A Year of Atisha Slogans
3. Examine the nature of Unborn Awareness.
In the previous slogan, “Regard all dharmas as dreams,” we looked outward, at our perception of the world. With this slogan we look inward—we look at the looking itself.
What is awareness and how does it arise? What does it mean to perceive a world? The question of consciousness is one that has puzzled scientists and philosophers as well as meditators and mystics. It seems to be intimately connected with the physical brain, yet not identical to it—and when you are aware of something, it doesn’t seem to be the brain that is perceiving, but you! But who or what is that you?
Consciousness can be considered philosophically or studied scientifically, but in this slogan the idea is to examine it personally and directly. It is to look at your own experience. When you look, what do you see? And where does that seeing come from? What is its nature? Where does it abide? Where does it go?
Over and over look at your own mind, and then look again. Don’t think too much but keep it simple, nothing but dispassionate, inquisitive observation. Is it inside you? Outside you? Both?
If the unnerving experience of dharmas being dreamlike is not unsettling enough, when you try to examine the nature of unborn awareness, it is beyond unsettling. These two slogans undermine our attempts to establish inner and outer solidity, and liberate the energy we invest in that pursuit. So whether we are applying slogan practice to meditation and in our daily lives, it comes from a fresher place.
When you become aware of a thought or an object of perception, notice how solid and separate the perceiver and what is being perceived seem to be, and the seeming solidity of this and that, here and there. Then look at the nature of the awareness itself, before the arising of “this” and “that.” Keep questioning. What is it exactly and where does it come from?