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  • Rudy Bauer

Timeless Awareness as Dzogchen: A Phenomenological View

Timeless awareness is the essence of Dzogchen. Time experienced within timeless awareness is also an expression of the essence of Dzogchen. Dzogchen is an ancient form of Tibetan mystic humanism. Dzogchen makes the essential distinction between mind and awareness. A person can be located in mind alone and locked in time. As a person shifts from being located in mind alone (mindfulness) and goes beyond mind alone (mindfulness), one becomes aware of their own awareness. As we focus our awareness on our own innermost awareness, vast dimensions of awareness begin to open and self- reveal its nature to us.

Awareness is a multidimensional experience and this awareness is infinite in its horizons. The innate qualities of awareness are spaciousness or openness or emptiness. Another quality of our awareness is luminous radiance and still another is awareness as energy. Awareness is alive and is both vast stillness and unceasing movement.

The Union of Mind and Awareness

When a person is able to experience the union of their mind and their awareness, then the person has a simultaneous experience of being in time and in timeless awareness. The mind is the place of thinking, feeling, sensation, memory and imagination and the mind is the mode of knowing singularity and difference in the world. This is the realm of ordinary knowingness and this is the realm of duality. Our mind is the realm of time. This time bound knowing is the knowing of you and I, us and them, this or that in time and place.

Awareness knows Being

And when awareness knows awareness then awareness knows Being and the field of Being. Ultimately as Parmenides pointed out thousand years ago, that Awareness and Being are identical. So the field of primordial awareness as spaciousness, energy, light manifest all phenomena. Awareness knows itself as the field of non- duality. Awareness knows indivisibleness, awareness knows oneness. Awareness knows Being and the being-ness of beings. This field of awareness is also the primordial source of all phenomena and is manifested in all beings. This field of awareness is manifested in us as our own awareness, our own subjectivity. As Husserl the father of phenomenology would say “what is the wonder of all wonders Pure Awareness and the doorway is our own subjectivity.”

Knowing Duality within Non Duality

And so when a person has the union of mind and awareness, when a person has integrated their mind into their awareness, there is the awakened capacity for one to know the experience of non-duality within duality and knowing duality within non-duality. Such a person experiences duality and simultaneously non-duality. Such a person experiences both difference and indivisibility within themselves and within otherness. Most amazingly such a person experiences time and timelessness simultaneously. The innermost depth of awareness is pure timelessness. The depth of mind is the sense of time, time as past, time as present and time as future.

Awareness As field

As person becomes aware of  their own awareness, one  begins to experience that their awareness  is not simply a contained  state of spaciousness, energy and light but actually  is a field vast and infinite in it horizon and multidimensional. As the person remains within awareness in time, and as one experiences the nature and qualities of awareness, awareness begin to open and self-manifest its different dimensions. Dzogchen calls these dimensions kayas.  First awareness unfolds as the dimension of flesh to use Merleau Ponty’s language. This is the field of phenomena within us and beyond us. Within us this field is the phenomena of openness, radiance and energy as knowingness. And around us, this field is all external phenomena.   The phenomena have the qualities of innate lucidity and energy and open spaciousness within the form of appearances and within appearances’ substance. The external phenomena is physical and material. This is the realm of thingness.

Awareness as the Kayas

So within awareness knowing phenomena there is the experience of mutual lucidity and energy and spaciousness. This is the dimension of time yet there is within this dimension of the flesh the beginning of the opening of timelessness .Dzogchen call this field dimension Nirmanakaya the realm of ordinary life of ordinary human experience.

As awareness continues to unfold, awareness begins to manifest as the archetypal dimension of human experience. Dzogchen calls this dimension Sambogakaya. This is the primal realm of the luminous energies and luminous spaciousness and vortices of the elemental. Radiance has become everything and anything. This is the intermediate area of experiencing, wherein awareness manifests as the apparitional dimension. This is the dimension of the archetypal manifestations of configurations of primordial elemental qualities. Here the awareness field opens and manifests the archetypal dimension of human experience. This dimension is one of vast stillness and movement. There is within this luminous, energetic, elemental dimension the deepening sense of timelessness within movement and stillness.

