The case for bare awareness?


How would you describe this systematic progression?


This is reflected:

“Do you have any desire, lust, or affection for those sounds cognizable by the ear … for those odours cognizable by the nose … for those tastes cognizable by the tongue … for those tactile objects cognizable by the body … for those mental phenomena cognizable by the mind that you have not cognized and never cognized before, that you do not cognize and would not think might be cognized?”

“No, venerable sir.”

“Here, Maluṅkyaputta, regarding things seen, heard, sensed, and cognized by you: in the seen there will be merely the seen; in the heard there will be merely the heard; in the sensed there will be merely the sensed; in the cognized there will be merely the cognized. SN 35.95: Maluṅkyaputta (English) - Saḷāyatana Saṃyutta - SuttaCentral

The Buddha is saying do not have a preference in what is sensed, in saying merely the seen.

I think less ‘me’ means more equanimity. However to see less of ‘me’ more equanimity is required, so is a positive feedback loop.

Mindulness leads to a unified mind, which is predisposed to equanimity, simultaneously.


Thankyou Mat, one part of this teaching strikes a chord in my heart and, another makes me question.

Bare awareness doesn’t obstruct an appropriate response to life and living. Its not a passive state. It is reaction-free, fully present.

Equanimity is one of four sublime emotions. I wonder why the others are absent in the teaching you shared?

Bare awareness purifies our feelings. It increases equanimity, joy, kindness and compassion. The feeling-life is released from conditioned reactions.

There is a greater capacity to serve, to help without reluctance or hesitation. A generosity of spirit.

In seeing with greater clarity we come alive, the night sky, a forest, the world, the people we interact with, are seen in a new way.

Deadening stereotypes and blind conformity is seen-through - directly. Hindrances and fetters fall away when reaction-free attention is sustained and unbroken.

Natural stillness is not obstructed, we discover how to get out of the way, cease reacting, let go …

Waking up - gaining clarity - is a process of ‘discovery’ of that which was unseen, full of wonder and gratitude etc.

A profound sense of ease and relaxation pervades. Its letting go of a burden - inwardly. Its deeply transformative and powerful, bright, energising, liberating.

May we all find the freedom that the Aryans embody and share with us out of their great metta and compassion. Yours in the Dhamma, Laurence


The progress through the sutta itself is linear. I haven’t memorized it but intend to after DN33. My defacto MN10 checklist is currently body, feeling, mind, principles. This sequence is in fact listed in DN33 itself, with interesting variations. It’s progressive because doing it out of order is unproductive. For example trying to consider principles with feelings running amok is a bit like cat chasing tail.

By the way, thank you for the SN47.10 The Nun’s Quarters. I had not read that one and it is quite helpful in context of bare awareness. I have added undirected to the SCV examples.

When I read the following I was astounded because walking meditation listening to DN33 makes it very easy to “direct the mind towards something inspiring”:

That mendicant should direct their mind towards something inspiring.
As they do so, joy springs up.
Being joyful, rapture springs up.
When the mind is full of rapture, the body becomes tranquil.
When the body is tranquil, one feels bliss.
And when blissful, the mind becomes immersed in samādhi.
Then they reflect:
‘I have accomplished the goal for which I directed my mind.
Let me now pull back.’
They pull back, and neither place the mind nor keep it connected.
They understand: ‘I’m neither placing the mind nor keeping it connected. Mindful within myself, I’m happy.’

Here the “pulling back” I read as “letting go of the directing”. From this letting go, one proceeds to undirected development. :open_mouth:. A new discovery! Thank you!

Indeed a most privy experience.


[quote=“Mat, post:42, topic:11643”] "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.’

Yes, good point about concentrating and gladdening the mind.

I don’t think satipatthana practice is undirected, rather it is directed inwards. Though in the fourth frame attention is also directed outwards when working with the sense-bases or aggregates.


This sounds rather like formless meditation, or just sitting.


nuns meditate with their minds firmly established in the four kinds of mindfulness meditation. SuttaCentral

It can be ‘directed’ as in established in a certain way of being mindful (body, feelings, mind etc) but not one object of meditation it would seem.

