Excess and Saturation
Rudolph Bauer,Ph.D. Author, Erin Johannesen, M.A., M.D. Editor
A. Sometimes, we may consider bodhichitta as being a saturated phenomenon. Even though the results of bodhichitta may appear, may become apparent or visible, bodhichitta itself goes beyond evidence, beyond phenomenal appearance or apparition. A saturated phenomenon, by its nature, manifests with multiple and indescribable excess and so refuses to let itself be regarded as an identifiable object. Such refusal annuls our efforts at constituting or creating an explanatory frame for the phenomenon. We are unable to construct a saturating experience as an object in and of itself, for it is a nonobjective and a non-objectifiable phenomenon. Although a saturating experience is known with great immediacy, it cannot be thought. Although a wide and intense range of affects may arise in light of the saturatedness of an experience, it is not an affect. It is not mediated through language and cannot be imagined…a saturated phenomenon is without reference.
B. Although, in a certain sense, a saturated experience may be visible, it cannot be looked at or regarded. This saturated phenomenon actually gives itself in so far as it remains incapable of being regarded; we cannot hold it in view.
C. In saturated phenomena there is an excess of intuition, of gnosis, of direct perception that reaches deeper and farther than the foresight of conceptualization. A saturated experience goes well beyond the typical perceptual framing of ‘subject-object,’ for both subjectivity and objectivity may disappear…yet saturation remains.
D. While we remain within the limits of mind, we see objects, but when we are within awareness, beyond mind, the beingness of being appears. It appears within us as us.
1. Through the saturation of experience and other phenomena, intuition overcomes conceptualization, direct perception overcomes intentionality, and gnosis overcomes skillful means.
Saturation makes itself present in many forms and in many states of human experience. The saturation of phenomena is especially present in the revelatory experience of becoming aware of awareness…most especially in the 4th step [4th point provided in this text] as the kayas reveal themselves, as we become the field, and as awareness manifests its different multidimensions.
By its very nature, saturating phenomena take us beyond our holding capacity. The intensity and sheer vastness of primordial givenness of phenomena push us beyond what we can hold. When we experience this primordial push, our habituated intentionality gives way to…is superseded by…gnosis, and skillful means is completely submerged within direct perception. Such a powerfully direct experience is awesome, but can also be disintegrating for the individual…the experiencer.
2. As we know from experience, phenomena do not always appear according to plan or to expectation, and at times, even upset the calm resolve of intuition. Sometimes there is such a vast excess of direct knowingness that it overwhelms our intention and subsumes our conceptualization, our framing of such experience. This vast excess of direct perception suffuses mediated knowing…suffuses the mind…
3. Skillful means and intention can take us only so far towards knowing and holding experience, towards deepening our knowing of what is, towards deepening the presentation of what is. Circumstances too can go only so far towards opening an experience. From within the opening, from within the unwrapping of an experience or circumstance, the manifestation of awareness arises as unbounded and unbinding.
There is a primacy, a primordial quality, to the givenness of experience, to the givenness of the beingness of being within a being. Awareness, with its infinite qualities experientially unfolds. Simultaneously containing and holding the quality of infinite bodhichitta, awareness expands beyond all boundaries, beyond all prejudice, beyond all frames. Awareness expands beyond mind. Infinite bodhichitta, unbounding and unbinding, is unbinding of both body and mind. Such bodhichitta, such deepened awareness, is a kind of unwinding, an uncontainment that dissolves characterological history and defenses. It is direct and cuts through one’s very self-history and representations of history…the story falls…dissolves.
4. Saturated phenomena are a vast excess of knowingness, of gnosis, of direct perception. Saturated phenomena cannot be accessed by thought, are not easily held, are of enormous intensity, and extend beyond the limits of conceptualization and meaning. This experience of going beyond conceptual limits while remaining present is called naked awareness.
5. Whatever gives itself shows itself. Whatever manifests is a givenness. What is given in the givenness is pure gift…giftedness.
There is a givenness of phenomenality that goes far beyond intention and goes far beyond our conscious, or intentional, construction of experience. Up to a limited point, we can construct circumstances, but even this intentionality at root is itself a givenness. By our own arrogant denial of givenness and of the cosmic unfolding of what is, we easily make an absolute of intentionality. Skillful means and intentionality must be submerged under gnosis, subsumed by direct perception, by non-conceptualized intuition or knowing, for givenness to come forth…to surge forth.
