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Consciousness Is All There Is
Santoz: I have read a bit of Vedanta and have written my understanding of it based on what I have read. Please read it and correct me where wrong.
I am writing to clear a few further doubts. It may seem academic, but I would like to have a general understanding of Vedanta.
Deep down, I know I am more of a bhakta and am happy with that. But there is a part of me that seeks to know Vedanta, in theory at least. Please read what I have written and tell me where I have gone wrong and answer the questions, if you don’t mind.
Sundari: It is good that you are happy being a bhakta, and as you probably know, bhaktas are not typically knowledge-orientated but experience-orientated. As I have told you before, Vedanta is not a theory in practice. It is a valid and independent means of knowledge to realize your true nature as consciousness. It is the oldest teaching in the world, timeless in fact, because it has always existed. The lineage that makes the teaching accessible to us, the sampradaya, or great tradition of Vedanta, goes back further than we know or can know. Vedanta is independent of all human philosophizing and theorizing about the nature of existence. It requires faith and other non-negotiable qualifications to understand and assimilate the teachings, also previously mentioned.
It’s fine to have a theoretical understanding of the teachings, but if the requisite qualifications for self-inquiry are not present and the teachings applied to your life, your understanding will never be more than theoretical.
You say you have read a bit of Vedanta. What does that mean? We have very clear instructions on our home page regarding the input we need inquirers to undertake before they write to us. If you are serious about self-inquiry, please make sure you follow them. All your questions have been asked and answered in every way possible in thousands of pages of free e-satsangs on the Shiningworld website.
Santoz: What is consciousness? Does donsciousness have anything to do with being conscious?
Sundari: It is who you are, your true nature, that by which you know what you know or know what you don’t know, the substrate of all life, the whole and complete, ever-present, unlimited, unchanging, non-experiencing witness.
Santoz: To be conscious means that the mind is active: waking state. To be unconscious means that the mind is in a latent state: deep sleep. Even in deep sleep, the mind is latent but not destroyed.
Clearly, being conscious or unconscious depends on whether the mind is active or latent.
Sundari: No. Being consciousness depends on the fact that you are CONSCIOUSNESS, i.e. that which makes being conscious possible, the knower of the waking dreaming or sleeping entity called Santoz.
Santoz: Vedanta says the following:
1. Consciousness persists when the mind is active (waking state).
2. Consciousness persists when the mind is inactive/latent (e.g. the sleep state).
Consciousness is said to be eternal, without birth and death. Consciousness is one without a second.
For a living human:
1. To be conscious = ever-changing active mind plus PURE CONSCIOUSNESS.
2. To be unconscious = latent mind plus PURE CONSCIOUSNESS.
While the man is awake he is conscious, the mind is active and there exists PURE CONSCIOUSNESS.
While the man is asleep he is not conscious, the mind is latent (but not non-existent) and there is PURE CONSCIOUSNESS.
Sundari: Yes, correct. Consciousness is the only thing always present and aware, regardless of whether there is a mind (subtle body) asleep or awake, i.e. there to doubt its existence. It is always the knowing principle, whose existence makes self-ignorance or self-knowledge, not knowing or knowing anything, possible.
Santoz: PURE CONSCIOUSNESS is eternal and one. There is no second PURE CONSCIOUSNESS. One PURE CONSCIOUSNESS is trapped in the millions of minds, like the one infinite space is trapped and appears as billions of “pot spaces.” But in reality, there is only one infinite space.
That ONE PURE CONSCIOUSNESS is called CHIT, SAMVIT, ATMAN, Brahman and many other names. Can I imagine that this PURE CONSCIOUSNESS is trapped in my body-mind and is my true nature?
Sundari: Yes, there is only one consciousness, but how can ever-present, unchanging, unlimited, unconditioned consciousness be trapped in a finite, limited, always-changing, conditioned and not-always-present mind? You have it backwards. The mind is trapped in Maya as long as ignorance of its true nature covers it. It is an object known to you, consciousness. The mind is only apparently, not actually, real. It is conditioned by Maya and always changing. It is not always present, as in deep sleep, coma or nirvikalpa samadhi. But you, consciousness, are beyond the gunas, unconditioned by Maya, the one and only non-negatable observer, that which is real.
Consciousness IS your true nature, even if you cannot imagine it. It is not trapped by anything. Your body-mind is known to it, as stated above.
Santoz: Experience requires thoughts. Assume it is 11:00 am now.
The bell rang at 8:00 am. Mr. A heard the bell and had the “ringing bell” thought. He experienced the ringing bell and had a thought.
I was in the same room as Mr. A at 8:00 am. My thoughts were elsewhere and I did not hear the ringing bell.
Later we meet, and Mr. A tells me that he experienced the ringing bell. I tell him that I did not experience the ringing bell.
Both of us had different experiences, although we were in the same room. The important factor, in this case, is the facts that our thoughts were different.
Although our thoughts and experiences were different, the same single consciousness shone in both of us. In fact it is this consciousness which allows us to have experiences and thoughts.
