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December 17, 2008


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Like you, I don't know what happens and do speculate upon what it might be. I also collect stories and listen to people who have had experiences with 'spirit entities' and those who have past life memories. None of these things prove anything, but I continue to find it interesting whenever I hear such and I remember them.

If we reincarnate, then we do not come here a blank slate. I won't count my own past life stories because as a writer of fiction and dreamer of vivid dreams, I see no reason to be certain they weren't created by me (other than one kind of confirming event which I find hard to explain away). They did fit a karmic pattern which has been useful to me in the life I am leading to consider for what they told me. They could have been only that-- allegories of the subconscious to help me grow.

Two of my grandchildren casually mentioned (before the age of 4) incidents from their past lives. They are not being raised in a home where this kind of thing was talked about. Their mother (my daughter) handled it well with listening and not making a big deal about what they said. Eventually they didn't remember the stories at all. It seems there is a window where they are there and then life takes over and they are buried. I don't consider what they said to be guarantees of reincarnation because we can get psychic impulses many ways and maybe that's all that it was.

So for me it's collect stories, listen to what people have seen, be aware and wonder what might be. If it's nothing, I'll never know it. If there is survival of the soul and intact with knowing itself as who it has been and just was, we will know and probably learn much more about what this was all about.

It is though mystery to me. It might be a time for such speculating as I woke up this morning thinking I wish I could know. Really know. But all the people, who I know, who do absolutely, positively know, they don't agree on what they know...

Actually, it isn't non-existence that one is scared of.... it is BEING aware of a certain IDEA that scares us.

Each night when we jump into bed, we have no guarantee whatsoever that we are going to "awake" again into this state, but we relish such sleep, even deep/dreamless sleep.

Thus the very thing we actually SHOULD fear isn't non-existence (that by definition doesn't exist, as such... and we have already "tasted" such nightly and apparently love it), but BEING AWARE in some state that we wish not to be aware in.

That would horrific.

In other words, the fear of nonexistence is actually a fear of a certain form of existence.... not its complete absence (since that can never actually be "experienced"--- since we would still be technically in existence).

This may sound like semantic gibberish, but experientially we already know that melting our awareness away each night is easy.

Or, more to the point, the questions consciousness poses when we are awake are themselves self-referential and thus don't really point to a state of non-being.... but rather to an IDEA IN AWARENESS.

Or, to sum this up.

What is really scary is AWARENESS.

Non-awareness is, well, non-existent... literally so.

As for the birth of awareness, perhaps how we wake up from a deep sleep is indicative of what it may be like.... nothing stupendous, but some quite natural, something on the order of an infusing gestalt.... it comes whole and when it arises it is nothing surprising... just as a fish in the ocean doesn't find it surprising to be swimming water.

Keep up the good thoughts.

As I said before, I find your very fear of non-awareness to be a wonderful barometer of how happy you must be.... and that is a truly wonderful thing indeed.

David, interesting thoughts. I understand (I think) what you're saying. Yes, the fear of non-existence can arise only in existence. And if I don't exist, that won't be horrible for me, because there won't be anyone around for horribleness to happen to.

Still...I'm alive now. I can envision not being alive, not existing. I don't find that prospect at all appealing (to put it mildly).

Like you said, this does seem to be caused by my enjoying life. If someone hates life, or is worn out by it, they're ready to leave it. I'm not there yet -- though it'd be a blessing in a way (yet not in others, obviously; suffering has the benefit of relieving the fear of death, but at the cost of pain).

I liked your fish in the ocean image. Yes, a baby surely doesn't say to itself "Wow! So this is awareness!" It's simply aware, just as we are when we wake up in the morning.

Regarding deep sleep, I've never been able to get my head around this notion that it's like enlightenment, or death. Peaceful, something to look forward to.

I enjoy going to sleep because I know (or strongly believe) that I'll wake up. If I knew that I wouldn't ever wake up again, I'd be making strong coffee like crazy, or looking for a meth lab. Nobody knows if there is waking up from the sleep of death, so I don't see how the notion of deep sleep helps assuage a fear of death, or casts light on the afterlife.

Lastly, when I'm in dreamless deep sleep it's the same as death to me -- lack of awareness. How is this a good thing? If I'm enlightened I'd like to be aware. Not necessarily aware of being enlightened, but conscious.

