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You Can’t Experience Awareness
Ram: Hi, Ed. Thanks for the clear and well-organized letter. I’ll make a few comments, some things to think about before we speak.
Ed: I want to “feel” awareness. I read about the non-dualistic mind and understand, yet when I pray or meditate I want to really “feel” awareness. This is how I experience the feeling of connectedness to all beings, the unified field. I’d like to walk in that feeling besides intellectually knowing it.
Ram: I know what you mean, but “feeling” awareness not actually possible. Why? Because you can only “feel” (meaning experience) something that is other than yourself, the subject. Experience (feeling) is the result of a transaction between a subject and an object. The subject, “I,” sees, knows, feels hears, senses something other than it and then the knowledge of the object arises in the mind.
What is the nature of the subject? It is awareness. You, Ed, are awareness, the subject. Ed is just a name for the subject, awareness. It does not refer to a special unique person. There are no unique people. There is only one subject, one “person.” So how is the subject going to experience itself? It is not going to experience itself, because it is itself.
Yet it can be “experienced” in this sense: it is self-luminous, self-aware, self-knowing. Is there any doubt that you exist? There is not. You do not need something other than yourself to “feel” you, to tell you that you exist. This problem of experiencing the self, awareness, the “I,” is rather like taking a flashlight out in the middle of the day to see if you can see the sun. The sun is already shining. It is shining on the flashlight and it is shining on you even before you try to see it.
Let’s assume, however, that you can “feel” awareness. Of course this presupposes that you are not already feeling it. But is this true? If this is actually a non-dual reality then everything here is nothing but awareness in some form. And because you are always experiencing something you are always experiencing awareness. What is the problem then? The problem is that you do not know what awareness is. So the right question is “what is awareness?”
It is strange that people have a desire to experience something that they are already experiencing. The problem with formulating the spiritual quest in terms of experience is that experience by its very nature is always changing. Even if you could experience awareness you would unexperience it at some point. Why? Because every experience takes place in time, it changes. Experience is permanent but there is no permanent experience. Furthermore, the experiencer, unless it is awareness, is always changing as a result of the experiences it has. So it eventually becomes satisfied with a particular experience and loses interest in it and wants to experience something else. The experience of awareness is only interesting until you know what awareness, your own self, is. Then it becomes boring because you have been you all along. And you have never changed.
Yes, it is nice to “walk in the feeling of connectedness,” as you say, but why does the feeling of connectedness stop? You don’t want it to stop. But you have no control over it. This is the way it is with experience. Nobody can control it. It is the result of the vasanas, impersonal subconscious forces that are conditioned by time, meaning they are in a state of constant flux. So all these wonderful spiritual feelings end. What is the use of wanting to experience something that is going to end unless you are indifferent to its eventual demise?
So to solve the existential riddle you need to think about things differently. You need to see that experience is not the way to go. What is the way to go? The way to go is to remove the ignorance you have about awareness. You can’t get awareness, because you are awareness. But you can be unclear about awareness and about its relationship to you. How do you remove this ignorance? Just as a patient goes to a doctor because he or she cannot treat his or her illness, a person who is suffering the disease of self-ignorance needs to go to a teacher and have a discussion with the idea of getting clear about who he or she is. It so happens that once or twice a year somebody comes to me to find out who they are and usually they find out during our communication. This is not because I’m in any way special, but because I learned the ancient method of removing self-ignorance by having it worked on me by my guru. So if you can think about this question of experience perhaps we can discuss it.
Ed: India represents to me a “field” of energy where it would be more natural to feel the awareness described in your website satsangs and personal meetings with you. Short of India, I can simply go to nature and experience this “feeling” you describe in your “unlocking the code” document as devotional energy in the temples.
Ram: This is true. India is a very intense field of spiritual energy and it is extremely conducive to spiritual work. I hope you decide to come.
Ed: And maybe most important, I’d like to hang around with you and soak in your rich understanding of India, the people and energies. You once said to me that my attraction to India is understandable and obvious – or something like that – and I’d like to investigate your awareness in this area.
Ram: Yes, please come. It is no big deal. I sit in a local restaurant in the morning after my walk around the mountain and speak with whoever shows up. Perhaps we can get a couple of people to share expenses and visit some of the important temples in Tamil Nadu. By the middle of next week I’ll be done with the work I’m engaged in and we could talk then.
~ Om and prem, Ram