Finally, awareness ultimately opens as the primordial dimension of pure ground awareness, the realm of pure potentiality which manifests everything and anything including the Sambogakaya and Nirmanakaya dimensions. This is the fundamental real condition of human experience. This is pure timeless awareness. And Dzogchen calls this dimension Dharmakaya or also ground awareness.

Awareness is related to Timelessness

Awareness manifests in time. Primordial awareness manifests everything and anything within time and as time. In the tradition of Dzogchen and Continental Phenomenology, awareness is intrinsically related to timelessness. Through the experience of our awareness we understand that there are four time dimensions within the experience of awareness.  There is the time of the presence of present moment, the time of the presence of the past and the time of the future presence. And then there is the fourth time which is timeless awareness itself.

The Four Dimensions of Time in Dzogchen and Phenomenology

This understanding of the four times is also given expression in Heideggerian phenomenology. For Heidegger, being and the manifestation of being as awareness is related to time. There is the time of ‘presencing’ in the present. And there is the time of ‘presencing’ as having already happened in the past, and there is the time of ‘presencing’ that will  happen in future time. And then there is the fourth time which is timeless awareness. Timeless awareness is awareness as pure potentiality, the actuality of pure potentiality.

From Time Bound to Unbound Timelessness

So in becoming awareness of awareness, the range of awareness unfolds from time bound awareness to timelessness awareness. Timeless awareness in its vast depth and breadth is non-duality. Moreover, within this non-dual place of timeless awareness, action may arise and enter into time bound duality, the duality of time bound relatedness. There can be this unfolding movement of invocation from the spaciousness of non-dual timeless awareness into the time space continuum of duality. Time bound knowingness is a function of mind alone which is dualistic knowing, and is subject object knowing. Timeless awareness is a function of primordial awareness which is non-dual unbound direct knowingness.

Time and Timelessness Simultaneously Experienced

When a person experiences duality within time as the present momentum and simultaneously experience non-dual relatedness in timeless awareness, then the person can experience simultaneously duality within time and non-duality as timeless awareness in time. This is an amazing and self-liberating experience. Whatever is experienced within timeless awareness is self- liberated. Whatever circumstances of dualistic experience is experienced within timeless awareness as non-duality, such experience is self-liberated. Self-liberated means an experience dissolves into awareness field of light and is now experienced as timeless awareness.

The Power of Extending Timeless Awareness into the Time of Past, Present and Future of a Person

Moreover the great Dzogchen master Yang Tang Rinpoche suggests that the absolute compassion is actually the great capacity of a person to extend the light of awareness into another person’s present, and into a person’s past and into a person’s future. This transmission is beyond words and letter and does not belong to any tradition and is the very nature of human awareness.  This is the Bodhicitta. This root of this luminous   capacity of awareness to extend the light of awareness and the energy of awareness into a person’s past, present and future is a function of the dimension of timeless awareness manifesting in time and through the time. A person in timeless awareness is able to manifest from within timeless awareness into the dimension of time. Dharmakaya awareness is timeless dimension of awareness. This dimension is beyond time and yet enters time.

Being Manifesting the Field of Timelessness and the Dimensions of Time

Duality experienced within non-duality, and non-duality being experienced within duality, is the experience of Dzogchen. There is continuum of the field of Being manifesting as the continuum of time. There the ‘Dzogchen View’ of timeless awareness is seen in its pervasiveness, as permeating     simultaneously the three dimensions of past, present and future time perspective.

The Fourth Time as Indeterminacy of Potential Space

Timeless awareness which is the fourth time is the timelessness of creativity and indeterminacy. Time itself is the determination of being.  The power of indeterminacy is pure potentiality or pure virtual-ness. From within this timeless place of potentiality the power of invocation arises as the power of manifestation.  From timeless awareness self-manifested action moves into time. The invocation of the archetypal configurations can be manifested in the configurations of Nirmanakaya.  Archetypal configurations can become manifest in ordinary life.

Indeterminacy as Timelessness and Determination as Time

When a person can live simultaneously in time and in timelessness then they are empowered to experience duality within non-duality and within non-duality being able to experience duality. One can live the life of non- dual indivisibleness and yet in the world of difference. A person can live in the space of indeterminacy and determinacy in time at the same time

Timeless awareness holds infinite paradoxes such as: time and timelessness, singularity and potentiality, duality and non-duality, movement within stillness, stillness within movement, and indeterminateness and determinateness.

