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No Escaping Isvara
Theresa: Sundari, thank you very much for your reply. I am truly delighted, appreciate your help and I will study what you wrote in detail. Currently I am on a project to read all the satsangs, one or two first thing each day. In future communications on Vedanta I will use its terminology.
Sundari: I am glad to be of service to you and I am happy to hear that you are reading the e-satsangs at ShiningWorld. There may be many repetitions because people ask the same questions in many different ways; however the e-satsangs are a gold mine of high-level Vedanta as it works in the lives of those who are ready to hear it and have understood enough to ask the right questions.
Using the correct terminology for Vedanta is not about learning how to master a technique. It is about learning the language of self-knowledge: The ability to understand and speak the truth without interpreting it according to your own conditioning. The reason why Vedanta is so insistent on the correct usage of words is to eliminate interpretation and misinterpretation.
The main teachings of Vedanta are found in the Upanishads, the Brahma Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita. The Vedas and the ancient tradition of Vedanta are part of the Sanatana Dharma (the Eternal Way), which originated in what is now called India, but was once called Bharat, meaning the Land of Light, between 6,000 to 7,000 years ago. This point has been argued by many scholars but most agree that the Vedas are at least 3,500 years old, making Vedanta the oldest scriptural teaching on the planet.
Even though the methodology or means of knowledge Vedanta uses to teach was developed and perfected by Indians, most recently by Sri Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th century AD, and is accredited to Hinduism, it is not a belief system, a religion, a philosophy or a “system of thought” – as it is often portrayed by those who do not understand it. All beliefs and philosophical ideas are subjective interpretations based on dualistic thinking (ignorance). So is scientific thinking, as much as it claims to be unbiased. The word Vedanta literally means self-knowledge or the search that ends the search for Knowledge, and as such, it is not specific to any culture, creed or race. There is only one awareness and it has no qualities, so self-knowledge “belongs” to everyone. There is no substitute for it, no “superior” path, if Vedanta is considered a path, which it is not. Vedanta is the Knowledge that underpins all knowledge and all paths because it is the knowledge of the substrate out of which everything arises, upon which everything depends and into which everything dissolves.
Words are also used very specifically because Vedanta employs the implied meanings of words to teach, as I explained to you in our last email. Unfortunately the way language has developed and is used is so open to interpretation, misinterpretation and the contamination of one’s own conditioning, that it is very often the greatest source of misunderstandings. Vedanta is called a sabda pramana, the oral or spoken testimony of competent witnesses (a valid means of knowledge) meaning that the words are time-tested, impersonal and they work to remove ignorance IF the mind is qualified and ready to hear the truth.
Self-knowledge is not personal truth. It is THE truth that consciousness, the Creator, the creation and the individual are one, although they exist in apparently different orders of reality. Vedanta is also referred to as “brahma vidya,” the science of consciousness, which is the science of life insofar as life is consciousness. Vedanta predates all known religious or philosophical paths because it is based on the irreducible and irrefutable logic of human experience, which has always been the same, in spite of changing conditions.
It may not matter what you call Vedanta, but it certainly does matter that you understand that the subject matter, self-knowledge, is you, awareness. What is unique about Vedanta is that if offers a valid means of knowledge with which to remove ignorance. Because the mind is conditioned by the vasanas, unless it is exposed to self-knowledge and the teachings are unfolded and taught correctly by a qualified teacher, it is very difficult, if not impossible, for the mind to be freed of ignorance. There are the very rare souls like Ramana who actualised the self without much teaching, but he was steeped in a culture which was very conducive to self-inquiry.
We have and have had many brilliant minds in the West over the centuries that have realised the self without being formerly taught Vedanta – after all, any truth that points to the truth of one’s true nature is self-knowledge. However, without the means of knowledge – karma yoga (surrendering the results of action), jnana yoga (self-inquiry), triguna vibhava yoga (the guna/Isvara teaching) and bhakti yoga (devotional practice) – it is almost impossible to actualise self-knowledge. There is no other teaching available that offers this means of knowledge other than Vedanta – and if there is, then it was derived from Vedantic teachings.
