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Existence Is Consciousness
Reginald: Namaste, Sundari. Here are my questions while learning Advaita Vedanta. Please help me to eliminate my doubts.
The body-mind-intellect complex, time, space and the universe cease to exist in dreamless sleep state (total blankness) but the witnessing consciousness still exists in the dreamless sleep state. The statement of proof of the existence of sakshi that I frequently heard from the Advaita teachers is: How can I know there was total blankness in dreamless sleep state if there is no consciousness to know it? (I can only ask this question in the waking state.) I also can only say that I slept happily in the waking state. The knowledge of no-apprehension is also knowledge.
Sundari: You know that you were present as awareness in deep sleep through inference, which is a valid means of knowledge. When the subtle body (mind) returns to the causal body whether in deep sleep, during anesthesia or coma, the subtle body goes into seed form in the causal body. When the subtle body returns from the causal body (deep sleep) the waking state entity (viswa) is present again. Therefore awareness, or the witnessing consciousness, as you put it, knows the apparent absence or presence of the subtle body. Non-apprehension is possible and can be called a kind of knowledge because consciousness is there to know the absence of knowledge.
In the waking state you experience the world using the gross body; in the dream state you experience the dream projected by the mind, or vasanas, using the subtle body. In deep sleep you are shut off from both the gross and subtle bodies. Deep sleep is beyond description as it is the absence of knowledge, i.e. ignorance, as the subtle body has returned to the causal body. The deep sleep state is called anandam, experiential bliss. In this state there is no conflict, no suffering and no problems because the vasanas are dormant as the subtle body is not present, which is blissful. But it is not the same as the bliss of knowledge, which is anantum.
Anantum versus ananda, the “two kinds of blisses” – Paramarthananda, on the Taittiriya Upanishad, takes up this question:
“In the scriptures both ananda and anantam are used to describe the indescribable brahman. Sathyam jnanam anantam brahman is one of these definitions, sat chit ananda, referring to atma, another one.”
Paramarthanda now gives the following explanation: “Sathyam means ‘timewise limitlessness,’ anantam means ‘spacewise limitlessness,’” so he translates sathyam jnanam anantam brahman as “brahman is the eternal, all-pervading consciousness,” anantam as a term to describe “limitlessness is not sufficient as it does not include time.”
“Ananda in sat chit ananda again means ‘limitlessness.’ There are two kinds of ananda: bimbaananda and pratibimbaananda. Bimbaananda is the original ananda, also called atmaananda. It is my nature, always present but not experienceable. It cannot be gained; it is to be claimed and owned.
“Pratibimbaananda is reflected ananda; it can be experienced in a sattvic mind. Translating ananda as ‘bliss’ is reducing ananda to pratibimbaananda, experiential bliss. In the spiritual world you find this mistranslation and misunderstanding all over, especially in yoga.” End quote.
The self does not feel like anything because it is simply your nature as awareness. It is unmistakeable as supreme confidence, knowing that everything is good, perfect the way it is and nothing that Isvara sends your way could affect you. This can be “lost” if the knowledge is not yet firm.
Reginald: But sakshi is not the knower, sakshi only passively shining whether or not there is reflecting medium. Mind is the knower. Mind doesn’t exist in dreamless sleep state. So how can the above statement be a valid proof of the existence of sakshi in dreamless sleep state since the knower itself didn’t exist?
Sundari: Ask yourself who is asking this question. If you are talking as the jiva identified with being the doer then you will not be able to confirm what was or was not present in deep sleep. This is because the subtle body is not present in deep sleep. In deep sleep the subtle body has returned to the causal body, so awareness is experiencing its own nature or bliss, i.e. the absence of objects, because all vasanas are dormant so there is no activity in the mind. The only objects present in deep sleep are ignorance and nothing (no objects); this is why deep sleep is so pleasurable. Think what it is like to be woken abruptly from deep sleep, like someone next door coming home at 3:00 am with music blasting – the mind experiences immediate agitation at being wrenched from the bliss of deep, tamasic sleep.
Awareness, that which is always present and never changes, is present during deep sleep or there would be no deep sleep because mind-body would be no more, i.e. you would be very fast asleep – dead.
Mind is not the knower, awareness is the knower of the mind. You are confusing sattya and mithya, the real with the apparently real, or the experiencing witness with the non-experiencing witness, the seer with the seen, nirguna brahman with saguna brahman.
The Non-experiencing Witness and the Experiencing Witness
The seer and the seen is also called “the witness and the witnessed.” There are two witnesses, what is called the “opaque” and the “transparent” witness. The opaque witness is the jiva with qualities looking at awareness through its conditioning (vasanas); this is the experiencing witness. The transparent witness is pure awareness with no qualities conditioning it – and it is the witness of the opaque witness and the non-experiencing witness: consciousness.
A Quote from Ramana
THE WITNESS REALLY MEANS THE LIGHT THAT ILLUMINES THE SEER, SEEN AND THE PROCESS OF SEEING
“Witness is applicable when there is an object to be seen. Then it is duality. The truth lies beyond both. In the mantra ‘sakshi cheta kevalo nirgunascha’ the word sakshi [witness] must be understood as sannidhi [presence], without which there could be nothing. See how the sun is necessary for daily activites. He does not, however, form part of the world actions, yet they cannot take place without the sun. He is the witness of the activities. So it is with the self.
“Talking of the witness should not lead to the idea that there is a witness and something else apart from him that he is witnessing. The witness really means the light that illumines the seer, the seen and the process of seeing.
“Before, during and after the triads of seer, seen and seeing, the illumination exists. It alone exists always.” End quote
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.”
