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Common Buddhist Fallacies 1: Awareness is the solution to everything

Submitted by Dharmavidya on Tue, 09/04/2013 - 16:27

AWARENESS: Awareness is obviously a useful thing in some circumstances. However, the common tendency to assume that more and more awareness will solve all problems and lead to enlightenment is surely misguided. Firstly, of course, we must distinguish between two different kinds of awareness. Firstly there is awareness as acute awareness of the senses and secondly there is awareness in the sense of taking relevant information into account. If we keep to the first kind for the minute, we can readily recognise that the most healingful time for a human being is the time when such awareness is at its lowest ebb, namely when they are in deep sleep. We can also immediately recognise that many states of high awareness are not demonstrative of the Buddhist ideal. The soldier who is just about to bayonet his enemy is usually in a state of high awareness and concentration. Indeed, fighting and hunting are high awareness activities. Awareness is closely related to wariness and has presumably developed in the course of evolution to help us to be hunters and not prey. In fact, one could say that awareness is a faculty that evolved for one purpose but is now being recruited to other purposes in the interests of spiritual and personal development. We certainly cannot therefore say that awareness is always a good. At the same time, non-awareness is not always a bad. There are many situations in which it is better to be unaware. Much (perhaps most) of life goes on better without our interference. Most of the workings of our own body fall into this category. Many natural processes are better left to go on in their own manner. Enhanced awareness would be a handicap and a waste of energy in such cases. Like most things, there is a middle way. There is much to be said for unconsciousness as for consciousness. If nature gave us something it was for a reason. We do well, therefore, not to be taken in by the idea that simply applying more and more awareness will solve all our problems. It won't. Awareness has its place, but so does day dreaming, so does sleep, so does distraction, so do many other states and conditions of consciousness. Let us use them all and gradually learn to live in wholeness and balance with all our faculties.


Massimo Tomassini's picture

the meditational experience shows that awareness, far from being an invincibile weapon (as some current fads tend to instill), is a weak resource, open to every kind of defeat. Realizing  this can be a good basis for meditation, and for life as well. But this realisation is difficult to be attained, as we are always in search of completeness and certainty, and disdain weakness....