The true nature of mind has two major components: emptiness and awareness. We have discussed emptiness earlier, and in this blog we will turn to awareness, the second aspect of mind.

We can think of awareness from either an everyday or enlightened perspective. For most people, what experiences the world feels like something they possess and then use to discover what is outside of them, like carrying a flash light to see objects in the night. This is everyday awareness. Enlightened awareness is different. It has no owner, and as a result is known as self existing or existing on its own (ego is long gone at this point.) It is also experienced as empty, meaning it lacks the qualities of a thing such as size, shape, or color, an important and difficult insight to appreciate. We all know there is awareness or we couldn’t read this, but only a few of us know awareness’s essence, which is empty. Using water as an example, if we were from Jupiter and first saw water we would know what it looked like, but until we touched it we wouldn’t know that it was wet, which is like knowing that there is awareness but not that its essence is empty. In other words, we may know what awareness does but not what it is.

Enlightened awareness is also nondual, meaning that it isn’t split into something inside of us that is applied to something outside. It is undivided (this is a different kind of undivided attention.) Furthermore, it is not separate from what it is aware of, therefore what we perceive is awareness, and there is no difference between perceived and what perceives.

Finally, enlightened awareness isn’t aware of anything in particular, although it does notice everything that comes within its range. It is like a mirror that reflects all that lies before it without rejecting or becoming attached to any reflection. Similarly, enlightened awareness exists in a state devoid of any bias toward what it experiences. In its light everything is That, not as in that car or that house, but simply as a non differentiating That.

It is very important to experience that we are enlightened awareness. It is the pivotal insight in Ati Buddhism, where it is known as Rigpa. Rigpa is what results when awareness becomes aware of itself. Even that description is misleading and dualistic, however, because it doesn’t actually see itself but becomes itself. In any case, seeing the true nature of awareness is one of the most important insights in Buddhism, and without it there can be no enlightenment.

Leave a Comment