The case for bare awareness?

Let’s discuss.



I will say this: I do like Ven Analayo, and his books that I have read are very good. Are we on the “direct path” topic of discussion?

I’m still not clear about the practical difference between “bare awareness” and the observation of the sense-bases in the fourth frame of satipatthana ( MN10 ).

“Furthermore, a mendicant meditates by observing an aspect of principles with respect to the six interior and exterior sense fields…”


I am reminded of AN6.61 In the Middle which specifies the “location” of bare awareness:

Contact, mendicants, is one end. The origin of contact is the second end. The cessation of contact is the middle.

With bare awareness, there is no conscious observation. DN33 has a slightly different take on meditating to end defilements and does not focus on the five hindrances as MN10 does. From DN33 we see an instruction to observe the rise and fall of consciousness as one of the five grasping aggregates:

And what is the way of developing immersion further that leads to the ending of defilements?
A mendicant meditates observing rise and fall in the five grasping aggregates.

How does this relate to MN10?

Well, the hindrance of doubt is a symptom of clinging to choices. Choices are a vital condition for consciousness (AN12.23). What is the hindrance of restlessness? Perhaps too many choices? Etc. :smiley:

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:pray::heart: Sadhu!

Much that people call “bare awareness” is the origin, which is one extreme. What others call “mindfulness” is often “contact.” Avoiding both extremes the Buddha taught the Dhamma by the middle way: namely, the cessation of contact.

An absolute beautiful resolution to this riddle! Thank you for reminding me of this gem :gem:


Could you elaborate on how this refers to bare awareness? Given that contact ( phassa ) is the “meeting of the three”, I don’t understand how there could be any kind of awareness without it.

So do you mean that bare awareness is non-directed observation, just noticing what arises at any of the sense-bases? If so, it does sound similar to the contemplation of the sense-bases in the fourth frame of satipatthana ( MN10 ), and probably also to contemplation of the aggregates in the fourth frame.


The term “bare awareness” does not occur in Bhante Sujato’s translations, so we are into idiosyncratic views. With that in mind, I offer the following:

When I was younger I thought a lot. This made it hard to catch a ball. As a result, I spent a lot of time thinking on the bench as my teammates scurried about the baseball field throwing and hitting things at each other. I later learned to say to others that “I see slowly”. This helped them understand how someone could be so daft and clumsy as to fumble a ball. This slow seeing happens because my vision is so bad that the cognitive processes of name and form and perception and feeling take very much longer in my brain than in others. That slowness made it hard to catch a ball since the ball hit me before I perceived it. Baseball was humiliatingly painful.

Later, much later in life, after decades of meditation, I was in the kitchen reaching for something in the cupboard. As I reached, I knocked something accidentally out of the cupboard and reflexively just caught it. There was no name. No form. No feeling. Hardly any perception. In fact, there was just catching. I then looked down and observed that I had caught the pepper mill. And that observation and consciousness of what I had caught took longer than the catching. Someone who could not catch had caught something. With bare awareness.

Had I practiced catching pepper mills? No.
Had I known what I was catching? No.
Did I make a choice? Not really. It was more an action spurred by the simplest awareness.
Was I conscious of what I caught? No.
Was I aware of catching? Yes. Barely.
Was there contact? Only after I caught the mill.
Was there origin of contact? Yes. There was a sudden shift of awareness to encompass what was later perceived as a pepper mill.
Where was “I”? Somewhere in the middle, perhaps. But not as I. There really wasn’t anything left over from catching.
Is this an attainment? No. I see people do such things everyday.

I find this action spurred out of bare awareness related to but not quite the same as contemplation of MN10. During contemplation there is simple observation without intervention. One does not catch peppermills. One observes the fall.

It is experiences like this that spark an interest in in Ven. Brahmali’s recent post on the nature of free will:


My not very reliable view on this is that when ‘we’ ( Self - a conditioned phenomenon), get out of the way of the pure physical processing power of the brain, it can do many things like this. It is just the humble wonderful organic processor of information :smiley:


There are several types of mindfulness

  1. Mindfulness in western practice- thoughts are incorporated in to it.
  2. Mahasi style mindfulness where ‘noting’ knocks out cognitions.
  3. EBT mindfulness (to Bāhiya).

The following seems to be a further clarification of 3)

;…a Realized One sees what’s to be seen, but does not conceive what’s seen, does not conceive what’s unseen, does not conceive what’s to be seen, and does not conceive a seer. He hears what’s to be heard…they’ve already seen this dart, to which people are attached and cling, they say, ‘I know, I see, that’s how it is’; the Realized Ones have no attachments.” SuttaCentral


;…this world mostly relies on the dual notions of existence and non-existence. But when you truly see the origin of the world with right understanding, you won’t have the notion of non-existence regarding the world. And when you truly see the cessation of the world with right understanding, you won’t have the notion of existence regarding the world. But if—when it comes to this attraction, grasping, mental dedication, insistence, and underlying tendency—you don’t get attracted, grasp, and commit to the notion ‘my self’…SuttaCentral

Mindfulness without assumptions of any sort.

