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Recognition - Sam Harris Daily Meditations 2022.10.24

Sam Harris

The moment you notice that your mind has been captured by thought, just drop back and recognize thought itself

The term "recognition" (to recognise) is key for meditation. There are hundreds of uses of the term in Dan Brown´s "The Stages of Mahamudra Meditation".

What is recognition?

When I recognise an inner event such as a state, a thought or emotion, it means that I do not identify or merge with it. I do not "become" that thought or emotion.

Instead, the thought (or emotion, or sensation) comes into awareness as separate object (initially, of meditation) "arising" from the ground, ideally in the moment it begins to stir. The thought, one could also say, is mirrored by and in awareness.

Various meanings of "recognition"

In the source literature, "recognition" is applied in various meditation skill stages, and to various objects: inner states, thoughts, distractions etc. (Brown 1981, op. 321)

This is an example of the refined definitions of the term "recognition":

From the event-perspective, the other dimension of the practice is called recognition (ngo ’dzin pa). Jampel Pawo describes the goal of the meditation from the event-perspective: Under these conditions the always-here stream of subtle cognition becomes manifest. So it is called the state of recognizing subtle cognition in the knowledge of the arising and passing away of perceived events. (JP, f. 47a) The verb to recognize was also used in the previous skill meditation, during which the practitioner was instructed to recognize distracting coarse-level mental content as it occurred. The resultant knowledge was described with the term clarity (gsal ba). In the present meditation the same verb, to recognize, is used, but in this case it refers to the activity of subtle-level cognition. Subtle cognitions or mind-moments are to be recognized “as they arise.” The resultant knowledge at this stage is described by somewhat different technical terms. Jampel Pawo uses the term brightness (dwangs cha), and Tashi Namgyel uses the term intense clarity (gsal ngar), instead of the simpler term clarity (gsal). Both terms refer to the mind-perspective, in that they refer to the vividness and sharpness by which the mind becomes aware of an object, rather than to the clarity of the perceptual attributes of the object itself.401 The mind is bright and clear prior to any activity that occurs (Brown 2006, p 290)

In wider sense, "recognition" can also applied to the overall recognition of our condition - e.g. as seen by Carse in "Perfect Brilliant Stillness" (Carse 2020, p71) :

The dream is recognized as dream and there is waking to the Real.


Brown, Daniel P. (1981). Mahamudra Meditation-Stages and Contemporary Cognitive Psychology (Dissertation).

This dissertation is a free download. It is a massive, highly technical volume that nevertheless gives an unparallelled insight into the education of a yogi.It draws on the knowledge of cognitive science as of the late 1970s, so it is not the newest in this regard.As compensation, Daniel P Brown gives some insight into the experiments with tachiscopy. to which he still referred in his retreats in 2021.The Universits of Chicago library entry:

Brown, D.P., & Thurman, R. (2006). Pointing Out the Great Way: The Stages of Meditation in the Mahamudra Tradition (Annotated). Wisdom Publications.

Carse, D. (2020, October 3). Perfect Brilliant Stillness AUDIOBOOK FULL David Carse | Ramesh Balsekar | Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj. YouTube.


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