Beginner's Questions

I have been listening to Audio Dharma podcasts on Awareness Meditation and they have inspired quite a few questions, some old, some new. I'll try to express them to see if others out there have thoughts about them.

The first question is at the core of the Buddhist philosophy: the theory is that if suffering is caused by craving, and we can stop suffering by removing craving, then we should strive to let go of craving. But then, aren't we craving for the cessation of craving? If we aim at this cessation, if we long for it, are we not falling into the cause of suffering? Isn't some kind of contradiction there?

A second question is about what we can expect to obtain in this life: listening to experienced meditators, it looks like the most they have attained are instants of complete awareness and detachment. Is that all? Can't that state of full awareness and enlightenment be maintained in a more or less continuous way? Are we doomed to live a normal life, even after putting a lot of effort, with just short glimpses to a higher knowledge and level of consciousness? Is Nirvana out of our reach?

The third question concerns more directly my own experience while meditating. When I manage to calm down my mind, and be aware of my body and my mind and realize I'm not either of them, I think I'm being aware. But, is that not a thought? Am I not thinking that I'm aware of my thoughts? If so, then I'm just thinking, I'm just a thought, a thought about other thoughts or about feelings or sensations, the thought of being aware of them. It may sound paradoxical, but how can I know if I'm reaching a higher level of consciousness and being really aware of my mental states, or if I'm just concentrated on my mental states and thinking that I'm aware of them?

I hope you people out there can contribute your personal thoughts about these questions.

Thanks a lot.


Raymo.E-J said...

I think I need to think about your post some more but here something:

You said: "It may sound paradoxical, but how can I know if I'm reaching a higher level of consciousness and being really aware of my mental states"

The fist thing that came to mind was compassion, the ability to empathize, non-intellectually. To "suffer with". We must practice meditation and see clearly the interdependence of everything, the nonexistence of self, noself, to the point where you'd "feed your hand to a hungry dog without a first, second, or third thought". You know deeply, that "'I' am 'that dog'"... But like you say that's a thought too.

Some say the point is to slice away all the layers of mind and "let go" until all action and reactivity becomes compassionate, wise nondualistic nondoing.

To measure measure mental states you need a reference point. This is sometimes found in personal, societal or historical memory, and sometimes by the success of interaction with ones environment.

Put in greater perspective is sounds like training for extreme altruism. But I think its far from that. There is a deep tranquil yet volatile joy in noself. ... I'll leave it at that. There are some suttas and discourses that talk about balancing altruism, but I can't recall them at this moment....

Hope this was helpful.

Clemente said...

Thanks, Raymo for your comments.
Though they may be a bit too complex for me to grasp. You are going too far when talking about seeing the interdependence of everything and the nonexistence of self... I wish I had already reached that level of understanding... I'm afraid I'm just in the first steps, where I try to detach myself from sensations, feelings and thoughts. Especially the latter are a problem for me. I can't envision being aware of something without thinking. Contemplating my thoughts is for me a type of thought, of mental process, and I would like to be able to contemplate mental processes from without...
Another slight difficulty to appreciate the wisdom in your comments is that you talk about compassion, and I don't see yet the relation between self-awareness and compassion (please understand I'm more theravada than mahayana), but I'll just assume I'll see it when I advance and see more clearly.

Thanks a lot again.