Brian, you said: "when I'm in dreamless deep sleep it's the same as death to me -- lack of awareness. How is this a good thing? If I'm enlightened I'd like to be aware. (...) conscious."

-- Why do you assume that deep sleep is "lack of awareness"? I don't feel that at all. My sense of deep sleep is simply being without any content to awareness, but not no awareness. I haven't felt any break or discontinuity of awareness... ever. And not even in deep sleep. Not since I noticed that I AM awareness, which was a very very long time ago in my very early childhood or before.

But I understand what you are saying, I just don't feel any discontinuity of awareness itself... either during waking hours or during sleep. I have dreams in which I am aware, and I also have periods of dreamlessness which is simply being aware but without any content... very similar to being in a thoughtless meditative state. When in meditation, there are periods of absence opf thoughts - and yet I am aware - so why not in deep dreamless sleep as well?

I think the problem here is simply that you have assume that during deep (dreamless) sleep, there is a cessation of awareness. But I don't feel that, see that, or experience that. I don't see awareness as something that I HAVE or POSSESS personally. I only see awareness as being totality itself... not merely my own personal life. I don't regard awareness as something that comes and goes, starts in the morning and then stops when I go to sleep. For myself, awareness remains continuous, whether I am in the waking state or in the sleep state. Kind of like water is still always water, no matter if it is in the fluid state, in the frozen state (ice), or in the vaporous or gaseous state. Similarly, awareness raims as awareness and does not cease, regardless of the state such as awareness in the waking state, in the dreaming state, or in the deep (dreamless) sleep state.

I assume that you feel that there is no continuity of awareness in the deep sleep state...because there is nothing going on - no thoughts or dreams. But if awareness could actually stop or cease, then how could it ever resume again? I don't see that awareness ceases just because there is no content - ie: no thoughts, perceptions, or dreams.

Now the question of: is there contnuity of awareness after death?, well that is an entirely different thing altogether. I am only addressing the issue of awareness in deep sleep here.

Anyway, thats my brief take on this. If you wish further elaboration, plese refer to the PDFs that I mentioned previously.

tAo, thanks for the explanation, but I still don't get how awareness can have no content.

Unless you mean that unconscious awareness is going on for you while you're in deep sleep. I mean, your brain is keeping track of all kinds of bodily stuff (breathing, heart rate, etc.) And it could be that neurons are firing, or rearranging themselves, during deep sleep -- sort of like my MacBook does computer maintenance work in the middle of the night after I shut the cover and it goes to sleep.

However, it's like I've argued before about anesthesia. Or being knocked out. A person in one of these states isn't aware of anything. Reality is a blank for them. You could ask them, "For a million dollars, tell me what was said to you five minutes after you lost consciousness."

And they couldn't win the money. So what good is awareness if I'm not aware of it? It's like saying, "No one really dies; you just have no awareness of life." Well, that sounds an awful lot like death to me. What's the difference?


Yes I understand your objection... but I think it stems from your concept of awareness.

Here's maybe where the rub is... In the midst of one of your examples, you said:

"A person in one of these states isn't aware of anything. Reality is a blank for them."

Now this is a little different than what I was talking about. You are saying/implying that awareness is personal (you said "A person in one of these states), and also that awareness is merely a state.

And obviously when someone is sedated, asleep, unconscious, etc... they are not 'aware' of things going on around them. But that does not mean that awareness itself is absent. It just means that they are not in the conscious state.

My point is that awareness is there, whether or not one is conscious or asleep. And also my contention is that awareness is not an individual or a person. Awarness is like a limitless ocean, and whenever an organism with a nervous system and some kind of brain is born, then that awareness has a window into sense perception (via the brain). So awareness itself is not a phenomena of the brain, only the STATES of awareness are determined by the brain.

There is no way to prove this, but nor is there any way to prove not. The only thjing that can be shown is waht you already described, which is obvious.


"And also my contention is that awareness is not an individual or a person."

---Is there room for Individual awareness, that could exist, momentarily, within one of the "states of awareness," determined by the brain?
---Again, lots of definitions for the same thing.


It seems to me that Tao has the correct explanation but that the proof Brian seeks is not accessible to the mind.
It has been said by those conversant with Advaita Vedanta that "between pure awareness and awareness reflected as consciousness there is a gap which the mind cannot cross".

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