Search & Read
Direct and Indirect Self-Knowledge
Harry: Dear James, I have read your book How to Attain Enlightenment. I like the provocative title. I see that neither attaining enlightenment nor not attaining enlightenment is actually possible, since I cannot attain what I am, but I think it is good to have a book with that title as a counterweight to the large stream of Neo-Advaita books out there (“There is no one, there is nothing to do, the separate person cannot attain enlightenment,” etc.).
I also like it because it is one of the most comprehensive books in terms of breadth and logical structure that I have encountered so far. And believe me, I did read hundreds of books during the search. It includes many methods of discrimination in Chapter XII. I have used many of those, but I had to find them the hard way, picking them out of many hundred books or I actually create/put together some of the methods myself.
The entire book was understood except a few things that were unclear, mostly around the sleep state and the causal body. Also, there were some insights. I will list those now below.
3. Chapter XII, page 227: “The causal body is dependent on ignorance of who I am. Ignorance of my identity is not who I am either, because it depends on awareness. If I am not aware, how can I be ignorant?”
Now, I come to understand the causal body is a concept representing the habits of nature (see the theory of morphic fields), the conditioning that is engrained in the manifestation since this manifestation came into existence probably with the “Big Bang.” This includes the conditioning of this body of course, as well as the conditioning of the entire universe (physical laws, etc.).
I understand that the contents of the subtle body arise out of conditioning/causal body and the causal body swallows the subtle body. The subtle body is dependent on the causal body.
But I do not understand how the causal body is swallowed by ignorance.
James: Ignorance is the cause of the causal body. In awareness there are no bodies. When ignorance operates, it causes the self to seek experience. It seeks experience to complete itself, which is not possible, because it is already complete. The residue of experience is stored in the causal body. It programs the karma.
In reality ignorance and the causal body are synonyms. I seek because I am ignorant of my nature as awareness. The causal body, however, also serves as a location in consciousness of the effects of ignorance, i.e. the vasanas, so in that sense it is different from ignorance.
The purpose of the “three bodies” teaching is to put the individual in its place existentially, to give it an understanding of its smallness and helplessness, to get it to relax so that its mind empties and to destroy its sense of doership.
Harry: However, I think I understand why awareness swallows ignorance. Ignorance is removed through insight or knowledge arising in awareness, thereby swallowing it. And even to say, “I am ignorant of this issue,” there has to be awareness of this ignorance to be able to say that.
James: Yes. You, awareness, are aware of what the subtle body knows and what it doesn’t.
Harry: 4. Chapter XII, page 229: “…that the self is a perceiver and that perception is the essence of the self I believe there may still be identification with the perceiver.”
James: I came to that conclusion from reading your emails. It is the most difficult identification to overcome. It is second nature to think of oneself as an experiencer, a perceiver, the subtle body. But if you think about it, Harry, the experiencer, is known to you, so you cannot be Harry. Irrespective of what happens to Harry, you are there behind him dispassionately observing his antics.
Harry: Although in the waking state there is a firm understanding that the perceiver, the perceived and the act of perception are all arising in awareness, they have collapsed and are now simply seeing.
James: Notice in this statement that you say they are “arising in awareness.” That is true, but look at the perspective from which you are speaking. In this statement awareness is an object, and you, Harry, are the subject. An “enlightened” person would identify his or herself as awareness. Had you directly understood that you are awareness, you would have said “arising in me.” Yours is a statement of indirect self-knowledge, not direct self-knowledge. It is not the kiss of death; however, it indicates identification with the perceiver/feeler/thinker entity.
Freedom, liberation, is seeing from the opposite point of view. In the Gita it says, “What is day for a samsari is night for a jnani.” The ego, Harry, is the object, and you, awareness, are the subject. If you contemplate this distinction, the shift in orientation should happen. If not, it will probably happen when you come to Westerwald. People who are highly qualified like you usually get it when they hear the teaching.
Harry: But in deep sleep I seem not to exist, which could mean that there is identification with the perceiver or the causal body, right?
James: That’s correct. The waking state entity, the perceiver, does not exist in deep sleep. It morphs into a subtle thought called the sleeper (prajna). You, awareness, exist in all three states. You never change. You appear as the waker in the waking state, the dreamer in the dream state and the sleeper in the deep sleep state.
Harry: The word “awareness” is too close to the word “perception” for me. Being “aware of” means perceiving to me.
James: Okay, but you need to separate awareness from perception if you want to be free. The words don’t matter.
Harry: The more I think about it the more I feel comfortable with the word “aliveness,” although it is a well-marketed word of Tony Parsons. It is clear that aliveness is that which is permanent in all three states waker, dreamer and sleeper. I am aliveness. And that breath of life is seeded in all manifestation. I am aliveness in all, looking at myself. I am the bird on the tree which is looking at this human body to recognise itself.
James: This is true, but “aliveness” is not a good word, because it implies death. Awareness is what is aware of life and death. If you distinguish pure awareness from reflected awareness, you can’t find a better word than awareness/consciousness.
When you say “that breath of life is seeded in all manifestation” you are excluding one factor: awareness. Awareness is the means of knowing the breath of life or aliveness. While it is seemingly correct to say “I am aliveness in all” it is not the final knowledge, because while “aliveness” seems to be “in” everything, everything is actually “in” aliveness – meaning it is within the scope of aliveness/awareness. Aliveness is not a good word also because aliveness does not convey the sense of consciousness. Rather life is an effect of awareness/consciousness that arises when it illumines the subtle body. So the two are not equivalent. There are difficulties with the words “awareness” and “consciousness” too because people immediately associate awareness with the subtle body, which seems very much to be aware and conscious. It isn’t. When you say you are alive, you do not mean consciousness. It neither lives or dies. You mean the subtle body, the experiencer/perceiver. It is not actually alive. It is reflected awareness. As awareness you, as Shankara says in Atma Bodh, “live without breathing.” He could have added “without thinking, perceiving, feeling, etc.” Irrespective of the word used, the distinction between the perceiver and awareness needs to be crystal-clear. It is liberation.