This quote clarifies the distinction between saguna and nirguna brahman. The self is a seer that never began or ceases and is the all-seeing eye, or “I” that sees only itself, because there are no objects for it to see. It is self-effulgent and there is nothing but itself. Saguna brahman is apparently influenced by sattva, and as the mind gets sattvic the witness seems to be clear, and this clarity, or pureness, is what people assume to be holy. One eventually has to drop all these terms, even nirguna brahman, because nirguna implies saguna.
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 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, even though Isvara is pure sattva.
When tamas and rajas arise in saguna brahman then awareness apparently becomes a jiva and is deluded by maya. Sattva seems to be clear and pure – only with reference to the objects appearing in it, which are impure. Purity and holiness are projected by the jiva when it is under the spell of sattva; this projection takes place when rajas and tamas are also active, even though they appear to be in the service of sattva. Pure sattva does not project, it simply reveals. As your experience confirms, if you work out the logic awareness is without parts; being part-less, purity and impurity are dualisms. Yes, they are experienced and continue (because the jiva never leaves maya) even though purity and impurity are not real. When avidya is removed and your nature is known to be non-dual, duality (maya) is no longer an issue for you, even though it still apparently exists.
The Three States
Jiva manifests as three little jivas according to the state that it experiences:
1. As viswa, the waking state entity. In this state its mind is totally extroverted. It is hypnotised by duality. It chases and consumes experiences. Viswa appears in two forms: (a) free of identification with objects (a jivanmukta) or (b) as a doer (karta), or person, identified with objects (a samsari). Both a jivanmukta, a liberated person, and a samsari, a bound person, have a common identity as awareness.
2. As taijasa, the “shining one,” awareness with a subtle body, illumining the dream state. In the dream state the subtle body is turned inwards facing the causal body, the vasanas. The experiences the dreamer has are just experiences of the vasanas. Jiva is not present in the dream state in the same way that it is present in the waking state. In the waking state jiva identifies with the doer so the doer is not seen as an object. It is thought to be the subject. In the dream state there is also identification but the doer/ego can also appear as an object illumined by taijasa, awareness reflected on the mind. For instance, in the dream you can see the waker going about its business, walking, talking, eating, etc. The doer/ego is a dream doer/ego similar in some respects to viswa but with unique powers. These powers are inherent in the dream state and do not belong to taijasa although in normal dreams it identifies with them. The doer-ego and the events appearing in the dream are just waking state events that have become vasanas that out-picture as dream events.
3. As the sleeper, prajna, in the deep sleep state. Prajna means “almost enlightened.” It is almost enlightened because it experiences the limitlessness and bliss of awareness but lacks knowledge of what it is experiencing because the intellect (subtle body) is not present in deep sleep. In deep sleep awareness knows the absence of objects, which means that the absence of objects is an object.
The subtle body disappears in deep sleep state as does the microcosmic causal body (personal subconscious). The personal subconscious, which comes from Isvara, seems to belong to the jiva and to produce the jiva’s karma. The deep sleep state is defined as “a state with no mental activity.” It is the same for everyone because the personal subconscious is subsumed into Isvara, the macrocosmic causal body. The macrocosmic causal body, another name for Isvara, is the deep sleep state. Deep sleep is the presence of tamoguna alone. Rajas and sattva are dormant. There is no sense of individuality (ahamkara) in this state because the subtle body of the individual is not there to be conditioned. (The ahamkara or I-sense (ego) belongs to the subtle body and the subtle body belongs to Isvara.)
Although the nature of both the jiva and Isvara is awareness, both the jiva and Isvara are inconstant factors with reference to awareness. Jiva is inconstant because it changes from state to state and because self-knowledge removes the notion that it is a limited entity, revealing its nature to be pure awareness. Isvara in the role of Creator is inconstant because logic and scripture – which is just science – informs us that Isvara is withdrawn at the end of the creation cycle; whatever is created will be destroyed. Isvara in the role of Creator is eternal with reference to the jiva but not with reference to pure awareness, or paramatman, the constant factor.
The dream state has two aspects: waking dream and sleep dream. It is called the pratibasika state, the subjective state of reality. It is jiva’s creation (sristi). It is an individual jiva’s interpretation of reality. In the dream state (whether the jiva is awake or asleep) vasanas influence how reality is interpreted by the jiva. Isvara provides the raw material for the interpretation but not the interpretation itself. Ultimately, it is all Isvara but to get to that understanding – which is tantamount to moksa – the jiva has to understand its oneness with Isvara as awareness as well as its difference from Isvara as an apparent jiva, so that it can be free of both itself and Isvara.
Reginald: I can only infer the blankness in dreamless sleep state based on the absence of memory during the deep sleep; I only can recall the memory at the moment before deep sleep (because of no memory in deep sleep state) and compare it to the experience of waking up in the morning. There is no memory of me having had a dream also, and I wake up happily. So in the waking state I infer I experienced deep sleep. (Even the ahamkara, “I,” cannot experience deep sleep because ahamkara also ceased to exist.)
Sundari: Yes, correct. See my previous explanation – but again, who is making the inferences? If there is no memory, no ahamkara or mind active in deep sleep, how do you know you do not remember – who is it that does not remember?
Reginald: Then is it possible the non-apprehension knowledge is only caused by the absence of memory during the deep sleep? (I can only say I have no memory also in the waking state only.)
Sundari: See replies in the above explanation. It is not the absence of memory per se, it is the absence of the subtle body which, as I stated above, returns to the causal body (Isvara) during deep sleep but, of course, awareness remains. In the dream state there is no memory function because the subtle body is not present. In the waking state memory can fail you with reference to objects but not with reference to awareness.
This is because awareness is not a function of the mind or of memory. Awareness is hidden by ignorance (or deep sleep) but is always present whether you know it or not. You can never be unaware or you as Reginald would not be here. Awareness is the only thing that cannot be negated. Awareness, the constant factor, is there to observe the presence or absence of the subtle body, which includes the memory function.