I would say to overcome the five hindrances, it is essential to proceed internally, enough to become stilled, but not formless jhana. This would provide the best vantage point to observe the working of the bases of satipatthana. After jhana the mind would be ‘malleable’ to absorb insight and jhana could be inferred from the directed type of meditation.


I have not looked into formless meditation since I am currently very much listening to the form of DN33. I agree with what Mat posted on this as well.

The sense of pulling back is actually directed. Instead of pushing myself to listen to DN33, I am now pulling back from wandering away from DN33. Pulling back is still a directed meditation–I am pulling back from the impulse of distraction, pulling back from the delight of free association. SN47.10 goes on to undirected meditation as the next progression beyond directed meditation while pulling back. Perhaps undirected meditation is formless. I wouldn’t know since I just got to pulling back. :laughing:


I think part of becoming a skilful (vipassana-)meditator is learning when it is appropriate to direct attention to a particular object (and keep it there) and when to open up with choiceless awareness.

A very directed approach is good for generating energy, but when there is too much energy and restlessness, then it can be good to step back and widen the frame of attention.

Meditation teacher Patrick Kearney has a talk on this which some might find interesting/useful (talk 15): WeTransfer


Thank you for the link.

SInce I have the mind of a butterfly, I ended up listening to talk 13, which discusses cetanā, translated as intention by Bhante Sujato. Patrick Kearney translates cetanā variously as intention and/or choice, so there’s some mental adjustment in the listening. This talk is also related to bare awareness in the sense that “bare” is absent cetanā/intention. It also relates to SN47.10 in that what opposes directed attention is distraction spawned by cetanā.

Particularly, the talk addressed my curiosity about the experience of always being able to see distracted attention coming back to the subject of meditation but never being able to catch the exact moment of choosing distraction (i.e., cetanā). Patrick actually mentions this elusive practice and laughingly calls it a good game with right outcome. :see_no_evil: :white_check_mark:

Eventually I did listen to talk 15, in which Patrick actively directs awareness for an actual meditation.


When I first encountered anapanasati practice decades ago there seemed to be a stock-standard set of instructions that was given by most every teacher - with little variation. They were all singing from the same song sheet!

The instructions were: watch the breath and if the mind wanders off bring it back - over and over again.

Like many practitioners I patiently and persistently followed this instruction. It had benefits but it didn’t seem to lead to a place where the monkey-mind surrendered. It would run off at every given opportunity. This was a directed meditation practice.

At some point after many years as a regular at BSWA gigs the new head-honcho changed his meditation instructions. He broke the practice down into a few awareness exercises that preceded breath awareness.

This simple but radical shift in instruction completely changed the meditative process.

Instead of trying to train my monkey to behave in an unmonkeylike manner I was instructed to simply let the mind be - as it is - without any kind of coersion.

The attention was then oriented towards the present moment and then, silent awareness in the present moment.

As soon as the penny-dropped that this relaxed silent presence was a pleasant abiding all resistance and restlessness in the mind began to fade and disappear.

Sitting in this effortless and pleasant stillness and silence provided an opportunity for the breathing to simply appear - all by itself.

In this situation it would have taken effort to ‘direct’ the mind away from the breath in order to ignore its presence in awareness.

Instead of wrestling the attention away from the breath there seemed to be good reason to simply surrender and allow whatever was to arise to simply be.

This path of least resistance resulted in deeper calm and a quiet joy. Eventually the breath would slow and drop out of attention just leaving the joy and peace. A deeply therapeutic process with nobody calling the shots - doing absolutely nothing.

Meditation is a simple and natural unfolding. It’s just what the mind does as it lets go. It moves towards cessation if we simply get out of the way and allow it to happen.


It’s wonderful to hear the path is bringing you to joy and peace. As I read your post I can hear echoes of Ajahn Brahm saying ‘reeellaaaaxxxxxx’ :slight_smile:

What’s interesting to me, as someone who has only practiced in the Burmese Vipassana tradition, is the vast difference between teachers (in that tradition) with respect to effort and direction (with someone like Sayadaw U Pandita at one end of the spectrum and Sayadaw U Tejaniya at the other). Ultimately, what I’ve seen is that what works well as a technique for one person may not work well for another. Indeed, what serves us well at one moment may not serve us well at another.


