In terms of this conditioned realm that we perceive, create and hold to, it is a very unstable, uncertain, undependable and changing condition in itself. That’s just the way it is. The Buddha pointed to the instability of conditioned phenomena, to their impermanence. This is not just a philosophy that he was expecting us to go along with. We explore and see the nature of the conditioned realm in just the way we experience it, the physical, the emotional and the mental. But that which is aware of it — your refuge is in this awakened awareness, rather than in trying to find or create a condition that will give us some sense of security. We are not trying to fool ourselves, to create a false sense of security by positive thinking. The refuge is in awakening to reality, because the unconditioned is reality. This awareness, this awakeness is the gate to the unconditioned. When we awaken, that is the unconditioned, the actual awakeness is that. The conditions are whatever they are — strong or weak, pleasant or painful, whatever.
Consciousness and the body are natural conditions. To be able to see them in terms of Dhamma means to awaken to the way it is. The body, not as some personal identity but as this experience right now, is sitting here giving this reflection, and then there is consciousness. We usually don’t recognize pure consciousness because we are highly conditioned to think—we are attached to views and opinions, memories, emotional habits, to a sense of self. Then we create ourselves out of these various conditions: as Americans, or whatever. Ajahn Pasanno is now an American—legally! This we can consider as a convention
When we’re obstructed by this sense of a separate identity as a personality, an ego, or by culturally and socially conditioned views that we’ve acquired, and the language that we think in, it always leads to some kind of insecurity or doubt. When these are not challenged or awakened to, then we tend to be operating from positions, taking sides, defining ourselves according to the religious convention, or the social condition we have, the gender of the body, the color of the skin, or whatever. These are our precious identities that we will fight over, quarrel over, and abuse each other endlessly around—the conditions that we’ve acquired, not out of wisdom and understanding, but out of ignorance. In this sense, ignorance is not like being illiterate, rather it’s not understanding, not knowing Dhamma. In other words, as long as one is limited and bound into the conditioned realm then there’s this ignorance. Consciousness operates and remains the same, but ignorance influences how we see and create the world around us.
Now with sati and paññā (wisdom), this leads to discernment, to seeing Dhamma, rather than in seeing a conditioned attitude or a positioning in the conditioned realm. With sati and sampajañña—awareness, mindfulness, apperception—there is the ability that each one of us has to open to the totality of this moment, in which it’s not a thought, it’s not a perception, but it is recognizable: it’s like this. That is consciousness. We’re suddenly recognizing consciousness itself, which is that which is ordinary and that we’re experiencing all the time. But when we’re always perceiving ourselves through conditioning, then we don’t recognize consciousness. We’re merely using consciousness and projecting into it our own sense of self, conditioned attitudes, emotional habits, and identities.
The actual word Buddha means Awakened. It’s a “wake-up” teaching. Somebody asked me one time, “Could you describe Buddhism in one sentence?” And I said, “I can do it in one word.” He said, “What’s that?” “Wake-up!”
With this sense of awakened consciousness, when there is this, then we recognize, we realize Dhamma. We recognize the conditions in terms of Dhamma, we discern all conditions are impermanent. It’s not attaching to a view that, “All conditions are impermanent.” We actually know this, we discern it. And then we also discern the unconditioned. We recognize nibbāna, anattā, suññata, nirodha. These are the words for the unborn, uncreated, unformed, unconditioned. This is in the teaching of the Four Noble Truths, and is recognizable. I’ve used this teaching now for all of my monastic life and have been putting it to the test
- Intuitive Awareness,Ajahn Sumedho