Vedanta is unlike any other known doctrinal or scriptural knowledge in that it is not the revealed “word” of an exalted deity as interpreted by man, nor the contention of any person or persons. Vedantic scriptures are called sruti, “that which is heard.” Sruti is knowledge that is revealed to the human mind, not interpreted by it. A good example of revealed knowledge is Einstein’s discovery of the laws of relativity or gravity, or Thomas Edison’s discoveries concerning his electrical inventions. Discover means to uncover. Gravity and the law of relativity describe how the world works according to the laws of physics. Einstein did not invent gravity or relativity. Edison did not invent electricity either; it was always here, until it was “discovered.” Gravity, relativity and electricity functions the same way whether they are understood or not, nor do they care whether you believe in them or not. It is the same with self-knowledge: It is always here, right in front of our noses. But because we are blinded by ignorance, i.e. duality, we do not see it.
Theresa: I greatly respect James. I think he knows something worth knowing and has an excellent teaching ability. I have never met him, have no way to verify he is teaching Vedanta and it does not matter to me what it is called. Mainly I am interested in the truth in a deep sense.
Sundari: You are very fortunate to have come across James. It is not your doing but grace alone that brings one to the truth. James is one of the very few pure Vedanta teachers alive today that are the real deal. He is part of the most ancient lineage, the Sampradaya or great tradition of Vedanta. There are many so called Vedanta teachers – the spiritual world abounds with people who think they know a great deal and “teach” from that perspective – but what they teach is mostly ignorance based on their own interpretations and taken to be knowledge. The most important thing you can understand right off the bat is that Vedanta is not James’ teaching. He has no teaching, no beliefs.
What James knows is that he is awareness.
Unless you are using self-knowledge, any method you could use to verify what he says would be based in ignorance, even though it may contain aspects of the truth. This is because what he teaches, self-knowledge, is independent of him and cannot be argued with because it is the irrefutable logic of existence, of your own true nature. He is a qualified teacher of Vedanta and because he is so skilled at doing so and such a great soul, he leaves a trail of happiness wherever he goes. He has taught all of us who write for Shining World. I wish you could see the multitude of testimonials we receive almost daily; truly amazing. Vedanta sets people free of bondage, free of suffering and changes their lives permanently for the better. Nothing else has the power to do that. James’ contribution to the tradition will be felt for many, many years to come. He is a pure, uncontaminated voice for awareness. He is also very at home being a normal person, like everyone else. I hope you do get to meet him one day, but it does not matter if you do not.
Theresa: For clarification, what I wrote was not written to its first intended reader as a condensation of Vedanta nor was it promoted as Vedanta or something I learned from Shining World or James Swartz, but as a plausible explanation of how happiness is a knowledge problem, provided the right definition of happiness, which is the catch. This is because the person addressed asked me the question “Why is happiness a knowledge problem?” Afterwards on reviewing it I realized that much of it was based on a study of Vedanta and I thought it would be good/interesting to send it to you as a courtesy.
Sundari: If you know that it is knowledge and not experience that sets you free, then you have understood the core teaching of Vedanta, which is what James explains in How to Attain Enlightenment. Chapter 2 of HTAE is possibly the most important chapter and why the book is a bestseller. It rocked the spiritual world because no one was teaching it. It is a teaching that has set James apart because he has brought so much emphasis to this most vital understanding. Without this understanding, discrimination of what is real from what is only apparently real is not possible. Therefore, permanent happiness is not possible and neither is freedom from bondage to objects.
Theresa: It also draws on study of natural sciences, primarily physics, psychology, mathematical discovery, a course in perception that I took, studies in Sufism and Taoism, and meditation: Basically over 40 years of personal research in a variety of areas.
Sundari: Yes, I could see that how you explained your point and used language was based on your own understanding and interpretations drawn from many different sources. You are clearly an erudite person with a good mind who has been in the spiritual world for a long time. This is true of most people who find their way to Vedanta. The problem with this though is that many people in this situation think they know a lot and it is very difficult for them to let go of their own opinions. The ego is invested in what they think they know (which is often quite a lot) but it is usually knowledge mixed with some ignorance. Or even worse, it is often ignorance taken to be knowledge. If freedom from ignorance is what one is truly after, in order to engage in true self-inquiry using Vedanta as a valid means of knowledge, your opinions and beliefs need to be put on the shelf, temporarily. You can take them back if you are convinced they are better, but for self-inquiry to work, faith in the scripture is of paramount importance. Not blind faith, mind you, but faith pending the outcome of your own investigation.
