Is there a universal consciousness?

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Supramundane
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Is there a universal consciousness?

Post by Supramundane »

Recently, I was wondering if Bodhicitta is in fact a sort of 'universal consciousness'. In various sutras, there seems to be a distinction made between the self and the non-self, the self being the illusory personal citta and the non-self the possibility of effacing such personal citta by cultivating Bodhicitta.

Theravada does not seem to accept this notion. It views all consciousness as conditioned. Theravada would thus view such a concept of Bodhicitta as an atavistic Hindu Vedantic concept.

Now, to explore this incorrect notion of certain Theravadan thinkers, the Vedantic view would be that all is one, and our spiritual aim should be to merge ourselves into the oneness of the whole, the Brahman; however, this is not the viewpoint of Mahayana. Mahayana opts for a mirror image of the above view. It advocates the stripping away of the self with the concept of sunyata: yet, on the surface, the result seems to be the same, union whether in oneness or in emptiness. but the Buddha does not say, all is one; he says, all is empty. It is an important distinction.

Does this thus mean there is a universal consciousness? When we strip away the self to an extensionless point, what is left the reality coordinate to it; but it is empty, and that is the unconditioned consciousness aka bodhicitta?
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PadmaVonSamba
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Re: Is there a universal consciousness?

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

For the purpose of meaningful discussion,
please define precisely what the term,
“universal consciousness” refers to, what it means.
Otherwise, it will just be an abstract,
“fill-in-the-meaning-as-you-go-along” concept.
Last edited by PadmaVonSamba on Sat Dec 12, 2020 4:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
EMPTIFUL.
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kirtu
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Re: Is there a universal consciousness?

Post by kirtu »

PadmaVonSamba wrote: Sat Dec 12, 2020 3:45 pm For the purpose of meaningful discussion,
please define precisely what the term,
“universal consciousness” refers to.
Otherwise, it will just be an abstract,
“fill-in-the-meaning-as-you-go-along” concept.
Good advice. But after you do that the answer will still be no.

Kirt
Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes

"Even if you practice only for an hour a day with faith and inspiration, good qualities will steadily increase. Regular practice makes it easy to transform your mind. From seeing only relative truth, you will eventually reach a profound certainty in the meaning of absolute truth."
Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
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Supramundane
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Re: Is there a universal consciousness?

Post by Supramundane »

Oops, sorry, i thought i had done that. Guess not:)

Let me reframe the question: could Bodhicitta be seen as a sort of universal or 'impersonal' consciousness?

After all, stripping out the illusion of self down to a non-self offers the promise of accessing the Luminous Mind, AKA Bodhicitta.

I admit that the word consciousness is problematic. Consciousness implies a center of orientation, a subject. Thus, consciousness without a self would seem to be an oxymoron. I believe that Theravada thought does not allow for an unconditioned consciousness, but perhaps Mahayana does.

If unconditioned or universal consciousness is a difficult point to accept, why not look at it according to the middle way? It would be neither nihilistic (meaning that you could not say that it does not exist at all), and it would not be eternal (meaning that it would not be some sort of idealized life force or god): it would be conceived as a 'non-consciousness', an 'unconditioned consciousness', being no more and no less than the phenomenological world around us --- of which we are part.

"I came to realize clearly that my mind is nothing other than mountains and rivers and the great wide earth, the sun and the moon and the stars"
--- Dogen

"Don't think that Nirvana is an empty or void state. There is this consciousness, without distinguishing mark, infinite and shining everywhere; it is untouched by the material elements and not subject to any power."
---Brahmanimantanika Sutra
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kirtu
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Re: Is there a universal consciousness?

Post by kirtu »

Supramundane wrote: Sat Dec 12, 2020 4:21 pm Let me reframe the question: could Bodhicitta be seen as a sort of universal or 'impersonal' consciousness?
So why wouldn't ignorance, attachment and aversion be universal or 'impersonal' consciousnesses in your view?

