Monday night (6/12/17), Lowell Arye led a discussion on a challenging topic–the Now and Unconditioned Awareness. It’s a topic that, as Lowell stated, is not capable of being expressed; it’s that which does not come and go. For new comers, the topic, at times, must have caused peoples’ heads to spin. Yet, Lowell did a wonderful job of navigating the group discussion. Listen to the audio recording here:
During the course of the night, we went back and touched on the three marks of existence which we’ve been studying at BSBC. For anyone that missed these talks or would like a refresher, here are a few links that provide excellent overviews:
Lowell stated, “the suffering from craving is the conditioning of who we’ve become. What remains unmoved all the time is this unconditioned awareness.” He then referenced a zen koan to help contemplate this:
What was your original face before your parents were born?
Throughout the talk, Lowell came back to this fact that the whole exercise of discussing unconditioned awareness is self-defeating to an extent. How do we talk about something using a language that is based on our conditioned, dualistic world? It reminded me of the phrase used when referring to Lord Voldemort (in the Harry Potter books)–he who can’t be named. So unconditioned awareness is that which can’t be defined or explained; it can only be experienced. And so we continued on, plotting an indirect path similar to each of our practices’ journey where we balance (the silence of) meditation, dharma and community. What comes up for me is what we do with the space of the silence. My inclination is to fill it with stuff so I think I comprehend it. And the irony is what’s most skillful is to leave this space alone and just be a quiet observer, aware of the conditioned things that come in mainly thru our senses. But I digress…
Several people provided inputs for ways they’ve approached this topic and this led to helpful exchanges. In the closing minutes, Lauren offered advice on what has helped her practice in gaining insight toward this state of unconditioned awareness. On occasion, she’ll say to herself, “that which is aware of <fill in the blank> is not itself <fill in the blank>. For example, that which is aware of unhappiness is not itself unhappy.” She explained how her teacher repeatedly reinforced the value of practicing continued awareness not of the thinking or conditioned mind but of the open or unconditioned mind where we leave judgement and other conditioned thoughts at bay.
Lauren’s timing made for a smooth closing where Lowell shared with us the 3 essential points that strike (see link below for more background on this)–
- teacher points (the student) to (unconditioned) awareness
- the student sees & practices it (unconditioned awareness)
- the student rests in unconditioned awareness
Three Words that Strike to the Heart of the Essential Point
The Audio of Monday’s dharma talk:
Please join us Monday, 6/19/17 where we’ll discuss “Practicing Patience with Others”. We look forward to seeing everyone who is able to attend.