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Two Orders of the Same Reality
Stephan: Hello, I have not long purchased the book mentioned below and am wondering if you could elaborate a bit on the statement made in the book.
Sundari: Good to hear from you and I am glad you have James’ book.
Stephan: At the top of page 22 of The Essence of Enlightenment, “Vedanta, the science of consciousness,” it states that “Experience is awareness but awareness is not experience, just as the web is the spider but the spider is not the web.” Perhaps I am looking at things from a not too high vantage point.
Sundari: It is not a question of a high or low vantage point, it is a question of seeing from a dual or non-dual perspective.
Stephan: However, I would have thought that experience would be the object of awareness and wouldn’t be awareness, as the web would be an object and not the subject, just as human saliva would be an object and not the subject. I am stuck here at the moment, as I do not see the truth of the statement.
Sundari: First of all, one has to determine the nature of objects: an object is anything other than you, awareness; it is known to you, so cannot be you; an object is not conscious. Experience is another word for an object because all objects are experienced only in the mind, which is also an object known to you, awareness. I think you have that much.
From a non-dual perspective, all objects arise from awareness, are made up of awareness, have a dependent relationship on awareness and dissolve in awareness, but awareness is always free of all objects. As the true nature of reality is a non-dual reality and not a duality, then there can only be one principle operating and that is awareness, so everything is awareness.
Two Orders of the Same Reality
However, there are two orders of reality: satya and mithya, the real and the apparently real. They are not in opposition to each other and do not contradict each other, just like space in a room appears to be different from space outside the room but they are the same.What allows you to distinguish between the two orders is the application of discrimination through self-knowledge. If you apply the logic of Vedanta and investigate the true nature of reality, you will see that awareness (the subject) is the only principle that is always present and never changes. Everything else, all experience (objects) is that which is not always present and always changing. Knowing the difference between the two and never confusing them again is called moksa, freedom from limitation.
So although all objects are you – awareness – you are not the objects, because no object is aware. Awareness IS what it sees. “Sees” means knows.
Awareness, or consciousness, the subject, is not an object, so it cannot be known by an object, because an object is not conscious. The spider’s web, though it originates from the spider and is made up of the spider, does not know the spider, because it is not conscious. The same applies to your saliva: it originates from you, but does it know you? No.
An object cannot know the subject. Awareness is that which knows all objects, the “transparent,” or non-experiencing, witness. Awareness does not need anything to know itself, because it is self-knowing. It is always a witness. But awareness is a witness only with reference to whatever is seen. By itself it sees only pure consciousness. The self is a seer that never began or ceases and is the all-seeing eye, or “I,” that sees only itself because that is all there is to see.
Awareness is self-illuminating and there is nothing but itself. Remember that non-dual means just that: there is only awareness for awareness to see – not that awareness is a seer in the way the jiva (person) understands seeing. The person is the lens through which awareness apparently looks at objects, but all objects are reflected awareness and thus have a dependent existence on awareness, so there are no objects for awareness to see. Awareness is that which makes seeing reflected awareness (i.e. all objects) possible.
It would be 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.
From the perspective of duality, or the person who is identified with being a person, i.e. when ignorance is operating, the jiva thinks that the seer is different from the seen; in other words, that the subject and object are different. They are not different, although they exist in a different order of reality: awareness, what is real, and reflected awareness, what is apparently real.
Stephan: I would point out that I am on a first reading. It may be better, perhaps, to read over the book a few times first, letting the ideas play about in the mind, so to speak, and then try to see it fully.
Sundari: Yes, definitely. This is why we set out the recommendations and instructions we do on our contact page for people to follow before contacting us. We are happy to help, but first you need to do your part. We recommend that you read the book at least twice. Most people read it multiple times. Corroborate it with reading the e-satsangs at our website. Every question you could possibly think of has been replied to in countless ways. There is a search function to help you find answers to your questions. Also very important is to watch as many of the videos of James teaching as possible. Start with the self-inquiry series.
Stephan: Thank you for your attention.
~ Regards, Stephan
Sundari: You are most welcome, feel free to write if you get stuck, after you have followed these instructions.
~ Namaste, Sundari