Consciousness and awareness terminology

General discussion, particularly exploring the Dharma in the modern world.
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Skywalker
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Consciousness and awareness terminology

Post by Skywalker »

Sometimes people speak as if consciousness and awareness are two things, sometimes spoken of as if they are the same thing. Sometimes they say that there is no consciousness, or that consciousness is an illusion. Somebody said that consciousness doesn't exist because there is nobody to be conscious or that there is no substance called consciousness. I agree, it is not a substance, but it still exists right? I am slightly confused as to the terminology. Is there a standard of what is meant by consciousness and awareness?

My understanding is that awareness is eternal, yet empty, having the qualities of clarity, emptiness, and bliss. Luminous. Is this different than consciousness? Or the same?

When I am mindful, when I am looking at that which is aware, that is something very specific. What is it that I am speaking of? Consciousness or awareness or both?

Do you know what I am trying to ask? Maybe different traditions have different terms?
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Skywalker
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Re: Consciousness and awareness terminology

Post by Skywalker »

I went to the ask yoda web site and asked yoda "Is there a difference between consciousness and awareness?" and he replied "Yes? No? These are only illusions in what we call 'life'. "
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viniketa
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Re: Consciousness and awareness terminology

Post by viniketa »

There are many different ways the two are presented in literature, and many different ways what is presented can be interpreted. Either can appear to be a Chrystal Ball one looks in to see whatever one wants...

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If they can sever like and dislike, along with greed, anger, and delusion, regardless of their difference in nature, they will all accomplish the Buddha Path.. ~ Sutra of Complete Enlightenment
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Skywalker
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Re: Consciousness and awareness terminology

Post by Skywalker »

viniketa wrote:There are many different ways the two are presented in literature, and many different ways what is presented can be interpreted. Either can appear to be a Chrystal Ball one looks in to see whatever one wants...

:namaste:
:namaste:

That is the problem! Is there agreement on this among Buddhists? :shrug: I understand the Crystal Ball metaphor, very good. I use the words interchangeably but awareness implies something deeper which consciousness appears in. But this is problematic. Maybe I use consciousness as more of a temporary thing dependent on the brain, while I use awareness as the pure essence of consciousness which never changes.

I also see that sometimes people use the word "mind" to mean consciousness or awareness and at other times use the word "mind" to mean that which believes in concepts and discriminates this and that. This isn't such a problem for me since I can judge the meaning by the context.

It all can be quite confusing trying to communicate with Buddhists. I do not want to misrepresent what I am trying to communicate.
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Re: Consciousness and awareness terminology

Post by viniketa »

Skywalker wrote:That is the problem! Is there agreement on this among Buddhists? :shrug: .... I do not want to misrepresent what I am trying to communicate.
From experience, Buddhists sometimes agree to sit together without speaking, but little else... :tongue:

Yes, it can be very problematic when trying to communicate. I'll be interested to see how others respond.

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If they can sever like and dislike, along with greed, anger, and delusion, regardless of their difference in nature, they will all accomplish the Buddha Path.. ~ Sutra of Complete Enlightenment
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Lobsang Jinpa
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Re: Consciousness and awareness terminology

Post by Lobsang Jinpa »

My knowledge of such things is limited, so I shall refer to the Explanation of the Presentation of Objects and Object-Possessors as well as Awarenesses and Knowers by Purbuchok Jampa Gyatso. (Trans. by Elizabeth Napper)

I have heard that an awareness is a type of object-possessor. With the other types being persons and expressive sounds. With the definition of an awareness being that which is a knower. Awareness, knower, and consciousness are synonymous.


* Edited to include name of translator of reference text.
Yudron
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Re: Consciousness and awareness terminology

Post by Yudron »

Skywalker wrote:Sometimes people speak as if consciousness and awareness are two things, sometimes spoken of as if they are the same thing. Sometimes they say that there is no consciousness, or that consciousness is an illusion. Somebody said that consciousness doesn't exist because there is nobody to be conscious or that there is no substance called consciousness. I agree, it is not a substance, but it still exists right? I am slightly confused as to the terminology. Is there a standard of what is meant by consciousness and awareness?

My understanding is that awareness is eternal, yet empty, having the qualities of clarity, emptiness, and bliss. Luminous. Is this different than consciousness? Or the same?

When I am mindful, when I am looking at that which is aware, that is something very specific. What is it that I am speaking of? Consciousness or awareness or both?

Do you know what I am trying to ask? Maybe different traditions have different terms?
Yes, different traditions have very different terms. You are asking important core questions that any Dharma tradition will address and have very specific terminology for. It sounds like you may have been doing some reading in various Tibetan traditions.

