The case for bare awareness?


‘Entering the path’ means entering the stream … of the Noble Eightfold Path. So Bahiya wasn’t a stream entrant, as he didn’t have Right view which the Buddha provided him with in his brief teaching. Right view was one particular to Buddhism so Bahiya hadn’t had access to it before and as he went directly to the source he heard it first hand.

I think to explain instances like Bahiya we have to consider that Right Immersion is Samma samadhi and not Samma jhana. The adhicitta sikkha or samadhi training of the Noble Eightfold path consists of right mindfulness, right effort (removing defilements & developing wholesome qualities) AND right immersion. This means removing defilements, sustained mindfulness and unification. If we consider that AN4.170 and that enlightenment requires at least the first jhana (sutta?) a deep level of samadhi of first jhana intensity may be adequate along with insight. Here I’m trying to understand what took place in light of the general principles of the dhamma practice. There’s a sutta which shows how the seven factors of enlightenment can arise while listening to the dhamma.

This kind of mindfulness might have qualities of a jhana, but I would be careful in naming it jhana. Maybe it was a simultaneous concentration and insight path as mentioned in AN4.170, which would require all five faculties of faith, effort, mindfulness, immersion and wisdom at great levels.


Ahhhhh! I hadn’t noticed that. Thank you for that key insight as well as the other comments.

Considering the Bahiya story, I’ve changed my walking meditation practice slightly. Instead of trying to cram my meditation into DN33 listening while walking, I’ve shifted to just attending everything (which includes DN33) and simply letting go of stray thoughts. Oddly, having the broader focus works better than the narrow focus and there is less struggle to keep mind on task. The Bahiya story prompted me to do that after considering that bare awareness links all the senses seamlessly and therefore focusing on sound alone is unnatural.


"In the seen, only the seen" suggests that we’re not reacting to visual objects in the usual way, so presumably there is more equanimity, and less like/dislike.

“Bāhiya, you will not be with that, therefore, Bāhiya, you will not be in that” suggests a reduced sense of “me”, or an awareness that is less self-referential ( as in MN1 ).

I’m still not clear what actual method is being described here, or how these two aspects relate to each other. Does a reduced sense of “me” lead to more equanimity, or is it the other way round?

From personal experience of satipatthana practice I think it is the other way round. Creating some space around sights, sounds, sensations etc, means seeing them more clearly for what they are, which in turn leads to more equanimity, and then to a less egotistical awareness.


My approach is to focus awareness on each sense-base in turn, though that is based more on my understanding of the fourth frame in MN10. I don’t see a clear method in the Bahiya Sutta.


I think many people have their first real insight into anattā when they have cultivated a reasonable amount of equanimity.

When the factor of equanimity is strengthened, there is no moving towards the object (grasping) or pulling away (aversion); the object and the awareness of it simply arise and fall without any attendant sense of agency. The ride becomes incredibly smooth and fluid.

Under these conditions one can experience bare awareness; this is just this.


MN10’s systematic progression acts a bit like a pre-flight checklist for me. It actually doesn’t last that long and I would constantly run into the issue of “done with checklist now what?”. Walking DN33 takes two hours. I have yet to complete DN33 in a single session, but yesterday I managed to break into the Nines. I didn’t know how to go about placing the mind and keeping contact other than by paying attention to the recitation and meaning of each word heard. It was always a bit of struggle to stay in sound+mind. But when I walked along giving no priority or aversion to any of the six sense fields my distracted mind calmed down and stopped skittering around so much. Bird song would come and go, warm sun would come and go. Rocks would cause momentary discomfort. Pine smell would come and go. Etc. Oddly, the openness to the fields and the lack of wishing to know the sutta alone helped a lot. It was almost as if the clear method of Bahiya was to abandon the “clarity” of singular focus. And insight into DN33 does continue to evolve without grasping at the hearing or non-hearing of a word.