I understand what you mean! There is a period where we are on a learning curve and, we are busy doing this and that, exploring, investigating, trying to figure out how to get this thing moving. There are stops and starts, sometimes it gets bogged and we have to push it out of the mud.

Sometimes there’s a flat battery and we need to push it until it gains momentum and then the engine starts. We then simply jump in and enjoy the ride!

At some point the process carries us without the need for any fuss and bother. It’s just what the mind does when we get out of the way - plain and simple. There is relaxation in faith - it’s clear we are in good company - welcome home!

Ajahn Brahm seems to be saying: come as you are, nobody’s keeping score and, don’t try to change yourself.

Every :evergreen_tree: in the forest is a different shape and size, that’s what makes a forest interesting. Thats the difference between an industrial forest and a natural one. The lack of uniformity makes things interesting - just as it is.

In a forest all the leaves fall where they will, not in neat straight lines. Nature is like this, why should we be otherwise? We don’t need to be fixed or altered in order to become something else.

We would be better off giving ourselves a fair-go - loving ourselves unconditionally.

In that space of true acceptance and kindness the mind can feel at home. When content we feel happy and at ease, then peace is possible. No need to push the mind this way and that in the hope of becoming something that we are not - nobody gets enlightened.

Everything that comes into being is already on its way out. What happens when we let it all cease without picking anything up - what’s left? What happens to the so-called meditator?

Surely, the way to find out is to allow it to happen - without interference? Bare awareness, reaction free attention is just this much! :slight_smile:


Formless jhanas are also an unavoidable consequence of bare awareness. If there is no resistance or agenda i.e. a reaction free attention, everything is revealed in its own time and place and then it disappears. Why, because there is no energy invested in anything in particular, no fixation.

Whatever comes along is interesting, it has something to reveal, to teach. When there is no identification with anything there is no reason for it to stick around. An endless sequence of appearing and vanishing phenomena - inner and outer - does this sound familiar?

Things - states of being - keep reccurring because of our involvement, our preoccupation, ‘choices’ (sankhara nidana).

There are limitless expansive states of space and consciousness that also arise and disappear in this natural unfolding. It is the most extraordinary journey of discovery we will ever encounter.

The Dhamma is natural it’s not a theory we adopt it’s a process that unfolds.

Deep interest - a spirit of open inquiry - disillusionment with a shallow engagement in life etc. When the time is right, with the help and guidance of good friends, those who have taken the journey and know the territory, when all this comes together there is nothing in the way. :slight_smile:


I’m sure this is right, though for me it’s a bit hit and miss. It reminds me a bit of cycling, you make an effort going uphill, and then freewheel going down.


Was this at a Soto Zen center? That sounds a lot like shikantaza. Dogen couldn’t shut up about that.



I think this is why the guidance of a skilled teacher is necessary.


I don’t know if I’m a better meditator since I let go of my earlier

for - in my case - vipassana meditation and encountered Ajahn Brahm’s simpler teachings: but I do know for sure that I’m a happier mediator. And this is sufficient for me in the present moment.

This evening I happened to be relistening to his talk on the chula sunnata sutta, MN121 on emptiness. Emptiness is, of course, a very Zen concept, but it does exist in the EBTs. Bikkhu Anālayo’s book on Compassion and Emptiness gives an accessible yet erudite treatment, while Ajahn Brahm’s genius is that he makes his listeners feel that what he describes is easy to achieve: Just Let Go.


Beautiful, greater ease - easiness seems like a jolly good idea. I have never been a fan of stress and difficulty. If we are doing something challenging for a good reason then that’s OK - within reason. When craving loses its grip on our psyche it’s an enormous relief. We can finally feel deeply at ease without the pressure of something from within pushing us out of where we find ourselves. Anywhere is good enough - it truly is astonishing! In fact, this simple liberating insight is what changes everything. It’s impossible to miss, obvious, inescapable. A good man said something like this: be the change you wish to see in the world. Just let go - now, here, wherever you happen to land - it’s perfectly legal? :slightly_smiling_face: