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Consciousness/Awareness/Existence Is One
Dev: It is stated that consciousness is God.
God is something that many people believe exists. Some people do not believe that God exists. So let’s leave God aside for the time being.
Sundari: God is a big topic, because what do you mean by God? Do you mean the religious God or do you mean consciousness in the role of Creator, Isvara? There is a huge difference. The religious God is in mithya, limited by Maya. Isvara is beyond Maya and the wielder of it. For you to understand this, you need to begin at the beginning of the teachings. I have attached a satsang called Who or What Is God?. Vedanta cannot just be jumped into; it is a very precise methodology and means of knowledge designed to work on the mind to remove ignorance of the true nature of reality. It requires qualifications and a total dedication to a rigorous sadhana, which must be followed step by step.
Let me know a bit about your background and what you have been exposed to. We have very clear instructions on the Contact page of our ShiningWorld website regarding how to go about self-inquiry; please make sure you follow them and stick to them. Self-knowledge cannot obtain unless you do, and we cannot help you either.
Dev: Consciousness definitely exists. Another word for consciousness is awareness. I am aware of what is happening in this room now. I am aware that the light is switched on, I am aware that the computers are switched on. I am aware of many things in the room now. But I am not aware of what is happening in your office. So awareness is something that I have an idea about. I may not fully understand what awareness is from an Upanishadic point of view. But I am aware of many things. I am not aware of many things. Awareness seems to me at this stage to be closely associated with “knowing.” And knowing is associated with the brain. But Vedanta refutes all this.
Sundari: Awareness, existence, consciousness, atman, paramatma are all names for the non-dual self. You are aware what is happening around you because consciousness makes it possible. How would you know what you know or know what you don’t know if you were not conscious? However, to be free of limitation, we need to understand what it means to BE consciousness. Although there is only one eternal Jiva or subtle body, Maya makes it look like there are many individual jivas by giving sentient beings a seemingly unique uphadi, their vasana load, personal ignorance (avidya), also called the subtle body. An uphadi is a limiting adjunct – that which makes something appear to be something other than it is. For instance, if I have a red rose behind a clear crystal, the clear crystal will appear to be red even though it is clear. Put it this way: the uphadi for the self/awareness (or what we can also call perception) is the person – the individual under the spell of ignorance. It makes the self look like it is a jiva, a person. However, what belongs to the person does not belong to the self, because the person and the self do not exist in the same order of reality. The two orders of reality are that which is real and that which is only apparently real. They do not contradict each other, but for moksa to obtain, you must be able to discriminate between them.
The self, the subject, is what is real (satya/non-duality), and the object, the person, is what is apparently real (mithya/duality). The definition of “real” is “that which is always present and never changes,” which only applies to the self. The jiva is always changing and not always present, such as in deep sleep or coma. The perceiver only looks different in accordance with the uphadi in association with it; the difference belongs to the uphadi and not to the subject (the self). It is just an appearance in awareness causing a sense of difference where there is no difference. Maya, beginningless ignorance, is a very clever trickster – and very intelligent. Maya is Isvara’s (apparent) uphadi.
The confusion is in what belongs to the person and what belongs to the self: you think that what applies to the person also applies to the self. As stated above, the person and the self are not the same, because of the different uphadis. What belongs to the person cannot belong to the self, because the self is a partless whole. So the self cannot be a jiva, but the jiva is the self. All objects depend on the self, awareness, but awareness depends on nothing to exist. Understand? Like the wave depends on the ocean but the ocean is free of the wave, the pot depends on clay but the clay is free of the pot, the ring depends on gold but gold is free of the ring. These are only apparent contradictions, which resolve when the logic of Vedanta is applied to them.
Dev: (1) The brain has a birth and death. If awareness is a product of the brain, then awareness has a birth and death. There will be no awareness once the body dies and is cremated. But if awareness is God as Vedanta says, God has no birth and death. So awareness has no birth and death.
Sundari: If you are identified with the body-mind, “you” die when the body dies. If you are identified as the self, you know that you are unborn and undying.
Dev: (2) Furthermore, if awareness is a product of the brain, then there are many brains at this moment. Then I would say that at this moment there are many awarenesses. But awareness is God. There is only one God. Thus there is only one awareness.
