Today, I’ll continue with my homework assignment from the course on Minds and Awareness to notice the difference between direct sense perceptions and conceptual minds and to identify when a wrong consciousness is present.
Sometimes wrong conceptual consciousnesses are discovered quickly, like when I hear a voice behind me and I think I know who’s speaking, but when I turn to look I’m surprised to see a different person. That’s a relatively harmless wrong consciousness.
Sometimes they’re more dubious and gut-wrenching. When I see two girls standing next to each other talking and I hear murmurs and see them look up, and then I think that they’re looking at me and talking about me. Of course, in reality they couldn’t care less about me. But out of self-centered paranoia I make up a story and then feel nervous or shy or frustrated. That’s a pretty detrimental wrong consciousness.
Or perhaps with my eyes I perceive a person wearing a turban (a direct sense perception) and then label that person an Arab or a terrorist (a conceptual consciousness) and feel fear, hatred, and wish that they die (a wrong consciousness). That type of wrong consciousness produces a hellish existence.
Today, I’ll remember that feeling unhappy indicates the presence of a mental affliction, such as craving attachment, any type of aversion, or reality-defying ignorance . And a mind that’s accompanied by a mental affliction is necessarily a wrong consciousness.
I’ll watch my mind to notice when conceptual thought superimposes a mental image over a direct sense perception.
What is actual observation and what is evaluation or interpretation? I’ll challenge my thoughts, not simply accepting that whatever appears in my mind is the definitive truth.
I’ll do this in order to abandon criticizing others and defending myself. Overcoming my mistaken concepts will allow me to act in harmony with the way things truly are; I’ll be able to avoid harmful actions and to engage in meaningful actions that benefit others.
I’ll be able to understand more keenly the state of our existence as sentient beings, thus inspiring greater compassion and loving-kindness. This endeavor will help both myself and others with far-reaching positive consequences.
*Note on the usage of terms: In case anyone happens to read this and gets confused by the use of the terms consciousness or mind, I’ll clarify. In typical colloquial usage in English, these terms give a connotation of the entire continuum of moments of mind, or else to the basic presence of cognitive capacity, of awareness.
In Buddhist phenomenology, one way mind is defined is: “that which is clear and knowing” and is synonymous with consciousness and awareness. This can refer to the entire continuity of one’s mind, but here I used it as a countable noun to refer to a particular instance, or moment, of mind. Thus “a wrong consciousness” can, through reliance upon reason or a valid direct perception, cease and a reliable/correct consciousness will arise.