The words "consciousness" and "awareness" are English words. Looking at the Tibetan tradition, there are a couple of hundred words that some translator somewhere could have translated as consciousness. Like Eskimos who have many words for snow -- describing subtle differences between kinds of snow, I presume--a language developed to express Dharma will have many words for consciousness.

But, fundamentally, this process of turning back and looking your own mind, investigating "What is mind?," then simply resting in what you find, is an incredibly profound practice. Instead of waiting for scholar to give a technical answer-- you can find the answer your self. As soon as words are put to it, it's gone anyway.
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Re: Consciousness and awareness terminology

Post by Skywalker »

Yudron wrote: But, fundamentally, this process of turning back and looking your own mind, investigating "What is mind?," then simply resting in what you find, is an incredibly profound practice. Instead of waiting for scholar to give a technical answer-- you can find the answer your self. As soon as words are put to it, it's gone anyway.
That is the truth.
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Re: Consciousness and awareness terminology

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

Skywalker wrote: Somebody said that consciousness doesn't exist because...
My understanding is that:
One has to be careful using the term "exist" in the Buddhist context.
In the ordinary usage, "exist" refers to anything people experience or can detect with their senses.
in the Buddhist context, "exist" refers to an ultimate, finite point of origin, which cannot be divided into component parts
and isn't dependent on any relationship to anything else,
doesn't have any relative or comparative (hot vs. cold) characteristics
for the nature of its "existence".

If we say that consciousness and awareness are never experienced by anybody,
even saying such a thing is obviously self-contradictory.

If we say that consciousness and awareness have no inherent existence, no singular point of self-arisen origin, but instead are dependent on a variety of causes, and have the characteristics of relative phenomena,
then that is a different statement, and in that context it can be asserted that they have no true "existence".
.
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EMPTIFUL.
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Re: Consciousness and awareness terminology

Post by muni »

This is all interesting. mind - Mind?
Drop of consciousness smoothly flows in ocean of bright self awareness. I like the word smoothly.
Therefore not easy to find a clarifying word which will make all Buddhists feel comfortable. We can in communication try to remain aware that language is conventional. The language which helps all of us, sentient beings the best to realize languageless awareness aware of itself. :bow:

:anjali:
*I do not teach separation.* sz.

Wisdom beings know that we are not separate. This is why they are able to grant blessings."
https://garchen.net/wp-content/uploads/ ... ditate.pdf
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viniketa
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Re: Consciousness and awareness terminology

Post by viniketa »

Yudron wrote:The words "consciousness" and "awareness" are English words. Looking at the Tibetan tradition, there are a couple of hundred words that some translator somewhere could have translated as consciousness. Like Eskimos who have many words for snow -- describing subtle differences between kinds of snow, I presume--a language developed to express Dharma will have many words for consciousness.
Consciousness is a particularly troubling English word... Sanskrit also has hundreds of words to represent.

:namaste:
If they can sever like and dislike, along with greed, anger, and delusion, regardless of their difference in nature, they will all accomplish the Buddha Path.. ~ Sutra of Complete Enlightenment
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Re: Consciousness and awareness terminology

Post by Gyalpo »

This is also my question for long time, since I am translating from english. In my language we have just one word more or less for both. Onec somebody told me, that consciousness is related more to senses, but I dont think so.

Anyway, what I wanna also know in this context, is real meaning of jňa (in sanskrit), or she (in tibetan) in words like jňa-na, pra-jňa, vi-jňa-na (she-rab, ye-she....)
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DarwidHalim
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Re: Consciousness and awareness terminology

Post by DarwidHalim »

Consciousness and awareness are basically referring to the same issue - there is something.

Talking about soul, mind, consciousness, and awareness are basically also same.

We need these word, because this word is the pointer, so I can deliver what I want to say, and you can also deliver what you want to say.

However, there is a paradox here.

Like a rainbow, you can talk about rainbow, because you can see it. But, if you go and try to grasp it, you can't.

So, does rainbow exist or not?

From essence point of view, rainbow doesn't exist.
From appearance point of view, rainbow exist.

So rainbow can exist and non exist at the same time.

This is the source of confusion.

For anyone who has a view, they will have a conflict of view. This conflict is inescapable.

Once, you have a view, at that instant you already have a conflict in you.

In order to solve this, we have to see inherent mistake of terminology. Terminology is built based on the foundation that something is findable. If aomething cannot be found, you can't put the terminology on it.

If we see a rainbow, by right you cannot put a terminology of rainbow, because that rainbow doesn't have essence to be found.

