The Conditioned, The Unconditioned, and Consciousness
Religions always point to the relationship of the mortal, or the conditioned, with the Unconditioned. That is, if you strip any religion down to its very basic essence, you will find that it is pointing to where the mortal, the conditioned and time-bound , ceases. In that cessation is the realization and the understanding of the Unconditioned. In Buddhist terminology, it is said that "there is the Unconditioned; and if there were not the Unconditioned, there could not be the conditioned." The conditioned arises and ceases in the Unconditioned, and therefore we can point to the relationship between the conditioned and the Unconditioned. Having been born into a human body we have to live a lifetime under the limitations and conditions of the sensory world. Birth implies that we come forth out of the Unconditioned and manifest in a separate, conditioned form. And this human from implies consciousness. Consciousness always defines a relationship between subject and object, and in Buddhism consciousness is regarded as a discriminative function of the mind. So contemplate this right now. You are sitting there paying attention to these words. This is the experience of consciousness. You can feel the heat in the room, you can see your surroundings, you can hear the sounds. All this implies that you have been born in a human body and for the rest of your life, as long as this body lives, it will have feelings, and consciousness will be arising. This consciousness always creates the impression of a subject and an object, so that when we do not investigate, do not look into the true nature of things, then we become bound to the dualistic view of "I am my body, I am my feelings, I am my consciousness."
Thus, a dualistic attitude arises from consciousness. And then, from our ability to conceive and remember and perceive with our minds, we create a personality. Sometimes we enjoy this personality. Other times we have irrational fears, wrong views, and anxieties about it.
Aspiration of the Human Mind
At the present time, for any society in the materialistic world, much of the human anguish and despair arises from the fact that we don't usually relate ourselves to anything higher than the planet we live on and to our human body. So the aspiration of t he human mind towards an ultimate realization, towards enlightenment, is not really promoted or encouraged in modern society. In fact it often seems to be discouraged. Without this relationship with the higher Truth, our lives become meaningless. We cannot relate to anything beyond the experiences of a human body on a planet, in a mysterious universe, all our life really amounts to is putting in time from birth to death. Then, of course, what is the purpose, what is the meaning of it? And why do we care? Why do we need a purpose? Why must there be a meaning to life? Why do we want life to be meaningful? Why do we have words, concepts, and religions? Why do we have that longing or that aspiration in our minds if all there ever is, or all there ever can be, is this experience based on the view of self? Can it be that this human body, with its conditioning process, simply lands on us fortuitously in a universal system that is beyond our control? We live in a universe that is a mystery to us. We can only wonder about it. We can intuit and gaze at the universe, but we cannot put it into a little capsule. We cannot make it into something in our mind. Therefore, materialistic tendencies in our minds encourage us not to even ask those questions. Or else these tendencies make us interpret all life's experience in the realm of logic or reason, based on the values of materialism and empirical science.
Venerable Ajahn Sumedho