Part two of Anna Aysea’s exploration of the nature of reality. Her final post will appear on Friday evening.
Having listed in part one the various referents of “I” and defined reality as that which is and which cannot cease to be, we can continue the investigation into the reality of the self. Based on experience, what is the unchanging aspect and what is changeable manifestation? According to the mainstream view, awareness, being, is generated by the body and depends on it. In other words, body-mind is the reality that remains constant and awareness is what intermittently appears and disappears, the assumption is that awareness was born and will die with the demise of the body.
But is there any evidence supporting this belief in experience? For instance, the body-mind changes over time, the infant, the 10-year-old, the 20-year-old, and the 60-year-old self, all had different bodies, thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and experiences. The space of awareness within which the subsequent body-minds were known though, has that changed over time? Also, was “I awareness” born together with the body or was it prior to it? Can you imagine for instance a time in the past when the space of awareness, the unchanging background to mind activity, was not, or a time in the future when it will cease to be? We cannot fathom it.
Screwed minds may say its beginning or end being unfathomable is not a hundred per cent proof that awareness has indeed no beginning or end, which is true. But if you have searched both in experience and in imagination and you cannot find any evidence supporting the belief that “I awareness” was born and will die, isn’t it more logical to conclude, at least as a working hypothesis, that awareness, is not subject to birth and death, than to continue a completely unsupported belief that it is?
Every night, in deep sleep, the body-mind – that is the activity of thinking, feeling, sensing, perceiving – falls away altogether. And yet, there is continuity of being, we do not experience that falling away as the death of self. When we say for instance: “I slept well” we are not guessing, we know. Meaning “I”, was present during sleep. Since the body-mind is absent in deep sleep, “I” in this statement can only refer to the faculty which knows experience, which is unchanging and ever-present, that is, awareness.
In terms of the metaphor in part one, the body-mind is the ring or the current, i.e. phenomenal experience, as we know for sure that the body-mind is changeable The space of awareness, Being, is the gold or the water, as it is the unchanging background of phenomenal experience. The space of awareness was not born, it is prior to the birth of the body, and will continue after the disappearance of the body, and because it is unlimited it does not know lack or desire. In other words, based on direct experience, awareness, our true nature, does not share the limitation of the body-mind, it is not subject to impermanence.
The mind is habitually overlooking awareness, because the space of awareness is not an object, – a thought, a feeling, a bodily sensation, a sense perception – so it cannot be known conceptually through the mind or perceptually through the senses. The gap between two thoughts or two perceptions is not a mind object, that gap is not in the same category as mind-objects. Someone living in a country where it perpetually rains and the sky is always overcast may mistake a patch of blue sky that appears one day, for a blue cloud. But the patch of blue sky is not in the same category as the clouds. The blue sky is the limitless unchanging space within which clouds intermittently arise and disappear. Similarly, the space of awareness is not in the same category as thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and sense perceptions, it does not depend in any way on these phenomenal activities. Awareness is and knows itself by itself, this is our experience every night in deep sleep.
The investigation will be continued in the final part, part three.
The artworks in this article are by Gabriel Dawe, an artist fascinated by clouds and the sky. His sewing thread installations explore the way how light blends in the sky.