Reginald: But I also think even in waking state the sakshi cannot be seen or proven because if I can see sakshi or prove it then who is witnessing the ahamkara that trying to prove the existence of the sakshi?
Sundari: Indeed, who would that be – ? The answer depends on who you are identified with. This is the ego trying to experience awareness speaking here; it cannot be done because the ego (ahamkara) is not real and not conscious. Awareness, sakshi, shines on the subtle body making it appear conscious, so it is always ONLY experiencing awareness.
The jiva, or Reginald, would not exist unless he is known to exist, and the knowledge of his existence is only possible because he is aware.
Consciousness and the objects that seem to arise from it exist in a different order or reality, even though this is a non-dual reality. Maya, or ignorance, makes it appear as if this reality is a duality by superimposing duality onto non-duality; this is the hypnosis of ignorance that apparently traps consciousness. We say “apparently” because in reality awareness is always free and cannot be trapped by anything.
However, when maya is operating awareness appears as a subtle body and then, under the spell of ignorance, apparently identifies with the subtle body. Awareness then believes that it is the subtle body and consciousness is something to gain! When the mind is purified and qualified exposing it to self-knowledge will destroy the sense of limitation that identification with objects (called bondage) creates, revealing that your true nature is unlimited, whole and complete, actionless, unchanging awareness (or consciousness). This is moksa.
Without consciousness you would not know if you are conscious or not. If it were possible for consciousness to not exist (which it is not) then without consciousness there is no witness and nothing to witness. You cannot be more or less conscious, you can only be more or less ignorant of your true nature as consciousness. Consciousness seems to take form in objects but in reality consciousness is all-pervasive and formless; it cannot be measured, quantified or contained. Consciousness is you, the non-experiencing witness of Reginald, or the ahamkara, the experiencer. You have not yet discriminated awareness (YOU) from the objects that appear in you. Until such time as you have developed all the qualifications for moksa and self-knowledge removes ignorance, you (awareness under the spell of ignorance) will be identified with objects, i.e. Reginald and the world.
Without an epiphany you need faith in Vedanta’s contention that you are limitless, ever-free awareness. This is a very important qualification; in fact Dayananda says that faith in the scripture – shreddha – is the most important qualification. This is why all the qualifications are so important. Self-inquiry must be undertaken with faith in the scripture – not blind faith but faith pending the outcome of your investigation.
It should not be so hard to have faith in the scripture because Vedanta provides a method of discrimination based on the unexamined logic of your own experience that reveals the belief that your true nature as awareness to be a fact. The answer to your question is that you have no doubt that you exist, do you? What you call consciousness – sakshi – is just you, your existence. All that is left to determine therefore is the nature of your existence. Vedanta says that your nature is limitless and proves it – if you are qualified to understand.
Reginald: So not only in the deep sleep state but also in waking state I cannot know the sakshi, and the deep sleep state is the state of ignorance. When I try to know the ignorance, the ignorance always runs away. It is like trying to see the darkness using a flashlight.
Sundari: Who is making this statement?
There are three jivas. There is the jiva who thinks it is a person. This jiva is often called “the doer,” or the human being, the one identified with objects, the ahamkara. There is the jiva who knows about awareness but it does not know what it means to be awareness. This jiva is often called a “self-realised” jiva. And finally, there is the jiva that knows it IS awareness and what it means to be awareness while apparently manifesting as a jiva or individual. This is the jivanmukta, the self no longer under the spell of ignorance, or the “self-actualised” jiva.
To answer your question and for you to get to the self-actualised jiva, you need to destroy the notion of doership and render the binding vasanas non-binding. In other words, you need to have ignorance removed by self-knowledge.
When you understand what it means to say that you are not the doer and to claim your identity as awareness, then you understand the identity of (1) Isvara, or the Total Mind, (2) the jiva, or apparent individual and (3) awareness. Without this moksa will not take place. This is why you are stuck. You do not know who or what the jiva and Isvara is, what makes them different and what makes them the same. I have explained this teaching in detail later on in this email.
As you know and we have already determined, the object, Reginald, is not conscious so it cannot know the subject, consciousness. Reginald is the effect and the effect cannot know the cause. The means at our disposal to know anything are perception and inference, which are too gross to know awareness. This is why we need a valid, independent means of knowledge which, when the mind is qualified and purified, is capable of removing ignorance from the mind so that the self, sakshi, can shine in the mind and be known to be your true nature. Vedanta is such a means.
Reginald: So it is true that I don’t need to prove the existence of sakshi in the dreamless sleep state because only total ignorance is in that state, self-knowledge also didn’t exist in the dreamless state (because any knowledge, including atma vidya, only exists in the mind).
Sundari: You DO need to understand that as consciousness you are present in the deep sleep state; that is the whole point of the three states teaching! Consciousness is there to observe the absence of knowledge in deep sleep or how would you know there is total ignorance in deep sleep? Consciousness is there to observe the waking state entity (viswa) who no longer exists in the dream state (taijasa) or deep sleep state (prajna); consciousness is there to observe the dream state entity who no longer exists in the waking and deep sleep state. And consciousness is there to observe the deep sleeper who no longer exists in the waking or dream state. Consciousness is the constant factor in the waking, dream and deep sleep state.
Atma vidya, self-knowledge, is not just experienced in the mind, it is the nature of moksa. Self-knowledge removes ignorance and thus reveals your true nature to be awareness. Before self-knowledge is present it appears as if the subtle body requires the mind to know awareness. But as you know, the mind is not conscious but only appears to be conscious because the light of awareness shines on it.
Once ignorance is removed by self-knowledge moksa is simply known to be your true nature and that by whose presence everything is known, including the mind. It is then known to you that the mind belongs to Isvara, not to awareness and not to the jiva. When we say that everything is experienced in the mind, we mean in consciousness because the mind is inert; it is simply the instrument for consciousness to appear in the apparent reality.
