pulga wrote: ↑
Sat Oct 07, 2017 9:32 am
aflatun wrote: ↑
Thu Oct 05, 2017 2:12 pm
Though he fails to see the contingency of "primary presence", he does seem to have a good grasp of the phenomenon, and explains it with clarity.
What is it for you that secures this contingency?
Just like Yogacara Buddhism, Advaita Vedanta espouses the idea of the‘self-luminosity’ (svaprakas´atva) of experience—yet not as a feature of the individual mental states—these are things that become manifest in experience (qua consciousness)—but rather of consciousness itself (cf. Chatterjee1982: 342–344, 349). Consciousness, like light, is the medium of visibility of all things and does not have to be illuminated by another light (i.e. become the object of consciousness) in order to be revealed—it is the shining itself as the principle of revealedness. Light is not visible in the way illuminated objects are, but at the same time, it is not concealed: It is present, and it is precisely its presence that is the medium of the presence of everything—first and foremost of the experiences whose very existence consists in their being-present. Hence for the Advaitins—although they hold that mental states are manifest essentially, and not by virtue of being the object of some further, higher order mental states—it is not adequate to say that they are immediately self-aware. Rather, they exist in manifesting themselves in the medium of the luminosity of consciousness, which is immediately self-revealed. Experiences have their very being in their being-consciously-present (in being manifest in ‘primary presence’, as Erich Klawonn (1987, 1998) calls it), and while these experiences are permanently fleeting, conscious presence as such abides (Klawonn 1998: 59; cf. Zahavi 1999: 80; Zahavi this volume: p. 59) -- Flasching pgs. 201-202
Fasching fails to see the interdependence between consciousness and name-and-matter -- abstracting consciousness (presence) from experience, he places name-and-matter within it. He gives to consciousness a changeless stability that he ascribes to the Self – the bare-witness – likening it to the luminosity of light, the medium in which things appear.
Ven. Ñanavira – following the Suttas – on the other hand sees that consciousness depends upon name-and-matter. He puts forth a hierarchy of consciousness cum name-and-mattter:
The infinite hierarchy of consciousnesses, one on top of the other, is always
there, whether we are engaging in reflexion or not. The evidence for this is our consciousness of motion or movement, which does not require reflexion—we are immediately
conscious of movement (of a falling leaf, for example)—, but which does
require a hierarchy of consciousness. Why? Because a movement takes place in time
(past, present and future), and yet we are conscious of the movement of the falling leaf as a present
movement. This is perhaps too short an explanation, but it is not very important that you should grasp it. When we wish to reflect (we often do it almost automatically when faced with difficult situations) we make use*
of this hierarchy of consciousness by withdrawing our attention from the immediate level to the level above.
The reason why we cannot say 'consciousness is' or 'consciousness of consciousness' is simply that the only thing (or things) that consciousness (viññāna
) can be consciousness of is name-and-matter (nāmarūpa
). Consciousness is the presence
of the phenomenon, of what is manifested in experience (which is nāmarūpa
), and we cannot in the same sense
speak of 'consciousness of consciousness', which would be 'presence of presence'; in other words, the nature of the relation between consciousness and name-and-matter cannot be the same as that between one consciousness and another (the former relation is internal
, the latter external
What we have in the pre-reflexive hierarchy of consciousness is really a series of layers, not simply of consciousness
of ascending order, but of consciousness cum name-and-matter
of ascending order. At each level there is consciousness of a phenomenon
, and the different levels are superimposed
(this is not to say that the phenomenon at any one level has nothing to do with the one below it [as in a pile of plates]; it has
, but this need not concern us at present). The relation between two adjacent layers of consciousness is thus juxtaposition—or rather super-position, since they are of different orders. In reflexion, two of these adjacent layers are combined, and we have complex consciousness instead of simple consciousness, the effect of which is to reveal different degrees of consciousness
—in other words, different degrees of presence of name-and-matter
. -- [L. 86 | 93] 25 January 1964
(* It's interesting that Ven. Ñanavira would italicize this. Was he placing emphasis on the fact that this "making use" is an intentional act itself -- a state of affairs (Sachverhalt
Consider as well Ven. Bodhesako's observation in the beautifully written third chapter of his essay Change
Since on each higher level of generality there is no change at all we can say that from a point of view within any one level the next higher level is eternal. Or, better, extra-temporal. Just as change is perceptible only against a background of non-change, so too impermanence (temporality) is perceptible only against a background of extra-temporality. But that extra-temporality exists only in relationship to its less general foreground, and it is thus not independently extra-temporal. Its extra-temporality is due entirely to a particular point of view. And since points of view are invariably temporal, that extra-temporality will cease and be utterly ended when the perspective of the experience changes and no longer gives support to eternity.
Thus, the extra-temporal exists only with temporality as its condition — a point to which we shall return. -- Change: 3. The structure of time
Flasching's "bare-witness" as the presence
of the background is no more permanent in its existence than the fleeting foreground that supports it.
