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Conceptual and non-conceptual consciousnesses

15 The Foundation of Buddhist Practice

Part of a series of teachings given during a retreat based on the book The Foundation of Buddhist Practice given at Sravasti Abbey.

  • The difference between conceptual and nonconceptual consciousnesses
  • Appearing object and apprehended object
  • Afflictions and conceptual consciousness
  • Practical applications in daily life
  • Questions and answers

The Foundation of Buddhist Practice 15: Conceptual and non-conceptual consciousnesses (download)

Contemplation points

  1. What are conceptual and nonconceptual consciousnesses? Make examples of each.
  2. Make some examples of how conceptual thought allows us to plan and imagine in ways that are beneficial for daily life and Dharma practice. How does it tie back to direct perception?
  3. Really spend some time practicing with conceptual and nonconceptual consciousnesses. For example:
    1. As you go walking around, notice what is direct perception and what is conceptual thought? How much is your experience of an object influenced by past experience?
    2. When eating a meal, pause before each bite and be aware of what you expect the taste and texture of the next bite to be. What appears to your mind is a conceptual appearance based on having eaten similar kinds of food in the past. Take the next bite and be aware of the taste and texture of the food. This is the direct perceiver of the food. Was your expectation of the taste and texture accurate? What was the difference between conceptual imagination of the taste of the food and your direct perception of it?
Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.