Reginald: And it is enough for me to know the sakshi is the witness of the ignorance and knowledge. (This knowledge also only exists in waking state in the mind, it is the ahamkara who say this, sakshi cannot think or know anything but sakshi is the only one that makes any knowledge or ignorance known; no mind, there will be no knowledge and, of course, no self-realization.)
Sundari: Yes, it is enough to know that your true identity is consciousness, the knower of ignorance and knowledge – but you are wrong to think that self-knowledge exists only in the waking state mind. Self-knowledge is the nature of the self, the sakshi, which never sleeps or wakes up. Sakshi is always present even when the subtle body is not thinking. Thinking is a power that exists in consciousness even though consciousness does not think. When consciousness is present thinking takes place in the jiva, or waking mind – or appears to – but where do the thoughts come from?
The causal body, Isvara, or the gunas. And if consciousness was not shining on the mind knowledge or ignorance are not present because the body is dead. But in deep sleep the mind is not dead but returned to the causal body; consciousness is present to know the absence of the mind and the presence of ignorance. This is why the deep sleeper is called “almost enlightened”; there is a subtle vritti called prajna in deep sleep that makes it the experience of bliss possible. You are correct, a purified mind is necessary for self-knowledge.
You are wrong to think that consciousness needs the mind to know or to realise itself. As already stated, the ahamkara, which is the subtle body, or jiva identified with its body-mind/thinking and feeling, the self under the spell of ignorance, is the one that needs to realise its true identity, the one seeking moksa. You are still mixing up the real with the apparently real. The self is always free, it does not need to realise itself because it is self-knowing. For self-knowledge, moksa, to take place the mind needs to be purified, the binding vasanas rendered non-binding and the notion of doership negated. This means that you understand that your conditioning given to you by Isvara, in the light of self-knowledge. Which means you understand the identity between the jiva and Isvara; see explanation further down.
Reginald: And pure consciousness without any reflecting medium isn’t that same with total blankness? Because consciousness cannot say “I am pure consciousness, I am the self-existent entity even without reflecting medium.” And consciousness also cannot see itself without a reflecting medium.
Sundari: No, this is not correct. Awareness without a reflecting medium is pure awareness. Pure awareness does not speak or think and it does not need a reflecting medium to know itself because pure awareness is self-knowing, as I have said several times now. Pure awareness plus the gunas = Isvara wielding maya, or ignorance. Total blankness is total ignorance, or maya. Maya is a power that exists in awareness or it could not be unlimited.
Maya: The Identity Between Pure Awareness, Isvara and Jiva
Maya is a very difficult teaching to grasp, and understanding Isvara is where most of the teaching in Vedanta takes place. There is no answer to the question of why maya exists because the mind asking that question is in the apparent reality and subject to ignorance. Even when ignorance is removed, there is no other answer other than that stated above, that maya is a power that exists in awareness or it could not be unlimited. Maya simply means ignorance of the true nature of reality. In order for the creation to manifest maya (ignorance) has to be there for awareness to appear as a subtle body and to have contact with objects. This is the self under the spell of ignorance. If there was no ignorance Reginald as an apparent person would not be around to ask this question.
Maya is that which gives rise to karma. The Bhagavad Gita says: “On the subject of karma, even the sages are perplexed.” Maya is that which makes the changeless appear changing therefore action appears to take place. This is why it is said that Isvara is the only doer; in reality there is no actual doer because when one deconstructs (1) action, (2) the jiva and (3) Isvara in the light of self-knowledge, you are left with only awareness. Awareness is the self-effulgent light that makes light possible; it is also the light which makes darkness or blankness possible.
Here is the key to understanding how you as awareness relate to jiva and Isvara (the individual and the total, the creature and the created). It is a description of maya, beautiful, intelligent ignorance.
Reality, though one, is comprised of three factors: (1) an apparent person, or jiva, the “small self,” or subtle body. It is an experiencing entity; (2) a causal body produced by maya, macrocosmic ignorance. Maya is also known as Isvara, the power that creates the dharma field. The dharma field is brought into being by Isvara, pure awareness associated with maya. Isvara is the creator of the experiencing entities and what they experience. Vedanta refers to Isvara as The Unmanifest because it cannot be experienced. It is known by inference; (3) the knower of both: pure awareness, the self.
Both the jiva and Isvara enjoy the same identity as awareness, and on inquiry dissolve into awareness because they are impermanent. Awareness cannot be dismissed because it is permanent. “Permanent” and “impermanent” are not actually good words because they imply duality and seemingly set the experiencers apart from the objects of experience. But we need these words and others like them to set up the discrimination that brings about moksa, freedom. Awareness is always prior to and free of the jiva and Isvara, the subtle and the causal bodies. Therefore there is really only one self, or awareness, free of all objects, from which everything arises and into which everything dissolves.
Here is a verse from the Bhagavad Gita that is the key to moksa, Chapter 15, verse 17:
“Two selves, one perishable and the other imperishable, exist in the world. The conscious beings and matter are perishable, the Unmanifest is imperishable. But other than these is the Self beyond the selves, the limitless, changeless Awareness that has entered the three worlds and sustains them. Therefore I am renowned as the Supreme Being. If you know me in this way you become a knower of everything, the Self of All.”
This means: the apparent self, person (Reginald), or jiva (the self under the spell of ignorance), is not real because it is not always present (as in deep sleep or coma) and is always changing. Although it appears to be conscious, the apparent self is not actually conscious; it is modified by maya/ignorance and is perishable because its lifespan in the apparent reality is very brief. Moksa is freedom from the notion of doership, personhood and ownership, notions that are the essence of jivas identified with the subtle body. Identified jivas are also known as human beings, or people. There are two meanings to jiva. One is “awareness associated with the subtle body,” the self under the spell of ignorance. In this case, awareness is governed by Isvara, the Creator, because of identification with objects. But very importantly, the other meaning of jiva is “pure consciousness” – jivatman.