Theresa: One of James’ tenets is adaptation to the person/audience and what I wrote reflects that because it was adapted to communicate to someone whom I have never met and with an unknown background except that I knew he is quite bright intellectually, and as German probably has had a good Western education. I chose my words quite carefully but within a context with which you may not be familiar because of some things I learned from his website, namely that he had tried making a lot of money but that did not bring happiness; he had studied Western philosophers and he believes in technology as the main cause of economic progress leading to increased standard of living and therefore better quality of life.
Sundari: Yes, it is very important if one wants to be of help to identify the core issue and then reply in a way that the person can relate to. However, in Vedanta, if the mind is not qualified, there is no point teaching and we do not venture there. Vedanta is not a hard sell, and our job as wielders of self-knowledge is not to argue with anyone or to try to convince them. This is because as Vedanta teachers we teach the self as the self, not the ego as an ego. We see everyone who comes to us as the self, talking either in self-ignorance of in self-knowledge. If the mind that seeks help is still too conditioned by ignorance, then it is not yet qualified to hear the truth. It can only hear through the filters of its conditioning, so there is no point teaching it. Isvara very seldom brings people to Vedanta that are not ready for it. There is much out there that passes for Vedanta, but the real thing finds you – you don’t find it. Like I said, it is grace that brought you to James.
Theresa: For example, Nietzsche wrote of a revaluation of values in Beyond Good and Evil which is why I brought it up, and it may be considered a technical phrase in a philosophical context. Then I made a point about “standard of living” to address his view as expressed on his website.
Sundari: Nietzsche was a great thinker and like many such minds was enamoured of his own opinions, and identified with being the thinker. He had no teaching of the self and no means of self-knowledge.
Theresa: When I wrote that there is “no way to get under awareness to something more fundamental,” I was speaking like a physicist describing the fundamental unified field, as Einstein might put it. This phraseology was adapted from a quote from Max Planck, to whom the discovery of quantum mechanics was recognized with a Nobel prize: “I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”
Sundari: The Planck scale is an interesting metaphor for awareness. The problem with science is that it represents the mind’s best effort to figure out the objective truth of the material reality – within the confines of the apparent reality. Therefore with reference to self-knowledge, science like religion and philosophy is flawed, a prisoner of a methodology that is based on perception and inference of objects alone. Physics tries to be unbiased and avoid the “soft” sciences of philosophy and psychology by employing double-blind experiments that establish knowledge independent of the scientist. But it avoids consciousness altogether because it is attached to its epistemology, the senses. It is limited to interpretations or assumptions inherent in its methodology.
There are very few empirical facts in science; most scientific knowledge is based on theories about impermanent phenomena. Science may not be as blind and dogmatic as religion, which it detests, but it is blind nonetheless. As valuable as science has been in producing technology that has given us the lifestyles we enjoy today, for the most part it falls into the religious trap insofar as it refuses to re-examine its erroneous and/or incomplete assumptions about the nature of reality, particularly its refusal to investigate consciousness.
To quote Scott Tyson, a famous scientist and thinker: “Neither the scientific method nor the body of scientific knowledge we accept as truth nor our understanding of the world we live in can be accepted as static… if truth is seriously our goal. The quest for truth cannot be separated from the need for constant re-examination of the methods, assumptions and interpretations upon which our perception of reality is based.”
nonetheless true, the problem with his idea is: Upon what does one
re-examination of the facts? Unless we have a means of knowledge that views life from the perspective of consciousness, we are stuck in the apparent reality and the best we can come up with is relative truth. The belief in duality is so powerful it deludes and entrains the mind. We are like fleas kept in a jar with the lid on for some time. When the lid is removed, the fleas are unable to jump out because they have unconsciously made a cognitive commitment to the belief that there is a lid on the jar.
Science uses certain standardized methods of measurement to gain information on any given topic, the main aim being to determine consistency of results in their data. However, scientific measurement does not hold up with regard to consciousness because science does not understand Isvara or take the gunas into account. The laws of science as they are understood are therefore very limited and will remain so, no matter how much progress is made or enlightened the science, until consciousness is taken into account and Isvara understood. Science has nonetheless had a big impact on our current worldview, and Vedanta has no quarrel with it as a means of knowledge for objects, but it is not a valid means of knowledge for consciousness.
