Search & Read
Why and How?
Let’s take a look at two very pesky obstacles in the search for the simple, obvious, ever-free you. WHY and HOW. In general, any time you see them, label them what they are, doubts, and dispatch them with inquiry.
Specifically, watch out for two of their most devious forms. The first goes like this: “Okay, so if I am pure awareness, then WHY this whole creation?” The second is: “If all things are only awareness (non-dual), then HOW can this creation even happen?” Right?
Those WHY and HOW questions lead us on long, fascinating diversions. The keyword here is “diversions” – if you are a self-inquirer and want to realize your true identity as this-right-now-as-you-read-these-words-awareness.
These questions come from the idea that when you are enlightened you will understand everything. Which means that if you don’t understand everything about this creation, like how and why it came to be, then you can’t be enlightened. Which then leads you into the trap of trying to understand this creation so that you can get enlightened. They’re super sneaky because they’re so convincing. It definitely seems to make sense that if you were really enlightened then you would understand the why and how of it all.
But it’s not true. It’s magical thinking, which the mind excels at. Now don’t take my word. This obstacle is too pervasive. You have to work it out on your own, and you should because the mind will not stop trying to pull you into these Gordian knots. Ever.
The whole function of the mind is to understand things, that’s what it’s programed to do. Get information, organize it and understand it. So, of course, it wants to understand its source.
But it can’t. The mind only has certain functions and is limited to sight, smell, taste, touch, sound, feeling and thought. The self can’t be known with any of those.
Imagine a computer genius who creates a really smart computer program. The computer program can organize, process and analyze information to create more understanding. But it simply cannot look back at its programmer and understand him.
The mind doesn’t know this, however, so it keeps trying to convince you that it’s really important you help it figure out every last WHY and HOW.
Since the mind will not stop with this nonsense, the only way to be free of it is to stop believing it, and the only way to do that authentically is to resolve the questions. So are these questions about this creation important or not?
If you can dispatch the questions with the simple inquiry that they are known to you, do it. That’s ideal because it’s fast, no messing around. But you have to be honest. You may be solid with that inquiry but does it really unhook the attachment to those questions? If not, then we need to find the inquiry that will. Try this one:
As you read these words, notice your computer. It’s an object that is known to you, right? Observe how you experience that right now. There is the computer, and there is the knowing of it. Now look at the wall behind your computer. Very similar experience, right? There is the wall, and there is the knowing of the wall. Now look at the question: “How is this creation possible?” It’s a thought. Observe the thought/question. Again, there is the thought/question, and there is the knowing of that thought.
The computer, the wall and the thought have different properties, so you have different experiences as you observe each. But the knowing part is the same for each, isn’t it?
You can’t directly see the knowing part like you can the wall but you can clearly be aware of it. That’s exactly what it should be like. Trust that. It’s reliable. It’s your direct experience.
The knowing that observes the computer is the same knowing that observes the wall, which is the same knowing that observes the thought. Right? Look at the computer and be aware of the knowing of it. Now look at the wall and be aware of the knowing of it. Now look at the question and be aware of the knowing of it.
The thing that is known changes but the knowing part does not change.
Now that knowing part – does it ask questions? Does the knowing part you’re observing ask questions? No. You can see from your own experience that the knowing part does not have questions. In fact, it doesn’t have anything that you could describe. It just is. You can absolutely be aware of it but you can’t describe it.
If you’re confused or lost, don’t worry. That’s how inquiry works. Some investigations come easily, others are a struggle and others don’t work. So don’t sweat it but do come back to this specific inquiry after you’ve had good progress on easier ones.
If you can follow this entire inquiry, that’s very good because the knowing part that you’ve clearly identified is you. It is what you are looking for. It is the self. It is brahman. It is the atman. It is the all that is. It is pure awareness. It is consciousness. It is the simple, obvious, ordinary, everyday, actionless, pure, peaceful, content, eternal you.
You won’t get a blast of happiness from hearing this because the knowing part seems totally bland, not exciting. Like we said, there’s nothing to describe. Don’t worry, it gets better once you know it’s you. But it actually is you. So the next time you think “I don’t know exactly what the self is,” correct yourself. Now you do, and that’s significant.
Coming back to the WHY and HOW questions about creation: are they important? Well, they exist in the mind as thoughts but they don’t exist in you, the knowing. So if what you want is you, then the questions are only diversions because they can never take you past the mind.
The goal of all inquiry is to turn your awareness away from all of the things that are known, all objects, and focus on that which knows those objects, the knowing. The inquiry above does that very directly and therefore may be more challenging then more obvious inquiries. If you don’t get it 100%, or if you do but you’re disenchanted by its effect on you, know that being aware of the knowing part, even in the form of searching, is the absolute core of self-inquiry.
Turn your attention to the knowing part all of the time. Everything in the world and every thought in the mind can serve to help you observe more the knowing, no matter what it is. First you’ll see it never changes, it’s always the same. Then you’ll see it always is, it’s never not there. Next you’ll see that all things fall within its scope; it has to be there first for anything else to be. And finally, you’ll see that you are obviously it and obviously always have been.
“You are always the witness. But you need not attempt deliberately to take the role of a witness. Only take note of the fact that you are always the witness. You are asked to strengthen the conviction that you are the knower, in order to counteract the old beliefs that you are the doer, enjoyer, etc. You are only to argue in your mind how you are always the real knower and repeat the arguments over and over again. The time will come when the arguments will become unnecessary and a mere thought will take you to the conclusion. Gradually, you will find that even when you do not think about the Truth and whether you are engaged or not engaged in activities, you will feel without feeling that you are always the witness and that you are not affected by any activity or inactivity of the mind and senses in the relative sphere. Witnessing is silent awareness. Do not try to make it active in any way.” ~ Atmananda