This is what the great saying, or mahavakya, “Tat Tvam Asi” means. It indicates the identity of jiva and Isvara as paramatma. If it meant that jiva and Isvara the Creator (jagat karanam) were identical, jiva would not be free because Isvara in the role of creator is not free. Isvara depends on pure awareness to exist. So it has to mean that jiva and paramatma are pure, limitless awareness. The jiva is not actually bound because it is really pure awareness and ignorance can be removed by self-knowledge. Once ignorance of your true nature is removed, the apparent person continues to exist in the apparent reality, although as the self no longer under the spell of ignorance (jivanmukta) it is forever free of the notion that it is limited, inadequate and incomplete. It knows it is nameless, formless, unconditioned awareness.
Isvara associated with maya is conscious (although it is not a jiva, or person) and is not modified by ignorance/maya (the gunas). Isvara is conscious because with the appearance of maya there is something for awareness to be to be conscious of, i.e. objects. Isvara (awareness in the role of creator associated with maya) merges back into pure awareness at the end of the creation cycle, so it too is not unchanging and not always manifest.
Isvara is always present in awareness but it is either manifest or unmanifest with reference to awareness. Therefore Isvara associated with maya is not real either although in terms of the apparent person Isvara is relatively real and eternal. In other words, Isvara associated with maya is eternal or permanent with reference to the jiva and the objects it experiences but impermanent with reference to awareness.
To say that Isvara associated with maya is eternal with reference to the jiva does not mean that it is limitless because ignorance, or maya, only operates on a tiny fraction of awareness and because it is resolved back into awareness at the end of the creation cycle. The words “operates on a tiny fraction of awareness” are also used simply to put maya in perspective because the self has no parts and cannot be quantified.
Maya is said to be eternal because it is a power that exists in awareness and awareness is eternal; this is why maya is “beginningless.” Personal ignorance (avidya) ends for the jiva when the self is realised to be its true nature, ending its personal cycle of incarnation and suffering, but maya, or cosmic ignorance, continues unchanged. The creation is not always manifest because maya is not always manifest. When ignorance, or maya, does manifest, Isvara (awareness plus the gunas) in its capacity as a creator appears, followed by the apparent creation (Isvara srsti), the world of sentient beings and insentient elements (objects).
Isvara as pure awareness prior to maya manifesting is called paramatman. Although paramatman is called eternal and imperishable, it is neither. Eternal and imperishable infer non-eternal and perishable, and since paramatman is non-dual it is neither. It is “isness,” being. It is simply that which gives rise to everything, that which is self-knowing and when objects are present knows objects. It is prior to and the knower of both the jiva and Isvara. Therefore it has no qualities.
The most subtle aspect of this teaching is the irreducible fact that because consciousness implies unconsciousness it is not strictly speaking true to say that awareness is conscious. Awareness is without qualities, it is the non-experiencing witness, and although it gives rise to all objects (who are not conscious) and Isvara who is conscious, awareness is not conscious in the same way. Awareness is that which makes consciousness possible in that consciousness is reflected awareness. Like Isvara awareness is not a person either; conscious and unconscious objects (Isvara and jiva respectively) arise when maya (ignorance) appears.
This is why the apparent reality is called “apparently” real; it is reflected consciousness. And as stated above, as long as the apparent entity, the jiva, is still embodied in the apparent reality, enlightened or not, it is conditioned by Isvara, the Creator. The jivanmukta, the self freed of apparent ignorance appearing as a human being, is free of the objects created by ignorance. He or she has no problem with Isvara or jiva-hood because both appear as objects. This does not mean that the gunas cease to exist; Isvara srsti, or creation, continues as before enlightenment. The gunas no longer condition the jivanmukta, or the self no longer under the spell of ignorance, thus the jivanmukta does not project the person’s creation, or jiva srsti, onto Isvara. The jiva, the gunas and Isvara are objects known to awareness.
However, as the jiva never leaves the apparent reality it is still subject to the dharma field, or Isvara. Therefore the jivanmukti would naturally follow dharma in every aspect of its existence because in order to remain free of the gunas, or samsara (the notion that reality is a duality), a purified, or sattvic, mind is necessary. The jivanmukta, who perceives duality, is not affected by it because he or she knows that it is a superimposition onto non-duality and that Isvara, the gunas, is the doer.
Awareness under the spell of ignorance is apparently governed. It is all a play of the gunas and although the apparent reality can be experienced, it is not real. It is all a projection, a dream. Isvara is like the projector, the jiva, or apparent reality, is the movie and awareness is the screen on which the movie is being projected. All objects are temporary, seem to act and are always changing; awareness is ever-present, never changes and is actionless.
To repeat once more: the Isvara-jiva-awareness identity is the essence of Vedanta because it is the key to understanding what it means to be awareness as a jiva living in the apparent reality. Isvara plus jiva and jagat (the world of objects) make up the dharma field. Their common identity is non-dual reality, awareness, out of which all orders of reflected awareness arise. Although all objects share a common identity as awareness, they are not the same as pure awareness. However, all the orders and the objects depend on awareness but awareness is always free of the objects. A good analogy is H2O. Water is pure H2O. So are the ocean (Isvara) and the wave (jiva/jagat). But while the wave and the ocean are dependent on the H2O, the H2O is free of both the wave and the ocean. Pure awareness is free of Isvara, jiva and jagat but Isvara-jiva-jagat has a dependent existence on awareness.
