Continuous Awareness

I’ve been reading “When Awareness Becomes Natural” and getting a lot of it. However, it is densely packed with a lot useful information that goes beyond the technique, tips, tricks, and rationales.

Eons ago I read a lot of Thich Nhat Hanh who is big into continual awareness, but I never groked his poetic style.

Know of any good articles, pamphlets, videos, audios, or books about continuous awareness ( mindfulness all day long or trying )?

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If you liked Sayadaw U Tejaniya’s book then you might also like the Daily Tejaniya (you can sign up here). Every day you will receive a short quote. Sayadaw will give a specific reminder how to work with continuous awareness.

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Just curious, when you say “continual awareness”, do you mean maintaining mindfulness?
“The miracle of mindfulness” by TNH is worth reading.

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I’ve been on it for years!

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Yes, I mean mindfulness as long as you are awake. :slight_smile:

Maybe an obvious question , but I’m now confused. Is there a different way to practice Buddhism than working towards continual mindfulness? I thought a central part of the practice was maintaining mindfulness so you see what states might arise or have arisen, and then using that awareness to apply Right Effort to avoid/eliminate unwholesome states and encourage maintain wholesome states.

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Depends on what you mean by mindfulness.

Some schools appear to teach continuous presence in daily life as central to the practice. Which is seen as a goal in itself, or as a means to purification.

But there seems to be little support for that idea in the suttas. Of course, some degree of awareness is necessary. But just enough for knowing what you’re doing and why. Not a moment-to-moment presence, which only comes about in meditation.

Ajahn Brahmali addresses this here. I basically paraphrased him, anyhow.

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Thanks! That’s very clarifying. I will read the Ajahn Brahmali link.

“just” is doing a lot of work here, huh? :laughing:

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How about this?

DN 2

And how does a mendicant have mindfulness and situational awareness?
Kathañca, mahārāja, bhikkhu satisampajaññena samannāgato hoti?
It’s when a mendicant acts with situational awareness when going out and coming back; when looking ahead and aside; when bending and extending the limbs; when bearing the outer robe, bowl and robes; when eating, drinking, chewing, and tasting; when urinating and defecating; when walking, standing, sitting, sleeping, waking, speaking, and keeping silent.
Idha, mahārāja, bhikkhu abhikkante paṭikkante sampajānakārī hoti, ālokite vilokite sampajānakārī hoti, samiñjite pasārite sampajānakārī hoti, saṅghāṭipattacīvaradhāraṇe sampajānakārī hoti, asite pīte khāyite sāyite sampajānakārī hoti, uccārapassāvakamme sampajānakārī hoti, gate ṭhite nisinne sutte jāgarite bhāsite tuṇhībhāve sampajānakārī hoti.

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I would say the context for that passage is to be aware of mental states (i.e. 5 hindrances) while you’re walking, pooping, eating, breathing, etc… and not about the actual physical actions themselves, but the mind and mental states.

“If while he is walking, standing, sitting, and lying down a bhikkhu is free from covetousness and ill will, free from sloth and torpor, free from restlessness and worry, and has abandoned doubts, his energy becomes strong and unflagging, his mindfulness is alert and unclouded, his body is calm and undistressed, his mind concentrated and one-pointed. A bhikkhu who in such a manner is ardent and afraid of wrongdoing is called constantly energetic and resolute.”

Controlled while walking,
Controlled while standing,
Controlled while sitting,
Controlled while reclining,
Controlled in bending and
Stretching his limbs—
Above, across, and below,
As far as the world extends,
A bhikkhu observes how things occur,
The arising and passing of the aggregates.

  • iti 111

This is also emphasized here

This is how Nanda guards the sense doors. If he has to look to the east, he wholeheartedly concentrates before looking, thinking: ‘When I look to the east, bad, unskillful qualities of desire and aversion will not overwhelm me.’ In this way he’s aware of the situation.