I became familiar with the term ‘reaction free attention’ that was used by the unaligned mystic and social activist ‘Vimala Thakar’. This was Vimala’s reworking/rendering of a term popularised by ‘J. Krishnamurti’ i.e. ‘choiceless awareness’. Through my own practice I developed an understanding of the meaning of this term. There is a beautiful state of observation which can arise in meditation and daily activities where experience is taking place but there is no identification with it. It is particularly beautiful when there is an awareness of thoughts, a sequence of thoughts as a conditioned automatic process that arises and ceases interspersed with periods of natural stillness. Thoughts eventually lose their momentum as no interest is expressed in their content then, a fresh ever-new silence is all that’s left. This kind of observation can give rise to a beautiful emotion, a unique joy, and then, the dissolution of subjectivity. The meditator dissolves, is lost to the beauty! The senses turn back on after a period where they have ceased to operate. Then, the sense of self, the notion of ‘I am’ reappears. I have come to believe that a bare awareness that is ‘unbroken’ and sustained for many days is an incredibly rich source of insight.


Ah thanks for bringing that up. I had read Krishnamurti but failed to notice that phrasing. It’s also good to see you posting again. I had wondered where you had vanished to for several months. Your description of bare awareness resonated with me. :slight_smile:


Choiceless awareness was front and centre in Krishnamurti’s teachings. What is the Pali word that ‘A. Sujato’ translates as ‘choices’ - in dependent origination?


There are several terms translated as choices, but saṅkhārā is the one from SN12.23 Vital Conditions.

Ignorance is a vital condition for choices
avijjūpanisā saṅkhārā

It is SN12.23 that made me realize how Right Freedom appears with the disappearance of ignorance…as well as the end of choices. It was a memorable m :open_mouth: ment.

I read Krishnamurti decades ago and missed a lot. Informed by my current study of the suttas, I am sure that Krishnamurti would make much more sense now. :laughing:


In the way I see it, bare awareness is essential when it comes to choicelessness. A reaction free attention to daily experience - the process/activity arising via the six sense doors.

Not grasping onto that which is experienced and investing in it as if, it was a means to a specific end. To gratify personal desires, to have and to hold or, get rid of and, the monotony and boredom of the daily grind, it’s exhausting and endless.

A struggle that does not ultimately satisfy - why bother?

Loving becomes difficult and a deep appreciation of the simple and the amazing blessings we receive - day in day out - is lost.

We may feel starved and in need, never truly arriving before we are off again - stuck on a treadmill.

With bare awareness nothing sticks, nothing is carried over that is unneeded, it facilitates letting go in natural stillness - samadhi is unavoidable.


Lack of choice in what is being sensed, and also lack of overt cognition around it. This leads to equanimity, from sati.

Yes, but note Right view is being injected - Bahiya will now only see things without a Self attached to it, without identifying with it.

We can furthermore conceive without objectification, that is without the heard thing having to exist ‘out-there’ somewhere: does not conceive what’s seen. This means things existing and not-existing as per the Kaccayanagotta sutta are discarded and it’s pure experience, which is further reasoned as insubstantial: SN22.95.

In effect ‘reality’ is being weakened. As in the Not-self characteristic sutta:

“Therefore, bhikkhus, any kind of form whatsoever, whether past, future, or present, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near, all form should be seen as it really is with correct wisdom thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’ [including impermanent and unsatisfactory]

“Seeing thus, bhikkhus, the instructed noble disciple experiences revulsion towards form, revulsion towards feeling, revulsion towards perception, revulsion towards volitional formations, revulsion towards consciousness. Experiencing revulsion, he becomes dispassionate. Through dispassion his mind is liberated. When it is liberated there comes the knowledge: ‘It’s liberated.’ SN 22.59: The Characteristic of Nonself (English) - Khandha Saṃyutta - SuttaCentral

By weakening reality and cutting cravings and attachment to it, cessation takes place:

'There is the case, Sandha, where for an excellent thoroughbred of a man the perception of earth with regard to earth has ceased to exist; the perception of liquid with regard to liquid… the perception of heat with regard to heat… the perception of wind with regard to wind… the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of space with regard to the dimension of the infinitude of space… the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness with regard to the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness… the perception of the dimension of nothingness with regard to the dimension of nothingness… the perception of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception with regard to the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception… the perception of this world with regard to this world… the next world with regard to the next world… and whatever is seen, heard, sensed, cognized, attained, sought after, pondered by the intellect: the perception with regard even to that has ceased to exist.

