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It Ain’t an “Either/Or” but a “Both/And”
Justin: Hi, Daniel.
I have read Ted Schmidt’s satsang Awareness Is Not the Knower. Interesting, obviously for me it brings forth a few questions, such as the juxtaposition between awareness, maya and the illuminated mind.
It reminds quite significantly of the latest in theoretical physics, where they say that we live in a holographic universe, such that all information is stored on the event horizon of a black hole and that energy, for want of a better expression, shines through this information to create the 3D universe. The parallels I would draw is that maya could be considered to be information and awareness the energy that shines through it. This in turn will create and illuminate the body so the mind can function, like switching on a light.
Daniel: Hi, Justin.
We could say that awareness is not the knower but rather the knowing. In other words, you are not the knower, you are the knowing.
For simplicity and practicality’s sake, we refer to awareness as the knower/witness. This is also to initially help ground discrimination, the counter-intuitive task of separating the subject (you, awareness) from the object (i.e the person).
Right now you are aware, correct? Of course, this is an obvious fact. This very ordinary awareness is you. Not the “little you” named Justin, but the real you. It’s not that Justin is aware of this awareness, but rather that you (awareness) are aware of Justin. To be aware or to know is the same thing. There's no need to create a difference between knowing and awareness.
In actuality, awareness is not anything – but rather everything. One could also say that it’s not a knower, because it’s free of all qualities.
If it suits your inquiry more to meditate on yourself as the “light” that enables the relative knower (i.e. Justin) to know, then that’s fine too. As you, awareness, shine, the mind (jiva-instrument) is lit up, and this enables it to have awareness of whatever objects fall within its scope.
It’s a subtle point. It ain’t an “either/or’’ but rather a “both/and.” We can also say that awareness is a knower – but also not a knower. At the end of the day, does it really matter? What’s important is to understand who you really are and your freedom from objects – including this quantum-physics-brained object called “Justin.” ☺
Your comparison of theoretical physics to the maya theory fits fine. But I would rephrase it: maya is the energy that causes a projection to appear within you, awareness. We could say that it’s the storage for data (vasanas/karma).
You clearly have an inquiring mind. This is great, but try not to get too caught up in these creation theories. Creation theories are just creation theories and are throw-aways once the self (you) have been rediscovered.
Justin: Many thanks for your reply. I enjoy the thought experiments and the inquiry.
Daniel: Yeah, Isvara blessed you with an inquisitive and intelligent mind. But I wouldn’t be so quick to negate the practicality of the subject-object technique of discrimination, the technique whereby you identify yourself as the knower (subject) of the known (objects).
Justin: I have been looking again at this aspect of awareness not being the knower. This l find quite interesting. When you consider awareness to be the knower, it becomes, up to a point, a little illogical.
Daniel: If we visit your first sentence above, your statement shows that you have objectified awareness into something other than yourself. Ignorance (division/duality) is at play from the get-go. It’s not Justin that knows awareness, but rather awareness that knows Justin. You are awareness, the knower of Justin.
I don’t see how considering awareness to be the knower becomes illogical, Justin. If you understand that the knower (subject) is always free from what it knows (objects), then you’ve cracked the code. When this knowledge (“I am awareness”) becomes firm in the intellect, and the identification to the limited identity (i.e Justin) has flaked off, one has “attained moksa.” Game over – assuming that this knowledge is firm and cancels the sense of lack and doership.
Justin: If the creation is maya acting on awareness, then potentially a brick can be a knower.
Daniel: In actuality, to you, awareness, there is no such thing as maya or creation. If this is a non-dual reality – which it is – then what else is there but you, awareness? Nothing is “on” awareness, because there is nothing other than you, awareness.
A brick is an object known to you, just as Justin is an object known to you, awareness. All objects are inert.
Justin: If we think of awareness being the information, the code that defines the entire universe, maya then being energy that acts on this information to produce the structure of the universe, subsequently the mind is the post-processor that produces imagery of what we see around us and the instrument of the knower or observer.
