I’ve been thinking about ‘sampajana’. There is so much to say about this quality of ‘clearly knowing’ or comprehending, but there is a lot I find quite mysterious, subtle and difficult to communicate.
What exactly does it mean for something to be clearly known? And how exactly does clear comprehension (another way of translating sampajana) interact with sati, present moment awareness, in a way that supports and augments it?
Clearly comprehending is the factor of mind that is more interested in the bigger picture. It is able to see how the mind works. It has the eye of non conceptual wisdom. I think sampajana is about perspective.
I have a sense of wanting to pull up my hand, palm down, panning back like a camera on zoom. This gesture says something to me about the role of this mental quality. I have been wondering if what I’m talking about as perspective can be expressed through the language of ‘meta’ as in meta analysis. Perhaps a ‘meta view’?
An image that comes to mind of a conductor and orchestra performing in a concert hall. When I’m at a concert, usually my attention is naturally with the music, often picking up on individual sounds from the different instruments. Less frequently my attention will be with the conductor watching how he or she defines the overall sound from each and every musician on the stage.
(I sing in a choir, and one evening when we were finding a particular section of the music tricky, our conductor showed us his score, dense with notation for the 50 instruments he would be conducting besides us. “You think your part is difficult!” he said, and we all laughed.)
The conductor can be a metaphor for clearly knowing. Their attention has to be broad and yet they need to know every detail of the symphony or concerto, whatever it is. The attention needs to be relaxed and flowing with deep feeling for the whole piece. The conductor has to step back from the individual sound or musician and focus more on the overall feel of what she’s hearing, and the relationships between, for instance, the flute and the soloist, or the string section and the French horns.
For the music to work, a million sound ‘moments’, both individual and in relationship to each other move in an indefinable dance.
One example to demonstrate the meaning of the ‘meta’ perspective relates to film reviews. Instead of the film being reviewed and critiqued, the reviews themselves are analysed en masse. This is a step back from the focus being on the content of the film. The role of sampajana involves a similar natural stepping back in order to know the mind, rather than its contents.
Meta analysis it is defined rather dryly as ‘an abstraction behind another concept, that is used to complete or add to the latter’, but it can also mean ‘something of a higher or second order’ in relation to a creative work.
With meditation we’re not talking about concepts becoming more abstracted through the meta view, but experience actually becoming more direct and less concept heavy. Through this ‘knowing’ we see the fleeting perceptions, feelings and internal motivations before they come to fully fledged thought, speech or action. There is a higher or second order of ‘knowing’. We are revealed to ourselves through clear knowing, and here the conductor metaphor reveals its limitations. For there is no conductor, no person or self, but simply a million mind moments in a constantly re-creating pattern, dancing through our own lives.
What do you think? Can you relate to the idea of’ meta view’? Tell me how it lands with you and what you think would bring it more alive.