Originally written March 2, 2018
One sign of spiritual maturity seems to occur when one finds oneself investigating the last frontier (or origins) of consciousness: that of no consciousness; of unconscious awakeness; of no-thingness; of emptiness.
This ‘stage’, so to speak, seems to occur after we have realized our true nature and have stabilized to a large degree as the spacious awareness that we are. And although thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and sensations continue to come and go, there is the ability to ‘rest’ as the spacious awareness that we are and to observe all those comings and goings much like someone laying in a field watching the clouds move across the sky. Only, in this case, we are the sky in which the clouds of sensations, perceptions, feelings, and thoughts arise, and consequently, spacious awareness includes those sensations, perceptions, feelings, and thoughts. (Indeed, as I am attempting to articulate in another post that is being written simultaneous with this, another question arises as to whether spacious awareness exists prior to the sensations, perceptions, feelings, and thoughts, or is dependent upon those arisings for its own existence.)
(Note: In my post Cat and Mouse, which was written four months after this one, but posted first, the conclusion is that awareness isdependent on the arising of perceptions.
So, it seems natural to now question, what is prior to the awake space? If the awake space is prior to all arisings, does it too have an origin? From whence does it come? Is this what Zen masters and non-dual teachers have referred to as nothingness, emptiness, or the void? And if so, what is this void from which spacious awareness itself arises? Can it ever be known or experienced?
Some non-dual teachers have gone so far as to write that the awake space (or spacious awareness) is present even in deep sleep or after death? But is that true? Can it really be known? Investigating this, it is clear that when one is in deep sleep, there is no memory of this awake space. So, is this really a useful teaching?
But what about death? Spacious awareness (or consciousness), as I discuss in another post, seems to be unit dependent. This is a point that I believe most non-dual teachers will agree. That is, it arises along with the appearance of this body. And if it is true that consciousness arises along with this unit and the experience of a phenomenal world (they are mutually interdependent), what really happens when the unit dies along with consciousness? Is unconscious awakeness, therefore, an oxymoron?
So, where back to the question: just what is prior to consciousness? To the awake spaciousness in which sensations, perceptions, feelings, and thoughts arise?
What a wonderful Zen koan! Don't look too hard or "you" might not return! LOL! This is the great unknowing.
I will add here, however, that "I've" been noticing that even though spacious awareness is never absent (how can it be?) and has no boundaries, that when the mind is truly quiet, there is a sense of depth to the sense of being to divinity; and that it is possible to fall deeply into (become) more fully that which is already you, prior to the mind arising. But in retrospect, it is only the movement of the mind that limits the depth to which experiences this 'depth'. The quieter the mind, the deeper this supposed experience. But even this 'sense' of the depth of the sense of being requires some vestigial remnants of mind. When the mind disappears, so too does that 'sense'. When all is still, there is nothing to report.