The mandate for science is to observe and measure the material universe. In order for something to qualify as worthy of study, it must have properties that are observable and measureable. The means of knowledge for science are perception and inference, and they are not intended to be used for anything other than objects. While the teaching on the appearance of the creation and what it signifies as taught by Vedanta definitely would not interest most physicists, in fact quantum physics – the prevailing theory in science and what it points to – is saying exactly what Vedanta is saying. What quantum physics points to is that consciousness is the substrate and that material reality is not material, but made up of consciousness.
Quantum physics proves that the observation of an object can instantaneously influence the behaviour or another greatly distant object, even if no physical force is exerted, quaintly called “entanglement.” That this points to the reality of non-duality does not occur to the scientist of course! Quantum physics proves that objects can be in two places at one time and the object only becomes an actuality upon its observation. Worst of all, the real skeleton in the closet of science is that quantum physics denies the existence of a physically real world independent of its observation, a very uncomfortable fact which stares science unblinkingly in the face, however much it wants to pretend it is not there.
In the words of Pascual Jordan, one of the founders of quantum theory: “Observations not only disturb what is measured, they produce it.” What is interesting is that quantum physics as a theory works perfectly whether or not one believes what it proves, which is exactly what Vedanta says about consciousness. The practical applications of quantum physics have changed our world, yet what quantum physics is shouting out and pointing to – that consciousness is the substrate – all but falls on deaf ears. The scientists who have opened up about the quandary that quantum physics poses to science (Amit Goswami, The Self Aware Universe; Robert Lanza, Biocentrism; Scott M. Tyson, The Unobservable Universe; and others) still miss the point, believing that the independent observer is a mind that is conscious, instead of understanding that the mind is an object known to consciousness, the one (and only) observer. The mind being no more than an inert lens through which consciousness is projected.
Many New Age theories have arisen around the same misunderstanding of quantum physics, creating pseudo-scientific nonsense, books like The Secret abound peddling the interpretation of quantum physics that one can influence or control the physical world with one’s thoughts and actions. On this score, Vedanta agrees entirely with the scientist’s abhorrence of such ideas, if not for the same reasons. As stated, Vedanta reveals that although the apparent reality is not real, it does exist and it is run by the laws or dharmas that govern it. Whether one is self-realised or not, these laws apply to you. Isvara’s creation takes the whole field of existence into account and cannot be manipulated at will, as explained by the teaching of karma yoga. Karma yoga is an attitude one applies to any thought word or action: You can take appropriate action in any given situation to maximize the chance of getting the result you desire, but you are not in charge of the results. The field of existence (Isvara) is in charge.
The truth is that the real quantum enigma is more bizarre and more profound than what the scientific or spiritual scenes make of it. At the boundary where physics no longer compels consensus, the meaning of quantum physics is hotly controversial and hotly debated; unfortunately, not with a means of knowledge that could explain it all, such as Vedanta. More and more scientists are coming out of the closet, so to speak, to speak about it. Quite a few famous scientists have looked to the East for answers, like Erwin Schrödinger who flirted with Vedanta. Unfortunately, without self-knowledge, science as it is presently practised along with all other interpretations of truth will continue to miss the point.
To quote scientist Eugene Wigner, Noble prizewinner for his contribution to quantum mechanics and nuclear physics: “When the province of physical theory was extended to encompass microscopic phenomena through the creation of quantum physics, the concept of consciousness came to the fore. It was not possible to formulate the laws of quantum physics in a fully consistent way without reference to consciousness.”
