The case for bare awareness?


Very true.

I remember going to my Zen Roshi eager, saying, “I am not my self!”.
He tapped me gently on the leg and asked, “And what is that?”

Watching rise and fall is also currently more helpful to me, although I suppose I shall eventually have to go get more focused on the jhanas to learn about past lives and the other knowledges that are part of the practice. I have found a consistent and broad practice to be more helpful in daily life than a limited practice no matter how deep.

That too rings true. I still need to regularly “get back on track” and place the mind. Once I find that buried deep root I know I can let it go, but till then there just seems to be endless vigilance and gentle nudging. The hilarious thing about this is that the sutta itself is distracting me to think about implications and off I go…

Yesterday it was gods of the 33. Who knows what it will be today…


No suppression of anything has taken place. It appears to be the case that you have a preformed view of what I have sincerely tried to communicate. At no point have I said anything about the suppression of anything so you are merely imposing your view without any regard for what has actually been said.

I did not say anything about taking naps and then waking up and how this gives rise to insight into not-self. Do you honestly believe that is what I have said - or meant to say?


If there was some kind of suppression taking place when you had this experience then I can tell you that there is ‘no correlation’ between that experience and what I have tried to communicate.


I can offer you a considered ‘opinion’ about a form of wrong view i.e. it involves merely imposing one’s own opinions about someone else’s practice and completely disregarding what they have actually said. This is how ideology takes precedent over common sense and kindness.


I understand your communication of “letting go”.
This is actually much much harder to do in practice no matter how easy it sounds.
When I feared for my life on a cliff, I could NOT let it go.
In fact, it took over a decade for me to let it go.


It may be easy or difficult, I really don’t know. It also depends on the openness of the listener - probably more so? If a listener simply responds - point blank - with a comment like ‘what you are doing is just suppressing something’ and, ‘it has nothing to do with letting go’ then, I guess they are not going to take you seriously. Whatever you may say to them they will have a preconceived view of what it is you are saying and, it apparently has no correlation with what you are trying to communicate.


Yes. Preconceptions are so tricky. I’m still struggling with all this new vocabulary of the suttas. DD has been really helpful.

The letting go of fear of climbing death was indeed preceded by a need to suppress the fear in order to even go to the cliff. I told my wife, “I am DONE climbing! It’s terrifying!”. She said, “OK.”. After a month I realized the terror was delusional, so I told my wife, “I have to try and climb anyway.” She said, “OK.” My wife is very wise.

So I did have to suppress the fear as Mat said. I had to suppress the fear even to go back to a cliff. I had to restrain the fear and follow it back in order to let it go from the root. Over time, the suppression of fear was gradually relinquished as the fear itself dissipated–there was simply less Angst/Terror/Anxiety/Dread to deal with. After many years I took a fall and the thought occurred, “Falling.” There was no fear. There was just falling. It was like the marble dropped down the tube. Just falling. And letting go was just as you describe. A simplicity emerged. If I might paraphrase you, in the falling just the falling. But it did take lots and lots of work to get to that simplicity. What I had let go was delusional fear.

And that “just falling” was what I would call “bare awareness empty of identity”. This is actually why MN121 is interesting to me. It is interesting because of the instruction on practicing emptiness. Somehow that emptiness has become more important to me than jhana (but yeah, I still try to do jhana practice–but it just feels like homework).


I don’t see where Mat said anything about the suppression of fear. I guess he is talking about the suppression of the five hindrances. The word
‘suppression’ is used in this way - correct. If we conceive of fear as a form of extreme hatred then, if ill-will is being suppressed somehow then, it would be a reasonable comment. Unfortunately, the description does not correlate with the described. The hindrances are absent in jhana but they are not being contained or suppressed. They have subsided, gone into abeyance, this has nothing to do with suppression. There may be a process of suppression that can be imposed that produces trance-like states. I am of the view that the Buddha did not teach trance-like states based on a process of suppression. Natural stillness is simply a process of letting things be and allowing everything to settle down in its own time without any kind of coersion or manipulation. To imagine that deep natural stillness is otherwise, is a clear indication that it has not been experienced or understood. A view about something does not mean it has been experienced or understood. This is fairly obvious - don’t you think?


Mat didn’t talk about fear. That was my example. In the first jhana, the instructions from Bhante Sujato’s translation are “placing the mind and connecting it.” In the context of placing the mind, one has to suppress distraction. In the context of climbing, fear was the distraction from the practice of climbing. Second jhana emerges “without placing the mind and keeping it connected” this is, I believe, letting go of both distraction and placing. I’m not Mat, but from previous discussion, I think he might agree with the above. Also, the above exactly matches my climbing experiences–initial restraint/suppression/volition followed by a letting go. Both were necessary, in that order.

You lost me. Please explain?

Nobody was harming me. I had in fact paid a guide to take me up the cliff. Having climbed in the gym I thought outdoors would be fun.

This is parallels the MN121 progression and is exactly my interest.


Even when a view is derived from a holy book or, it is often repeated in a tradition, this does not amount to direct knowledge and vision. It’s simply repeating something that has been read or heard somewhere. The Buddha advised against this approach to his teachings.