If he has to look to the west … north … south … up … down … If he has to survey the intermediate directions, he wholeheartedly concentrates before looking, thinking: ‘When I survey the intermediate directions, bad, unskillful qualities of desire and aversion will not overwhelm me.’ In this way he’s aware of the situation. This is how Nanda guards the sense doors.

“This is Nanda’s mindfulness and clear comprehension: Nanda knows feelings as they arise, as they remain present, as they disappear; he knows perceptions as they arise, as they remain present, as they disappear; he knows thoughts as they arise, as they remain present, as they disappear. That is Nanda’s mindfulness and clear comprehension.

  • AN 8.9

The emphasis is always the 5 hindrances, and not the actions themselves, this seems to be the metaphor for bowls in a lot of suttas (bowl = mind), such as walking with a bowl filled to the brim between a crowd and the most beautiful woman, attention should be on the bowl (mind) so one does not have desire for the woman or ill will for the crowd.

And how is a monk skilled in reading his own mind? Imagine a young woman — or man — fond of adornment, examining the image of her own face in a bright, clean mirror or bowl of clear water: If she saw any dirt or blemish there, she would try to remove it. If she saw no dirt or blemish there, she would be pleased, her resolves fulfilled: ‘How fortunate I am! How clean I am!’ In the same way, a monk’s self-examination is very productive in terms of skillful qualities:[2] ‘Do I usually remain covetous or not? With thoughts of ill will or not? Overcome by sloth & drowsiness or not? Restless or not? Uncertain or gone beyond uncertainty? Angry or not? With soiled thoughts or unsoiled thoughts? With my body aroused or unaroused? Lazy or with persistence aroused? Unconcentrated or concentrated?’

"If, on examination, a monk knows, ‘I usually remain covetous, with thoughts of ill will, overcome by sloth & drowsiness, restless, uncertain, angry, with soiled thoughts, with my body aroused, lazy, or unconcentrated,’ then he should put forth extra desire, effort, diligence, endeavor, relentlessness, mindfulness, & alertness for the abandoning of those very same evil, unskillful qualities. Just as when a person whose turban or head was on fire would put forth extra desire, effort, diligence, endeavor, relentlessness, mindfulness, & alertness to put out the fire on his turban or head; in the same way, the monk should put forth extra desire, effort, diligence, endeavor, relentlessness, mindfulness, & alertness for the abandoning of those very same evil, unskillful qualities.

  • Sacitta sutta

I would say anapanasati is more about attention on the mind than attention on the breath. The Buddha praises monks who say they should be doing death meditation with every chew of food or with every in and out breath, but how can you focus both on your nostril and death/dhamma at the same time?

But whoever develops mindfulness of death, thinking, ‘O, that I might live for the interval that it takes to swallow having chewed up one morsel of food… for the interval that it takes to breathe out after breathing in, or to breathe in after breathing out, that I might attend to the Blessed One’s instructions. I would have accomplished a great deal’ — they are said to dwell heedfully. They develop mindfulness of death acutely for the sake of ending the effluents.

This implies to me that with every in and out breath your attention should be on awakening factors vs 5 hindrances, and not on the breath or bodily activity itself. That’s what I take Supermundane mindfulness in the suttas to be, awareness of the 3 poisons manifesting as the 5 hindrances vs the 7 awakening factors.

This interpretation is vastly different than the traditional vipassana “noting” interpretation “eating eating eating, walking walking walking, in, out, in, out” or thai forest “bud-ho, bud-ho” or the touch points that Ajahn Sirimangalo teaches where you put attention on certain points of the body, or Goenkas body scanning technique. None of these have anything to do with the 3 poisons.

As the sutta states, mind is the forerunner, so why put attention on things down the line on the causation chain, when it should be at the root: the 3 poisons.

“Whether walking or standing, sitting or lying down, one who thinks a bad thought to do with the lay life

is practicing the wrong way, lost among things that delude; such a mendicant is incapable of touching the highest awakening.