The distinction between these three factors in existence is crucial for the jiva’s moksa because it disentangles the jiva from its own psychology and from the objective world. It makes it clear that everything the jiva could claim to be the author of belongs to Isvara and that anything that it claims ownership of also belongs to Isvara. At the same time this teaching makes it clear that the jiva is not under the control of Isvara because Isvara is not real. How can something that is not real actually create or control anything? Furthermore, this teaching separates awareness from both Isvara and jiva, the creator and the created. In so doing this teaching makes it clear that the jiva’s ordinary awareness, which is the essence of its identity, is limitless. The discovery that the self is limitless awareness is moksa, freedom from the jiva and for the jiva.
This leads to the conclusion that you are awareness. Try as you might you cannot find two awarenesses. A jiva that knows that it is limitless awareness is called a jivanmukta, liberated while alive. In reality a jivanmukta is just pure awareness stripped of its identification with Isvara and jiva.
Reginald: I have also have heard the saying “I don’t need a mirror to know that I am exist.” I still know my self exists even I don’t have a mirror because I still have ahamkara, or mind (that acts as reflecting medium), that is illumined by the sakshi and the reflection is received by the sakshi, again. Without ahamkara, or mind, sakshi is just shining without any reflection comeback to sakshi and then there is no self-knowledge. (Reflection of consciousness that is received by witnessing consciousness is the mandatory for knowledge to exist.) Is that true?
Sundari: It is not true that awareness needs the mind to know itself. As stated many times now, awareness is self-luminous and needs nothing to know itself. But it is true for the apparent entity, or ego, the one identified with the subtle body. If the mind is not present because it is in deep sleep, coma or even dead consciousness is always shining, unaffected. But for the subtle body it needs the mind, intellect and body functioning in order for moksa to take place. For this, qualifications and self-inquiry are essential. Self-knowledge will not take place in a mind that is not qualified and purified because such a mind is too heavily under the spell of ignorance; that much is correct.
Reginald: And I want to clarify this also: ignorance is also an object of knowledge (for example, I know that I don’t know Japanese) and ignorance is mithya. Everything is brahman and brahman is limitless so ignorance is too.
Sundari: Ignorance is the absence of knowledge; it is a kind of knowledge also because it is a vritti, a thought. You cannot have ignorance without knowledge because ignorance means ignorance OF something and implies a knower. There three types of ignorance: (1) there are things you think you know and think are true; (2) there are the things you know you don’t know and (3) there are things you don’t know you don’t know. This is where the suffering comes in: confusing ignorance with knowledge, not knowing what is true and being ignorant of being ignorant. Knowledge is the only thing that can remove ignorance and self-knowledge is the only means at our disposal to remove ignorance of our true nature.
Once ignorance (avidya) is removed both knowledge and ignorance are known to be objects known to you. You are no longer ignorant of your true nature and therefore you no longer need self-knowledge because you know you are the self. This does not mean that as a jiva you are all-knowing. It means you understand the ESSENCE of everything to be awareness. The jiva, enlightened or not, lives in the apparent reality which is a lawful universe run by forces not in the control of any one jiva, even a jivammukta. The jiva only has knowledge of objects it has contact with. Only Isvara is all-knowing and all-powerful in and as the apparent reality.
Reginald: Everything is brahman and brahman is limitless, so ignorance is also only a superimposition on brahman, ignorance is only a notion and doesn’t have substantive other than brahman. Ignorance is brahman with name and form superimposed. Ignorance and brahman are not of the same ontological order, like gold and ringly gold. Ignorance is not the opposite of consciousness (because consciousness is the only one that can make ignorance be known). A jnani may be still have ignorance about Japanese, Russian or politics because ignorance is not the enemy of a jnani; ignorance is, as mithya, knowledge just as well as any other object in the universe. So consciousness is beyond knowledge and ignorance because consciousness is the very essence that makes knowledge and ignorance known.
Sundari: This is a very confusing statement. I get what you are trying to say though, and essentially you are correct. However, ignorance is brahman but brahman is not ignorance. Without brahman there is no ignorance and no knowledge, but brahman is always free of both knowledge and ignorance. Brahman, or awareness, is not opposed to ignorance because ignorance is an object known to it and therefore does not affect it. Ignorance is only a problem for the self under the apparent spell of ignorance, the apparent person, jiva, or ahamkara.
Reginald: If ahamkara is also considered to be a vrriti then the subject who possesses this knowledge is also an ahamkara? I cannot say or think anything about the pure sakshi behind the ahamkara because sakshi cannot be known. If I can know the sakshi then who is knowing this knowledge? (Not knowing in the sense of the knower-and-known relationship but just knowing, ahamkara also known by sakshi) and this will lead to infinite regress.
Sundari: I have answered this in my replies above but in short, here it is again: awareness is not a vritti because it does not experience, feel or think; however, without consciousness no thinking, feeling or experiencing can take place. Awareness does not possess knowledge; it is self-aware so it does not need knowledge. As stated above, knowledge and ignorance are objects known to awareness.
When someone thinks like a jiva who knows awareness instead of as a jiva who knows it is awareness that jiva lacks discrimination and therefore suffers. In other words, its self-knowledge is indirect. If your goal is freedom from bondage to objects then your knowledge should be direct (“I am awareness”). From your statements it is clear that your discrimination needs some work. Freedom is discriminating you, awareness, from the objects that appear in you. To do that you need to understand the nature of objects and the nature of the apparent reality, meaning Isvara.
The Nature of Objects
All jivas experience all objects (whether subtle or gross) “in” the mind, meaning in consciousness, and interpret them according to their guna-generated conditioning, i.e. vasanas. All objects, including the thoughts and feelings of the individual, are Isvara and have an independent, apparent existence apart from the individual jiva’s perception and interpretation of them. A “physical” object is just the thought of a physical object and no different from a subtle object. This is because a physical object has no meaning apart from the knowledge of the object, and the knowledge of the object is conditioned by the jiva’s interpretation of the object. This interpretation in turn is conditioned by the jiva’s self-knowledge or lack thereof.