Theresa: According to Western science, human perception can only detect differences, some of which may be in time. Therefore change, internal or external, is needed to perceive anything and to condense that, change is needed for perception (to occur). Change is not commonly said to be required for the faculty of perception to exist, although it is usually attributed only to living organisms, and which are characterized as always in a dynamic equilibrium, i.e. always changing internally, as in mammalian homeostasis. Therefore it appears that change is required even for the faculty of perception to exist according to modern Western science. The eyes of most animals with image-forming visual systems make small, frequent movements unconsciously (saccadic movement) to improve resolution and form 3D images by creating change in the visual field. Physiology is commonly defined as the study of function in living organisms and I used it in a general sense in reference to perception which is also commonly thought to be a function of such organisms. More precisely, perception is usually considered to be a psycho-neuro- physiological function, but that commits a longevity of word extravagance. In this respect I used physiology from a physical body-mind viewpoint. I know it is all maya, smoke and mirrors.
Sundari: All perception and inference (which includes hearing, seeing, tasting, touching, smelling) happens in the mind because all experience takes place there. The mind and intellect, the subtle organs of perception (the ability to hear, see, smell, touch and taste), the gross organs of perception – eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin – and our organs of action are our means of knowledge for objects. As previously stated, awareness is not an object of perception so cannot be known by these means.
When a tree falls in a forest, unless there is an ear present to hear it, there is no sound. Although the falling tree will disturb atoms and cause vibration, acoustic vibration alone is insufficient to produce sound. Sensors are needed (functioning ears) to convert acoustic vibration into electrical impulses. A processor (the central nervous system in a functioning brain behind the ears) processes the impulses – and the intellect makes sense of the sensory information. Sound is a result of perception.
Sight is the same. Light is one form of electromagnetic energy. The light spectrum splits into visible light; we do not “see” light but waves of energy. These electromagnetic waves reach our sensors (the eyes) in the form of photons (the carriers of the electromagnetic force) and which get absorbed by special cells that line the retina of the eye. This produces corresponding electro-chemical signals that are sent to the visual cortex where the information is interpreted and then processed as sight. Without an observer with the proper sensory equipment operating in the right range of the light spectrum, which has the ability to convert the electromagnetic waves to perception, there is no light.
Everything in the apparent reality is based on perception. It is the same with all the other senses. And it is the same with every other object. There is no “real” world “out there” or “in here.” Without an observer, there is no perception. Without awareness, there are no objects to perceive.
Time and causality are simply objects known to awareness. Time is the measurement of change from one experience to the next. The presence of maya makes the changeless appear to be changing, i.e. the apparent reality. Causality is another word for Isvara because when you understand how the field of existence functions, you will see that there is no other doer. The gunas are what bring the creation into existence, what govern the creation of all vasanas, what condition the mind and are the cause behind all experience. And we say that Isvara is a doer as a way of speaking because actually, no one is doing anything, from awareness’ point of view.
Theresa: When I wrote that happiness is a feeling, I simply used a word that my German reader could understand and close enough for continuity of my argument. Perhaps that is mistaken and I could have said it is the absence of gross and subtle inclinations. Personally I do not experience true happiness as a feeling and could rightfully say that I do not experience it at all. It is like water with no taste or like being on solid ground, or centered, as some put it. It could be called confidence with no thought (doubt), but for me to call it confidence would be boasting. “Feeling” is one of those words with many meanings.
Sundari: Having confidence in self-knowledge is not boasting, when you know that your true nature is awareness; in fact, it is essential and the mark of a self-realised person. People with enlightenment sickness proclaim that they are enlightened (or whatever else they believe gives them credibility or status) because the ego has co-opted the knowledge, or because it is simply ignorance speaking. The spiritual arena is full of more BS than almost any other place. A self-actualised person will never make any claims or statements about being “enlightened.” They will simply say, “I am awareness,” if asked. This is because they know that being enlightened is no big deal and not something anyone can gain. It is their true nature, revealed by the removal of ignorance by self-knowledge, not by the ego.
There is no need to prove anything when you know because everything is seen as you: What is there to prove? When you understand that everything in the apparent reality belongs to Isvara and not to the mind or ego, the ego no longer has a leg to stand on (metaphorically speaking!). I mentioned in my last email to you that it seemed to me that you lack clarity about the major teaching in Vedanta, which is Isvara, the gunas and the jiva. Isvara is the power, the intelligence and the material behind life, the cycling and the recycling. The process is impersonal although the person (awareness under the spell of ignorance), identified with his or her “story,” makes it personal.
