On http://media.sbinstitute.com/courses/spring2016/91/ , there is an Awareness-based meditation where we are invited to observe the various objects that we are aware off : thoughts, sounds, sensations, etc...

Question 1 : a/ do these objects appear IN Awareness ? (like clouds appearing IN the sky) ? OR b/ do these objects appear FROM Awareness (and in this case my analogy with the sky is not correct; because clouds are not made of sky)

question 2 : I more and more come across the statement that objects (thoughts, sounds, sensations) are in fact MADE OF Awareness; and hence are not distinct from Awareness. But my mind can't understand that... Has anybody analogies or explanations so that I can understand this (apparently) paradox ?

Thank you all for your replies :) Namaste

  • Note: The link provided says: Ask questions about this lecture on the Buddhism Stack Exchange or the Students of Alan Wallace Facebook Group. Please include this lecture’s URL when you post. – Dhammadhatu Aug 19 '19 at 9:59
  • It does, yes. And this may be a question about the doctrine or terminology of Tibetan Buddhism. – ChrisW Aug 19 '19 at 10:05

Awareness is a big word, and lots of people idealize it, but in Buddhism awareness is considered something actually pretty simple.

When you look at an object (or a mental object), what really happens is, the features (signs) are recognized and checked against the storage of past experiences, and based on the matching associations an object is then identified. This process is cyclic, meaning, the features are constantly re-evaluated against the memories, and the results of the lookup are fed-back into the same process, finding secondary and tertiary associations and so on. This cyclic process is what creates the experience of "awareness".

When you turn attention to your own mind, nothing really changes, except instead of the external input (or a mental object input) you now have a re-representation of your own mind (your mind-model) as input. This proceeds in the same cyclic manner and creates the experience of "self-awareness".

On each iteration of the cycle, all we have is the content of mind, which is a result of looking up the input coming from sensory organ, plus the last content of mind from the previous iteration, against the storage of past experiences. So on every step of the cycle, the content of mind is literally mind-made, it is comprised of whatever past experiences that happened to associate with the input. And if you think about it, this content is not "seen" by any "awareness" or "witness" (like the Brahmins used to think). Instead, this content of mind is matched against memory, but as soon as the matching associations are found, they slowly supersede whatever content we had on the previous iteration, and become the new state.

So even though we are fooled into thinking that objects of mind are "seen" by "awareness", in reality this seeming "awareness" is just the next set of matching associations coming up from the memory. There is no "I" or "awareness" there, just a train of associations following one another, morphing from one to another.

If you look very closely, there are no full complete "objects" in the mind at any point in time. It's more like, whichever part or aspect of the object you focus on, that's what your mind pulls out of memory by association. If you try to assemble an entire object, the mind actually pulls out several "key" associations and cycles through them, creating an illusion of whole.

Each sensory modality runs its own associative loop, so each sensory modality gets its own "awareness" - which means they can work in parallel with each other. So if the object exists across multiple sensory modalities (like, it has visual AND smell components) - then the visual and smell associations can be active at the same time, without the mind having to cycle through them one at a time, which makes it easier for the mind to fake an integrated experience of a complete object.

It's like that videogame that renders the world as you come closer. The road and the trees are created right under your feet, creating the illusion of a complete world. Same with awareness, the features of objects we look at are instantiated by associations, as we turn our attention to them, creating the illusion of a complete object.

So, to answer your question, the objects are indeed "made of" awareness, and not only that -- there are no complete "objects" ever, only fragments (features) - and they are nothing but pure awareness, pure associations. At the end of the day, both the objects and the awareness are "empty" - there are just signs upon signs and associations upon associations - substituted right-in-time on-demand to create an illusion of "objects", "thinking", "awareness" and "self".

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  • Wow thank you for your full explanation, with lots of details! Hopefully one day I'll fully integrate all what you described. Thank you again :) – Centrino Aug 21 '19 at 14:35

I more and more come across the statement that objects (thoughts, sounds, sensations) are in fact MADE OF Awareness.

It's important to note that they never said objects are made Exclusively of Awareness. So while Awareness is an important factor/component in bringing the object into one's range/field of perception, it's certainly wouldn't make any sense to say that Awareness "creates" physical objects. A simple example is there's a flower in front of John and Jane. John sees it with full awareness, hence the flower object comes within range of John's perception; while Jane although seeing it, but her awareness/attention is completely absorbed into some other more important matter at the moment, hence she doesn't "see" the flower in front of her. So without her attention/awareness, the flower still exists, but it just doesn't exist in the field of her perception at that particular moment. This happens to us all the time. When there's something troubling your mind greatly and you focus 100% of your attention into that matter, at that moment, even the most beautiful face, or nicest musical tune, or tastiest food would completely escape your field of perceptions.

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  • Thank you for your flower analogy perceived differently by John and Jane ! Regards – Centrino Aug 21 '19 at 14:40

Awareness is not an object it is a quality an event,it causes a realization of the existence of objects ,the world exists for you due to awareness,like when you wake up then you become aware that you did wake up.

It shows up due to certain parameters check this answer out Which specific process determines where consciousness will alight?

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  • Thank you for your reply, as wel as for the link you indicated. I'll have a read at it ! :) – Centrino Aug 21 '19 at 14:36

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