Sentience & Insentience

This discussion is open to all Mahayana, Vajrayana, Theravada, Other Religious Frameworks, and Your Own Unique Perspectives.

This is also a topic that has been arising lately in different forms and so I can imagine this will be a great discussion :anjali:

I had an experience a few days ago that I will most likely bring up with Shoryu Bradley (A Zen Teacher I Respect) and possibly some other authorities on the subject.

I was at the lake and if I remember correctly had been doing some Zazen in the forest in between quiet swimming and just enjoying the solitude and peaceful/restful nature of the area.

I am not sure what was going on at the moment but in a flash the need to hold onto “Awareness” & “Life” in any form kind of dropped off.

I came to understand that Sentience & Insentience kind of drop off in Emptiness.

Feel free to share all your views, sutras, tantras, quotes, whatever.

In general I would love to see how this develops.

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It sounds interesting. Seeing that this a forum based on EBT, could you frame your experience on the suttas?

With metta

I think you got a look (not that “you” were involved) at what the Man Himself was talking about in the 8th section of the Udana-- that famous bit about “There is that which is unborn, uncreated…” et cetera. Zen calls the experience “kensho,” but you probably knew that.

There’s a trap here that I fell into for a good long while-- wanting to get it back. It’s not something that you can make happen; it’s always an accident. It’s yet another thing not to cling to, not that it’s a thing. :grin:

I’m not sure though, because I always thought sentience was just another way of saying something with consciousness. So even though with emptiness there is no “self,” there still is consciousness. There is still a knowing of things, suffering, etc, even if there’s no self behind it. I only say this because then it might be easy to fall into the idea that the life of sentient beings doesn’t really matter because they’re basically just mechanical anyways.

Consciousness is a tricky word, and I have a lot of trouble with it. “Mind” works better for me, as in Suzuki’s “Big Mind.” That everything is included in mind can be experienced, but is everything conscious? I think of it as different. Probably just a definition problem on my part.

Yeah I’ve always thought of it as that knowing or understanding factor. Like a camera lens can “see,” but only a conscious being knows something is being seen. Same with everything else in the mind. Theoretically you could have something that has everything of a mind, but there’s nothing that knows that anything is going on. The interesting thing is that consciousness is what they call “substrate independent.” It’s not what it’s built out of, but the pattern within. Imagine a wave going through the ocean, the actual water particles aren’t moving, they’re just going up and down in the same place, but the wave moves forward, for miles and miles. The same goes for consciousness. Consciousness is the pattern, the “wave,” not the physical matter, and anywhere that pattern arises, you’ll have consciousness. It’s like the Buddha said how namarupa and consciousness are like two sticks leaning against eachother. You can’t have the pattern without the substrate, and you can’t have the namarupa without the pattern. Now of course it’s far more complex than that and too much so for me to fully understand. But still, it’s so damn interesting. I love this stuff.