'Absorbed in this way, the excellent thoroughbred of a man is absorbed dependent neither on earth, liquid, heat, wind, the dimension of the infinitude of space, the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, the dimension of nothingness, the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, this world, the next world; nor on whatever is seen, heard, sensed, cognized, attained, sought after or pondered by the intellect — and yet he is absorbed. And to this excellent thoroughbred of a man, absorbed in this way, the gods, together with Indra, the Brahmās & their viceroys, pay homage even from afar:

Homage to you, O thoroughbred man.
Homage to you, O superlative man —
of whom we have no direct knowledge
even by means of that with which
you are absorbed.
— AN 11.10

Ps- Channa has difficulty with objectification (SN 22.90: Channa (English) - Khandha Saṃyutta - SuttaCentral)


To be known by the wise, each for themselves. The living Dhamma is beautiful beyond conception, beautiful beyond belief. Seeing without a seer, what kind of seeing is this! Events arising and ceasing in open space unable to locate oneself anywhere or in anything. All appearances manifesting in deep ineffable stillness forever untouched, unsullied - free from the taint of being. :slightly_smiling_face:


It’s also just taking a :poop:


I thought the mountains of ka-ka had something to do with samsaric existence. If we subscribe to the idea that samsara and Nibbana are identical then I guess we are up to our necks in it - up shit creek so to speek.


Amusingly, that link is hidden behind a publisher/distributor :poop: paywall.


That’s a good way of putting it. Just sights, sounds, sensations, etc, continually arising and ceasing.

Yes, perhaps a more global awareness. I get something like that after a period of “working through” the sense-bases in succession. There is also a sense of stillness beneath the movement of the senses.


Relevant discussion at Dhamma Wheel on “choiceless awareness”: Choiceless Awareness - Dhamma Wheel

I think it’s the sankhara nidana.


Surely not something an English gentleman would do. :yum:



Directed meditation to develop the seven factors of enlightenment:

That bhikkhu should then direct his mind towards some inspiring sign. When he directs his mind towards some inspiring sign, gladness is born. When he is gladdened, rapture is born. When the mind is uplifted by rapture, the body becomes tranquil. One tranquil in body experiences happiness. The mind of one who is happy becomes concentrated. He reflects thus: ‘The purpose for the sake of which I directed my mind has been achieved. Let me now withdraw it.’


“And how, Ānanda, is there development without direction? Not directing his mind outwardly, a bhikkhu understands: ‘My mind is not directed outwardly.’ Then he understands: ‘It is unconstricted after and before, liberated, undirected.’ Then he further understands: ‘I dwell contemplating the body in the body, ardent, clearly comprehending, mindful; I am happy.’

“Not directing his mind outwardly, a bhikkhu understands: ‘My mind is not directed outwardly.’ Then he understands: ‘It is unconstricted after and before, liberated, undirected.’ Then he further understands: ‘I dwell contemplating feelings in feelings, ardent, clearly comprehending, mindful; I am happy.’

“Not directing his mind outwardly, a bhikkhu understands: ‘My mind is not directed outwardly.’ Then he understands: ‘It is unconstricted after and before, liberated, undirected.’ Then he further understands: ‘I dwell contemplating mind in mind, ardent, clearly comprehending, mindful; I am happy.’

“Not directing his mind outwardly, a bhikkhu understands: ‘My mind is not directed outwardly.’ Then he understands: ‘It is unconstricted after and before, liberated, undirected.’ Then he further understands: ‘I dwell contemplating phenomena in phenomena, ardent, clearly comprehending, mindful; I am happy.’

“It is in this way, Ānanda, that there is development without direction.

It becomes clear how directed and undirected meditation is used and we need to simplify the satipatthana meditation objects- to simply body, feelings, mind and teaching based phenomenal groups.