Search & Read
Who Is the Knower?
Cameron: Hello, Sundari, Cameron here, from London. I have a question, please, if you wouldn’t mind answering. In How to Attain Enlightenment Ram says that discrimination works when the three bodies – gross, subtle and causal – are seen to be apparent and when one experiences freedom because of this knowledge.
Sundari: Hello, Cameron, good to hear from you. Yes, that is the essence of discrimination.If one truly does see the three bodies/five koshas as only apparently real, then one is discriminating you, awareness, from the objects that appear in you.
Cameron: Now, would it be correct to say that once a jiva knows that it actually is that freedom/basis of everything/field, then that is the self?
Sundari: Yes, but that is also indirect knowledge. For knowledge to be direct and for freedom from the jiva and for the jiva to be experienced, the jiva has to be understood in light of self-knowledge. This requires a full understanding of the jiva’s identity with Isvara, the field of existence, and how it relates to it. There is no way to jump over the jiva straight to awareness, which is why we make such a big deal about self-actualisation, or nididhysana, which is basically the contemplation, assimilation and transformation of emotion into devotion to the truth.
Cameron: It’s just that this is my experience all the “time” now and yet I am simply the knower of this as well… So there seems to me to be a slight duality between knowing and being. Hopefully you can understand this, as this is my knowledge/being right now, and I’d basically just like your expert take on the matter.
Sundari: If you are the knower of the duality, the experience of knowing that you are awareness and not the experiencer, that is non-dual vision.You are that by whose presence duality exists and experience takes place. Duality is not in contradiction to non-duality and is only a problem if you don’t know what it is and take it to be real. And duality does not disappear when you know what it is; it is still experienced by the jiva but the jiva does not identify with it, because it knows duality is a superimposition onto non-duality. At this point you get to enjoy duality for what it has to offer – temporary bliss – as a jivanmukta, or the self no longer under the spell of ignorance.
Cameron: Thank you, Sundari, for listening. I am a very happy jiva because of ShiningWorld.com. This isn’t really a doubt at all. I think it’s maybe just a subtle point.
Sundari: We are so happy for you, Cameron. Vedanta is like hitting the biggest jackpot of all time – and to find a teacher like James is a double whammy! Vedanta is the only way to truly experience happiness as a jiva.
Cameron: Now, “merging” is a problem word, I know… but that is what it “seems” like to the jiva, that he is being purified by the knowledge and is merging/sublimating into Isvara.
Sundari: Yes, correct. It seems like the jiva is merging into the knowledge, but actually self-knowledge purifies the mind of ignorance so that it rests in the knowledge of its true identity as awareness, which it has always been. “Merging” implies that the jiva was separate from awareness, but of course it never was. At this stage there is no merging or sublimation, because you know you are the knowledge. Self-knowledge is not something you gain and it is not a feeling or an idea – self-knowledge is you. When this knowledge is firm the subject-object split has been permanently dissolved.
Yes, awareness does not actually “watch,” “see” or “know” anything, because that implies doing – and there is nothing for it to watch see or know, because it is all there is. Nothing is happening or ever happened for awareness, so what is there to watch? Isvara (awareness in association with maya) is really the all-seeing “I,” the knower and watcher. Awareness is that which makes knowing, seeing and watching possible. When maya is operating, Isvara in the role of Creator manifests and there is (apparently) something for awareness to be aware of, i.e. objects.
The discrimination is between satya and mithya, the real with the apparently real, or the experiencing witness with the non-experiencing witness, the seer and the seen, nirguna brahman with saguna brahman.
The seer and the seen is also called the witness and the witnessed. There are two witnesses, what is called the “opaque witness” and the “transparent witness.” The opaque witness is the jiva with qualities 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.
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 purity, is what people assume to be holy. One eventually has to drop all these terms, even nirguna brahman, because nirguna implies saguna.
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. When ignorance is operating the jiva thinks that the seer is different from the seen: the subject and object are different. The macrocosmic seer, Isvara, is also known as saguna brahman because it operates maya (the gunas) but it is never deluded by them, i.e. maya is pure sattva.
Cameron: But being the light (I am the Light), and the light simply IS everything and free (of ALL) at the same “time.” Perfection at last, I feel. I think I’ve answered my own question here, by the way.
Sundari: The self is the non-experiencing witness, pure awareness (the imperishable) and does not know or not know. It is IS-NESS, sakshi, existence, sat, consciousness, chit, limitless bliss, ananda. Awareness is not conscious in the way Isvara is conscious. Awareness appearing as Isvara is the macrocosmic knower. Awareness is simply consciousness and does not become “conscious” until maya appears, because awareness does not need objects to be conscious. It is purely a witness. When maya appears, the objects appear so there is something for awareness to be conscious of. When maya is operating Isvara appears, reflecting awareness, called pratibimba. Awareness “becomes” Isvara the knower, but Isvara needs instruments of knowledge (the subtle body) and objects of knowledge (the world, gross and subtle matter). The knower – Isvara, the instruments and the objects are all mithya. The self, satya, is the witness of both the unmanifest knowledge and the manifest knowledge.
Cameron: Sundari – “the beauty that makes beauty itself possible” – xxx. Life goes on though of course and I still continue to experience little blips, like when I am in tamasic company. James, your GREAT husband, always says that he “hates rajas”… well, for me it is tamas, I’m afraid. When I am speaking or interacting or even near a tamasic person (I know they aren’t “always” so), then I tend to get frustrated with “them,” I’m afraid. I was wondering if you have any spiritual advice?… Love them is what I say, no matter what, as they simply cannot “be” any different, no? Oh, dear, I’ve done it again! Never mind, as I’m sure you can clear up any slight puddles here of apparent ignorance… xxx. ☺ ☺ ☺
Sundari: I commiserate with you, as I feel the same way about tamas – to this jiva it is more difficult to deal with than rajas. The great Ramji loves tamas and has a cool saying: “Obey your tamas,” – ha, ha! Both rajas and tamas have an upside and a downside, and they can be equally damaging. Tamas takes longer and is less obvious, but its powers of destruction are just as lethal as out-of-control rajas. All jivas have dominant gunas; mine are sattvic rajas, so tamas is more painful to the mind. Most likely this is true for your jiva too.
The thing to understand is that the jiva is made a certain way by Isvara and that is not going to change. Freedom is only actualised when the jiva’s stuff is seen, understood and dissolved in the knowledge – but this does not mean that the jiva becomes unlimited “after” enlightenment. Freedom means that the jiva’s conditioning is understood, appreciated and neutralized in light of self-knowledge; it means that because peace of mind is always the main aim, dharma (personal and universal) is automatically followed – and it means that the jiva no longer projects its subjective reality onto Isvara, so lives in harmony with Isvara.
The bottom line that most people miss is that self-actualisation, or nididhysana, never really ends as long as the jiva is alive. The jiva is always interacting with Isvara in the form of objects and the field of existence it is a part of, so it has to respond appropriately in every instance. The difference once the knowledge is firm is that you know you are not the jiva but awareness. The interaction becomes a dance where one no longer has to worry about the steps or the outcome, because you have complete knowledge of the essence and complete trust in Isvara – even though you don’t have knowledge of all the facts that run the field of existence. Only Isvara is omniscient, but as awareness you understand the essence of everything to be you. So you know the dance is taking place in you.
~ Much love, Sundari