The relationship between awareness (okay, aliveness) and the objects is more subtle than your statement implies. And liberation is clarity with reference the relationship between awareness and objects. In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna, speaking as awareness, says, “They (the objects) are all in me. I am not in them.” Non-duality does not mean that the apparent and the real are the same, even though they are both consciousness. The objects have the same relationship to awareness that pots have to clay. The pot is clay, but clay is not the pot. Harry exists, but he does not stand alone. He depends on you. He is in you, but you are not in him. This may take some contemplation.
Harry: 5. Chapter XII, page 233: “The sleep state is called the causal body and contains the vasanas of every living being.”
That sentence and your previous comment about the vasanas, the self and the Harry made me think that there might be some ignorance left on the understanding of the sleep state. But what is clear is that “Harry” is actually arising out of deep sleep dependent and created from a conglomerate of vasanas contained in the causal body.
James: Harry is a name that is given to a complex of vasanas that arise out of the causal body. Harry is the pot, and the vasanas, which are just inert awareness vibrating in a certain way, are the clay.
Harry: 6. Chapter XII, page 234: “Awareness is the witness of the three states.”
How can I be the witness of deep sleep/sleeper? It seems I can only gain indirect knowledge of this.
James: Who is the “I” here? If you are Harry, then the knowledge is inferential. Inference is a valid means of knowledge. But you have direct experience of sleep as the sleeper (prajna) because the sleeper is awareness. Why do you hate to be woken up out of a deep sleep at one o’clock in the morning? Because you are directly experiencing limitlessness and bliss. If you were experiencing nothing, you would not be bothered. For you to experience anything you have to be awareness. However, awareness is not an experiencer. It does not feel or think, although it is capable of feeling and thinking – as the waker/perceiver. People think they are alive because they think and feel things, but they are not alive for that reason. They are not actually alive, they apparently live. The aliveness can only be attributed to awareness. You “live” as awareness, not as a thinking, feeling entity.
Harry: 7. Chapter XII, page 235: “The removal or negation of the three experiencing entities is accomplished by simply knowing they are unreal.”
James: When you experience a mirage, for example, you do not try to drink it, because you know that it is not actually there. When you contemplate the teaching of the three states and the three experiencing entities, you understand that you are not the waker, dreamer or deep sleeper. These three “selves” do not go away in the wake of the knowledge that you are awareness, they are just known to be unreal, so you do not identify with them. Experience and the experiencing entity are objects appearing in awareness, just like a mirage appears in the desert. They are projections. What you see/know cannot be you. You are the seer/knower.
Harry: The waker and the dreamer are understood to be unreal because I can be witness to those states, even in a dream, and see that the waker and dreamer are arising.
Or is the sleeper unreal simply because of the fact that he dissolves into the waker and the waker dissolves into the dreamer and the dreamer dissolves into the sleeper, and so on and so on?
James: Now you are thinking! Yes. They are roles awareness plays. Awareness is the actor; they are the roles it plays.
Harry: 8. Chapter XII, page 247: “Do I see the world because it is there or is the world there because I see it?”
Neither of them alone are true, and both are true.
The dog on the street is there because I see it, and I am there because the dog sees me.
The world and Harry are arising in awareness. I am awareness independent of any seeing.
Harry: Points that I underline firmly:
9. Chapter XIV, page 262: “I am not enlightened nor I am unenlightened.”
After 2006, this is clear and firm without a doubt. I am beyond any concepts of the mind.
James: Yes. The self was never not awareness, so to say that it is enlightened implies that it was not awareness at some time. It is a statement coming from the perceiver. The perceiver will not be enlightened, because its “light” is borrowed from awareness. A mirror cannot see the reflections in it.
Harry: 10. Chapter XV, page 281: “The reason he sat in the caves alone was to erase whatever sense of duality was left in his understanding.”
It seems that I did not do that after the search ended in 2006.
James: You are doing it now. The search ended, but it didn’t end. There is still a doubt. We are trying to resolve that doubt now.
Harry: I would be grateful for you to be my teacher, my guide (even if remote), to do that. I offer myself as student.
James: Okay. We are doing it. There is not much to erase.
Harry: 11. Chapter XVI, page 313: “But he had the wisdom to understand that while the epiphany was the end of his seeking, it was not the end of his work.”
It seems that I did not have that wisdom in 2006 when the search ended, which means that I realized back then that I am the self, but there may still be vasanas or doership left. “Harry” is the product of those vasanas, with all the arising insecurity, boldness, fear and courage. And it does not matter anymore how “Harry” is. Harry has his dark side and his light side. That is okay. If even Ramana sat in the caves for twenty years, then I am ready to work on whatever sense of duality is left. I am not sure there is something left, but I would like to investigate.
James: If you are not sure, then there is something to investigate. If you are 100% certain you are the self, you do not have to work on any duality left in your thinking. The knowledge will root out the duality on its own. Knowledge, not the doer, the investigator, does the work. If there is a doubt, then you should continue self-inquiry until there is no more doubt. The scripture is clear on this. To say you are not Harry is correct. But not being Harry does not necessarily mean that all the ramifications of being the self are known to Harry. When the word “Harry” refers to the self alone, then the work is done.
“I would be grateful for you to be my teacher, my guide (even if remotely), to help me do that. I offer myself as student.”
James: Okay. I like you, Harry. I like the way you think. It is easy to communicate with you. You are still humble. It is good.
~ Om and prem, James