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Consciousness Needs No Validation
Donald: consciousness needs no validation: double-edged sword, possibly; on one hand, it’s a profound statement, and on the other, delusional? It’s, as an example, a person who thinks he/she is wealthy and no matter what others may do to waken that person, he/she truly believes that is reality, regardless of the fact the person dresses in rags and has few assets.
Sundari: I assume you are referring to the statement that your true nature is consciousness, the Self. If so, you are wrong, and the reason is purely logical – which is why Vedanta is so powerful – it relies on logic, the undeniable and eternal logic of existence. It could not care less whatever clever little mental constructions we manage to construe, because it is the truth of your own unexamined experience.
The difference between the delusion of wealth when you have none and the statement of fact about your true nature as consciousness is that the former is delusional and the latter is inescapable: non-negatable and irrefutable. If you say that is not so, that this statement is arbitrary, who is it that says this it is not so, that it is arbitrary? To be able to have the thought that denies consciousness means that you must be conscious. Thoughts come and go, but consciousness is always present, observing the thoughts coming and going, which are objects known to it. If you know something, it cannot be you.
There is a simple question you could ask yourself, which is how do I know what I know or don’t know, i.e. who is it that knows the one with doubts? How can consciousness be a product of inert material existence? It’s just not logical.
If you examine the logic, therefore you must see that before contacting any object, I, consciousness, and the object are (apparently) separate, but once in contact, I say, “I am experiencing my wife,” for instance. consciousness is called consciousness when it is not in contact with an object. In contact with objects, it is called “experience.” Experience is another name for consciousness. Experience is a relational status of consciousness. When a sound comes, I say I am experiencing sound. If discrete experiences are just experience itself appearing in many guises, separating myself from experience leaves me alone as I am. Standing in myself alone is called “liberation” (moksa). Separating myself from experience is called “discrimination” (viveka).
When you know who you are, Self-knowledge does not mean that you are constantly thinking “I am Self-realized.” In fact it does not mean you have any particular thoughts at all. The thought “I am Self-realized” is just a thought, just as the thought “I am ignorant” is just a thought. When you know who you are, you simply know you are the Self; you don’t have to think about it at all. You are Self-knowledge.
What do you know when you are Self-realized? Are you Self-realized? Are you ignorant? Isn’t that another thought? How would you answer these questions? Is your answer going to be the answer? Can the answer be found in the right thought? Maybe we need the right thoughts to be free of the binding, or “wrong,” thoughts. Then the “right” thoughts are just part of this amazing Creation. And then no thought is a wrong thought, as long as it is non-binding.
Self-knowledge does not rely on anything; it is not a function of thinking or memory, and cannot be removed by anything, because it is who you are. You cannot forget who are once you know. Do you need to think about what your name is when you wake up in the morning? I imagine not, unless the brain is impaired for some reason.
There is nothing more powerful than Self-knowledge. Here’s why.
1. Self-knowledge is the one and only knowledge that is always true; it is always good because it depends on the nature of the Self, consciousness, which is always present and unchanging. In fact it is the only thing that is always present and unchanging. It is true in all three phases of time – past, present and future – and all three states of being: awake, dreaming and deep sleep. This is fact, not fiction, and true regardless of what you believe or say.
2. Self-knowledge is different from knowledge of objects, which is object-based, not subject-based. You cannot be an object for yourself. You are the knower, the subject, so you cannot turn around and become the object. Why? Because objects are not aware, so by becoming an object you stop being the subject. In other words, if you were to become an object, you would stop knowing, stop being aware. That is why Self-knowledge is not the regular kind of knowing which is fallible and subject to doubt, and why Self-knowledge does not mean entertaining any different notions about yourself. In fact it is more like being free of ALL notions about yourself with the full recognition that while those notions may continue, none of them are binding. They are like a non-binding contract that exists only for momentary convenience but does not limit or even define your action in thought, word or deed.