Kirt
Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes

"Even if you practice only for an hour a day with faith and inspiration, good qualities will steadily increase. Regular practice makes it easy to transform your mind. From seeing only relative truth, you will eventually reach a profound certainty in the meaning of absolute truth."
Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche
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Supramundane
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Re: Is there a universal consciousness?

Post by Supramundane »

Wouldn't it be generated by the delusion of self.

Let me ask you how you define Bodhicitta.
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Re: Is there a universal consciousness?

Post by FiveSkandhas »

We aren't Hindus here...no sneaking a universal Atman/Brahman thingie in through the back door, please. :smile:

Although I'm kind of surprised to see you identify universal consciousness with Bodhicitta. Usually when these sorts of discussions come up it is the Tathagatagharba that is posed as the prime candidate for a universal existent.
"One should cultivate contemplation in one’s foibles. The foibles are like fish, and contemplation is like fishing hooks. If there are no fish, then the fishing hooks have no use. The bigger the fish is, the better the result we will get. As long as the fishing hooks keep at it, all foibles will eventually be contained and controlled at will." -Zhiyi
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Re: Is there a universal consciousness?

Post by Supramundane »

FiveSkandhas wrote: Sat Dec 12, 2020 5:20 pm We aren't Hindus here...no sneaking a universal Atman/Brahman thingie in through the back door, please. :smile:

Although I'm kind of surprised to see you identify universal consciousness with Bodhicitta. Usually when these sorts of discussions come up it is the Tathagatagharba that is posed as the prime candidate for a universal existent.
I understand you're concern. It is justified. However, I think I delineated the difference between Hindu thought and Mahayana thought. Thus, I'm not conflating them.

If there is ignorance, then logically, there must be the possibility of enlightenment. If there is samsara, then logically, there must be nirvana. If there is citta, then logically, there must be Bodhicitta.
If there is the delusion of self, and there must be the reality of...
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Re: Is there a universal consciousness?

Post by Malcolm »

Supramundane wrote: Sat Dec 12, 2020 4:21 pm Let me reframe the question: could Bodhicitta be seen as a sort of universal or 'impersonal' consciousness?
Definitely not. It seems to me you do not understand the term "bodhicitta" in its Mahāyāna context. In its Mahāyāna context is means the aspiration for awakening. It also has two subdivisions: relative bodhicitta and ultimate bodhicitta. Relative bodhicitta has two components: aspirational bodhicitta and engaged bodhicitta. Aspirational bodhicitta is the wish to attain buddhahood for the benefit of all beings. Engaged bodhicitta is the practice of the six perfections.

Ultimate bodhicitta also has two components: the path and the result. The path consists of śamatha, or calm abiding meditation; and vipaśyanā, or insight. The result is the realization of ultimate truth: all phenomena, including nirvana, buddhas, etc., lack inherent existence.
"Nonduality is merely a name;
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Re: Is there a universal consciousness?

Post by Schrödinger’s Yidam »

Although I'm kind of surprised to see you identify universal consciousness with Bodhicitta. Usually when these sorts of discussions come up it is the Tathagatagharba that is posed as the prime candidate for a universal existent.
I think Bodhicitta has a number of meanings depending on the context.
1.The problem isn’t ‘ignorance’. The problem is the mind you have right now. (H.H. Karmapa XVII @NYC 2/4/18)
2. I support Mingyur R and HHDL in their positions against lama abuse.
3. Student: Lama, I thought I might die but then I realized that the 3 Jewels would protect me.
Lama: Even If you had died the 3 Jewels would still have protected you. (DW post by Fortyeightvows)
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Re: Is there a universal consciousness?

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

Supramundane wrote: Sat Dec 12, 2020 4:21 pmAfter all, stripping out the illusion of self down to a non-self offers the promise of accessing the Luminous Mind, AKA Bodhicitta.
Well, non-self isn’t a thing, just as emptiness isn’t a thing. Non-self means something (a self) isn’t there.
Universal consciousness would be a thing.
EMPTIFUL.
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Re: Is there a universal consciousness?

