Though i’ve studying/practicing a version of Tibetan Buddhism since 1980 or so, i’m till somewhat surprised when i read something that i must have read tens or hundreds of time before, and it strikes me as something totally new. and important. Differentiating between mind and awareness is on of those things.
In the midst of reading Vivid Awareness: The Mind Instructions of Khenpo Gangshar for the third time this year, i came across Khenpo Gangshar’s discussion of mind and awareness, and thought it worth while to share what he said.
Mind consists of our thoughts, emotions, sense perceptions….. So a bird just flew over the parking lot in front of me. That thought happens in my mind. Knowing it is a bird happens in my mind. Thinking to use this as an example happens in my mind.
Awareness is what sees the contents of mind,
“When experiencing the continuity of undistracted naturalness, awareness is free from reference point,like sky, without even speck of joy or sorrow, hope or fer, benefit or harm, whether you meet with positive or negative conditions. The character of (dualistic) mind is evident the moment you get slightly distracted and encounter (the same) conditions and you feel joy or sorrow.
For example, mind (sem) is like the clouds gathering in the sky. Therefore, you must gin stability in awareness (rigpa) which is like a cloudless sky.”
Distinguishing Mind and Awareness
Most of the time we don’t differentiate our thoughts from being aware of our thoughts, or a sound from being awre of the sound. What i think Khenpo is getting at is that by distinguishing the two, and having more commitment/devotion to the awareness, we won’t get taken away by our thoughts.
For example, somebody does something and i get annoyed (or attracted.) My usual reaction to the annoyance is to dwell on it, justify it, and think about what to do about it. I could suppress it, or I could let the other person know what a jerk they are, or any of a number different strategies. (and the use of capital “I” here is deliberate.)
But if my commitment is to awareness, i might notice the thought and just let it be. And what is really cool is thatwhen we just let the thoughts be, they dissolve by themselves. And the thoughts and the thinker are both liberated.
i discuss this more in the Indulgence S-function.