In fact Self-knowledge dissolves the power behind the conceptual definition of yourself, the objective knowledge about yourself, and sets you free. The freedom Vedanta talks about is the freedom from the prison walls of attachment to the notions of yourself as the limited ego-entity. The walls of the prison are made of nothing more substantial than limited notions – thoughts – of who you are. There in fact is no wall preventing you from leaving the prison of samsara, the illusion of duality. It is only your imagination that makes the walls. They are elusive, temporary and without any power in and of themselves, no matter how “real” they seem. One spiritual teacher compared it to a game of hopscotch. Imagine you are playing with other children. Imagine they decide to go home while you are still standing on your square made of chalk marks drawn on the sidewalk. Imagine feeling like you cannot leave your square, because it’s not your turn, because the rules of the game forbid you to just leave. What is keeping you stuck and blocking your freedom then?
The Self is not available for objectification. Since it is without qualities (nirguna), and only qualities can be known as objects, the Self is not available to objective knowledge. You can have indirect knowledge of the Self by hearing about it and seeing it as a “something,” which is what you have. But would you then know yourself as a subject? If you were born and lived all your life at the North Pole, you would have never seen a tree. But you could have heard about it and have an indirect knowledge about a tree. Your knowledge would be relative, temporary and subject to correction. But the moment you face a tree and recognized it, you would no longer have doubts about it nor would you need any further explanations. You would then have direct knowledge and “know” a tree (aparoksha jnana).
Self-knowledge is not something that requires mental activity, and for that reason some people misunderstand, thinking that they must stop thinking to become “enlightened.” Many paths teach this, Buddhism particularly. But you cannot get rid of the mind or stop thinking, nor is there any need to do so. The mind and thinking are not the problem. Identification with the mind and thoughts is the only problem.
Self-knowledge is not dependent on recirculating the thought “I am Self-realized.” Once that cognition takes place, the deed is done. Once a person is pregnant, do they need to keep thinking, “I am pregnant”? No, obviously. So while the initial modification of the mind does take place (vritti jnana) and is needed (that is why we do need to be qualified for knowledge), it does not need to be willfully maintained any longer. Pure consciousness (svarupa jnana) is not opposed to ignorance, because it is unaffected by it. As I told you previously, the mind must be qualified to hear the teachings or they will not stick. Therefore the preparation of the mind, which is made of thoughts, is required. The qualifications are eligibility requirements that reveal to us the areas that need improvement or development. But once Self-realization is firm, Self-knowledge itself no longer requires thought.
3. No other knowledge can negate Self-knowledge, whereas object knowledge—which is based on experience, feelings, beliefs and opinions – is always changing and eminently negatable and debatable. Self-knowledge is not based on knowledge gained through personal experience or opinion, although it may confirm both, depending on your level of maturity as an inquirer.
Our subjective interpretation of experience or any object is not knowledge unless it stands independent of our experience, feelings, beliefs, opinions. Knowledge of objects (subtle and gross) is not knowledge unless it is true to the object. 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.
Donald: Belief systems: I have faith, etc. in my opinion. There are many similarities to various religions with doctrines. They all tend to show their “proof,” miraculous events that happened long ago, with not enough evidence to support it at times. Please excuse my writing, as at times it may seem rude and crude (stupid, for that matter).
Sundari: Vedanta does not promise miracles, salvation or any other far-out experience. It only promises to remove your ignorance of the Self, assuming qualifications. The faith Vedanta requires is not blind faith in unprovable precepts, teachings or ideas. It is faith pending the outcome of your inquiry. It asks that you can at least provisionally take on board, right up front, the truth that you are perfect the way you are because you are the Self, whole and complete, unlimited, unchanging and eternal. It requires that you put ALL your other ideas on the shelf for the time being. You can always take them back if you like them better or find it too much of a stretch to assimilate that you are unborn and undying consciousness.
When have you ever heard of a religion – or any other path – tell you this up front? Even the most evolved teachings of most other paths present “enlightenment” as a “special state” that only a few attain after rigorous actions on their part. Vedanta says you cannot “do” anything to become enlightened, because you are not the doer and no action taken by a limited entity can remove limitation. You can only submit the mind to self-inquiry and allow Self-knowledge to “do the work.”
