Reconsidering Words

As a student of spirituality, I chose the path of Buddhism – and within that, the Nyingma Dzogchen tradition. As a student, I write a blog of experience that might help others. A path is designated or signified by the words used: it’s sad to say that this has lead to much friction in the world, even killing. Words cast spells!

All paths are about understanding our essential nature. Our first nature. That which we truly are. Each path has their own methods. Sometimes there is merely a subtle difference and sometimes we can amalgamate paths, depending on our understanding and how grown-up we are.

The word ‘consciousness’ implies ‘awake’ as opposed to asleep but when we wake up (in an ordinary sense) we are just aware of our surroundings – we are not normally aware of pure consciousness itself, pure consciousness being the fully awakened state.

As a student of Dzogchen, I use the words ‘pure awareness’ to describe this essence; it’s how I was taught. But I’m coming to the conclusion that ‘pure consciousness’ may be more applicable. This is because we have impure consciousness, which can be transformed into pure consciousness. The phrase ‘pure consciousness’ is more abstract, having no physical or concrete existence: it is pure empty consciousness. ‘Impure consciousness’ can still exist as a thought or idea, in the forms of perception consciousness, judgement consciousness and memory consciousness, which are all biased.

When using the words ‘awareness’ or ‘pure awareness’, this may be misinterpreted as pure awareness of something, as in pure perception of something. In Buddhism, this is synonymous with pure essence, but that may be confusing to an ordinary reader. Admittedly, the word ‘consciousness’ is vague to most people – which does have its positive side!

In Buddhist teachings, we talk about the eight consciousnesses (five of the senses and three of the mind), with the ninth being Rigpa – pure essence. As the modern mind probably sees the word ‘awareness’ and thinks it knows what this is – just being aware – I’ve decided to use the term ‘pure consciousness’ instead, so that we don’t just jump in and think we know what is being spoken about. We need a space to review our understanding and refine experience. The word ‘consciousness’ has a slightly vague connotation, which needs to be explored.

Connotation: an idea or feeling which a word invokes for a person in addition to its literal or primary meaning. The abstract meaning or intension of a term, which forms a principle determining which objects or concepts it applies to. In contrast to denotation.

Denotation: The literal or primary meaning of a word, in contrast to the feelings or ideas that the word suggests. The object or concept to which a term refers.

When we are looking for who or what we are, it is beyond words, ideas, feelings.

It is that which is pure consciousness – and aware!

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  1. crestedduck says:

    That pure consciousness that is beyond description using words…also = Gnosis !

  2. Mr. Tom says:

    thinking vs. awareness – the unity of pure and impure
    I remember a pointer I have heard: We cannot seperate the colour blue from the sky.
    Every thought,sensation,emotion is a reminder on the path. What is real? What is unreal?
    My “me-experience” belongs to no-one. Sometimes friends ask where I have been because they have not seen me for a while. Nowadays i reply: “Oh, I dissolve from time to time. Then like a mirage I materialize again.” (form is emptiness – emptiness is form)

    Is the “me-experience” any kind of problem?

    • tony says:

      Awareness of the “me-experience” is the unity of the two truths. The colour blue and the sky cannot be separated.

      Until we are stabilised in pure awareness we will oscillate between the two.

      The only problem we have is attachment.


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