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A Short Introduction to Non-dual Awareness by Will Pascoe

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A Short Introduction to Non-dual Awareness
Will Pascoe

1. Introduction to:
a. illusions commonly accepted; delusion of personal identity with body and body/mind
b. ‘I’ and the body
c. ‘I’ and the mind; definitions of ‘mind
d. reality - nature and definitions
2. Research into brain location of self/ego/I
3. I am not the body. I am not the mind. Who am I?
4. Mind is not the enemy - use mind to understand that ‘the answer’ is not in the mind
5. No I-me-my-mine. To whom do these thoughts come? Who is to be enlightened?


Did the sun rise this morning? No. The earth turned, creating the illusion of sunrise and sunset. Is the sea blue? Can we retrieve a bucket of blue sea water? Of course we cannot. The colour is an illusion. Is a map of Perth really Perth? No. The map is not the territory.

We know these to be so but we persist in using the old expressions. Why do we not question this? Simply, because we are so familiar with these examples that they have become part of our store of useful mental concepts and as such form a substantial portion of our common descriptive language and our poetic and artistic expression.

The most common illusion of all and the one most never seriously question is, ‘this body or body/mind is me, is my identity and being.’ Upon investigation this too is seen to be a mental concept, an illusion. And if we believe an illusion we are deluded. It has been said that the belief that he is the body is man’s greatest delusion. The idea that I am neither the body nor the mind, nor body/mind, seems to be counter-intuitive, for so much of our thinking and speaking lends support to the concept, ‘I am the body/mind. This is me.

We say, for example, “I have a headache. My foot hurts. I’m hungry. I went to the beach. I feel cold. I’m sad.”

Just as we can question the concept of sunrise and sunset and blue ocean, we can, and indeed must if we are to know the reality of being, question the illusory concept of a body/mind self.


That I am not the body may be clearly seen from these examples:

i. The sense of ‘I’ is not lost when awareness of the body is lost, e.g. in deep sleep. The deep sleep stage of sleep is dreamless and, in common parlance, unconscious and yet upon awakening from sleep one is automatically aware of the I-thought and assumes one has been there all the while.
ii. The sense of ‘I’ is not diminished when the body suffers loss of function or loss of organs or limbs. There may be physical and psychological suffering but the “I – I am present; I am here” is not diminished.
iii. The sense of ‘I’ is not diminished with the awareness of the decay and ultimate demise of the body. Again, there may be psychological suffering including the fear of death, fear of the unknown, and sadness with the thought of leaving this life but awareness of being present is not diminished.

Of course, unless we do question this concept, this I-body idea, we will be caught up in it with much more serious consequences than believing the sun rises.


People may quite readily admit to not being the body, or not the body alone, but few will question the belief that they are the mind or body/mind.

It’s important to be clear about our meaning when we speak of mind. For some mind can be divided into the pure mind, as in Buddha Mind or Christ Mind, and the ordinary or conditioned mind; for some mind is a universal quality or something divine. Some see mind as separate from the body, others as inextricably linked with the body; some as a function of the brain, others as arising in or from the brain. Buddha Dharma is recognized as having a systematic exposition of the nature, function and purpose of mind. An internet search for “definition of mind” brings many theories but there is a common thread, namely the thinking, discerning, knowing capacities of the person.

Is the mind the ego-I, the sense of a separate self? Am I my mind? If so, surely I must be able to define mind and locate mind. What is “my mind” and where is it? Sri Ramana Maharshi said, “There is no such thing as mind apart from thoughts”.


What is real? Again, definitions vary but most would agree that the real is that which exists as opposed to that which is imaginary or illusory and in philosophy ‘real’ is most often used to denote something ‘as it is’ or the ‘suchness’ of a thing, rather than as it may be described or as it may be distinguished from others.

It follows then that to know myself I must know what is real and what is not. Am I real? Can you see me? You see a body. Does the body meet our ‘real’ criteria?

Can you see me? Am I just this physical pattern of energy before you? Can you see my thoughts, my feelings, my fears, my hopes, my joys, my ambitions, my likes and dislikes?