Any knowledge is object-based, not subject-based. It is not knowledge unless it is true to the object. If it is my knowledge then it is my interpretation of an object, which is not necessarily knowledge. Ignorance (or my point of view) is causing me to see or experience whatever it is as though it is actually there. People believe that ignorance is knowledge because they believe that knowledge is subject-based, i.e. they believe that what they experience is knowledge. It may be knowledge, but it may not be.
Self-knowledge depends on the nature of the self, not on knowledge gained through personal experience. On the basis of self-knowledge the individual can retain or reject the knowledge gained through his or her personal experience.
The most important reason that objects can be known to be objects is because they are not the subject. The very fact that you can know something means it is an object. Awareness is the subject and the one that knows the object. Without awareness no knowledge can take place; without awareness no objects, which include knowledge and ignorance, exist. Awareness is not an object of knowledge and cannot be known by the mind, which is an object known to it. Awareness can only be revealed in a sattvic mind with the removal of ignorance through exposing the mind to self-knowledge.
Isvara srsti, the creation, exists because Isvara is in charge of the dharma field. It means jiva’s personal creation, or story (jiva srsti), and Isvara’s impersonal creation, maya. Isvara creates, sustains, and destroys the whole universe. The world we see with our senses and the senses with which we see it are Isvara’s creation. Within Isvara’s creation are innumerable jivas, individuals: plants, animals, humans, insects, etc. Jivas are living beings with gross, subtle and causal bodies. Human jivas have intellect which makes them self-aware, self-reflective.
This means that they can interpret their experiences. The way that a jiva interprets its experience is its “world.” Its interpretation is its “creation,” jiva srsti.
When we say the world would not be there without the mind we mean jiva’s interpretation, its projection, would not be there. It does not mean that the material world, the senses, subtle body and the vasanas (Isvara srsti, or creation) would not be here. We call the jiva’s creation “pratibhasika satyam,” the subjective reality. There is only one Reginald and he sees things a certain way owing to his conditioning, or vasana load. Isvara’s creation is called “vyavaharika satyam,” the objective world. This is the world of science, the objects and the laws which are not under the control of any jiva.
We need this teaching so the jiva does not confuse its creation with Isvara’s. The jiva is in Isvara’s creation and is required to respond to it. This is called dharma, appropriate response. If the individual responds properly to what Isvara wants, it will be in harmony with Isvara, the creation, meaning its environment. But if the jiva is living in its own world, gets a request from Isvara and responds according to its fears and desires, likes and dislikes, it is quite possible that it will run afoul of Isvara, meaning its circumstances – and therefore suffer.
This teaching also makes the jiva aware of the difference between the subjective and the objective realities. If it is clear which is which, it can choose to follow dharma, not its own desire – in case they are different. There is no problem with jiva’s desires as long as they conform to dharma.
As all objects are experienced in the mind of the jiva (the self under the spell of ignorance), how objects are experienced depends on whether the jiva knows its true identity as awareness or not.
The self-realised jiva knows that all objects are value-neutral and incapable of delivering anything; the joy comes from them as awareness. So they do not seek objects to complete them. Until such time as ignorance is removed by self- knowledge the jiva takes itself to be a body-mind and sees all objects as real and separate from it. So the jiva seeks objects to complete it, and this is why moksa is freedom from dependence on objects.
Reginald: “There are many minds but only one consciousness,” said the Advaita teachers. I can only prove the existence of my mind, so then how to prove the existence of other people minds? Even though I can read the other people’s minds, still, the other minds will become thoughts in my mind. But if I see that mind is also mithya (and I am not my mind, I am the sakshi of my mind) and the other people’s minds are also mithya, then it is not a problem to prove the existence of other people’s minds, is that right?
Sundari: It is true: you cannot prove the existence of the mind, not yours or anyone else’s. That is because the mind is not real, meaning not always present and always changing. The mind is just a thought in you, consciousness. There is only one mind, or subtle body, and we all share it because there is only one consciousness. Other minds appear to be different from ours and appear to exist outside of our mind because of maya, the superimposition of duality. And maya is endlessly creative, creating the endless variations of conditioning, or vasanas, that make up the mind.
There are no real “others” once one really understands non-duality. There is only one awareness manifesting as many apparently different jivas. These apparent others appear to have an impact on us and we on them. As the liberated jiva, or the self no longer under the spell of ignorance, we continue to have interaction with them as “other,” knowing that all objects are Isvara and we experience them according to “our” conditioning, meaning the guna-generated vasanas.
When your true nature is known to be awareness you no longer project your interpretation of objects onto “others” even though you may still experience your interpretation of so-called others. Your interpretation is an object known to you and therefore not a problem for you, awareness. Everything dissolves in the light of self-knowledge.
Awareness does not belong to the jiva. As a jiva, self-realised or not, it is very difficult not to assign meaning to objects as they appear to us, and we respond to life. Duality does not disappear once reality is known to be non-dual. It is known for what it is, a superimposition, like the mirage on the desert floor. You still experience the mirage but it is known not to have a true referent, i.e. it is not real. It is true that it appears as if there are many other minds but in reality, because this is a non-dual reality, others appear different from us only if we relate to them as the body. As you say, you only ever experience other minds in your mind. So what does that mean? It means you experience other minds where you experience everything, meaning all objects: in awareness. Experience is the nature of duality but self-knowledge asks you to examine your experience, and in so doing you come to the inescapable conclusion that as everything arises out of consciousness (YOU) it must be made up of consciousness therefore everything is you. But this does not mean that the object and the subject are the same or exist in the same order of reality, as already stated.
The subject, awareness, and the object, Reginald, exist in two apparently different orders of reality: the real and the apparently real. The apparently real has a dependent existence on the real but the real is always free of the apparently real. It is the same with water and ocean, the ocean and the wave, the gold and the ring, the clay and the pot.
