2021-06-28 Clear Recognition (1 of 5) Power of Recognition
7:54PM Jun 28, 2021
Good day on this Monday, end of June. The theme that I want to discuss this week is clear comprehension. The Pali word is "sampajāna." "Jāna," in this context, means "to know." The "pa" of "pajāna" is an emphatic prefix – "to really know." "Sam," here means "with." So clear knowing, with really knowing.
It is important quality of mindfulness practice. Sometimes it is translated as clear comprehension, clear knowing, or clear recognition. The "clear" being the emphatic idea – to really know.
It is part of the art of mindfulness to learn the power of recognition. In some cultures I have been to, people will not tell strangers their birth name. They have another name, like a nickname, that they go by. It said that their birth name has some power to it. If you give it too easily to other people, then somehow they can have power over you. It is something you want to be very careful with.
There is an English expression "to name something." "I'd like to name something" is naming what is happening. To simply describe or characterize what is happening in the moment that other people are not noticing. "Oh, that's what's happening." "Oh, I see. That's how it is."
Sometimes we do that for ourselves. I have felt off sometimes, and did not quite know why I felt off, not quite right. At some point, I recognized that I was sad about something. Recognizing the sadness, "Oh, that's what's happening. I'm sad." With the clear recognition, the clouds parted, and something became obvious and clear. This way in which things are cloudy or murky, and then clear up, "Oh that's what's happening."
Mindfulness practice involves two primary attentional faculties, and others as well. The two primary ones are sati and sampajāna. Sati, which is often translated as "mindfulness," (it may be more useful to translate it as "awareness"), and sampajāna as "clear recognition." Mindfulness practice is the combination of these two – to have a sense of present moment awareness, present moment attunement, being aware of what is happening here and now.
The ability to perceive is for the sense doors to be open. The senses – the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, tactile sense and the mind door – are all open. We can receive what is going on, or perceive what is going on, in a way that is not so thought-filled, and does not necessarily involve recognition. It is almost pre-recognition – just the experience, being with the experience. That is sati. Clear recognition is the clear knowing of what that is. The combination of these two is presented often in the modern definitions of mindfulness.
Sometimes clear recognition – knowing what is happening in a nonreactive way – is called mindfulness, sati, but it is closer to sampajāna, clear recognition. As I said, in the guided meditation, a valuable art to learn is how to call forth our capacity to clearly recognize even what is most obvious.
It is easy to be dismissive of what is obvious like that inbreath, that outbreath, that tingling or warmth in our body. These little details seem like they do not warrant much attention. What warrants attention and engagement is this capacity we have to clearly recognize. Clear recognition is closely related to freedom – freedom from preoccupation, reactivity, and from closing down around bias or judgment. That recognition is opening to the possibility of being present.
This is the art of recognition. It is very simple. To recognize that, "I feel warm and tingly." Just to recognize it, not with a lot of baggage and association to what it means. Recognize it, pausing to open to experience it more, "Warm and tingly – what is that like? Ah, like that."
Seeing – like right now I am seeing the camera that you are all behind. There is a moment of recognition of seeing. I have been here for over half an hour, looking in the direction of the camera at times. But until this moment, I had not clearly recognized it. "Oh," so it stands out in highlight. It is more like, "Oh, look at that," as opposed to, "Oh no, the camera," or something. "Oh, it's a camera." And I have a monitor underneath it so I can see what is happening on the chat and stuff. I see the light and color, and things. Now I feel thirsty – clearly recognize the thirst and then maybe do something about it.
There is a story in my book – the book of stories called A Monastery Within. It is a story about a very famous sage, who lives deep in the mountains. There are no roads that take you there – just some mountain trails. This person has a reputation of having just the right thing for everybody. If you go tell this person your troubles and challenges, he seems to always have the right response. Everyone leaves satisfied, "Oh that was perfect for me." He must have great intuition, great understanding.
So people would do the trek. Some times it would take three days of hiking into the mountains, and three days out. Some people were really desperate to find support and help with the challenges in their life. They made that trek.
When they found him, the sage would sit and listen. Sometimes he would listen for 15 minutes, sometimes an hour, sometimes hours. People unloaded and told stories of their concerns. The sage did not say much. Just took it all in. At some point the person would stop talking. The sage would nod and indicate he now wanted to think deeply about this – to reflect and come up with some wise response.
Before he would say his words, there was always a requirement of the person who was asking for support, guidance. Whatever he said would not be told to anyone else. It was very personal for that person.
It turns out, the sage always said the same thing to everyone. The thing he always said, "What are you not paying attention to? What are you not recognizing?"
Often some people were disappointed. "That's what he has to say?" "But okay," and they gave him the benefit of the doubt and left. They had to spend three days hiking out of the mountains. It would echo in their mind, "What are you not recognizing?" Over those three days, all kinds of possibilities – all kinds of things they had not been noticing – came up. By the time they came out of the mountains, they were transformed. They had received something powerful that changed them for the better.
This power of recognition – when we sit and meditate – to clearly, not only be present for the experience, but to recognize it. To do it in a way that is relaxing and calming, as opposed to agitating. To do it in a way that is so clear, that we are no longer being swept along in the mind stream of thoughts, or no longer mired or absorbed in the world of emotions.
It is almost like taking a step back out of the mud, the mire, or the preoccupation. Stepping out of it, looking back and saying, "Oh, preoccupation, thinking." Or, "This is thinking." Or, "Anger, sadness – this is anger, this is sadness."
The art of it is to use the recognition until you feel the freedom of separation – not aloofness, distance – but separation, so we are not caught in something – their release. Then the awareness of being present has a whole different quality of movement. Mindfulness can do its work – it can unfold best – when we are not lost in the stream of thought or stream of emotion.
Clear recognition is the theme for this week. I will talk about different aspects of clear recognition. For these next 24 hours, you might experiment with seeing if you can discover some of the power of recognition – how it is supportive and helpful.
Look how you can recognize what is happening, even what is obvious. Even what you already know, but you have not really recognized it. What it is like to stop, pause and recognize. If you care to, you could also carry with you the sage's question, "What are you not recognizing?" See if that is interesting for you.
Thank you all very much. I look forward to this week together with you