Must we then expand our definition of ‘real’ to include that which is more than this physical thing? After all, this body itself not what it appears but is rather a visible mass of energy in a pattern that we recognize as a human body.

What is real? We can’t see electricity but still we say electricity is real. The wind too is real even though it seems not to be permanent and is apparently constantly changing.

Could we mean then, ultimately real? Am I ultimately real? What is ultimately real? For the purpose of a discussion of this nature we may say that, for something to be real, in this ultimate sense, it must be:

a) not temporary
b) not subject to change and decay
c) not dependent on physical senses


psychological concepts

Research is apparently demonstrating what some sages have taught for a very long time, namely, mind and its constructs have no independent reality, no existence outside our brain. However other researchers are finding evidence that apparently shows mind activity after brain death, for example in Near Death Experiences. Some of the research is skewed by strong religious sentiment involving theories of a soul that is separate from the mind. It appears no absolute conclusions can be drawn from the research at this time although the most compelling evidence seems to favour the ancient idea of mind being nothing more than the thoughts of the individual human entity.

Dhammapada: ""All things are preceded by the mind, led by the mind, created by the mind."


I am not the body. I am not the mind. Who am I?

The Buddha gives us a response to questions regarding any form of sensation and consciousness, whether “past, future, or present; internal or external; manifest or it actually is...: ‘This is not mine. This is not my self. This is not what I am’”

(Majjhima Nikāya I, 130).

So, what am I? Who am I? What about this existence, the existence or life I am sure I know, is ultimately real? Who or what can truthfully say ‘I AM’? The body cannot for it is subject to decay and dissolution. The mind cannot for it has no existence apart from thoughts and thoughts are subject to change and interpretation by psychological concepts. And yet it is apparent that something says, undeniably, “I am”. The teachers of Advaita Vedanta, both ancient and modern, and wise people of other cultures have taught that there is a real self, or Self, that can be known.

Ramana Maharshi

The seer and the object seen are like the rope and the snake. Just as the knowledge of the rope which is the substrate will not arise unless the false knowledge of the illusory serpent goes, so the realization of the Self which is the substrate will not be gained unless the belief that the world is real is removed.

This substrate, the consciousness, being itself, awareness, whatever words we use to attempt to describe ‘it’, the Nameless and Formless, is all that constitutes ‘I am’.

Ramana Maharshi

‘Who Am I?’ I am pure Awareness. This Awareness is by its very nature Being-Consciousness-Bliss (Sat-Chit-Ananda).


I am not the mind but mind is not the enemy. We use the mind to discover that what we seek is not in the mind. Sri Ramana told us that we use the mind in this way, just as we use a thorn to remove thorn from our foot then throw both into the fire.

Sailor Bob Adamson

“You will never find the answer in the mind.”

Jiddu Krishnamurti


The mind can be still only when it is not experiencing,
that is, when it is not terming or naming, recording or storing up in memory.
This naming and recording is a constant process of the different layers of consciousness, not merely of the upper mind. But when the superficial mind is quiet, the deeper mind can offer up its intimations. When the whole consciousness is silent and tranquil, free from all becoming, which is spontaneity, then only does the immeasurable come into being.
The desire to maintain this freedom gives continuity to the memory of the becomer, which is a hindrance to reality. Reality has no continuity; it is from moment to moment, ever new, ever fresh.
What has continuity can never be creative.


No I-me-my-mine. To whom do these thoughts come? Who is to be enlightened?

If body and mind have no ultimate reality and if my world is only a projection of the thoughts that rise in the brain and to which attention is directed, if everything in ‘my’ world and experience is non-substantial and temporary, what is left? What is real? What is always here and unchanging? Only awareness. Only consciousness as awareness is ultimately real. At any given moment we can know and say, I am.

The nameless and formless that is the substrate of brain activity, physical functions, all manifestations of energy whether visible or invisible, and consciousness itself, is both the ground from which all things arise and the field in which they exist. It is evident then that only one reality exists. Reality is not two, non-dual, one without a second.


Buddhism And Australia Conference 2015