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The Self Is Always Self-Aware
Roberto: Dear Sundari, I hope you are well. I just would like to ask for brief clarification regarding something I have read. James always stresses that the main thing about the self is that it is self-aware.
I have read elsewhere that the self is initially unaware of itself and then becomes aware of its own existence. According to these teachings, this arising of consciousness is spontaneous and brings about a sense of presence.
Could you kindly clarify if this is correct according to scripture which James teaches or whether the self has never not been aware of its own existence (as I had previously assumed, having read James’ books and listed to one of his seminars)? Thank you ever so much in advance.
~ Highest blessings, Roberto
Sundari: Hello, Roberto, good to hear from you.
No, this is not correct.You are saying that the self and awareness are two things. They are one. It is impossible for pure awareness to be unaware of itself at any stage, unless you are referring to awareness under the apparent spell of ignorance. This is a non-dual reality, and not a duality, so there is only self-aware awareness. Maya, or the power to delude, is a power in awareness or it could not be unlimited. Maya is not always manifest, but when it does manifest, awareness plus maya “become” the Creator, Isvara, bringing forth the creation.When the creation appears, the subtle body under the spell of ignorance appears and identifies with objects, believing that awareness is something to gain.
To put it another way, you cannot say that awareness is conscious, because to say something is conscious implies an object that it is conscious of. Since awareness is non-dual, it is not conscious, because there are no objects. It is just consciousness. But when maya is operating, there is something for it to be conscious of, i.e. the creation. At this point it apparently surrenders its status as consciousness and become a conscious creator. So from pure consciousness’s/awareness’s point of view, Isvara is just maya, an inert mirror (pratibimba) in which all created objects appear. But from jiva’s point of view, Isvara is the intelligent conscious designer, creator, supporter and destroyer of the creation.
The distinction to be made is the identity between Isvara, jiva and awareness.
A quote from Ramana:
“THE WITNESS [the self/awareness] REALLY MEANS THE LIGHT THAT ILLUMINES THE SEER, THE SEEN AND THE PROCESS OF SEEING.”
Swami Dayananda 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.”
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 conscious 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.
I hope this clarifies this doubt for you.
~ Om, Sundari