Although self-inquiry is an action, if the mind is qualified and self-inquiry is done properly, with the teachings unfolded by a qualified teacher, it results in Self-knowledge, which is limitless. Vedanta says you cannot attain enlightenment, because you are it. You just have an ignorance problem. And it has a valid means of knowledge to remove all your doubts, i.e. ignorance.
Yes, all religions are similar, and all religions flawed because they rely on belief systems, not the logic of existence; and none of them have an independent and valid means of knowledge for consciousness. Vedanta is not a religion, nor is it based on anyone’s opinions, ideas or philosophies, which are all subjective, and thus subject to error. See above. Vedanta is not a path. It predates all known religious or philosophical paths because it is the pathless path that underpins all other paths. It is a science, and like any science if it is worth its salt, it cannot be based on subjective truth.
Vedanta is an independent teaching, or sruti, which means “that which is heard.” It is revealed to the mind of man, not thought up by man nor the result of any action on anyone’s part, therefore you can trust it. I can already hear you contest: What do we mean by “revealed”? Don’t all religions claim this? What Vedanta means by “revealed” is simple. Good examples of revealed knowledge is Einstein’s “discovery” of the law of relativity and gravity or Thomas Edison’s discovery of applications of electricity. To discover 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.
It is the same with the science of consciousness. Consciousness does not care if you have realized your true nature or not, because it is unaffected by your knowledge or ignorance. Liberation from ignorance is for the apparent person who lives in the apparent reality, Donald. As the Self, you have always been free, which is why moksa, or freedom, is discriminating you, consciousness/Self, from the objects that appear in you, in other words, dis-identifying with the person as your primary identity, AND knowing what that means so that Self-knowledge translates into all areas of life. Vedanta is freedom from the person and for the person.
Donald: I know people who seem to collect [academic] degrees. It doesn’t seem to increase their monetary value. Knowledge is good if applied with the experience that the person gained the knowledge and then used correctly.
Sundari: Nothing can increase your value in mithya, the world, because nothing here has any real value. It is a dreamworld, Donald. Only you, consciousness, have value, and you are what validates everything, not the other way around.
Donald: Again, the difference between wisdom and knowledge, the point being, “Wow, I have this knowledge and it has lifted the veil!” Really?
Sundari: Read the points made above on the difference between SELF-knowledge and knowledge of objects because you think they are the same. They are not. To repeat: Self-knowledge is not an object to obtain, because it is WHO YOU ARE. How can you gain something you have always had? You cannot become more conscious, only less ignorant. Self-knowledge “lifts the veil” by removing the ignorance covering the mind making it incapable of knowing its true nature. Only when Self-knowledge is firm, and you live it naturally and spontaneously as the Self, can you be called “wise” in the real sense of that word. Only then do you know the difference between ignorance and knowledge. Until then, be sceptical because everything you think you know is subjective and at best ignorance mixed with knowledge. At worst, it is just plain ignorance.
Donald: It’s like physics. Many of these phenomena, such as string theory, are just that, theory. The Vedas are the oldest writings, and what is it within the Upanishads that prove that I am atman (Brahman) other than some intriguing and interesting as well as just plain amazing writing? It’s like the age-old question: “If there is a loving God, then why is there so much suffering on earth?” And there are answers to that question.
Sundari: There is so much suffering on earth because most people do not know the difference between what is real and what is not, i.e. between the subject and the object, therefore taking what is unreal to be real. Suffering is the result of ignorance of the Self; the Self does not cause it. The Self does not cause anything. It merely observes as the non-experiencing witness and is unaffected by it.
If we look at the modern scientific perspective, the difficulty it has understanding the origin of the universe is a good example of the argument against the non-dualists. The logical approach to non-duality as a means to explain the Creation, while useful, breaks down (from the jiva perspective) when it comes to the analysis of the cause of the universe. Deductive reasoning will only get you so far because the only means of knowledge available for it are the senses (perception and inference), which without self-knowledge, are mithya and are stuck in mithya. The dualists who argue this point are not able to see that their means for knowing anything within mithya is faulty, flawed and limited to knowledge of objects alone. And, there is no way the dualistic scientific, religious or secular view takes Maya into account.
