‘The world, ‘loka’, is the world as we experience it: sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, thought, emotion and feeling – my world, your world. It’s not the abstracted, geographical planet, universe-type world. It’s the direct experience of the planet, the people and the cosmos. Here is the origin of the world, the cessation of the world and the way leading to the cessation of the world.’ [‘Consciousness: Invisible, Radiant, Limitless’, Ajahn Amaro, Buddhadharma, December 1st 2003]
New Delhi: Power cut and everything in the house goes totally black; streetlights are out too, the whole thing…. Use my phone as a torch, an island of light and fumbling for matches. A candle placed exactly for this eventuality; strike a match, some comfort in the small light and scented flame. Okay, so how long is it going to be? Listening to all the generators out there like a fleet of helicopters has landed in the street, rotor blades whipping round – time passes, yep! it’s going to be a long one. Go through to bedroom, get into bed with clothes on because it’s cold, heating is out too.
Unexpected, unplanned situation. The warmth of bedding, face on pillow cover; no other input from the outer environment except sounds coming from the freezer in the kitchen: creak, crack, creak – ice is starting to melt. Listening in the silence between the creaks, no other sounds, only this; the listening action, and that small space before the thinking process is engaged. What is it that is aware of this? Consciousness removed from the sensory experience of everything I see, hear, smell, taste, touch, feel and think; outside of the elements: earth, water, fire, air – and not held by time.
Unsupported consciousness, an awareness that’s different from the basic functions of interacting with the world; distant from the usual state of simply being aware of what’s going on in the body/mind organism and that’s enough – living in a dream; the deluded not-knowing state and random karma: ‘a tangled skein of thread, a woven nest of birds, a thicket of bamboo and reeds…’ The thinking thing gets a hold, loves it, hates it; tries to control it, tries to figure it out. And beyond all of that is the unsupported consciousness. It’s there that my curiosity is drawn.
Some controversy over viññanam anidassanam, a synonym for Nibbana, the unconditioned consciousness, non-temporal, the consciousness that is outside of everything and includes it all. Theravadin extremists argue that this leads to the idea of a soul and the god/creator thing we’re familiar with from church conditioning. I’m reminded that all the Teachings were intended to be tools to assist in our awakening. We don’t attach to them, develop a clear mind, let go and see for ourselves.
Blinding light, suddenly, all the lights in the house start up at the same time. Generators outside shut down, fridge begins to hum, water heater starts to hiss and bubble. I go through and start the computer, find the page about Unsupported Consciousness by Ajahn Amaro: ‘In describing unsupported consciousness, the Buddha taught: “Wherever there is something that is intended, something that is acted upon or something that lies dormant, then that becomes the basis for consciousness to land. And where consciousness lands, that then is the cause for confusion, attachment, becoming and rebirth, and so on. But if there is nothing intended, acted upon or lying latent, then consciousness has no basis to land upon. And having no basis to land, consciousness is released. One recognizes, ‘Consciousness, thus unestablished, is released.’ Owing to its staying firm, the heart is contented. Owing to its contentment, it is not agitated. Not agitated, such a one realizes complete, perfect nibbana within themselves.” (Samyutta Nikaya 12.38 and 22.53)’
‘… the Buddha asked his disciples, “If there was a house with a wall that faced out towards the east and in that wall there was a window, when the sun came up in the morning, where would the shaft of sunlight fall?” One of his monks replied, “On the western wall.” The Buddha then asked, “And if there’s no western wall, where would the sunlight land?” The monk answered, “On the ground.” Then the Buddha responded, “And if there’s no ground, where will it land?” The monk replied, “On the water.” The Buddha pushed it a bit further and asked, “And if there’s no water, where will it land?” The monk answered correctly when he said, “If there is no water, then it will not land.” The Buddha ended the exchange by saying, “Exactly so. When the heart is released from clinging to what are called the four nutriments—physical food, sense contact (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch), intention and consciousness—then consciousness does not land anywhere. That state, I tell you, is without sorrow, affliction or despair” (Samyutta Nikaya 12.64).’ [Excerpt from Ajahn Amaro, ‘Attending to the Deathless, Buddhadharma, December 1st 2003]