Mindfulness of daily life would be type 1). If Mindfulness of breath was done with right view and mindfulness of 6 senses would be mindfulness as in 3).


Isn’t this just an instinctive reaction? I’m not sure I see a connection to “bare awareness” here.

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Wisdom needs to be included, as otherwise delusion will remain and this means sustained practice. But this kind of reaction is without cognitive control.

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An interesting analysis, particularly when comparing 2 and 3. Method 2 suppresses thinking, which reduces mental proliferation. Method 3 also seems to be about reducing mental proliferation, which leads to a reduction of the sense of “me” - though I don’t think the method is actually described in the Bahiya Sutta.

Possibly methods 1, 2 and 3 represent a natural progression of satipatthana practice. Or conceivably “bare awareness” is actually the result of satipatthana practice?


I think it’s the same method described above which is in the Bahiya sutta:

“And since for you, Bāhiya, in what is seen there will be only what is seen, in what is heard there will be only what is heard, in what is sensed there will be only what is sensed, in what is cognized there will be only what is cognized.

Bahiya would have required little teaching due to his inherent intelligence.

The remainder sounds like not-self:

therefore, Bāhiya, you will not be with that; and since, Bāhiya, you will not be with that, therefore, Bāhiya, you will not be in that; and since, Bāhiya, you will not be in that, therefore, Bāhiya, you will not be here or hereafter or in between the two—just this is the end of suffering.” SuttaCentral

I’m thinking Bahiya’s mind was purified of most defilements already and he only required the wisdom teachings. He may have achieved stream entry by listening to the dhamma and full enlightenment after a brief period of practice.


Sure, it suggests awareness without proliferation, but I don’t think a clear method is described here.

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We dismiss instinct as somehow inferior, lacking higher purpose. Yet the reaction here was quite interesting. Instinct could respond by stepping aside out of self-preservation. I mean, who wants a fallen object smashing into a toe? And I have done exactly that as well, move my foot to avoid the fallen object. But what happened was quite startling. My foot stayed where it was. My reaching hand froze. And my other hand caught the pepper mill. And I wasn’t looking at the pepper mill. I was looking to where my right hand was reaching. My elbow knocked the pepper mill down.

Instinct is normally practiced. I had thought myself incapable of catching so did not practice catching. I am not a “let’s play catch” father. I do not juggle and am actually quite horrible at juggling. I rarely knock things out of the cupboard. So how did not-practicing evolve into a catch for someone who normally ducks rather than catches?

This was the surprise of the action, that a new behavior should unfold in perfect alignment with circumstance without prior practice. It opened up new possibilities of a gentle mindfulness adept at adapting to the ebb and flow of life without all that thinking clanking around between the ears.

Letting go of the thinking clanking around between the ears, clarity emerges. We can’t think ourselves clear because the thinking is what is interfering with the clarity. This is also why I now focus on walking meditation instead of sitting. Walking meditation critically integrates action and awareness seamlessly as one walks in the street barefoot making one’s way through all the sticks and pebbles and cars and dogs and passersby. Sitting meditation is too much like sitting at the computer thinking (especially since I program in half-lotus).

I think so- animals may do more of this, and have less psychological issues!

There’s something about not having so many intentions- ending good and bad kamma- yet at the same time having very wise actions due to it being programmed in.


Sure. We could break it down further- go to the aggregates of each sight stimuli, sound stimuli I suppose.

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Glad you mentioned that. Ven Thanissaro mentions Bahiya already has the requisites for right view and right intention.


Meditation teacher Patrick Kearney gave a Dhamma talk about the story of Bāhiya during a retreat in Malaysia earlier this month.
Here is the link in case anyone wishes to listen (audio file no. 18): WeTransfer


Delightful talk. Thank you.

The story told went a bit beyond UD1.10. I enjoyed the biographical narrative of a shipwrecked beginning even though that detail is not in UD1.10. That presents a puzzle, but doesn’t detract from the message given of bare awareness.

It was also interesting reading older threads on DD about Bahiya. There is some fussing that Bahiya took the “non-jhana shortcut”. However, I would note that equanimously just sensing without placing the mind and keeping it connected looks a lot like third jhana.

But I am left with a lingering curiousity about the following and would like to know a bit more about Bahiya’s misdirection:

You are certainly not a Worthy One, Bāhiya. Nor have you entered the path to Worthiness. This practice of yours is not one whereby you could be a Worthy One, or one who has entered the path to Worthiness.

Where was that gap between Bahiya’s path and the Noble Eightfold Path?