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Dependent Origination: Consciousness

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Teacher: Rodney Smith
Date: 2013-04-30
Venue: Seattle Insight Meditation Center



The third link in Dependent Origination is Consciousness.  Consciousness springs forth from the fertile ground of ignorance and mental formations. We might think of this expression of consciousness as “egoic consciousness,” the sense that “I am conscious of…”  Different traditions use various definitions for the term, consciousness.  In Buddhism there are different consciousnesses for each sense door. To get a sense of what this means, image you are standing on the ocean shore. If you focus exclusively on sight, certain memories and sense impressions will flood your mind, but if you concentrate exclusively on smell, there will be a whole new set of sense impressions and accompanying memories that may be very different from your visual consciousness. So too with each sense door – hearing, tasting, thinking, touching – each evokes a different set of memories and mental formations. The mind collates these separate consciousnesses into a single consciousness with “me” as the central casting figure.  When each person speaks of “my consciousness or my mind” they usually mean the summation of all the separate consciousnesses falsely organized (ignorance) as a single conscious entity.


See if you can become aware of the two expression of consciousness. The egoic consciousness is the sense that “I am conscious of…” It actually arises moment to moment at each sense door when the sense organ (eye, ear, nose, etc.) meets the object of sight with attention.  Conditioned by that meeting arises all the content associated with that the object and our personal story about it. Some traditions call the other expression, Universal Consciousness.  In Buddhism this form of consciousness is sati, pure awareness, or that which is and surrounds all forms and displays. To sense this pure sati or presence, sit down in a relaxed position without any pressure or expectation.  Look around in clear, innocent, non-labeling perception. Just look, don’t interpret. See the light, shapes, colors, and textures. Just relax your attention so that you feel the arising of alert presence. Be aware of the silent presence of each thing. Notice this field of alert attention is free of any reactivity. Be aware of two dimensions in this field: one, the objects that are appearing within consciousness; and two, the sense of aware presence in which these sense perceptions appear.  Be aware of the objects and that which observes the objects.


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