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Cracking the Code
Tommy: Hello, James. I have a few problems with my understanding. I get the idea that the whole system is very simple… awareness and objects within awareness. But as the mind is an object within awareness, it seems like I’m pushing the button of a disruptive machine in my head and all the teachings are spinning here and there and contradictions flying forth.
I know that that is happening in awareness, but I don’t feel I have ground under my feet or God. It’s as if I cut down every tree-hold. I can only really describe it like slipping gears. Any thoughts? It is worse when I am in physical pain.
James: I think you are quite close to cracking the code. The good news is that you have successfully practiced the first half of inquiry, negating the objects appearing in you. The bad news is that you are interpreting the negation of objects incorrectly. Until now all the things that gave you meaning were objects, but inquiry – application of self-knowledge – reveals all objects to be devoid of inherent meaning. Yet the need for meaning continues. So where to look now?
The second half of inquiry involves turning your attention from the objects to you, the knower of the objects. The objects are not you, to be sure. You are the one that knows them. It is you, the knower, that is the meaning of life. As you keep your attention on you, discounting the objects – and the confusion is also an object that you can dismiss as not you – you will discover that you are fullness itself.
If this proves to be too subtle, I suggest you take a vacation from self-inquiry for while. Do something else until the confusion abates. Maybe you are a bit too obsessed with it. Sometimes when you step back, it all makes sense. In any case keep me posted.
Tommy: Thanks, James. I understand that I am the knower of the objects, but distinguishing what bit of myself is me is tricky. Does that make sense?
James: Yes, indeed. This is what the whole self-inquiry thing is about: Which bit is me?
Tommy: I sometimes feel that the real me is the bit just back inside my head. It is crazy to have a location for awareness. It must appear to have a location, even if it is far and near as described in the teaching, because of our being in an object, i.e. the body. Okay. I don’t know if I am asking good questions or just irritating dumb ones.
James: Good thinking, Tommy. You are asking good questions. There are no dumb questions. The operative word is “appear.” It does appear to have a location, even though everything is located in it. The location is the subtle body, reflected awareness, which is experienced behind the eyes. This is why people think the brain is conscious, or aware.
Tommy: So the observer is not the mind, and prying those two apart is liberation? By that I mean, knowing that the mind is not the observer.
James: Got it in one, Tommy.
Tommy: Then who is the observer, and why does the mind think it is awareness? It is like it has tentacles clinging to awareness.
James: Getting close here, Tommy. Awareness is the observer. But it is tricky because it very much looks like the mind is the observer because it reflects awareness. But the mind is just matter, a fine reflective substance that bounces the light of awareness onto the objects appearing in it.
Tommy: Separating the two seems impossible because the mind seems to be the self. I suppose in the end it is as well – but you get my drift?
James: Yes, it is a very subtle distinction, but it amounts to liberation from the mind when you own awareness as you and know that the mind with all its stuff is not you. Well, this is not actually correct. It is you, but you are not it. This is the “drift” to get.
Tommy: I have always felt constant, and have always said I’m the same as when I was five, and that I never learned anything, but things were revealed.
James: This is self-knowledge, Tommy. This is the truth. This statement cannot be made by anyone but awareness, “Tommy” being a known object revealed by you. Full appreciation of this fact means that no Buddha, Christ or sage knows more than you. This is the “knowledge” that ends the quest for knowledge. It is so simple and obvious that you probably discounted its significance.
Tommy: Now I get that and have always felt it, but I feel I can’t move.
James: Which “I” can’t move? You, awareness, can’t move. Nothing moves, because everything is awareness. This is the meaning of non-duality. Taking yourself to be the mover/doer is confusing the Tommy-thought that is known to you with you, awareness, the one that is always the same. That one does not learn. It is the one that sees the Tommy-thought apparently “learning.” In fact Tommy is not an artist. Art reveals itself through Tommy, and you just observe. The body and mind apparently “move” in you. When you are sitting on a motionless train and another train on the adjacent track moves, it seems as if you are moving. When you look at reality through the body-mind, it seems that the “I,” awareness, moves. Ignorance is a power that makes one thing seem like something it isn’t. The Tommy body-mind is always moving. Knowing that the movement does not belong to you, the observer, is liberation, sometimes called “enlightenment.”
Tommy: So is awareness/the self really just attention, attention being behind the mind?
James: Yes. You are so close to cracking the code this conversation is like the moment that happens at the end of a suspenseful thriller movie, just before crime is solved and the villain is unmasked and arrested! Here is the answer:
Awareness focused by the vasanas through the Tommy mind-body is attention. Although awareness does not move, it seemingly goes where the mind goes. So attention is awareness, but awareness is not attention. It is the one that knows where attention goes.
Tommy: Okay, James, so for now I keep reminding myself I’m doing great, but I’m a sucker for the world. When you talk about the dumb-asses who believe happiness is in objects, I think I am that idiot.
James: Nothing wrong with the objects in the world if you don’t break dharma and you see them as awareness. But the belief that they can make you permanently happy is a recipe for suffering. If you think about the happiness that they give, you will discover that it comes from you, not the objects. So you can save yourself a lot of grief if you take it from yourself directly instead of relying on God to deliver the objects. God’s happiness delivery system is somewhat antediluvian: it takes time and is subject to many slip-ups. Sometimes you get what you want and sometimes you don’t, and sometimes you get something that you neither wanted nor didn’t want. It is a big mess.
Tommy: I’ve known for a long time I’m not Tommy (it helps having an alter ego for all the things I get up to), and I never identified myself by my given name, so escaped that as well, and I know the paintings work when I don’t get involved and let God paint them. But I don’t know how close I am to getting it. We’ll see.
James: The problem with this statement is that if you are not Tommy you can only be awareness because those are the only two possibilities insofar as there is only one self. Experience reveals that. Or “Tommy” is actually the name of awareness.
Tommy: I’m practising with: “I’m whole and complete, nothing identifies me or objectifies me, and I’m whole and complete, I’m doing everything, I’m whole and complete, I’m not doing anything.”
James: Good mantras, Tommy. Keep contemplating. You will crack the code.
Tommy: So you are saying that the objects… including the mind and its passions… should be recognised as the self, and this will disarm them.
James: Yes, indeed.
Tommy: I guess the danger here, for want of a better term, is self-deception, thinking that you are loving the self when in fact you are loving the desires for the apparent pleasure they give to the apparently incomplete self.
James: Yes, indeed. It takes great integrity to be honest about one’s true motivations. There is nothing wrong with pleasure for pleasure’s sake either, if you are happy to live with the vasana-induced cravings. But craving equals suffering, and suffering is never acceptable, because your nature is unconditioned bliss.
Tommy: I get confused about awareness having no qualities and our nature as unconditioned bliss.
James: The self, awareness, has no qualities, but when it reflects on a sattvic mind it is experienced as bliss. However, when the mind becomes rajasic or tamasic the experiential bliss disappears. The bliss of pure awareness is not experiential. It is just a kind of rock-solid self-confidence that comes when you know that you are awareness. Irrespective of what your emotions are doing you are not bothered, because they do not affect you. You see them, but they don’t change you in any way.