So, it is important here to differentiate between intellectual object and inherent object.

Intellectual object is the object that you form as if something is findable.
Inherent object is the object that you form if you can find the essence of it.

So the essence of intellectual object is actually a fantasy, because it is built based on a fantasy that the object has essence. Because of that all intellectual objects are inherently mistaken or false.

If we see the whole world from essence point of view, you will not have any view. You will not have the view of existence, you will not have the view of non existence as well.

But if you see the whole worlds from the fantasy point of view - by regarding the existence of fantasy essence, you will have a view of existence and non existence.

Buddha has no view, then There is discussion like why Buddha still talk about mind and consciousness to human? Because human has that view. Human has the view of mind and consciousness. And human doesn't know that actually consciousness and awareness are the fantasy of human. So, Buddha use that same language to pin point to you why that mind and consciousness are a fantasy.

Once you know how fantasy there are, it will automatically drop off.

You will reach the point where you don't have any views. The question like is it exist or no exist, will no longer bug you. You can see the mistake of answering by existence, and the mistake of answering by non existence or does not exist.

And you can see the foolishness of your past in establishing consciousness and mind. You can see why you are confused for so long. And you can see the liberation here. Free from confusion.

When people discuss about mind, if you notice, the subject will get more and more complicated. From 1 mind, it get to several minds, and so on. From consciousness, it gets more and more complicated.

In the right discussion, actually when we discuss about mind or consciousness, those subject should not get more complicated, instead it should go to the point of diminishing, which at the end free you from any view.
Last edited by DarwidHalim on Fri Sep 21, 2012 4:43 am, edited 1 time in total.
I am not here nor there.
I am not right nor wrong.
I do not exist neither non-exist.
I am not I nor non-I.
I am not in samsara nor nirvana.
To All Buddhas, I bow down for the teaching of emptiness. Thank You!
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Re: Consciousness and awareness terminology

Post by DarwidHalim »

Sky walker:
When I am mindful, when I am looking at that which is aware, that is something very specific. What is it that I am speaking of? Consciousness or awareness or both?
If you can see something very specific, you haven't seen enough.
I am not here nor there.
I am not right nor wrong.
I do not exist neither non-exist.
I am not I nor non-I.
I am not in samsara nor nirvana.
To All Buddhas, I bow down for the teaching of emptiness. Thank You!
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Re: Consciousness and awareness terminology

Post by lobster »

My understanding is that awareness is eternal, yet empty, having the qualities of clarity, emptiness, and bliss. Luminous. Is this different than consciousness? Or the same?
You can be conscious, without being aware.
When you are aware, you have to be conscious.

. . . now I will take a nap . . .
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Skywalker
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Re: Consciousness and awareness terminology

Post by Skywalker »

DarwidHalim wrote:
Sky walker:
When I am mindful, when I am looking at that which is aware, that is something very specific. What is it that I am speaking of? Consciousness or awareness or both?
If you can see something very specific, you haven't seen enough.
True! Remember that my words fall short. yes, there is nothing there to see, but rather that which sees is very amazing, even though it is empty. My questions have been answered. My confusion was based on the Buddhist philosophies and the technical meanings of words. My experience, however, is not confusing to me. Just trying the best way to translate my experience into Buddhist terminology and to understand what Buddhism has to say regarding my experience. Thanks everyone!
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Re: Consciousness and awareness terminology

Post by weitsicht »

inspite the fact that this is a quite old thread and that the OP expressed satisfaction with the response, I'd like to share the following from a transcript of a retreat with James Low - hence dzogchen perspective
We have two other aspects of our existence: our consciousness and our thoughts. This capacity of awareness is usually called rigpa, or shepa, the capacity to know. It’s not so much knowing something, but just knowing, an awareness that is there. In our ordinary mental functioning we operate from consciousness, and consciousness is different from awareness. In the Tibetan language the word for consciousness is nam she. Nam means a kind of shape or form, essentially it means knowing something. It is linked to thought, nam tok, a kind of shaped apprehension.
Knowing particular things is of course necessary for our life but the way in which our consciousness takes hold of the world cuts the world up into bite-sized pieces. This brings a particular quality to ourselves. According to the Bbuddhist teaching consciousness is situational. For example, we have five consciousnesses for our five senses and the mental consciousness, which organises these. There is also emotional consciousness and a kind of cosmic memory consciousness.