Thank you for the response, pulga, its always a pleasure. Of course I am in agreement with all this, and believe that consciousness and name-form are interdependent. I've benefited greatly from Ven. Nanavira's teachings on this matter (that's an understatement), the background-foreground distinction, the infinite hierarchy of consciousness, etc. In terms of what Fasching discusses I find myself closer to the so-called "Yogacara" view that he finds somewhat lacking, i.e. the self luminosity of appearances. (In fact depending on how much coffee I've had I might tell you I don't think consciousness (or mind) exists at all, but that's a digression at the moment)
I've read the paper you linked and his Consciousness, self-consciousness, and meditation
(another brilliant paper) and I'm not an expert on him by any means.
I'm also not sure he's being entirely consistent either, as he seems to grant that consciousness is nothing but the presence of phenomena on the one hand, but then in other instances insists that it is more akin to a container (like the quote you provided). I can't reconcile these two positions, and I'm not sure he can either, but I'm still reading. An example of the former:
So, by consciousness, we mean here the event of phenomenal presence of whatever is present. The distinction between “real” objects and those that only exist “in our mind” is a subsequent one in comparison. So in a way there are “subjective” and “objective” phenomena, but consciousness is not a subjective phenomenon, it is not an “inner world”: It is the being-there of whatever kind of phenomena—whether “subjective” or “objective”. Consequently, consciousness is not a phenomenon among phenomena but the taking place of the phenomenality of phenomena. The fact of consciousness is not something in addition to what is otherwise present, it is simply its being present.
Consciousness, self-consciousness, and meditation pg 467
Trying to see it from his point of view, I think he would reject this:
Flasching's "bare-witness" as the presence of the background is no more permanent in its existence than the fleeting foreground that supports it.
Based on my current meager understanding of what he's saying, I think he would say this "bare-witness" is not the presence of the background at all. What you, or we, in phenomenological dhamma would call the background seems to correspond to the phenomenal subject, or that which is inappropriately seized upon as subject. It seems he would grant that this is yet another phenomenon, albeit a negative one, which is dependent on there being something present in the first place:
And, as a matter of fact, the presence of experience is a presupposition of the identificatory form of selfawareness, since the latter consists in attributing experience—on the basis of a certain coordination between experience itself and the experienced objective contents—to an inner-objective psycho-physical entity. Yet it is precisely this empirical attribution (apprehension of experience as being “owned” by an empirical subject, cf. Husserl 1976, 117–118) that conceals the nature and original givenness of experience itself.
Consciousness, self-consciousness, and meditation, footnote 23, pg 473
To me he seems to understand the "inverted priority" that is sakkaya ditthi quite well! Although as I said I'm not sure he's being consistent in his application of the principle with his consciousness as light, container, etc.
(cf. with Nanavira ATTĀ
As pointed out in PHASSA, the puthujjana thinks 'things are mine (i.e. are my concern) because I am, because I exist'. He takes the subject ('I') for granted; and if things are appropriated, that is because he, the subject, exists. The ditthisampanna (or sotāpanna) sees, however, that this is the wrong way round. He sees that the notion 'I am' arises because things (so long as there is any trace of avijjā) present themselves as 'mine'.
So what we call this "presence of the background" does not seem to be what he calls "consciousness." But the dismantling of the notion that such an appropriated background as self qua consciousness (the "interiorization of consciousness) is
precisely what he tells us is the work of meditation and insight:
So the meditative state of mind qua being aware of presence itself cannot be a looking at the presence, for I cannot see my consciousness by looking anywhere other than wherever I look. I am nowhere else, no object distinct from other objects I encounter; I am not something “inner” as distinct from external objects. The essence of the meditative process of becoming self-aware is, in my view, a de-identification from what we normally ascribe to ourselves (i.e. what we take to be our “inwardness”). In this sense, meditative self-realisation means not so much to turn oneself inward but is—in the formulation of Byung-Chul Han—“an attempt to deinteriorize the mind” (Han 2002, 67). This corresponds to the famous saying of the 13th century Zen master Dogen: “To learn the Buddhist Way is to learn about oneself. To learn about oneself is to forget oneself. To forget oneself is to perceive oneself as all things” (Dogen 1975, “Genjokoan”). Yasutani Roshi describes this experience of de-interiorization in the following way: “So when the bell rings it is only the bell listening to the sound of the bell. Or to put it another way, it is the sound of yourself ringing. This is the moment of enlightenment” (Kapleau 1980, 160).37 In this way we find ourselves by no longer seeing ourselves anywhere (cf. Laycock 1994, esp. 13–16, 49–50, and Laycock 1999)—just as Samkhya Karika, V.6 characterises the experience of liberation as the realisation: “I do not exist, naught is mine, I am not” (Radhakrishnan and Moore 1957, 444; cf. Chapple 1990, 67).
