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The Knower of the Silence
Raphael: Dear Sundari, I hope you are well and that you do not mind my sharing two questions with you. I lead a solitary, meditative lifestyle and have over the past six months listened to and studied the Berlin audio, read quite a few online satsangs by both of you and studied the contents of both of James’ Enlightenment books as well as the online course and several online articles by James.
Sundari: Hello, Raphael, good to hear from you.
Raphael: I wish to ask the following: What are the Neo-Advaita teachers referring to when they say I am that which is “prior to consciousness” and I am the emptiness and void that is prior to consciousness, prior to oneness. What is meant by this? Is the word “consciousness” being used by these teachers to describe perceiving, a function of the subtle body?
Sundari: You have answered your own question correctly, Raphael. The Neo-Advaita teachers know what awareness is, but they don’t have a means of knowledge to teach what it means to BE awareness, so they deny the existence of the apparent reality, which means they will never be free of it, because deny it all you like, duality does not disappear unless you know what it is. And, yes, they confuse the subtle body with awareness, so they say that consciousness is “prior to” – meaning something “other than.” The essence of moksa is the ability to discriminate you, awareness, from the objects that appear in you. If you do not know the difference between satya (that which is real, always present and unchanging) from mithya (that which is only apparently real, i.e. not always present and always changing) moksa will not attain in the mind. I have attached the eight stages of self-inquiry so that you can see how perfectly the methodology Vedanta use is as a means of knowledge for awareness.
Raphael: One teacher writes when we go to sleep “consciousness and oneness are no more but something remains. You are that.” What is meant by “consciousness and oneness are no more”? Especially oneness. Is “prior to consciousness” meant to be the self/awareness that knows the subtle body? Or do they mean something else entirely?
Sundari: They don’t know, so they are confused. They do not have the three-states teaching which explains this perfectly. In deep sleep you, consciousness, are there but the subtle body is not. It goes into seed form in the causal body. It is not possible for consciousness (or oneness) to not be present, because you are never not present. If consciousness was not there in deep sleep the person would be dead. You know you are there in deep sleep because you know you (meaning Raphael) slept when you wake up. Awareness never slept, so it never wakes up. Deep sleep is equated with being “almost enlightened” because the person and their vasana load are not present, i.e. the mind is not conditioned by ignorance, so it is in bliss. The only problem is that the intellect is not there, so there is no knowledge of the bliss. If there was, everyone would wake up from deep sleep enlightened. But, unfortunately, the same person is back when you wake up, conditioned by their vasana load. The only way to remove ignorance is through self-knowledge. For self-knowledge to obtain, the mind needs to be qualified, subjected to a valid independent means of knowledge and taught by a qualified teacher.
Raphael: My other question pertains to something that James said. He said the silence (in meditation) is the reflection of the self in a pure mind. What does this mean? How is the self the silence? I do understand that the self cannot be known directly, because it is subtler than the mind, which is the instrument of knowledge, but this is as far as I get. Is this referring to the absence of thought content and the possibility of experiencing what is normally obscured by mental content?
Sundari: The self is not the silence, because silence is an object known to awareness. The same applies to space. Both space and silence are good metaphors for consciousness because they are containers for objects. But they fall short because neither space nor silence is conscious. They do not know you, so they cannot be you, meaning consciousness. They are both objects known to you. When the mind is quiet and peaceful it is capable of seeing the reflection of the self “in a pure mind.” Of course there is no “in” or “out” of consciousness, because consciousness has no specific location. Consciousness pervades every atom of existence. The mind too is an object known to consciousness. All the same, as moksa is for the jiva because the self is and always has been free, aiming for a quiet mind is the springboard for moksa. Without a quiet, peaceful (read QUALIFIED) mind, moksa will not obtain. While being “in” silence definitely helps, a quiet mind does not depend on what is going on “in” it or “outside” of it. This is because sattva (the energy, or guna, for revelation, clarity, peace, satisfaction, etc.) is the true nature of the mind. So the mind cannot gain more sattva; it can only lose excessive rajas and tamas, i.e. ignorance.
When rajas (energy of projection/desire/action, etc.) and tamas (energy of dullness/denial/depression, etc.) dominate the mind, sattva is obscured. So therefore the mind needs to be purified, i.e. rajas and tamas need to be brought into balance with sattva. This is very difficult to do if the mind is constantly subjected to rajasic/tamasic conditions. This is why the more self-knowledge you have, the more the mind seeks conditions that are conducive to (but not absolutely essential to) peace of mind. Rajas and tamas are painful to the mind when out of balance.
When self-knowledge has obtained in the mind, it is peaceful no matter what thoughts or feelings arise in it and regardless of what is going on in its environment.
Raphael: I would prefer to remain anonymous, as I do not in any way mean to criticize any “modern” teacher and really just would like some clarification in order to make sure that I understand the teaching on the self correctly. Also, could you please refer me to a satsang or other material (specific chapters if possible) that explains more clearly and in greater detail the creation process and the relationship between the self, maya and God (Isvara)?
Sundari: We do not criticize any specific teacher, just teachings that do not work. Vedanta requires thinking, discrimination. It is therefore a critical (but not judgmental) tradition. We criticize bad ideas that keep the mind in ignorance, not people. Without the ability to discriminate one will not know the difference between ignorance and knowledge. And one will take ignorance to be knowledge. To know the difference between ignorance and knowledge one has to set aside what one thinks or believes and subject the mind to a valid and independent means of knowledge. In most other teaching traditions, the teacher is identified with the teaching. In Vedanta, a true and genuine Vedanta teacher knows that the teaching never belongs to them or anyone. Vedanta is a valid means of knowledge for awareness, there is no other.
As we are all the self talking to itself, anonymity is a moot point. There is only one self and we are all it. There is only one universal jiva and we are all it – although it appears as if we are all different and unique. No one will know who you are as jiva from this email; we change names and all personal details when we post e-satsangs. If you are using our website you will see that the e-satsang section is an enormous library of high-level Vedanta. Any question you could think of has been answered in every way possible. Use the search function. Also, watch as many videos of James teaching as possible. And of course read the books. The best video to watch on the jiva/Isvara identity is Panchadasi. We will soon be releasing the latest iteration of this teaching at the ShiningWorld online shop.
I have also attached an e-satsang I wrote on this teaching. I am almost finished with a book dealing with lifestyle and the jiva; James is compiling material for an in-depth book on the topic. This is the most complicated and subtle teaching to assimilate. It is also the most important if moksa is what you are after. The Neos do not have this teaching, nobody does. Only Vedanta can irrefutably explain the person and the creation so that you can be free of both while remaining an apparent person, living free as awareness.
Raphael: Thank you ever so much for your time. I cannot thank James enough for his amazing work and the dedication you both share to clearly and accurately disseminating the teachings.
~ Abundant blessings, Raphael
Sundari: Thank you for the appreciation, I will pass it on to James. It is a pleasure to serve and it is our dharma.
~ Om shanti, Sundari
Raphael: P.S. Has the enlightenment quiz been removed from the new website? I cannot seem to find it.
Sundari: No, it is still there, to my knowledge. I will check and get back to you.