Open-ended inquiry redux
I do not consider my experience to be incontrovertible evidence or proof of the truth of what I believe I saw or experienced. After all I am still alive and in the body and it seems to me that direct corroboration of what the deceased individual is actually experiencing can only come from being on their side of the death divide. What I would like to encourage in the meantime is to be open to what various teachings say, and, at the same time, question everything, even your own perceptions, until a more satisfactory method of verification than we have at present becomes available.
I am quite heartened by the many meaningful responses to the first contemplation and I am especially glad that many are interested in dialogue and in interaction with each other. Each has a contribution to make, and I appreciate it more when I see a conversation going on with each other, not just with me.
Tibetan view of death and dying
I notice that the part of the contemplation around death and dying, and discussing HHDL’s views as related to the Tibetan view of death and dying, has received the most interest. It seems many are interested in the question of death, the dying process and what happens after death, which is natural. It was, however, not my intention to address that but to open the question of what it can be instead of simply accepting a well known authoritative text or teaching. I intended to point to the importance of liberating our mind, heart and consciousness from adherence to any established view in exploring any matter, and I used the question of the bardo as an example – to be open but not to reject the established teachings. The question of death and the afterlife can be a topic for a future contemplation.
The question of what happens after death is meaningless if we do not have a thorough understanding of individual consciousness.
Since there will not be a physical body, what will give consciousness particular experience and perception?
Individual Consciousness, the Soul
The primary import of the present contemplation is to point out the significance of both recognizing and experiencing the individual consciousness, whether we refer to it as soul, stream of consciousness, or subtle continuum of awareness. One reason I think it is important to recognize and know this as much as possible is the prevalence these days of the nondual view of reality, and how many spiritual teachers are calling themselves, or being called, nondual teachers.
Even though the nondual condition is significant and does indicate true awakening, it is not sufficient on its own to penetrate the secrets of individual consciousness.
In other words, abiding in the nondual condition we might not see any individual consciousness, and hence cannot investigate and understand its significance..
First personal givenness of experience
However, being in the nondual condition whether as unity of being, dharmakaya, or pure formless consciousness, there is individual consciousness implicit in the experience. There will be no experience, nondual or otherwise, if it was not for the individual consciousness. What I mean is that there is someone experiencing the nondual consciousness, or the dharmakaya, even though the experience does not have this in any explicit way. Even if we experience ourselves as the formless boundless consciousness or empty awareness, we cannot neglect the fact that there is a local perception of phenomena. What accounts for this local perception, and what accounts for the first personal givenness of the realization? What accounts for the fact that the realization is yours, and not of your friend or cousin?
One way of understanding this is to recognize that even when we are realized as pure awareness or consciousness, oceanic or boundless, transcendent to manifestation or inseparable from it, such realization or experience is occurring through an individual consciousness. It is coming through such individual consciousness; not happening in the abstract or floating on its own. In such experience or realization, the individual consciousness is not foreground, and we do not feel as an individual, but the fact that perception is still located in some environment plus that it is first personally given- meaning it is not happening this way to others – points to the importance of recognizing that there is an individual consciousness present in such experience, but we can say it is implicit, present in a virtual or invisible manner.