Are You Experienced?
im•me’•di•ate, adj. relating to or existing at the present time; of knowledge or reaction gained or shown without reasoning; intuitive.
All experience is in the present. The past is gone, and the future has not yet come. Especially, we attain enlightenment, insight or self-realization only in the present.
In Immediate Experience, the present-time input of the six senses is collected in awareness. It is raw experience. We know a thing as it is, without processing. Sometimes Immediate Experience is known as being ‘in the groove’, ‘in the flow’, or ‘in the zone’.
When a highly competent entertainer, athlete or martial artist performs with no analytical processing of their experience, they can achieve levels of performance far beyond the ordinary. That is because there is no thinking in immediate experience.
Ordinary thinking takes our attention away from the present to focus on memories of the past, or an imagined future. This allows us to order our thoughts, but it also reduces our performance. No one can produce a world-class artistic or athletic performance while thinking about it. This is because most thinking involves reflective experience.
re•flec’•tive, adj. regarding the capacity of humans to exercise introspection and the willingness to learn more about their fundamental nature, purpose and essence. Relating to or characterized by deep thought; thoughtful.
Reflective experience does not lend itself to performance, but to organizing our thoughts. Thus Reflective experience generates Ontological consciousness.
Reflection is conceptual; it deals with concepts and ideas. It is abstract thinking. Reflection is closely related to memory; it is separate in time from the thing being thought about. Error is easily possible in reflection. It’s all too easy to build up misleading and erroneous ideas—in fact this is what generally happens.
Sadly, what is often passed off as ‘philosophical education’ or ‘spiritual training’ is just this reflection or abstract thinking. And this is exactly why it has no significant or long-lasting impact on the students. That is, the character and mental attitude of the student are rarely, if ever, altered.
If we want to change or transform our Being, we require a mental process that takes place entirely in the present. This kind of thinking is called Reflexive experience, and it leads to Ontic consciousness.
re•flex’•ive, adj. of a relation always holding between a term and itself; of a method or theory in the social sciences taking account of itself, or of the effect of the personality or presence of the researcher on what is being investigated.
We always have a relationship with ourselves, and our own thoughts, words and actions have an impact on our experience. We cannot help but influence our own experience, if only by simply looking into it.
In fact this is the principle of the Buddha’s teaching: once one is familiar with a few basic terms and concepts, it is entirely a practice of self-observation taking place in real time.
Reflexive experience is thinking about something while it is present in immediate experience. The Theravāda Suttas of the Buddha refer to it as sati-sampajañña—mindfulness, or general recollectedness—not being scatterbrained, but concentrating the mind and observing ourselves in definite, structured ways.
To understand something, the mind must concentrate on it; and to concentrate it must get recollected. Sampajañña means awareness, and awareness should not be mistaken for consciousness or comprehension. Awareness means keeping oneself under constant observation with a recollected mind, so that one’s thoughts, words and actions do not pass unnoticed or unobserved.
Before we get into specific modes of self-observation, here is a review of what we have covered so far: a short background in the science of Being.
- The ontological approach gives us reflective experience: knowledge about being: categories, names, analysis of past and prediction of future phenomena.
- Ontology can help us understand our past being and experience, but cannot change them.
- The ontic approach gives us reflexive experience: direct knowledge of being: present-time immediate experience, feelings and meaning.
- Ontics can help us observe and change our experience and consciousness in the present by bringing awareness into immediate experience (phenomenology).