Daniel: Awareness is informationless and codeless. You are confusing awareness with maya. Here is a link that clarifies this topic.
Justin: In quantum mechanics, the observer collapses the wave form to a particle.
Daniel: In Vedanta, we collapse the particle back to our self, aka partless awareness.
Justin: I can understand this and it seems to make logical sense, in addition to drawing parallels with philosophy and science. From this foundation I can build, and everything seems to slot into place.
Daniel: Do whatever works for you, Justin. If you find that the vision of non-duality is firmly forming, then continue to apply the method that’s currently working. Liberation is the knowledge of both your oneness with everything and your freedom from everything. When this knowledge is grounded, you can weather any of life’s existential storms. Only you will know if the vision of non-duality has crystallized.
Justin: Please bear with me for the moment. I need to get this straight and see the logic. Going back to Ted Schmidt, he says that awareness is not the knower, also equating awareness to light, which is energy.
Daniel: Words are limiting, Justin. We’re trying to describe something that’s actually indescribable. It’s not an “either-or” but a “both-and.” Like I'd mentioned before, awareness, when inquired into, can be both a knower and not a knower.
Light is a good symbol for you, awareness. It’s not the light that you're thinking of though. Well, it is and it isn’t. This light is self-lit and is free from energy. It’s like an everlasting light bulb that’s self-generated, free from any energy source.
Awareness is free of all qualities, including energy. Energy/maya (shakti) is a power that apparently exists in you, awareness. Here’s that link again. Go through it, as it explains this topic.
Justin: He says this awareness illuminates the mind. The problem I have with this is, where has the mind has suddenly sprung from?
Daniel: Yes, you, awareness, illumine the mind. The individual mind (jiva) springs from macrocosmic mind/Isvara (the Total). The above link covers this topic too.
Justin: Should it not be the case that awareness first illuminates the causal body, the causal body that carries all the information that gives rise to the subtle and gross bodies? The mind being a bit like a light bulb that cannot function with energy, i.e. electricity.
Daniel: Almost. Here is a chart that demonstrates the order and relationship between you (awareness) and the three bodies. The mind is as inert as the computer screen in front of you. The mind depends on you, awareness, but you (awareness) don’t depend on the mind.
Justin: I get a bit hung up when I do not see where information comes in. Otherwise, we are into magic tricks, and it loses reason and logic, and the science of inquiry is gone.
Daniel: There are no magic tricks, Justin, only hardwired notions (ignorance) to penetrate through. When we tackle Vedanta, we need to put aside our personal beliefs and follow the logic right through till the end whilst placing our personal ideas to one side. There is a qualification called “shraddha,” faith in the teachings pending the result of your scripture-based inquiry. In other words, it’s having “un-blind” faith in the teaching.
Justin: I assume then that this projection is what the mind sees and takes as real, but still merely a projection, a hologram, if you wish, which would not exist first without energy or light from awareness.
Daniel: Correct. This projection (maya) occurs in you, awareness. What’s important to understand is that though the projection is made of you, you simultaneously remain free of the projection. Let's compare it with a spider and its web. The web (objects/maya world) depends on the spider (subject/knower/awareness), yet the spider is simultaneously free of the web.
Justin: Is this then where maya steps in with confusion that blinds the mind due to the fact that we are only really pure energy, and causes the mind to assume the projection as real?
Daniel: Correct. One definition of maya is “that which makes the impossible possible.” Ignorance is the smartest thing in the world – next to Vedanta.
My suggestion is that you go through the link that I’ve inserted above. I also recommend that you invest in one of James’ books, How to Attain Enlightenment or The Essence of Enlightenment. Both deliver the complete teaching in a logical and practical way.
Justin: I’m feeling happier after seeing how everything fits together. I have read the Eknath Easwaran version of the Bhagavad Gita and am currently reading his book The Essence of the Gita. Once I am through this, I will go back to James’ book.