But one who, whether standing or walking, sitting or lying down, has calmed their thoughts, loving peace of mind; such a mendicant is capable of touching the highest awakening.”

  • iti 110
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Ajahn Brahmali says in the video I linked that the inclusion of sleep must mean that it’s mindfulness in regard to these activities not moment-to-moment awareness of the activities themselves. You can’t be mindful when asleep. But it makes sense to say that you should have mindfulness in regard to sleep, eg not over- or undersleeping etc.

I really recommend watching the video as I’m nowhere near as good at explaining it as he is. :smile:
All I can do is repeat him to the best of my ability. Much better to go to the source.

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This is practice for some buddhist. They say it can, even while in deep dreamless sleep in some way be present and aware. Do not ask me how.

It’s not that hard to do, it’s the same as lucid dreaming. If you follow traditional vipassana meditation techniques like “Noting” eventually you can be aware while asleeping. Noting is the same technique lucid dreamers use. I was in that system for years and on several vipassana retreats where I developed a lot of things like that. The question is, is this what the Buddha actually taught? Does this make you a better person, does it remove the 3 poisons, does it calm the mind, or does it just fill your head up with forced thoughts that tenses you up and eventually depletes your mental energy and tires you out.

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I was once mindful by accident when I had an episode of what was probably a state of deep sleep that just came during an afternoon nap when I wasn’t feeling that much sleepy, for whatever reason.

I saw many situations from my life springing into my mind as if there were hundreds or thousands each second, too fast to catch any one of them. It felt like a very fast shower of images, feelings and situations inside my brain. It also felt like something very usual, something that likely happened every night.

So I guess it is in theory possible to remain aware even while in deep sleep

Those are good questions.

What about just seeing anicca, dukkha and anatta in ANY arising formation? Or seeing ALL rupa, vedana, sanna, sankhara, vinnana as: ‘not me, not mine, not my self?’
I believe many sutta’s instruct this. For example SN22.8.

Seeing ALL conditioned arising phenomena in the same way, because it’s nature is the same. It is all empty, not-self, hollow, alien, temporary, subject to arising and ceasing, unsatisfactory, not worth grasping.

I think that is probably refered to as supramundane right noble view. Supramundane is, i believe beyond duality. It penetrates the nature of ALL conditioned phenomena alike, and therefor it is not involved in a process of accepting the wholesome nor rejecting the unwholesome, or welcoming one and rejecting the other. (by the way, i do not say this is not an important part of the training)

I think this non-dual approach, in which one penetrates the nature of all phenomena as all alike, is probably the characteristic of supramundane right view and entering upon the noble path.
The nobility lies in its totally impartiallity. It is all alike. It does not judge, it does not welcome nor reject. It goes beyond merit and demerit.

What do you think?

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Could be, but I’m not sure how one could confirm any of this. To what extent is lucid dreaming a sleeping state? Some studies show that certain areas of the brain resemble a waking state during lucid dreams. But of course data is limited.

How would one know that their awareness is continuous while sleeping? You could have zoned out at some point and not remembered it. Like microsleeps, for example.

And with personal anecdotes, we can’t really tell what happened.

Yes, and for deciding that I find Ajahn’s sleep argument quite convincing.

If being fully aware at all times including sleep was essential to the training, then why do wet dreams carry no offense at all for monks? In the Vinaya, the Buddha says there is intention while dreaming but its negligible. So much so that it doesn’t even constitute a minor offense. Which wouldn’t make sense if the Buddha expected the monks to be fully aware while asleep.

So he forbade intentional ejaculation with the exception of dreaming. And there is no additional clause for mindful dreaming. Which doesn’t prove, but gives some indication that mindful dreaming wasn’t happening often enough for it to even come up. If one was aware in a dream, surely the intention would not be so negligible that it carries no legal consequence at all.