Secondly, you are not THE sakshi OF your mind; your true nature is consciousness without which your mind would not exist. Your mind is an object known to you, as are all other minds. Your mind is given to you by Isvara and it is conditioned a certain way, with your vasana load. This is your personal ignorance as a jiva. When avidya is removed you – consciousness – do NOT need to PROVE the existence of your mind or any mind because you know that there is only you and all objects arise out of you and have a dependent existence ON YOU which, of course, includes your mind.
Reginald: I found the analysis of anumana in Vedanta paribhasa on the internet, on the kevalanvaya topic; here the parts that make me confused:
“Purely affirmative concomitant relation is the second type, according to naiyAyika-s. Purely affirmative concomitance involves sAdhya, the thing to be inferred to be present everywhere, or to put it technically, it is not counter-positive to non-existence. The counter-positive to non-existence in simple terms is existence, as it is opposite to non-existence.”
Sundari: Consciousness/self-knowledge/non-duality is not opposed to anything and nothing affects it because it encompasses everything therefore it is not opposed to ignorance or duality because they are both objects known to it. Ignorance and duality only cause suffering when one does not know what they are.
Consciousness has no opposite because all things are contained within it; it cannot ever not exist. Consciousness is existence and it is that by which the apparent reality exists and is known to exist. Even though the apparent reality is not real it cannot ever be said to non-exist even though it is not always manifest. This quote you use is confusing in its use of words. Words can only ever point to the awareness, they cannot explain awareness. We are constrained to use words though and this is why James is so insistent on the correct and simplest use of words.
Reginald: They give as an example of purely affirmative concomitance: the jar is nameable because it is knowable, because nameability (sAdhya, or thing that is inferred) is everywhere since whatever is knowable is nameable. Since the absence of knowability and nameability is nowhere to be observed the knowledge of negative concomitance is not possible.
Sundari: To whom is it nameable and knowable? Awareness is not an object of perception so is not knowable or nameable by the normal faculties at our disposal to know anything, ie. perception and inference. Awareness is the subject and therefore that which is real; the nameable or knowable is the object, the apparently real. Awareness can only be known by removing ignorance in the mind by exposing the mind to self-knowledge. I presume that what this argument is saying by “negative concomitance” means “by negation,” or neti neti.
The absence of knowability and nameability is ignorance; however, knowing a thing and naming it is not necessarily knowledge either. As pointed out in the teaching on the nature of objects, knowledge is always true to the object. If I see a cat I know a cat, not a dog. However, knowledge is subject to interpretation by the vasanas, one’s conditioning. So knowledge of anything may be true and it may not be. Only self-knowledge is always true.
Inference is the act or process of deriving logical conclusions from known facts. Inference is therefore based on perception, which is a valid means of knowledge. The laws of valid inference are studied in the field of logic; there are two types of inference: inductive inference and deductive inference. Inductive reasoning is inherently uncertain. It only deals in degrees to which, given the premises, the conclusion is credible according to some theory of evidence. In other words, interpretation of the facts is at play.
A deductive argument is one in which it is impossible for the premises to be true and the conclusion false. Thus there is no interpretation possible and the conclusion follows necessarily from the premises and inferences. In this way perception based on facts is definitive proof of the truth of the claim. Deductive reasoning can be contrasted with inductive reasoning in regards to validity and soundness. In cases of inductive reasoning, even though the premises are true and the argument is “valid,” it is possible for the conclusion to be false but this is not the case with deductive reasoning.
Vedanta, which is the science of consciousness, is concerned with logic and deductive reasoning, or irreducible facts, i.e. the truth of the conclusion follows the premises. For example, if everything is consciousness as sruti claims then the world can only be consciousness.
The validity of an inference depends on the form of the inference. That is, the word “valid” does not refer to the truth of the premises or the conclusion but rather to the form of the inference. A valid form of inference with true premises will always have a true conclusion.
For instance, if you see smoke on the horizon you can be very sure that there must be fire nearby.
Reginald: Hence, the naiyAyika-s argue that this is a case of pure affirmative concomitance. The Advaitins obviously reject this. For them, that which is counter-positive to non-existence is existence itself, which is brahman, brahman is non-dual and by definition cannot have any qualifications whatsoever. There is no co-presence of anything else with brahman. Hence they do not subscribe to kevala anvaya, or purely affirmative concomitance.
Sundari: I am not entirely sure what this argument is actually about; it appears to be an intellectual exercise and a play on words. As I said above, existence may be the opposite of non-existence, intellectually. Pure awareness is always present and never changes; it is the only constant. Awareness is that by which existence and non-existence is known. If you say that you do not exist then you would have to be there to know that you do not exist or else how would you know that you do not exist?
The apparent reality, though not always present and always changing, does exist because it can be experienced; it is a product of maya, the gunas. Maya is a power that exists in awareness and although not always manifest it is eternal because awareness is eternal. In this way it can be said that the apparent reality always exists also. So there is no such thing as non-existence. Awareness, consciousness, cannot be experienced with reference to objects, it can only be known to be your true nature by the removal of ignorance through self-knowledge.
The negation of objects is purely to establish that they do belong neither to the jiva or to awareness but to Isvara, or maya. It is not to deny the existence of objects but to reveal the true nature of the self so as to end the bondage to objects.
Reginald: The bolded words seem contradictory; please help me understand the bolded words… thank you very much for helping me.
Sundari: I strongly advise you to stick with simple teachings, especially Vedanta, as it is taught by teachers in the great tradition of pure Vedanta like James Swartz, Swami Dayananda and Swami Paramarthananda. You can also trust James’ endorsed teachers of which I am one. There are many so-called teachers of Vedanta, many schools of Vedanta but very few teach pure Vedanta or teach it without confusing and confused terminology. I urge you to stick to trusted teachers and to avoid using the internet for other sources unless they can be trusted.
You are welcome, Reginald.
~ Om and prem, Sundari