The main aim of Vedanta is to prove that non-dual consciousness is the nature of reality and to reveal that the self is consciousness. The main purpose of Vedanta is not to explain the creation. However, one cannot understand the true nature of reality without understanding the creation or the forces that run it. Vedanta deconstructs the creation in the light of self-knowledge, the knowledge of consciousness. Like other sciences, Vedanta is an objective and scientific analysis of the facts, with one big difference in that Vedanta dissolves the subject/object split by revealing the belief that the subject (consciousness) and the objects you experience are two different things, is false.
I have attached two articles (including a satsang from James) I wrote on the teaching on the gunas, Isvara and the jiva, the broad strokes of books James and I are writing on this vital teaching, so I will not go into the gunas here. James has explained this teaching very well in How to Achieve Englightenment.
Briefly, sattva – the energy of revelation or intelligence, knowledge, peace, clarity, fullness – is the nature of the mind. Rajas – the energy of projection – is the energy of action, desire. Tamas – the energy of physical matter – is the energy of dullness, depression, laziness (to name a few). All three gunas make up the psychological order of reality or Isvara and they all have an upside and a downside.
As stated, the gunas are what make up and cause the conditioning of the mind, the vasanas. This is also called ignorance or maya. In order to be free of one’s conditioning and end existential suffering, one must understand and dissolve one’s conditioning in the light of self-knowledge. Nothing else works, if freedom is what you are after. This is why thinkers such as Nietzsche and most other great thinkers through the ages missed the point. They thought they could work out the truth using the mind, their own thinking. They believed their great ideas belonged to them, the ego. They did not know that the mind is inert, an object known to awareness. Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am.” See the problem? He never asked himself: “Who is the knower of the one who thinks?”
Unless the gunas and Isvara are understood, self-knowledge does not take place.
So, this is a long answer to a short question: The nature of the mind is sattva and it does not feel like anything. Any feeling, like any thought, is an object known to you. Sattva can be experienced as a feeling, such as peace, clarity, fullness, etc. As awareness you are the knower of the feeling and not attached to it because you are the knower of sattva. To say that you do not experience happiness is impossible. It is your nature; you are always experiencing it, even if it is covered up by rajas and tamas. Every human being desires to live harmoniously, without suffering and to enjoy life. The basic motivation for liberation is happiness and peace of mind, which is why one wants to remove self-ignorance, the cause of all suffering.
One cannot gain sattva through any action (although one can maximize the possibility of peace of mind appearing through appropriate actions such as self-inquiry, meditation, yoga, a correct or dharmic lifestyle, etc.) because one cannot gain something one already is. Just like you cannot become more aware, you can only become less ignorant by the removal of ignorance from the mind by self-knowledge. When rajas and tamas, which are the two main troublemakers, are brought into balance with sattva, peace of mind is automatically experienced because it has been there all along, covered by ignorance.
There is nothing wrong with feelings. The only time they become a problem is when they become your mode of thinking and way of relating to your environment. If one is totally identified with one’s feelings and has made up a big story around them, the intellect is then in the employ of the most unreliable and unstable means of knowledge, and suffering is guaranteed.
That said, why seek freedom if you don’t want to feel good? Vedanta makes only one assumption: That you seek freedom simply because you are tired of suffering and want to feel happy – peaceful. Most people don’t know how to do this and go to the most ridiculous extremes to gain and to experience what they already are, because they believe an experience will make them happy.
The availability or unavailability of desired objects is what causes the agitation and suffering. There is a saying: “There are two ways to be unhappy: Getting what you want and not getting what you want.” So if happiness is not in getting, where is it? It is my experience and the contention of Vedanta that the fundamental cause of mental and emotional turmoil is lack of self-knowledge. Vedanta simply removes the ignorance from the mind revealing that peace and happiness (which may or may not be experienced as a feeling) are your true nature and you cannot gain them or lose them. You are whole and complete, unchanging, limitless awareness. You are the fullness that requires nothing to be complete.
From this standpoint, you can enjoy duality for what it is – apparently real. It does not disappear just because you know it is not real. Duality is only a problem if you don’t know what it is and take it to be real. You know that the joy is not in the object but in you, so you do not seek objects to complete you. Objects do have a kind of bliss, just not the lasting kind. So you enjoy them without expecting them to deliver something they are incapable of (and you no longer need). How else could we enjoy this beautiful creation we are a part of? Life is exquisite from the self’s point of view.