Timelessness within Time is Self-Liberation

As a person experiences time within timelessness and timelessness within time, freedom and self-liberation can be experienced within the person’s life. Uncontained by mind alone, uncontained by time bound circumstance the sense of liberation forms and is experientially formulated. Whatever event is experienced through timeless awareness, in time is liberated. Timeless awareness frees us from being possessed by circumstances, frees us from being contained in mind alone and free us from demonic like inner and outer obscurations and compelling darkness. Timeless awareness can metabolize all experience that is time bound. Timeless awareness is the potentiality of spacious radiance.  Timeless awareness is the nature of translucidity of experience and action.

Timeless Awareness is both Stillness and Movement

Within the timeless space of awareness, and within the radiance of awareness, stillness is experienced within movement and movement is experienced within vast stillness. Within the oneness of timeless awareness, vast stillness is experienced as well as movement simultaneously. This is the experience of Dzogchen.

Deathless Awareness is Timeless Awareness Experienced within Time

By experiencing time within timeless awareness and timeless awareness within time there arises the sense of deathlessness. This is a most amazing and liberating experience. By experiencing this deathless timeless awareness the foundational human terror of annihilation dissipates and dissolves. The anxiety of death dissolves.

This deathless awareness is an experience of the essence of timeless awareness which is deathlessness. Deathless awareness is beyond birth and beyond death. The sense of deathlessness is   being beyond time and being beyond being born and being beyond dying. Deathless awareness is the sense of the indestructibility of primordial awareness manifesting as our own innermost awareness.

Timeless awareness manifests deathless awareness and is deathless awareness. Timeless awareness is beyond birth and beyond death. Timeless awareness is beyond coming and beyond going. Timeless awareness is beyond beginning and beyond ending. Timeless awareness is beyond time. Nonetheless timeless awareness can be experienced with time. Timeless awareness is the Dharmakaya.

Deathless awareness is experienced within life and in life deathless awareness is experienced. This deathless awareness is the experience of Dzogchen. Action, self-arising from within timeless awareness, and manifesting in time is the drama of Dzogchen. Time and timeless in non- duality is the drama of Dzogchen.

Timeless Awareness is the Power of No Thingness

 Primordial timeless awareness which is no thingness and from within this timeless, no thingness of everything and anything can come into being. Timeless awareness manifests the very being of our own embodied self in time. We experience in time from within our own personal sense of timeless awareness that which is both the timeless base and timeless source of time within our own self. Things and events can be manifested in time by our own self-agency. Things can be thought and imagined and events can be created and brought forth as actuality. From within our own self-awareness as timeless awareness, self-agency can bring forth events and things in the actuality of time. This is the creativity of something coming from no thingness of timeless awareness.

As a person lives within timeless awareness and participates within timeless awareness, timeless awareness manifests the being of the person’s own self in time. Then from within the person’s sense of timeless awareness and from within timeless awareness self-agency manifest actuality in time and space.

 Manifestation arises through the different dimensions of awareness in its unfolding in time. Action manifesting from within the timeless stillness of potential space unfolds as the Sambogakaya or the archetypal manifestation, and then there is the manifestation of archetypal configurations becoming time as Nirmanakaya (Ordinary Life).

Deathless awareness is experienced in life, and life is experienced within deathless awareness is an experience of Dzogchen. Action, self-arising from within timeless awareness and manifesting in time is the drama of Dzogchen. Time and timelessness in non-duality is the drama of Dzogchen.

Living in Being as Being

Dzogchen is an ancient form of mystical humanism. We use the phrase mystical humanism because as a person becomes aware of awareness, the field of awareness manifests itself as the field of Being.  And the field of being is manifesting as spaciousness, energy, light and oneness. The experienced of vast spaciousness, the luminous energy and the translucidity of being and the unbound indivisibleness is naturalistic mysticism.

The mysticism of Dzogchen is the mysticism of timeless awareness being manifest in time. This manifestation in time opens for everyone the experience of duality being experienced within non-duality and non-duality being experienced within duality.


The Washington Center for Consciousness Studies and the Washington Center for Phenomenological and Existential Psychotherapy Studies

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Washington Center for Consciousness Studies

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