not
essential to the human condition but simply the products of past karma. It is
possible to free ourself from that karma and the power the defilements have to
construct our reality.

Flower Ornament Scripture, “I now see all sentient beings everywhere fully possess the
wisdom and virtues of the enlightened ones, but because of false conceptions and
attachments they do not realize it” (Shakyamuni’s utterance at the time of his

Zen Master Hongzhi “In the field of boundless emptiness is what exists from the very
beginning. You must purify, cure, grind down, or brush away all the tendencies you have
fabricated into apparent habits. Then you can reside in the clear circle of brightness.”
“It cannot be cultivated or proven. From the beginning it is altogether complete.”

In the Tibetan tradition it taught as:
o Nature of Mind (sems ryid) – like a mirror
o Mind (sems) – reflections that appear in the mirror. Dualistic and conceptual

The nature of mind is innately aware. This intrinsic awareness is rigpa.

Because there is a sense of knowing there is a sense of self. ONE who knows. So pure
awareness practice is about going deeply into how is this? What is it really? Seeing
through mind to the nature of mind.
Total Immersion 2005 – Viveka’s intro to Pure Awareness

Nature of mind can be expressed in two paths:
o With awareness leads to existence as a Buddha
o With ignornance leads to samsara, life as an ordinary sentient being

“When there’s no realization, this intrinsic awareness observed

when the mind is turned inward is a sentient being.
It circles through the realms of the six living beings.

When there is realization, it’s a Buddha.
The three Buddha bodies dawn in ourselves.”

- 12th century Tibet yogin, Godrakpa Sonam Gyaltsen

Our basic nature is the GROUND of awareness.

1. Its essence is:
empty of color, shape, solidity
not fixed

2. Its nature is:

3. Its activity is:

2. EFFORTLESSNESS as the kind of effort. Just pure awareness (as the method, the
attitude – not goal oriented, non-dualistic)

This rides from the first aspect. Trusting the mind. And knowing that pure awareness,
nature of mind is not something that can be created. We’re create conditions for us to
Total Immersion 2005 – Viveka’s intro to Pure Awareness
open or enter into pure awareness but not create it. Rather than trying to develop
concentration and focus on an object the practice is to let the power of awareness be
heard from and surrender to it.

A different kind of effort if we think of the spectrum of effort we can make in working
with our minds:
o Generative/developing practice
o Allowing/unfolding practice

Both kinds of effort are valuable and guard against derailing to extremes of:
o Being completely lost in thought and our karmic patterns
o The deluded mind controlling the meditative process (the deluded mind cannot
liberate itself)

Hongzhi “Stay with that just as that. Stay with this just as this”

We are seeing nakedly
o Direct experiencing of things as they are versus karmic perception
o Karmic perception posits a solidly existent self as the experiencer and reference
point in polarity to what is experienced. Creating “me” and “mine” and taking
basic information from the sense and reacting with craving or aversion.

From the introduction to Padmasambhava’s teaching ‘Self Liberation through seeing with
Naked Awareness’:
Seeing things just as they are without our vision being obscured and distorted by
judgments and conceptual constructions that derive from our social and cultural
condition in this life and karma from past lives. Living in the state of the mirror and not
the condition of the reflections.

Whatever is seen nakedly is allowed to liberate itself into its own inherent condition,
which is emptiness without any modification or effort on our part.

Getting to mind as a self healing, self enlightening organ.

Non-linear perspective of spiritual practice
o Not going from samsara to nirvana
o The nature of mind is pure to start with. We are learning to return to our original
o Not creating that original nature so in that sense it’s a non-causal practice. That’s
why it’s called non-dual. In the absolute sense.

3. The heart of the practice is FORMLESS

Total Immersion 2005 – Viveka’s intro to Pure Awareness
Related to the kind of effort is the undirected, totally open, formless nature of the heart
practice. This lives alongside practices of form/samatha/doing.

Definition of just sitting from Dan Leighton, “… objectless meditation focuses on clear,
nonjudgmental, panoramic attention to all of the myriad arising phenomena in the
present experience.”

The route to knowing our basic purity is to stop the outward moving subject/object habit
of the mind. To become aware of awareness itself. Discovering the mirror like nature.
o The inner illumination in Zen
o In Dzogchen this is rigpa – state of presence and intrinsic awareness which is the
capacity ...

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