Theresa: When I wrote that awareness is a capability of knowing, I meant that it is a potential for knowing, not that it knows or does. In other words, without it knowing is not possible. Thanks for correcting me on this and providing suitable phrasing. I think “capability of knowing” could imply a knower, but not a doer, if knowing and doing are distinguished as they are in James’ teachings.
Sundari: “Capability of knowing” implies ability, whereas the nature of awareness is simply knowing. The distinction in Vedanta is always the discrimination between experience and knowledge, the real and the apparent, sattya and mithya. Awareness is the knower of both. Vedanta considers the knower a particular type of doer, although awareness is the Knower of the knower.
Theresa: I really have no word for awareness and would rather not name it because it seems to me that is has no name. To name it is to objectify it. This is sort of like using “null” to represent “nothing” in computer science.
The name is a linguistic convenience for communication but it may be misleading because people have preconceived notions about what awareness and consciousness mean, which may hinder communication as well. As Nisargadatta put it, it is literally “inconceivable.” So how could it be named? Taoists have called it the “uncarved block,” which means formless.
Sundari: Why don’t you call it “me”? To not name it “you” is to objectify awareness. It does not matter what you call awareness because all words are known to you, so pick one that works for you, knowing that it refers to you, awareness. Your name “Theresa” is a name that refers to awareness. Everything refers to awareness because there is nothing else. Say “I am awareness” and know what that means. Quite simple.
Theresa: I expect that awareness is never going to bite me on the nose and shout “I am awareness.” And if and when it does, then I will feel right to call it awareness, and use it anyway in the meantime.
Sundari: Do you see how you are objectifying yourself, awareness? Awareness does not have to “bite you on the nose” because you are only ever experiencing awareness. The fact that you (apparently) have a nose is because you are aware. If not, the nose and the body are no more. It is the most obvious thing, awareness: We call it The Royal Secret because it is always staring you right in the face (like your nose), but still it goes unnoticed.
Theresa: I am not sure what you mean by understanding Isvara and the jiva-Isvara-awareness identity and think it means knowing identity with everything. How could it be otherwise if awareness is non-dual? I will do inquiry and investigation into this.
Sundari: That is exactly why you need to understand the identity between awareness-Isvara-jiva: in order to understand what non-dual means. Understanding that you are a person and what it means to be a person is pretty simple. Understanding that your true identity is awareness and not the person with a name and a story is also pretty obvious, providing the mind is qualified. Where most people get stuck is in understanding what that means for the person. In order to understand one’s conditioning, to negate the doer and render the binding vasanas non-binding, one has to understand the gunas, maya and Isvara. There is no way around this. The Neo-Advaitins and many others have tried to skip this part by simply saying that the person and the objects do not exist. But they do exist. And you can experience them.
So what does that existence mean? What does “apparently real” really mean? As I said before, freedom means liberation from the idea of being a person in order that as a person, you live free of suffering. The person never leaves the apparent reality. The self is already free. What stands in between (so to speak, because there really is nothing “in between” from awareness’ point of view) is Isvara, the causal body.
I have tried to explain this to you in our last email and again in this email. Please read the articles I have attached and then write to me if you need further assistance. There is some repetition in them, but they will all give you a slight different perspective.
Theresa: I understand that all appearances are in my mind and there is neither separation between it and awareness, nor between my mind and objects appearing in it. James provided some exercises to demonstrate this in Atma Darshan and Atma Nivritti.
Sundari: Correct. Atma Darshan and Atma Nivritti are texts written by the Sri Atmananda, and taught by James. The mind or subtle body is where all experience takes place. This is called the experiencing entity or person. As duality is a superimposition onto non-duality, there really is only one mind or subtle body. The experiencing witness is the witness with qualities (the gunas), i.e. Isvara. The non-experiencing witness of both the experiencing entity (jiva) and the experiencing witness (Isvara) is without qualities, awareness, you.
Theresa: However, when going out in the world I do not feel quite one with everything which means that I have not yet actualized this understanding.
Sundari: Yes, your understanding still needs some work. You are doing really well; keep up the good work and let us know is there is any way we can help you with your self-inquiry.
Sundari: Om shanti.