Dogzen Email Newsletter 

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Number 5 - October, 2004

5th Email Newsletter - Naked Awareness, Part 2 

[Read the earlier Email Newsletters first if you haven't already. The series should be read in order, starting with Number 1. By the way, they are meant to be slow reads. You want to experience the things talked about, not just store neat new ideas in the 6th consciousness.]

In the last Email Newsletter, we focused on the awareness through the senses, mainly eye consciousness. It suggests you try to "just see" without engaging the 6th consciousness (the part that thinks, evaluates, judges, complains, labels, remembers, and so forth). Practice this a bit until you are personally satisfied that you can see without automatically adding material from the 6th consciousness, or at least be able to tell when the 6th consciousness adds something. One way to do this is to just sit and stare until you get it. It's not all that hard or particularly exotic, though you may look funny to others if you do it in a public place. Do it with hearing consciousness too.


We almost always see a combination of the pure sense consciousness and material added by the 6th consciousness. The 6th "overlays" the pure sense consciousness with its own creations. Furthermore, the overlay is mixed with the object of our perception so that we think the overlay is actually a quality of the thing we perceive. Tricky thing, huh? It is created by the brain/mind, but we think it is actually IN the thing we see.

An overlay isn't just an opinion or a label. It can also be a feeling. You can, for example, look at something and feel a pleasant feeling. This makes you think that the thing itself is pleasant or good. On the other hand, you might look at something and feel revulsion and think that the revoltingness is within the thing you see. However, it is generated within your mind/body and is a reaction. If you project the feeling onto the thing itself, you introduce a basic error about what that thing is.

You can also overlay things with labels. The downside of labels is that concepts usually connect with other concepts (by virtue of their similarities). This can add even more layers of overlay because these associations attract more material in the 6th consciousness. For example, when I was on a walk with my wife I was in a simple naked-awareness state when I came upon a child's sock pinned to a tree. Because the 6th consciousness was dormant at that moment, I had no reaction. I saw the sock, it registered, but I didn't have any thoughts about it or any puzzlement about why it was there. Much later, I had a delayed reaction and thought "sock on a tree! What the heck is that about?" and immediately began to connect with all sorts of thoughts, such as "Who did it belong to?" "Was the mother looking for the sock? "Was this a prank?" and so on. These connections came through the label of "sock on a tree." Labels can act like connection points into all sorts of mental associations. If you don't have a label, there is just silence.

[Aside: you don't need labels to know something. You can directly know things without any concepts. For instance, you can put your socks on in the morning without ever thinking word-thoughts about it. You just silently know what to do. In a later newsletter, I'll write about direct knowing.]

This list can go on and on. I think you get the point: we see a combination of the pure sense consciousness and the output of the 6th consciousness. When the 6th consciousness overlays our experience, it distorts perception by combining with it. The result is often something like being stupid, living in your own world, being error-prone, or being confused. When the 6th consciousness overlays are really thick, we can do some pretty inappropriate things.

People flawlessly act in accord with what overlays are operating. Here's an extreme example to illustrate the point: a mentally ill person might be waving his arms trying to brush away the birds flying too close to his head, but no one else sees the birds. His actions are exactly appropriate for his experience because he is perceiving the birds. They are real to him. We all do that to some degree, but perhaps the distortions aren't as extreme.

For most people, overlays are added unconsciously. We don't realize that it is happening, and so we are at the effect of them. With the knowledge of overlays, we can practice naked awareness and notice how that improves our connection with reality.

This is important: when we have overlays in common with others, we feel connected to those people. We have a shared reality, and a shared reality is a powerful component of our sense of belonging or being a part of relationships. When you start to let go of overlays, there is sometimes a conflict because it seems as if you are dropping out of the "real world," the world shared by those who have common overlays. This can be a barrier to becoming nakedly aware. Be careful not to get caught by this.


There is a bunch more to understand about the six consciousnesses, overlays, and naked awareness. Stay tuned!

Until next time, fond regards, Edrid

About the Dogzen Group

Dogzen Evening Practices

7:30 PM to 9:30 PM at Edrid's house in Menlo Park. (Usually scheduled for alternate weeks.)

We've just completed an evening practice series. We will be announcing a new schedule soon. 


The next ODP is Saturday, November 13, 2004, 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM. Bring some food to share for the lunch pot-luck. Contact Edrid if you want to attend. Space is limited so you have to reserve a place. 

Hope you can attend,


Contact info: email Edrid at