Consciousness, self-consciousness, and meditation pg 478
Even better from the subsequent paragraph:
To “forget oneself” means to stop opposing objects to “oneself”. There is no “I” to which things are given, there is just the event of givenness. Thereness as such has no subject-object structure: Consciousness is not something that is directed at something, it is the very being-there of this something.38 There is no such distance that would allow any “directing-at”.
In a footnote he approvingly quotes Douglas Harding, another interesting fellow who often leaves me wondering as to whether he is a slimy eternalist or an Arya of sorts:
For, however carefully I attend, I fail to find here even so much as a blank screen on which these mountains and sun and sky are projected, or a
clear mirror in which they are reflected, or a transparent lens or aperture through which they are viewed—still less a person to whom they are presented, or a viewer […] who is distinguishable from the view. Nothing whatever intervenes, not even the baffling and elusive obstacle called ‘distance’: the visibly boundless blue sky, the pink-edged whiteness of the snows, the sparkling green of the grass—how can these be remote, when there’s nothing to be remote from?” (Harding 2002, 30; cf. 97).
He also seems to understand the true intent of so called Yogacaran "idealism" better than most anyone else I have read (emphasis mine):
It might at first seem paradoxical that such a “de-interiorization” should be brought about by, of all things, not occupying oneself with any objects (just sitting there in some quiet place with one’s eyes closed or half-closed and not thinking of anything). But since the self-localisation of the subject within the realm of objects essentially belongs to the structure of object-givenness, it is first of all necessary to take a step behind the givenness of objects: to enter a form of presence in which no object is posited vis-à-vis a subject that is then simultaneously posited as that to which the object is opposed.40 This, I think, is the sense of the non-occupation with objects that is characteristic of meditation. To meditate means to bring the mental activities to a halt (citta-vritti-nirodha). Every “act” has the structure of “I direct myself to …”; it is an attending-to from an opposite standpoint (which is constitutedtogether with the object attended to)—every conscious act (in a narrow sense) is characterised by this polarisation (cf. Husserl 1952, 97–98, 105–107; 2006, 352). Every activity, bodily or mental, immediately localises one’s self within the realm of objects, one immediately differentiates oneself from what one acts upon...
40.Cf. Yogacara philosopher Vasubandhu (fourth/fifth century): “Through the attainment of the state of Pure Consciousness, there is the non-perception of the perceivable; and through the non-perception of the perceivable (i.e., the object) there is the non-acquisition of the mind (i.e., the subject).” “Where there is an object there is a subject, but not where there is no object. The absence of an object results in the absence also of a subject […]. It is thus that there arises the cognition which is homogeneous, without object, indiscriminate and supermundane. The tendencies to treat object and subject as distinct and real entities are forsaken, and thought is established in just the true nature of one’s thought” (Trisvabhavanirdesha, 36– 37 and Trimshikavijñaptikarika, quoted after Loy 1988, 29).
In returning to object-directed activity, the “small mind” inevitably returns—the inner-worldly subject that stands in relations to things and is distinguished from them. Yet meditative practice ultimately aims at a transformation of precisely this everyday world-experiencing.41 With persistent practice the experience of presence as such remains present within activity. The daily object-experience is re-structured. In touching an object, for example, of course I experience myself, together with the touched object, as the touching body. But at the same time, I experience myself as
the very event of co-emergence of touched object and touching body in the touch, not as something “within” the body but as the presence of the object as well as of the body.
(I believe this translation as "Pure Consciousness" is probably deceptive particularly to someone who is trying to read an Eternalist agenda into Yogacara, but I'll leave that aside for now)
Consciousness, self-consciousness, and meditation pg 479-480 with footnote 40
I find myself puzzled at times, wondering if many of these disagreements are semantic. To put this in somewhat cartoon fashion:
Both the ideal buddhist sage and the ideal advaitin sage have abandoned all identification with anything and everything. Both assert the cessation of identity as paramount. While former tells us that this is where it ends***, and that "nothing is left,"*** the latter tells us that this cessation reveals one's true identity: "something is left," but this "something" is actually not any thing
and not entirely distinct from any given appearance and more to the point, only made "apparent" because everything has been abandoned, including the "self." Is there a practical difference here, or are we dealing with post hoc conceptual schemes? Of course there is no way to know
I don't mean to insult anyone's religious beliefs, as I mean this in a more or less Wittgensteinian manner: Can either one of these positions even be stated coherently? Or do they both amount to nonsense
Anyway thanks again for your thoughts pulga, I'll post more as I read.
***Of course this is not what all ideal buddhist sages say. But like I said its a cartoon
"People often get too quick to say 'there's no self. There's no self...no self...no self.' There is self, there is focal point, its not yours. That's what not self is."
Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53
"Those who create constructs about the Buddha,
Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.
That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
Is also the nature of this world.
There is no nature of the Thus-Gone.
There is no nature of the world."