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The Self Is a Seer When Maya Is Operating
Raphael: Dear Sundari, thank you ever so much for your detailed reply and clarification. I am so grateful and look forward to reading the new book.
Sundari: You are most welcome.
Raphael: I do have one other question I have been trying to figure out, if you do not mind: The self, brahman, is ever present as the witness whose function it is to reveal (make known) all objects of knowledge.
Sundari: It is not the function of awareness to reveal objects; awareness has no function, because it is your nature. Its function is its existence, is-ness. When maya is operating ignorance conditions the mind which then identifies with objects, thinks they are real and it needs them to be complete, which is called suffering. When awareness is known to be your true nature, you see that all objects are only apparently real; they arise from and dissolve in you, awareness. There is no real creation; it is an apparent creation.
Raphael: But to whom does the presence of the self reveal the objects? Who is the knower of the known (object)? Is it the conscious mind or the self who knows what is revealed? Does the self reveal the object of knowledge to itself or to the conscious mind? Is the mind the knower or is the self the knower?
Sundari: This depends on who you think you are. You have a satya/mithya confusion. This is a quote from our last exchange:
“There is only one awareness out of which everything arises and depends upon to exist, but awareness is always free of the objects. Awareness is adjata, unborn. Vedanta is the path of the unborn because it reveals that although there appears to be a creation, nothing ever really happened, from awareness’s point of view. All objects are made up of awareness and dissolve back into awareness in that they appear in the mind and the mind appears in awareness. The mind/jiva (subtle body), like all objects, is an object known to you, awareness. The thoughts that appear in the mind belong to the gunas: Isvara.
“Isvara as pure awareness prior to maya manifesting (paramatman) is called eternal and imperishable, but it is actually neither. Eternal and imperishable infer non-eternal and perishable, and since paramatman is non-dual, it is neither. It is is-ness, being, existence. It is simply that which gives rise to everything, that which is self-knowing and, when objects are present, knows objects. (Insert: the key here is when objects are present, i.e. when maya, ignorance/duality, is operating.) Awareness is prior to and the knower of both the jiva and Isvara. Therefore awareness has no qualities and is the non-experiencing witness of the experiencing entity, or jiva. Although awareness gives rise to all objects (who are not conscious) and Isvara associated with maya, who is conscious, awareness is not “conscious” in the same way. Awareness is that which makes consciousness possible in that consciousness is reflected awareness. Isvara is conscious because with the appearance of maya there is something for awareness to be to be conscious of, i.e. objects. Isvara is not a person; conscious and unconscious objects (Isvara and jiva respectively) arise when maya (ignorance) appears.”
The jiva is the lens through which awareness sees objects; but for awareness, there are no objects, because this is a non-dual reality. When maya is operating, the creation appears, like a movie on a screen. The self under the (apparently) spell of ignorance identifies with the objects (subtle body) and thinks that awareness is something other than itself, something to gain.
There are two witnesses, what is called the “opaque” and the “transparent” witness. The opaque witness is the jiva with qualities, indentified with objects, looking at awareness through its conditioning (vasanas). The transparent witness is pure awareness with no qualities conditioning it – and it is the witness of the opaque witness.
Quote from Ramana:
“THE WITNESS REALLY MEANS THE LIGHT THAT ILLUMINES THE SEER, SEEN AND THE PROCESS OF SEEING.
“‘Witness’ is applicable when there is an object to be seen. Then it is duality. The truth lies beyond both. In the mantra, sakshi cheta kevalo nirgunascha, the word sakshi [witness] must be understood as sannidhi [presence], without which there could be nothing. See how the sun is necessary for daily activites. He does not, however, form part of the world actions; yet they cannot take place without the sun. He is the witness of the activities. So it is with the Self.
“Talking of the ‘witness’ should not lead to the idea that there is a witness and something else apart from him that he is witnessing. The ‘witness’ really means the light that illumines the seer, the seen and the process of seeing. Before, during and after the triads of seer, seen and seeing, the illumination exists. It alone exists always.”
Swami Dayananda’s says in his commentaries on Vivekachudamani: “Atma is already self-evident and it is alupta-drk, a seer that never ceases, it never even winks. It is always a witness. But it is a witness only with reference to whatever is seen. By itself it sees only pure consciousness. This self-evident atma is brahman; that is the teaching.”
This quote clarifies the distinction of saguna and nirguna brahman. The self is a seer that never began or ceases and is the all-seeing eye, or “I,” that sees only itself because there are no objects for it to see. It is self-effulgent and there is nothing but itself. Saguna brahman is apparently influenced by sattva, and as the mind gets sattvic, the witness seems to be clear and this clarity, or pureness, is what people assume to be holy. One eventually has to drop all these terms, even nirguna brahman, because nirguna implies saguna.
In a nutshell: it is more appropriate to say that the self, seeing only itself, is that which knows the seer with reference to the seen only when maya is operating. The self-aware self appears as a seer; but it never actually is a seer, unless seeing refers to its own self. When ignorance is operating the jiva thinks that the seer is different from the seen: the subject and object are different. The seer, Isvara, is also known as saguna brahman, and because it operates maya (the gunas) it is never deluded by them, i.e. it is pure sattva.
When tamas and rajas arise in saguna brahman then awareness apparently becomes a jiva and is deluded by maya. Sattva seems to be clear and pure – only with reference to the objects appearing in it, which are impure. When avidya is removed and your nature is known to be non-dual, duality (maya) is no longer an issue even though it still apparently exists. This is non-dual vision, meaning literally that you see that there is only you and everything is you, awareness, seemingly appearing in a form as an experiencer of objects.
~ Namaste, Sundari
Raphael: Dear Sundari, thank you very much. I guess I worded my question incorrectly. What I meant to ask is: Does the presence of awareness reveal all mental content (objects) to itself or to the mind? I assumed it must be to itself since it is the only thing conscious, as mind is not conscious on its own. This would of course only occur under maya, in the presence of objects.
Sundari: That is a better way to word your question. Vedanta is extremely precise about the words, as it uses the implied meaning of very specific words to teach. In order to teach the truth that is not based on subjective experience, words have to be as accurate as possible. The way you worded your last question made awareness sound like a doer. Obviously, as there is only awareness, you are only ever experiencing/seeing awareness, but when maya is operating and the self appears under the spell of ignorance in a form, it apparently identifies with the subtle body and then believes awareness is something other than it. So the mind turned outwards is hypnotized by duality. Moksa is being able to discriminate you, awareness, from the objects that appear in you at all times, which means although you (the jiva no longer under the spell of ignorance) still see objects, the mind is no longer conditioned by duality. This is “the snake and the rope” metaphor. Once you know the rope is not a snake, you don’t see the snake anymore.
~ Namaste, Sundari