Post by Supramundane »

Malcolm wrote: Sat Dec 12, 2020 5:50 pm
Supramundane wrote: Sat Dec 12, 2020 4:21 pm Let me reframe the question: could Bodhicitta be seen as a sort of universal or 'impersonal' consciousness?
Definitely not. It seems to me you do not understand the term "bodhicitta" in its Mahāyāna context. In its Mahāyāna context is means the aspiration for awakening. It also has two subdivisions: relative bodhicitta and ultimate bodhicitta. Relative bodhicitta has two components: aspirational bodhicitta and engaged bodhicitta. Aspirational bodhicitta is the wish to attain buddhahood for the benefit of all beings. Engaged bodhicitta is the practice of the six perfections.

Ultimate bodhicitta also has two components: the path and the result. The path consists of śamatha, or calm abiding meditation; and vipaśyanā, or insight. The result is the realization of ultimate truth: all phenomena, including nirvana, buddhas, etc., lack inherent existence.
No, you are right, i didn't, but now i do:)
Thank you.
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Re: Is there a universal consciousness?

Post by Supramundane »

PadmaVonSamba wrote: Sat Dec 12, 2020 11:57 pm
Supramundane wrote: Sat Dec 12, 2020 4:21 pmAfter all, stripping out the illusion of self down to a non-self offers the promise of accessing the Luminous Mind, AKA Bodhicitta.
Well, non-self isn’t a thing, just as emptiness isn’t a thing. Non-self means something (a self) isn’t there.
Universal consciousness would be a thing.
Yes, consciousness can end. It has a beginning and an end; it is conditioned.
But the Buddha did not regard the self as something simply to be destroyed. Nor to live eternally. We are left with something in between.

but what of the Bodhi mind? What of the consciousness of the awakened mind? Is it individual, conditioned, a thing then in your opinion, PVS?
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Re: Is there a universal consciousness?

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

Supramundane wrote: Sun Dec 13, 2020 3:13 ambut what of the Bodhi mind? What of the consciousness of the awakened mind? Is it individual, conditioned, a thing then in your opinion, PVS?
My understanding (which also happens to be my opinion) is that bodhi mind, original mind, precedes all conditions including any notion of “thing”ness, but also engages with whatever conditions arise. This engagement is the individual experience.

I don’t think there’s one big awareness in the universe that we are all parts of, if that’s what you mean, even though I suppose it’s possible.

My personal suspicion is that it is the same thing as taxis (pronounced TAK-siss) which, before I knew that there was a scientific name for it, I termed, “awarity”. Rudimentary perception of one’s environment even if one has no brain or sense organs.

Taxis is the awareness of living cells to intentionally interact with entities beyond themselves. For example, sperm being attracted by the chemistry of the ovum and swimming towards it. Or, white blood cells attacking bacteria. Or, the roots of a willow tree growing towards a source of water.
This is “intentional” as opposed to random, such as wildflower seeds being scattered by the blowing wind, and only those ‘lucky’ enough to land in fertile soil surviving.
EMPTIFUL.
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Re: Is there a universal consciousness?

Post by Könchok Chödrak »

I've heard people say things like Chenrezig is all pervading, and then there's things like "everything is a product of the mind" and some people attribute Buddha to saying that we all come from the "Same Consciousness" when He came down from His meditation at Gaya, I saw this in a rather extensive TV show. So this subject runs deep and you are correct to ask these questions. The answers, however, depend on your own Enlightenment, so enter upon that, reach the Highest Plateau, and find out the truth by experience for yourself, for yourself, so you can share it with others. :meditate:
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Re: Is there a universal consciousness?

Post by Supramundane »

I've heard before, though I can't recall offhand from which school, it could be Zen, of a type of 'awareness' which is cultivated in meditation. This awareness is ascribed an almost impersonal quality; it is distinguished from our individual, conditioned thoughts. Almost as if it is something beyond ourselves.

Do you put any store by this? Is this what you mean by the Bodhi mind? Could it be something like a universal consciousness?