I don’t see any reason to define sleep as anything other than its ordinary meaning. I may be wrong but to me, being fully aware while asleep sounds like not sleeping.

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The three characteristics (anicca, dukkha, anatta) are called “the drawbacks” in the suttas, and the purpose of this is to aid in dispassion and letting go of the 5 aggregates. They’re not a metaphysical reality truth that one needs to discover or something, they’re a utility, a perception, one employs to become less attached to the aggregates, so that upadana and bhava are weakend.

There’s a sutta where the Buddha talks about the drawbacks of sensuality, then first jhana, then 2nd jhana, etc… all the way to the last formless jhana. Basically showing that you can use the 3 characteristics to develop a perception of dispassion against a perception of passion.

So once again, this has nothing to do with discovering the ultimate truth or ultimate reality, it’s merely a means to an end, and that is dispassion to remove attachment and end suffering. The only concern is suffering and the ending of suffering.

Mendicants, there are these four perversions of perception, mind, and view. What four?

Taking impermanence as permanence.
Taking suffering as happiness.
Taking not-self as self.
Taking ugliness as beauty.

These are the four perversions of perception, mind, and view.

Perceiving impermanence as permanence, suffering as happiness, not-self as self, and ugliness as beauty—sentient beings are ruined by wrong view, deranged, out of their mind.

Yoked by Māra’s yoke, these people find no sanctuary from the yoke. Sentient beings continue to transmigrate, with ongoing birth and death.

  • AN 4.49

I think this distinction is important because some people want to be able to leave their bodies and have an out of body experience (I don’t think that’s possible personally), and discover some kind of ultimate truth (which I don’t think exists). So they are on some kind of metaphysical hunt for the truth, which imho, is not the “noble search” the Buddha is talking about.

I also don’t think nobility implies impartiality, nobility just means no longer desiring to fuel attachment to anything because it’s not worth the effort (the drawbacks).

And what is the noble search? There is the case where a person, himself being subject to birth, seeing the drawbacks of birth, seeks the unborn, unexcelled rest from the yoke: Unbinding. Himself being subject to aging… illness… death… sorrow… defilement, seeing the drawbacks of aging… illness… death… sorrow… defilement, seeks the aging-less, illness-less, deathless, sorrow-less, undefiled, unexcelled rest from the yoke: Unbinding. This is the noble search.

  • MN 26

yoke = slavery = craving and attachment = suffering = carrot (craving) and whip (suffering)

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Do you think that the Buddha-Dhamma is like this: One must make an extremely strong habit of the perception of anicca, dukkha and anatta or of 'this is not me, mine and myself in regard to the khandha’s? Let it become an ingrained very strong perception. So strong that one forgets that one has learned it? Even when it is not based upon truth one must just brainwash oneself that way because at least then one moves towards becoming dispassionate? Dot you feel this is Dhamma?

Something else,

I still feel it is dark and even cynical to talk about vanishing, going out like a flame without anything remaining at death , as an ultimate happiness or even bliss. Because one will never experience nor know nor taste nor be that happiness or bliss. It is only a prospect, an idea in which one delights. Is that Dhamma?

Yeh, one might argue…well i do not even exist in the first place in this very life. Is it Dhamma that one does not exist while alive? Oke, one does not exist as self, as soul, as unchanging entity, but does one not exist? Is that true? If a river changes all the time and one cannot say it has a fixed identity, does that mean it does not exist?

I believe the sutta’s tell this can. Buddha visited deva realms for example. He is able the travel with the mental body, manomaya khaya. Great yogi’s like Marpa, Milarepa etc. were also able to travel mentallity according to texts. I think a Buddha can quit easily leave the gross body and dive into the earth, go through walls etc. It is, one of the most direct evidences that we are not this physical body. People with out-of-body experiences become convinced of this too.

But why would one ever speak about 'the deathless, the unborn, aging-less, (or something free of birth, free of death, free of aging)…when this in fact does not exist anywhere…and is only a prospect?