Sundari: How can awareness be the product of the brain when the brain is only aware because the light of awareness shines on it? Take away awareness and the brain is a piece of meat. Awareness is not God. God is awareness, but awareness is free of “God,” or Isvara, in the role of Creator. God and Isvara depend on awareness, but awareness does not depend on God. God and Isvara are only present when Maya appears and the creation manifests, then it appears that there is something for awareness to be conscious of. But awareness does not need the presence of objects to be consciousness, because it is what makes consciousness (and objects) possible. Awareness is self-knowing. It always “sees” only itself because there is only itself. Reality is non-dual. The world of duality (mithya) is just a superimposition onto non-duality; it is not real. It’s like a movie playing out on the screen of awareness.
Dev: From points 1 and 2, it obviously shows that consciousness is not a product of the brain. Thus kindly explain to me what is consciousness that Vedanta speaks about. In fact consciousness is God, as the Upanishad says.
Sundari: Everything is consciousness because that is all there is, as I said above. But to understand mithya to negate the superimposition of duality, you need to understand how what God/Isvara, Maya and Jiva are, how they work and their common identity as awareness. This is the key to understanding the teachings of Vedanta.
Consciousness/existence/awareness is one, therefore it is the same as the jiva’s awareness, which seems to be limited and one among many awarenesses. But when awareness is associated with an upadhi (a subtle body, i.e. a conscious being) it seems to be limited and different from other awarenesses. I only know the objects that I have contact with, as do you. I cannot know what you know, because only Isvara is omniscient. But when knowledge has removed my ignorance and I know myself as the self, I know the essence of everything because there is only me, awareness.
So to realize your identity as awareness you must subtract the upadhi, i.e. the jiva. The jiva is obviously born and dies (it is mithya) and is limited in many ways, so it can be negated, i.e. dismissed. But you cannot dismiss awareness, because awareness is unborn and eternal. It is the only thing that can never be negated. The consciousness that you now think of as the jiva is actually limitless, non-dual, unborn consciousness/existence/awareness – the self. You need to be taught how to discriminate between what is real, consciousness/the self, and what is only apparently real, the jiva, all objects. An object is anything other than you, the self. If you know something, it cannot be you, can it? Therefore all objects, whether subtle (thoughts/feelings/experiences) or gross (the body, all material objects), are known to you. Dev, the experiencing entity, is an object known to you, the non-experiencing witness, the self.
Dev: As a Hindu who believes that the Upanishads are the revelations of God through the seers, I consider this the ultimate truth and do not doubt that it is right. But my understanding of consciousness is not correct. I have missed the wood for the trees.
Sundari: You have missed the wood for the trees, but that is normal without proper teaching, which it appears you have not had.
As you correctly understand, Vedanta is also called apauruseya jnanam, meaning not the philosophy or experience of one person like a prophet or a mystic, as in the Buddha, Jesus or Abraham. It is not a belief system or religion either. Vedanta predates all known religious or philosophical paths because it is the pathless path that underpins all other paths. It is an independent teaching, or sruti, which means “that which is heard.” It is also called self-knowledge.
Self-knowledge, unlike object-knowledge, stands on its own and is always true because it is true to the self, meaning that it cannot be dismissed or negated by any other knowledge. Self-knowledge is different from knowledge of objects, which is object-based, not subject-based. Knowledge of objects is not knowledge unless it is true to the object. If I am looking at a dog and my eyes and mind are functional, I will not see a cat. If it is “my” knowledge, then it is my interpretation of an object (pratibasika), which is not necessarily knowledge. Ignorance (or my point of view) causes me to see or experience objects in a certain way because of “my” conditioning. People believe that ignorance is knowledge because they believe that what they experience is knowledge. It may be knowledge, but it may not be. Self-knowledge is neither confirmed or negated by anyone’s opinions or experience.
Vedanta is revealed to the mind of man, not thought up by man or the result of any action on anyone’s part, therefore you can trust it. So, what do we mean by “revealed”? Don’t all religions claim this? What Vedanta means by revealed is simple. A good example of revealed knowledge is Einstein’s “discovery” of the law of relativity and gravity or Thomas Edison’s inventions for the use of electricity. To discover the means to uncover something that was there but previously unknown. Relativity, gravity and electricity describe how the world works according to the laws of physics, not according to Einstein or Edison. Gravity, relativity and electricity do not care if you believe in them. They operate the same way whether you understand what they are or not.
~ Om and prem, Sundari