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Taking a Stand as Awareness: Avoid Superimposition
Hugh: Dear Shams, I don’t think I’m too clear on what the difference is between “taking a stand as awareness” and “superimposing satya (the ultimate reality, your identity) onto mithya (the dream, also you).” Taking a stand as awareness seems to be that the mind, instead of identifying with the individual, sees things from the point of awareness instead. For example, jiva thinks, “I don’t feel right,” but then decides to take a stand in awareness and can say, “I don’t feel right or wrong. I am that which feelings arise in. Feelings depend on me. I don’t depend on feelings. Everything’s fine.”
Shams: We recommend you (awareness) to take a stand in awareness as awareness, using the mind/intellect as an instrument, because the intention is actually to train the intellect in order to remove ignorance, which will lead to direct knowledge. This standing as awareness is ineffective if you don’t understand how the self is related to its apparent bodies, because there is a risk of falling into the subtle sophism called superimposition, confusing the seer with the seen. If you start treating your mind/intellect like it was the self (believing that it is the witness) you are being a victim of this misunderstanding. You are the witness of the mind, not the other way around. So the difference between these two concepts is very important: if you are taking a stand as awareness, but you are superimposing satya onto mithya, you are making it wrong.
Taking a stand in awareness as awareness is not the intellect/mind thinking about itself, it’s the intellect/mind thinking about you because one thing is recognizing that you are the self and other thing is thinking that the self is the intellect, like it was some kind of independent entity. When you stand in awareness as awareness, you have faith in the scripture and confidence to live “as if” until the knowledge becomes direct. This living “as if” implies that you understand how the bodies are related to you, not that (a) the bodies (including the intellect and mind) become the supreme Self or (b) the bodies are completely negated and disappear. As we saw in our first mail, the bodies have to be discarded as non-self (mithya) but that doesn’t mean that they should stop caring about themselves. When you think that you should stop doing things because you are the self, that is because you think that you (the self) are a doer or a thinker. Like in your example above, when there is an emotion that asks to be dealt with, knowledge only helps to remember that you are the witness WHILE the subtle and gross bodies deal with the emotion. There are two completely different levels of one self. It doesn’t mean that the mind will be freed of the emotions thanks to knowledge. The only goal is to realize that you are free anyway.
On the other hand, standing in awareness doesn’t mean that, when you are applying the knowledge to the intellect, the intellect should think that it is the self when it’s just an instrument for that practice. The intellect should know that and act “as if” you are the self (which you are, although the intellect ignores it). Sometimes it could be confusing because the part that is making this discrimination is non-self. So it asks: “How could it be that the part that says ‘I’m real’ is not real?” It sounds counter-intuitive. So the automatic reaction of the intellect (which is just ideas appearing, not an independent entity), when knowledge is not correctly assimilated, is to believe that thoughts like “I’m awareness” and “I’m free of everything” (which are descriptions of satya) are referring to the intellect itself (which clearly is mithya). That is superimposition. The intellect doesn’t have to identify with anything, because it’s just an object. It only has to allow the knowledge to remove the ignorance of your true self. The intellect is the intellect, which is something that appears in you. It will never become you. You apply the knowledge in the subtle body, not because you have to gain a new idea, but because you want to remove the false ideas. This includes displaying the knowledge in the form of ideas, sure, but their work is not to stay, just to erase ignorance in order get firm knowledge.
Let’s go back to the question: “How could it be that the part that says ‘I’m real’ is not real?” That is because that part is just an instrument. When the intellect realizes its true nature, the intellect is not really making the realization. It is actually pure awareness that sees its own reflection in the purified subtle body. You, the self, are self-evident knowledge, but ignorance has to be removed from the subtle body to make that clear at that level. When that happens, ignorance can’t go back to the subtle body, because your true nature has been realized. However, the subtle body will still be just a bunch of ideas and emotions, without independent being, and you’ll still be the light that illumines that. If there is a struggling right now in the subtle body, it’s because you are taking that object as the subject. The fundamental thing here is that the objects are always experienced and you are never experienced. You are you, and you don’t have to feel it or to find it in an experiential way. You just have to know it. This knowledge doesn’t alienate you from the world but makes it clear that the world depends on you while you are completely independent from it, the mind/intellect included as part of the world. And life goes on, as always.
Feel free to tell me if this is not clear or if you have other doubts.