The givenness of the given can bring forth saturated phenomena. Givenness and its manifestation are everywhere. As an analogy, givenness is to consciousness as phenomenon is to thing. So, while consciousness pertains to that which appears, givenness pertains to that which is appearing.
THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPHS REFER TO SPECIFIC TYPES AND OTHER ASPECTS OF SATURATION:
6. There is the saturatedness that occurs with an event, such as in the event of acute or cumulative trauma. Saturatedness also occurs when thinking of divinity as appearance, as apparition, as pure openness…pure and infinite potential.
7. There is the saturation of the iconic when radiance appears through form and beyond form. As we know, beings are manifested by being itself, and there are infinite unique modes of coming into light. In givenness, being gives itself to a being as that being. Yet the givenness can disappear to the degree that the gift appears. That is, in appearance there can be the disappearance of beingness, the disappearance of light.
As the being comes into being, it first appears as an object devoid of the radiance of being. When, however, we experience the radiance within ourselves, and extend that radiance to resonate with something outside of us, outside of our being, then the object may come into [be filled with] light. When such resonance occurs, it may be referred to as the inner ying meets the outer ying.
8. There is the saturatedness of the given body, of the flesh…pleasure and pain, erotic pleasure and agony.
9. There is saturation of the visible in excess, such as occurs in gazing at the human face. In this way the human face can be objectified [made less personal] through mind, or within the gaze, and the infinite dimension appears…
10. When a phenomenon is saturated, when there has been an excess of direct perception over the perception of mind, then the constitution of the object is censured. In short, saturation precludes objectification.
11. Saturation leads us into the infinity of experience…until we shut down, dissociate, collapse, contract, or shift into a mental modality that is constricted, where there is no infinity.
12. Saturation also has its own properties of quantity, quality, modality and relation. These properties interfere with intentional aim and interrupt intentional target.
a. Saturation, when referring to quantity means unable to be accounted for, and questions naturally arise: Where does this [saturation] come from? How does this [saturation] occur? This [perception of saturation] is stunning! What is happening and what happened?
b. Saturation, when referring to quality, means something is unbearable, for example, when we cannot bear looking or gazing at something or someone, or when an experience is unbearable because it is simply perceived as too much.
c. Saturation, when referring to modality means something experienced as unable to be thought, felt, or imagined. Something cannot be put into words, sensed, remembered, or seen.
d. Saturation, when referring to relation, means the relation seems absolute. That is, the absolute is experienced in particular singularity that is without reference.
13. The kayas themselves may also saturate an experience. Awareness occurring in the dimensions of the three kayas can be difficult to experience, or to contain. And so, the body of light must be constructed as the vajra vase body and vajra tent to hold the experience.
14. When moving from mind to awareness of mind, to awareness of awareness as field, there is a natural assimilation of experience.
15. As awareness emerges and deepens, the kayas manifest...saturatedness is brought forth in full force...and there is saturation of awareness by awareness itself.
16. As mentioned earlier, saturation can also take place within locations other than the kayas. Saturation also may take place, can occur, in trauma. Whether it is acute or cumulative, trauma, by its very nature, is a saturated event.
17. Often in the arising of saturated or saturating experience, dissociative states also arise as a method of protection from such experience. Even in meditation, the trance state, although initially unfamiliar, becomes very familiar, and so, at the arising of saturated moments, we easily fall into trance, or vacuum-like states.
18. In this way, the history of meditation, with its exhilaration for nihilistic vacuum states, can be understood as dissociative in intention and function. As the bodhichitta and the radiance of luminosity arise, the capacity of spaciousness may collapse, and we may take refuge in redundant, vacuum-like states where nothing ever happens. At other times, what is happening is redundant and thereby may become its own contained experience. In either case, the vacuum-like refuge precludes the saturated experience with its thrills and demands. And the bodhichitta, which is described as the very nature of awareness, is often experienced in saturated fullness as divine love, as mystic conjunctio, as union…as oneness.
19. Holding these experiences in an extended and multi-dimensional extension with otherness is helpful in sustaining release.
20. The releasing of the frame, or the container, that is, the releasing of intentionality, is of vast value in allowing the arising of the awareness field. Releasing does not negate intentionality, but rather submerges intentionality, or gesture, within the field of gnosis. Such release is skillful means arising out of direct perception.
21. The Dakini practices of evoking both the light and mantric syllables enhance the releasing of the elements [space, water, earth, fire, air into the elements]...enhance the devouring and metabolizing of them…enhance eating the air.
I would like to thank Jean Luc Marion whose book In Excess inspired this essay.