Agreed, this is why I quoted my experience and am curious about your own experience with the teachings. I have not had much opportunity to compare notes.


Yes, this is where I beg to differ. Suppressing distraction is not a term I am comfortable with. Who is suppressing distraction? Is the meditator actively pushing something down - or out - of the mind. I really don’t see how anything like that is taking place as we begin to calm down and settle into the present moment. When there is a settling into present moment awareness the silence of the mind comes naturally in an unforced manner. Then, the breath simply makes its presence known. There is no placing of the attention, there is no need to ‘hold’ the attention on the breath and bring it back, re-place it on the breath when it wanders off. That process stops the mind from settling down because it is actively engaged in distraction and re-placement of attention on the breath. When the early stages of letting go are given the time they require to come and go, there is no need to place the attention on the breath and suppress distraction - the tendency of the monkey-mind to wander away from the breath. Natural stillness is not something that we ‘do’ it’s something that happens when we get out of the way and stop interfering with the mind. This is what bare awareness and letting go actually means. It’s not rocket science!


Just a general reminder, this is a forum for sharing information and views, not for trying to convince anyone of a particular view. Be careful not to let the discussions become arguments.

Once the information is given, everyone is free to do with it what they please :anjal:


Hmm. Ok. This is a good discussion then. Maybe “suppression” is the wrong word?

Here is the example, the problem I faced. In climbing, moving carelessly is death. In climbing not moving is death (because you really don’t want to be on a cliff when a lightning storms comes, etc.). Mentally the problem I faced was worrying about and dealing with all the outcomes. This led to “analysis paralysis”.

I had to restrain that analysis. I had to put on the brakes of that runaway thought train to survive. There was active volition to counter the analysis. So yes, in terms of strict terminology, there was no “I”, but there was definitely a conflict, and a very large stress.

In your example of attending to breath, I am unlike you in that it is difficult for me to “just settle” as you do. I am very curious and prone to free association that leads away from breath awareness. I could daydream for hours. What is effortless for you took me a lot of work even to just count breaths. I lost count so many many times. But then I got better. It took effort to let go of the distraction candy. That was my delight that led to suffering. I have an over-fed monkey. Yours is much nicer!

BTW. I have delayed walking meditation today. Back in 2 hours… :pray:


Yes - that is good Dhamma. Simply clarify what you mean to say without imposing preset conclusions on others. The Dhamma involves inquiry and investigation. It is an invitation to come and see!


Climbing a mountain requires a particular skillset. It requires the climber to direct and place their attention carefully and not be lost in distractions. This is perfectly appropriate when we undertake a difficult and/or complex task. For example, learning how to ride a bike has similarities to climbing a mountain, if you don’t concentrate and stay aware of many things in your immediate environment and, co-ordinate your actions you are at risk of injury.

This is not relevant to the process of settling down in natural stillness. It’s a different kind of happening. It’s not dangerous, it’s not difficult, it has zero potential for inducing stress or analysis paralysis.


Natural stillness does not invite stress! There is a family-resemblance, some shared variables with regard to rock climbing and natural stillness but, they are also very different in many ways IMO.


Climbing requires careful attention and, natural stillness involves care-ful attention.

We don’t require kindness to climb a rock-face although, it may help. I guess grumpiness, dogged determination or, ‘fear’ may also help, if it doesn’t lead to paralysis.

If I got ‘manageably’ scared while climbing it might push me to keep going until I found a place of safety.

Fear, grumpiness or, dogged determination to achieve at any cost, are not of any use in meditation. Kindness - care-ful attention - is indispensable. Do you see the difference?


That’s an important insight. Ajahn Brahm’s teachings on what he calls: the basic method, may be of benefit to you, if you pay close attention to this teaching and, explore it on the cushion. If, the pre-breath awareness stages are not given sufficient attention - with open-ended patience - there will be difficulty attending to the breath. As long as there is difficulty and distraction the mind will not settle down and jhana is unlikely to ever happen. Therefore, whenever distraction, hindrances arise it is often useful to not focus on the breath and instead, drop back into an earlier stage in the process of letting go. Once that stage has stabilised the next stage starts to appear by itself. This is why it’s called ‘natural’ uncontrived stillness. It’s a completely different process that unfolds by itself. The busy doing-mind leads to more busy doing. Wandering off, coming back, how much can a koala bare?


Instead of cultivating an unwillingness to let go of what you are ‘doing’ - attending to the breath or, trying to push forward into an imagined outcome. It’s possible to relax and let go of that preoccupation and drop into just sitting quietly, if, that’s difficult ‘no problem’ - no need to be judgemental. Relax a bit more, at this stage in the process just allow the mind the freedom to be, however it happens to be - with kindness. As soon as that is well established the mind begins to quieten down and moves into silence and stillness again, when that is well established the breath appears by itself and, when that is well established the breath awareness begins to drop away and a deeper silence and stillness emerges. If this is not stable then, the attention drops back into the breath awareness. This is a natural progression. It’s just what the mind does as it lets go - it gets more beautiful. When it lets go completely there is the stilling of all formations.