Being ‘Aware’ of Awareness

Mind, Bead, Touch
Mind, Bead, Touch

Ch’an is essentially working with the psychology of perception and apperception. This is the process of ‘sensing’ data through the six senses (perception), and then through the habit of the conditioned mind – arranging that data into a certain and definite interpretation (apperception) of the world.  This implies that all viewpoints and opinions are the product of conditioning influence in the environment, that produce and sustain (through habit) a certain ‘frequency’ of inner, interpretive existence.  Within his teaching on the Four Noble Truths, the Buddha refers to this habit as ‘mental formations, or ‘thought constructs’.  Regardless of whether the world is viewed as independently existing or not, the human mind will only interpret its presence in a manner conducive to its own historical conditioning.  During this habit forming process, the mind remains ‘unaware’ of the process of conditioning it is experiencing, and cannot see beyond its own limited (and programmed) interpretive horizon.  This narrow perception of reality is taken as being ‘all there is to know’, when in fact the mind remains ignorant of its own predicament.  Ch’an is the method of seeing into and through this limited predicament.  A Ch’an master’s statements and actions seem weird and illogical to the one-sided mind – but make perfect sense to a mind that is functioning in an integrative and all-embracing fashion.  Anyone can be ‘aware’ because it is a natural state – but only a Buddha can be ‘aware’ of the inherent quality of ‘awareness’ itself.

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