Sundari: Correct. Consciousness does not modify to thoughts, even though it makes thinking possible. Vedanta defines an object (any object) as experience plus a thought. Experience requires thought, but consciousness requires neither. It is always present and unaffected by what the mind is experiencing or thinking.
Santoz: I slept and experienced blankness. As stated earlier, even this experience requires a thought of some kind. No experience is possible without a thought, as I mentioned with the ringing bell experience. Therefore there must have been a thought about the “blankness,” the same way there was a thought about the “ringing bell” at about 11.00 am in my earlier scenario.
Can you please tell me a bit about this peculiar “blankness thought,” which I must have in deep sleep? In common language, we always say that no thoughts existed in deep sleep. But I believe that since I had a blankness experience, I must have had a “blankness thought.” Of course to have a blankness thought, there must be consciousness. No thoughts are possible without consciousness.
Sundari: Correct. The important question to ask regarding the experience of blankness in deep sleep is: Who is it that knows the blankness, the “no-thought experience,” seeing as the mind and the body is not present in deep sleep? In deep sleep, there are no objects of experience, except one: the absence of experience/thought is an object known to you.
WHO IS THE YOU? It can’t be Santoz, because he is not present, the subtle body is withdrawn into the macrocosmic causal body during deep sleep. So it can only be you, consciousness, aware of the absence of objects in deep sleep, the knower of the subtle body, OF Santoz. The invariable factor is always consciousness, no matter what state the mind is in.
Santoz: The consciousness in deep sleep and the consciousness in waking state is one and the same. That consciousness never changes. Day in and out, my thoughts and experiences change, but the consciousness remains the same and unchanged. In my lifetime so far, I must have had a billion thoughts which come and go during the waking state. I also have had the blankness experience and peculiar blankness thought for a billion times. But the one unchanging consciousness never changed.
There is only one consciousness. There are more than seven billion humans and other animals which are living. These humans and animals produce many thoughts in their lifetime, but there is only a single consciousness. This single consciousness is Brahman.
Sundari: Good. Yes. Reality is non-dual, so there can only be one consciousness. Consciousness is the non-experiencing witness of the experiencing entity, the subtle body, Santoz. As I said above, with whom are you identified? Are you the jiva who knows about consciousness, as you seem to be (indirect knowledge of the Self)?
Or can you take the step to identifying with the one who knows itself AS the Self, ever-present consciousness, which is direct knowledge? Understanding the difference between satya (consciousness, that which is real, ever-present and unchanging) and mithya (the objects that arise in consciousness, that which is not always present and always changing) 100% of the time, without having to think about it, is moksa. Freedom from samsara, duality, suffering and limitation.
Santoz: What about turiya? I heard that in this stage there are no thoughts at all. Thoughts /mind becomes extinct. If there are no thoughts then there must be no experience. Thus turiya is not something that can be experienced like waking state or deep sleep. In both waking and deep sleep, thoughts exist. Thus we can relate to experiences in that state. I can wake up from deep sleep and say I experienced blankness, since the peculiar blankness-thought existed. But in turiya there is no mind/thoughts, as it becomes extinct. With no thought, that means no experience. Thus turiya can never be experienced, which seems strange.
Sundari: Vedanta teaches that there are three states of consciousness available for the subtle body, or jiva: waking, dreaming and deep sleep. Turiya, consciousness, is often incorrectly referred to as the “fourth state.” Consciousness is not a “state”; it is what makes all states possible. Consciousness is a partless whole, so cannot have “states” of consciousness. A state is also subject to change, which consciousness is not. As consciousness is the substrate of all experience, it is existence itself, that which makes experience possible, although by itself it does not experience anything, because there is only itself. To do so would mean that there would have to be something other than it, which cannot be, because reality is non-dual.
When Self-knowledge removes ignorance from the mind and it stands firm in its knowledge AS the Self, the one unchanging consciousness, it automatically has non-dual vision and effortlessly and spontaneously discriminates between the experiencing entity (mithya) and it SELF (satya), never confusing the two again.
The only means of knowledge available to the jiva are perception and inference, and neither are subtle enough to understand consciousness. Why? Because consciousness is what makes perception and inference (sensory knowledge) possible. It is beyond both.
You can only understand that you ARE CONSCIOUSNESS once Self-knowledge has removed avidya, personal ignorance. To do this, the knowledge must negate the doer and render binding vasanas non-binding. This requires considerable work on your part because for this to happen you need to understand who and what the jiva is, how it is conditioned and why, and its relationship to Isvara. Along with karma yoga, the Isvara-jiva aikyam (identity) teaching is central to Vedanta and what sets it apart from all other teachings. Only Vedanta has the teaching on satya-mithya.
When Self-knowledge has removed your avidya (personal ignorance), you are free of the jiva, and the jiva lives free in the world and of the world, as the SELF, no longer seduced by Maya. Macrocosmic ignorance, duality/mithya, continues, but as Self-knowledge has negated it, it is seen as a dream and never taken too seriously. You are then a jivanmukta, a free being while “in” the body, knowing the body-mind are IN YOU, consciousness.
~ Om tat sat, Sundari