--- I fully understand everyone's aversion to any mention of collective mind or consciousness, as it falls into an atman position which is anathema to buddhism.

However, perhaps there is something between an individual consciousness and a universal consciousness... if not bodhicitta then bodhi mind?

I have read some authors contend that Nirvana is an unconditioned consciousness --- anadassana-vinnana. However, I do not see it that way.
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Re: Is there a universal consciousness?

Post by karmanyingpo »

PadmaVonSamba wrote: Sun Dec 13, 2020 4:16 am
Supramundane wrote: Sun Dec 13, 2020 3:13 ambut what of the Bodhi mind? What of the consciousness of the awakened mind? Is it individual, conditioned, a thing then in your opinion, PVS?
even though I suppose it’s possible.
Hello Dharma friend I was grateful for your response on other threads so thank you if I did not already say so :namaste:
I am curious about the possibility of a universal consciousness from a buddhist perspective. You seem to be knowledgable so I wonder if you might know any teachings or scriptures that can be interprable as talking about a universal consciousness?

KN
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Re: Is there a universal consciousness?

Post by Malcolm »

Supramundane wrote: Sun Dec 13, 2020 3:13 am
Yes, consciousness can end. It has a beginning and an end; it is conditioned.
Compounded phenomena cannot be said to have beginnings since there is no first cause.
"Nonduality is merely a name;
that name does not exist."
—Kotalipa
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Re: Is there a universal consciousness?

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

karmanyingpo wrote: Sun Dec 13, 2020 1:49 pm
PadmaVonSamba wrote: Sun Dec 13, 2020 4:16 am
Supramundane wrote: Sun Dec 13, 2020 3:13 ambut what of the Bodhi mind? What of the consciousness of the awakened mind? Is it individual, conditioned, a thing then in your opinion, PVS?
even though I suppose it’s possible.
Hello Dharma friend I was grateful for your response on other threads so thank you if I did not already say so :namaste:
I am curious about the possibility of a universal consciousness from a buddhist perspective. You seem to be knowledgable so I wonder if you might know any teachings or scriptures that can be interprable as talking about a universal consciousness?

KN
The notion of a ‘universal consciousness’ isn’t supported by any Buddhist teaching I’ve ever encountered.

It’s more akin to Brahmanism, the prevailing view during the time of Shakyamuni Buddha. One could, I suppose, argue that “Brahma” is merely a personification of awareness, just as Avalokiteshvara personifies the idea of compassion, or for that matter, the way we personify ourselves.

The ‘problem’ with that view, I think at least from the Buddhist perspective, is mostly a practical one, in that by personifying awareness in that way, to say that, “my consciousness is part of a universal consciousness” then that requires a “me” actually arising somehow, either truly or as an illusion.

Since Buddhist teachings assert that nothing arises which can be specifically identified as “self” then what would be the specific thing that would be part of a universal consciousness?
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Re: Is there a universal consciousness?

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

Supramundane wrote: Sun Dec 13, 2020 4:34 am I've heard before, though I can't recall offhand from which school, it could be Zen, of a type of 'awareness' which is cultivated in meditation. This awareness is ascribed an almost impersonal quality; it is distinguished from our individual, conditioned thoughts. Almost as if it is something beyond ourselves.

Do you put any store by this? Is this what you mean by the Bodhi mind? Could it be something like a universal consciousness?

--- I fully understand everyone's aversion to any mention of collective mind or consciousness, as it falls into an atman position which is anathema to buddhism.

However, perhaps there is something between an individual consciousness and a universal consciousness... if not bodhicitta then bodhi mind?

I have read some authors contend that Nirvana is an unconditioned consciousness --- anadassana-vinnana. However, I do not see it that way.
It’s awareness without attachment to either subject or object (the observer or that which is observed) realized in that neither one possesses any inherent self-reality, but rather the nature of both is emptiness (sunyata).
EMPTIFUL.
An inward outlook develops outward insight.
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