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Perception (Pure)

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

Excerpts about Perception (Pure)

A Luminous and Blissful Field of Consciousness

The more we allow the pure perception of consciousness to happen, the more all the tensions, difficulties, and hardness begin to soften and dissolve. The different categories merge into each other, melt, lose their separateness. Love merges into hatred, the good merges into the bad, you merge into the other, the rug merges into the air, the air merges into you. The world becomes one big patterned medium, luminous and beautiful. If you allow the various contents of this medium to keep melting into each other, little by little the medium obtains a blissful quality, a deliciousness. It is not a chaotic mass, but a luminous and blissful field of consciousness. You can’t say it’s physical, mental, or spiritual; it is simply a deliciousness. Visually, it is a luminous field of conscious presence. In terms of feeling, it is like an ocean of sensation, where sensation becomes more and more relaxed. Because sensation is relaxed, it is more blissful. Whether you’re feeling your arm or a chair that you’re sitting on or the body of your lover, it is all one blissful type of consciousness

Objective Perception Means Pure Perception

The realization and understanding of space is necessary for the perception of objective reality—what we will call objective perception. Objective perception means perceiving reality, all that confronts our awareness, as it is. It is a matter of seeing things as they are, rather than seeing them from a certain point of view or position. So by objective we do not mean the scientific positivist sense, in which objective means what exists physically outside us rather than in the mind. We also do not mean objective in the sense of not being emotional, or not being experiential. We mean seeing things, seeing internal or external things, as they are, instead of subjectively. Subjective is the antithesis; it means according to our positions, feelings, filters, beliefs and attitudes. So objective perception means pure perception, free from all positions, bias, filters, conflicts, intentions, etc. It is perceiving whatever it is without any obscuration or intermediacy, so we see it just the way it is in itself. 

The Void, pg. 151

Perception with No Discernment, No Discrimination at All

The first level of pure perception, prior to these two steps, is the level of perception with no discernment, no discrimination at all, simply pure consciousness aware of awareness itself and nothing else. This ground of pure awareness is the fundamental ground spoken of in many spiritual traditions, and is the medium in which all levels of knowing appear. The capacity to discern differences in the field of our awareness is a fundamental element of our consciousness. But here we need to make a difficult and subtle distinction: in describing this capacity, we want to discriminate it from the capacity to actually recognize the forms that arise. So in what we are calling pure perception, associated with what is traditionally called nonconceptual awareness, there is the perception of differences within a field without recognition of those differences. There is awareness that there are different forms, but in pure perception these forms are not discriminated in such a way that they can be recognized or named.

Presence that Doesn’t Know that It Is – Just as It Operates in a Baby

These observations show us that the capacity of pure perception is a potential of our True Nature. Our True Nature has in it this dimension of pure awareness, which is actually presence. But usually presence has a cognitive capacity; it knows that it is. What we are talking about here is a presence that doesn’t know that it is—just as it operates in a baby. In that state, you don’t experience the fact of not knowing as a feeling of something missing. What you recognize is: “I am complete. I am so much myself that I don’t need to know. Anyway, I already know True Nature, so why do I have to think about it? I know it, and it is me—continuously. I understand that the mind has done its job. It has brought me to the place where I can recognize True Nature and see it for what it is. And now I can sit in it with confidence and know that it is not something I can lose—or gain.” 

The Nonconceptual Dimension of all Perception or Experience Remains the Fact of Pure Perception

The nonconceptual dimension of all perception or experience remains the fact of pure perception, as the ground for all of our discrimination, recognition and labeling of our experience. We can retrieve, or more accurately, isolate this nonconceptual dimension of experience by suspending our habitual tendency to conceptualize. This occurs in some of the deep spiritual experiences, which make it possible for us to see firsthand that our perception is originally nonconceptual. When we become attuned to this dimension of experience, we may see that conceptualization requires first differentiation and then discrimination. Labeling occurs as a third step and helps in giving the conceptualizations a greater clarity and fixity, and the possibility for use in memory and communication. Concepts become the building blocks for representing the objects of our perception. It is actually when we experience ourselves nonconceptually that we recognize our quality of presence, which is the mere perception of our factness

The Pure Capacity for Perception, Before Recognition, is a Necessary Ground for All Our Experience

Thus we recognize here the quality of mind that is emphasized in many traditional spiritual teachings: the ground of nonconceptual awareness, of pure perception. We do not normally notice this dimension of consciousness, because our knowingness arises too fast for us to catch it. In ordinary experience, our knowing mind, in addition to our labeling, categorizing, and remembering mind, functions almost simultaneously with pure perception of objects. Normally, we perceive and know in the same act, thus always believing that consciousness functions only as the normal perception that always has some recognition of form. It is clear, however, that the pure capacity for perception, before recognition, is a necessary ground for all our experience, including experience of our inner content. 

When We Perceive Through Concepts it’s Hard to Know What a Thing Might Look Like when the Perception is Fresh

We are concerned here with the most basic, fundamental conditioning—the automatism of the mind. This conditioning is beyond your personal patterns and issues. Reacting to reality through concepts underlies all your personal patterns and issues and history. Concepts are the building blocks of our reactions, our knowledge, and our cognition. But it happens so automatically that most of the time we think we’re seeing reality. We aren’t aware of that split second of interpretation. The input comes in and we perceive a word or an idea. Otherwise you couldn’t say “This is a chair, this is a person.” Without these ideas pure perception is just colors and sounds. When we perceive through concepts, it’s hard to know how a thing might actually look when the perception is fresh. What is it like? Tarthang Tulku calls it the “open dynamic of the living moment.” The openness of the living moment is dynamic and fresh. But we have lost that freshness because we don’t experience the pure perception in the moment. It’s not as if it’s not available; it’s happening all the time. Perception has to happen for us to have any experience. But our mind instantaneously responds and we instantaneously react. And this response and reaction is completely governed by inherited concepts. To go beyond the mind means simply to perceive without conceptual or cognitive response. It means to put your mind “on hold,” to put that automatic neuro-linguistic response “on hold.” Then you can see what’s actually there. 

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