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Pure Awareness Retreat - Notes

by Tejananda

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... happening –

In our dualistic terms of reference, this means we accept whatever arises, internally or

Accept means we receive it as ‘just what it is’ without grasping or aversion & without
judgments such as ‘this is what should/shouldn’t be happening’ or ‘this is right/wrong’ –
“in the seen there is just that which is seen”.
So this acceptance is the seed of both wisdom and compassion because in accepting
things just exactly as they are – and nothing else – its response is always, exactly, the
appropriate one: it lets it go (naturally).

You can’t be having a wrong experience.


Some Questions & Answers –
from a Retreat at Vimaladhatu Retreat Centre, Germany

Q: What are the dangers of the practice?

A: – Getting into a dull or spaced-out state and thinking that this is pure awareness.

– Similarly, just letting the mind drift – forever! This would be a misunderstanding of
‘no effort’.

– Subtle – but definite – effort is required until pure awareness is ‘recognised’. If pure
awareness is recognised, thoughts and so forth will naturally ‘self-liberate’ and
openness, clarity and sensitivity will be very self-evident.

– Directing awareness towards a particular aspect of your experience. This is a
misdirection rather than a danger. It means that you are doing satipatthana – which is
fine in itself, it’s just that the distinction needs to be understood.

– ‘Thinking you are a Buddha already and therefore giving up any effort in the
spiritual life’. Sangharakshita has often referred to this possibility. I’ve never come
across anyone falling foul of it. However, it suggests a reason why generally it’s
regarded as very important to have a teacher – s/he can clarify any misunderstanding
and also clarify in what sense it can be said that you are a Buddha already!

– One misunderstanding of the approach is that it involves ‘quietism’ i.e. the notion
that because the nature of mind/ awareness is in itself totally effortless, you therefore
don’t need to do anything about anything. This misunderstanding is addressed above
in the section on pure awareness and compassion.

Q: Why is it necessary to have a teacher?

A: I wouldn’t say it’s absolutely necessary to have a teacher – a few do probably manage
to awaken to their true nature without (the Buddha for one!) – but to gain a clear
understanding of the nature of mind as straightforwardly and expeditiously as possible,
and to avoid possible mistakes/misapprehensions (as above), having a teacher (or
teachers) is virtually indispensable for most people.

Q: When I practice the anapanasati meditation, I can come in a very intensive state of
openness, stillness, awareness of subtle thoughts and emotions, etc; all qualities of
(entering) pure awareness. Isn’t practising anapanasati the quicker and easier way to
pure awareness?

A: It depends... it might be for some. All those qualities can be there in shamatha &
vipashyana and it can be difficult to distinguish: ‘are these the qualities of openness,
clarity and sensitivity – the nature of mind itself – or qualities of shamatha or
vipashyana?’ In one way, everything we experience is an expression of openness, clarity
and sensitivity, so the qualities that arise when we cultivate shamatha-vipashyana are not
different to this – in fact they are by their very nature going to be closer to it than the
more ‘constricted’ states of relative/little mind. An actual arising of vipashyana (an
‘insight experience’) is by its very nature nothing other than pure awareness – a
just resting in what is – that’s it!

Is there any way to distinguish between non-insightful states of openness, stillness etc
and pure awareness? One way would be to note whether these qualities are arising or not
– i.e. are they objects that come into awareness; or is it unarising (undeveloped, natural)
emptiness-clarity which is not an object (or subject) but which is just ‘there/here’ by its
very nature?

Q: When pure awareness arises – is that comparable with full enlightenment or stream
entrance? Or can it be a ‘short-time-state’? Can it come and go?

A: Recognising pure awareness is like / equivalent to an arising of insight. In this sense, it
can come and go, or recognition of it comes and goes. I suppose there comes a point
where it’s difficult or impossible to ‘un-recognise’ it, and that would be something like
irreversibility. When it’s completely inseparable, I guess that would be awakening or

Q: How can I find the right balance between effort and relaxation?

A: First, if possible, give up all effort and rest in the total effortlessness of this awareness
now. If not – use the minimum of effort necessary to recollect awareness of what is now.
Harsh, willed effort will never ‘get it’. Relax your body, let awareness rest in what is this
moment – just accept it.


Leaving / Taking the Practice Home
4th August 2004

‘Leave the retreat behind; take what you’ve learned with you’.

Generally, it’s quite possible to ‘connect’ with awareness anywhere and whatever you’re
doing. Just be aware that you’re aware: “this is awareness”. It doesn’t have to be any
‘special’ sort of awareness (e.g. some kind of applied mindfulness) – it’s simply a
question of recollecting that awareness is ‘here’ all the time, it doesn’t have to be
developed, it just is.

In your sitting meditation practice:

• You can bring pure awareness into any other practices that you do. All involve

• The sense of clarity/spaciousness is helpful in all meditations.

• If you have a sense of the sensitivity/responsiveness which is an inseparable
quality of the nature of mind, this can greatly enhance your metta/maitri – ‘tune
in’ to the sense that that quality is there already.

• Similarly, shamatha-vipashyana are inherently there in the nature of mind itself –
in pure awareness – so you can regard them as being ‘uncovered’ or ‘discovered’
rather than
• ‘developed’

• It may well be that you relate to the above in a semi-conceptualised, reflective or
imaginative way, but this can still be helpful to your practice.

• Pure awareness practice should help you have less sense of ‘I have to do this’;
more sense of letting go of “I” into just what is ... which is already all the qualities
we want to develop or have.

• If you do formless meditation a lot, it’s good to have someone to talk to (or e-
mail) about your practice.

• It’s very important and helpful generally to have plenty of bodhicitta and sraddha
‘around’ the pure awareness practice.


Entering/Recognising the Basic Space of Awareness
from a Retreat at Vimaladhatu Retreat Centre, Germany

The crucial thing with this approach is to recognise the basic space of awareness
(dharmadhatu, dharmata, cittata). The main obstruction to recognising it, is that it’s too
obvious, omnipresent and ordinary. As with the analogy of the fish looking for the water.
The conceptual mind cannot believe that it could be anything so simple – so it resists
‘looking’ at it. It prefers it to be complicated and unattainable. And it’s easy to ignore as
we’ve been used to ignoring it all our lives.

So one thing we need to do is to find a way of letting go of disbelief / doubt that ‘just this
sparkling awareness’ is the nonarising, nondual nature of mind itself, the buddha nature
... that that is just ‘ordinary awareness’.

Some ways we (may) recognise it:

– with sight, getting a sense of the ‘seer’ – ‘space/openness’

– with hearing, getting a sense of the ‘hearer’ – ‘silence’

– with touch, getting a sense of the ‘sensor’ – ‘stillness’

‘space/openness’, ‘silence’ and ‘stillness’ all point towards the same ‘non-experience’.
It’s never an object of awareness, but it’s not the ‘subject’ (i.e. supposed self or ‘I’)

Empty – vast – lucid: openness, silence, stillness.

– Although anything – concepts, thoughts, emotions, sense-impressions – may be
arising, you may have a sense of this ‘watcher’ or ‘witness’ – like a mirror in
which it all arises, without in any way affecting the mirror.

– It may seem at first to be itself a ‘quasi-object’ – but it can’t be directly perceived
or grasped.

– It might be useful to ask: ‘Who is the experiencer?’ ‘Where is the experiencer?’ ...

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