If we think of sound and our relation to auditory consciousness, when there is no sound there is no auditory consciousness. When we hear something, an aeroplane for example, in response to it our auditory consciousness goes out and takes this sound to the mental consciousness which says: ‘aeroplane.’ No sound, no hearing consciousness. This is why you can fall asleep at night, because when the thoughts stop coming, the mental consciousness is not there. Then some dream starts to arise and mental consciousness is again there. Consciousness is discontinuous and the discontinuous nature of our dualistic experience is organised around the narrative of continuity.

A traditional example is the beads strung on a mala or rosary. We have moments of experience which arise, just themselves, and the next moment they may be very different. But we thread them together on the sense of: ‘This happened to me, this happened to me, this happened to me...’ It gives a sense of order and continuity, which is why it is so easy for us to get trapped in narrative.

Sometimes meditators feel that if the narrative stops all the beads will roll over the floor and then who the frak will we be? Just this chaos of different impressions and so on. But actually, it’s not the narrative which is holding everything together; it’s awareness. Awareness is continuous, but invisible. The more you have a sense of the difference between awareness (this open, unborn presence which shows everything without being mixed up in it) and consciousness, the more you recognise that consciousness is always involved.

We are not trying to get rid of consciousness, but to see that consciousness is a particular form of the arising of the energy of awareness. It’s a capacity of our mind to create pictures and patterns and images, whose function is communication. Its function is not the establishing of truth. Nevertheless we do use concepts to try to establish truth and it is the main reason why human beings are the most dangerous creatures on the planet. We establish truth by our belief and so we have to destroy the people who don’t share our beliefs. Whether these are aboriginal people, or gypsies or black people, whatever.

The more we open to awareness or presence the safer we feel in the world, because we are in space, as space, rather than trying to hold together this very fragile false ground which we create by our concepts. The main point is to relax and trust experience, to see that control is an illusion. We are neither out of control nor in control. But we are here, participating.
Still not sure what the terms mean for my translation into German. For the time being I go with "Bewusstsein" for awareness and "Bewusstheit" for consciousness. Opinions?
Ho! All the possible appearances and existences of samsara and nirvana have the same source, yet two paths and two results arise as the magical display of awareness and unawareness.
HO NANG SRI KHOR DAE THAMCHE KUN ZHI CHIG LAM NYI DRAE BU NYI RIG DANG MA RIG CHOM THRUL TE
stevie
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Re: Consciousness and awareness terminology

Post by stevie »

I can't see a difference between 'being conscious of something' and 'being aware of something'. So from that perspective 'consciousness' and 'awareness' are synonyms. I don't know what James Low is talking about. He seems to be talking about different modes of consciousness because he seems to make a difference between 'consciousness' and 'awareness'.
On the other hand if there is no awareness of something then it seems odd to use the term 'awareness' and I get suspicious that what is posited as 'awareness' in the context of there being nothing this awareness is aware of is merely a variant of positing a self.
There are precursors of full-fledged consciousnesses as there are intuitions that are precursors of full-fledged concepts. Is that what is being meant, such 'seed consciousnesses'?
Or is what is meant so called 'life energy' which is the basis of conscious being, the 'energy source' for the arising of consciousnesses? 'consciousness is a particular form of the arising of the energy of awareness' seems to indicate this.
We may also posit an intelligence inhering in the system of the aggregates that controls this system and tries to balance it without an awareness being aware of it which is why 'awareness' also doesn't appear to be appropriate. Such an 'intelligence' of course is merely an imputation subsuming the complex mutual dependencies of the components of the system similar to how it is the case in ecological systems.
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weitsicht
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Re: Consciousness and awareness terminology

Post by weitsicht »

Well, two languages are never 100% overlapping, which ist the fun as-well as the challenge.

Apparently there are two terms in Sanskrit and James manages with attributing two seemingly synonymous terms in English to them. The English terms' translations into German btw have different notions that trace a little back to the ever-present overarching awareness and the object-related consciousness.

Later in the teaching he puts "life energy" as equal to "mind's energy". I take from this there is no unconscious state (but there is an unaware state). The latent subject-object split is always a potential of the ground (and no problem at all).
Ho! All the possible appearances and existences of samsara and nirvana have the same source, yet two paths and two results arise as the magical display of awareness and unawareness.
HO NANG SRI KHOR DAE THAMCHE KUN ZHI CHIG LAM NYI DRAE BU NYI RIG DANG MA RIG CHOM THRUL TE
stevie
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Re: Consciousness and awareness terminology

Post by stevie »

Be his teaching as it may be I can't find any skillfulness in merely affirming the conventional. From my perspective using 'awareness' in the affirmative merely fosters fabrication and confusing intuitive states with reality.
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