How Does Consciousness Arise and then Work?
Consciousness is our knowing state, but where does it ultimately comes from? If you can observe consciousness then you are out of it and transcending it, so consciousness itself must have a base. Let’s find it through logic.
First, there is an image in consciousness that resembles an object that comes to us through the five senses. That’s what the five sense consciousnesses do for us. They give us these signless images, these non-labelled images that appear in consciousness.
There is next a function of consciousness that grasps those images, that turns the images into discrete particular things to be experienced with particular properties and attributes. Otherwise every object would be like every other object to you, and every sense field like every other sense field. This is done by a part of consciousness which we typically call the “mind.” It gives names and properties to things. Basically it’s responsible for naming and labeling.
Next there is the knowing part of consciousness we call the “apparent knower” and take as our assumed silent self. This is the self-reflexive knower, the source of intellectualization, the pivot by which you judge and know things. This is the self-authenticating aspect of consciousness we call the self or knower.
This knower is what knows the thoughts. When there is a thought there is consciousness, but when consciousness is empty, what’s there? You’re not annihilated or extinct or non-existent because obviously the world still goes on. You might think there is a gap within consciousness, but somehow it arises again. There is always a continuity of awareness behind, above, beyond or transcending consciousness, however you want to word it. It is awareness that is there when consciousness is empty without any object.
We can call this awareness “primordial awareness” or “ready awareness” or the “potential for consciousness” or “presence,” which are all just a way of saying is-ness or be-ingness without the thoughts of being so.
These three parts – the reflected images of perception, the descriptive grabbing of discrimination, and the knowing must all share the same base or supporting substance otherwise they could not connect, hence they are all ultimately parts or functions of the same consciousness. All three are one, they are the same thing talked about in three parts because of the different characteristics or functions being performed. Yet they must all be united as one otherwise they could not interact with one another.
Now if you think deeply, you’ll realize that the seventh consciousness, or self-authenticating nature, has to have something beyond it, something that authenticates it, something transcending it. There has to be something which stands behind or transcends the knowing aspect of the inner I. In technical terms, there is something that authenticates the apparent self, that stands behind knowingness. If there was not something behind knowingness, knowingness could NOT arise. There must be something that gives rise to consciousness. There must be something aprior that corroborates conscious knowing.
“Corroborates” means helps consciousness arise. Consciousness does not arise just by itself, does it? If it did then rocks would be conscious. Consciousness or knowingness arises according to conditions, but before those conditions or in-between conditions so where there is conditionlessness, is there not something responsible as a continuous substratum? What is that substratum that authenticates consciousness by accepting its results? What is it that stands behind knowingness?
When you wake up after sleeping, before your various thoughts arise in the morning the knowingness potential of consciousness is already there. Prior to that knowingness is a base awareness from which that knowing consciousness itself arises. It is the essence that maintains the potential of consciousness when it is dormant. It has to be there even when you are in deep dreamless sleep, otherwise there would be no continuity upon waking or when passing through any stages of consciousness.
Who is it that has these experiences other than That which is prior to these experiences? That is the base, the unconditioned one, the one that never changes. It is what “corroborates” or “evidences” or “authenticates” the knowing function of consciousness.
Everything arises upon this base consciousness that’s empty of forms because it’s conditionless, but which holds ceaseless potential. In Buddhism it’s called the “container” or “receptacle” or “storehouse consciousness” that can contain all the various manifestations of the mind.
This base consciousness “owns” all its states by its constantly evidencing or authenticating nature. As the base, all states arise within it, or of it, or through it – however you wish to word it. All states of mind are It because it is the container, the substratum of and by which they arise. They form out of its essence, substance or being. All consciousness is therefore This One Thing. This is what is creation or manifestation in its utmost sense. It is all, in fundamental essence, the base consciousness. Since you can only ever experience consciousness, this is all you are ever experiencing.
You know that forms and phenomena, appearances, sounds, tastes, touch, consciousness, thoughts, feelings, emotions, awareness, perception all arise within your mind. The container consciousness is the common essence behind them all. Pristine, still, nonmoving … it is what they are composed of in their basest sense. Matter and mind share the same common source, and this one thing is the common essence beneath everything. This is all you ever experience, for even the thought of being an ego or identity is just This Thing. For absolutely everything is the Source, the ground state, the fundamental essence, the absolute nature, the God-stuff of which everything is.
As the base consciousness, it’s there before discriminative consciousness comes into being. It is there before knowingness comes into being. It is there before “I-amness” or knowing of beingness arises. It is there because it is the base. It is the body of all its states and essence of all its states.
It is the supporting base behind the apparent knower, knowing and the known. It is formless and pure, but always ready to be born as some manifestation. But that manifestation is unreal and undependable because it cannot stay. Only because what arises is unreal does it abstain from conflicting with the real, which is the nonmoving ever present.
If you chop an apparent manifestation down by time, in the smallest unit of time there is no movement but changelessness. If you slice down any form into the tiniest piece possible, as you get smaller and smaller past atoms you only find empty space. If you chop it down by consciousness, in the smallest slice you only find no knowingness. If you cut energy down into the tiniest section, you find no impurity. So the ultimate ground state may seem to give birth to a conventional reality or provisional existence, but this provisional existence is an illusion lacking substance and true reality.
This common base is the ultimate essence of All because everything we call the universe, creation, the world, Thusness, “all reality” or manifestation arises upon this container. When we find This One, as Christians we say we’ve attained union with God’s nature because the characteristics match. This is union with God because beyond this is nothing more. We call finding this one “God” because it has all the attributes of purity, changelessness, infinity, eternity, timelessness and so forth we previously discussed and because all phenomena arise because of it. This is It, this is what you are seeking on the road of religious practice. It is not a person, nor being, nor life. It is not something represented on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel or in any painting, or image, or mental scenario, or thought or concept or feeling. It transcends all that. You have arrived when you accomplish this realization.
If you think there is something else either than This One you are wrong. Everything you know you know because of This One and through This One. If there was something else, its functions would have to be known to us. But everything we know are the functions of This One. Everything that arises is Its functions.
If you say there was something else, then that one would non- exist. You’d be saying there was something else whose functions we could not know, in which case it would not be anything existent to us. There cannot be two ultimate essential natures that are both pure, infinite, eternal, changeless. If they were both infinite they would have to collide or interpenetrate, and then it would not be possible that they were both pure or changeless. So this is the utmost thing you can reach whose effects can be known. There are not two ultimate things. There is only one transcendent one, and this is It. This is how you find God, which is by arriving at what transcends consciousness.
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