However, the scientific view can reason up to the point where it understands that there must be a moment when the Creation began, but it cannot tell us what happened at the point of creation or before it began. Quantum physics, the most advanced theory in physics to date, cannot go beyond the Big Bang, even though in essence, it conclusively proves that objects exist only from the point of view of the observer, the body-mind. The reason for this is that non-duality – or a singularity, which is what science calls non-duality – is a state (it’s not a state, but I use the term here advisedly) from which there is no information to reason. If it’s non-dual, there are no objects, no time and no experience. Non-dual means “nothing other than.” Science will be stuck at this point until it understands what consciousness is, which it won’t unless Self-knowledge removes ignorance for the scientist. Science believes that consciousness is something we have, that it arose from the material world. It certainly does not believe it is who we are.
Think about it. There had to be something before the appearance of objects. Nothing comes from nothing, although science illogically tries to prove that consciousness comes from objects. If that is the case, where did the objects come from? What was there prior to the objects to make them manifest cannot be answered with the syllogisms of this kind of deductive reasoning. But there had to be something there before the appearance of objects, something that the Big Bang banged from.
Existence, consciousness, was there before the appearance of the Creation, during and “after” it is withdrawn back into consciousness at the end of the creation cycle. We can never get rid of the substratum, existence. It is always present, underpinning and supporting all objects or they could not exist. If an object appears before you, consciousness appears before you in a different form. It may not be conscious, as it is only a reflection, but it is nonetheless consciousness, although consciousness is not it. It can only be consciousness because the nature of reality is non-dual consciousness. Only when Maya appears does Creation appear in name and form, which (seems to) obscure existence, consciousness. Before that, there was only nameless, formless undifferentiated consciousness, with all powers present in it, including the power to obscure, Maya.
The materialists argue that there is no way to verify non-duality, which is true from the dualistic standpoint from which they look at it. If your epistemology for knowing anything is the senses, the only knowledge you can gain is through inference, based on perception, which is not capable of knowing or understanding consciousness, because it is an effect, the object. The effect, or object, cannot understand the cause, the subject. Consciousness/existence is not an object of perception, because it is that which makes perception possible. If you have fallen down an Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole in mithya, I am sure if you look around you will find the Mad Hatter having a good laugh! Duality is pretty persuasive when we look at the world from the sensory perspective.
There is no way from within the Creation to understand non-duality. It is only through the Vedanta pramana that ignorance of the true nature of reality can be removed by Self-knowledge. Even the scientist must agree that there is no evidence other than that gained by the senses that the Creation is anything more than an appearance, one that we take to be real. But it is not real.
No sense organ can perceive the substance of all objects, consciousness. The senses are only capable of perceiving the properties of objects (sound, colour, shape, texture, taste, smell), and not an actual existent object. Name and form may hide the true nature of existence, but it does not alter it. With the Vedanta pramana we can investigate the nature of reality through self-inquiry by analyzing the relationship between name, form and consciousness.
You can also arrive at the same conclusion by an analysis of the objects themselves. It should be easy to see that an object, like a thought or feeling, is made of consciousness. It is not so easy to see that the physical objects are made of consciousness. But if we investigate matter scientifically, it breaks down into particles, space and the knower of particles and space, i.e. you, consciousness. Material science cannot make the obvious connection of matter and consciousness, because (as stated but bears repeating) it relies on perception and inference as a means of knowledge. It does not realize that perception is an object known to consciousness in the form of the scientist, and that perception is consciousness. Maya makes it seem as if consciousness is an object when it is actually the subject.
Maya also makes the individual jiva think that it is a unique entity, separate from all other entities and objects. But jiva is not what it seems either. Jiva is really consciousness, appearing as matter. So the relationship between the three seemingly separate factors, jiva, jagat, Isvara/Maya (which creates the material world out of consciousness), is pure consciousness/existence: you.
If you look at the Creation, where does it exist? Have you ever actually seen a Creation? No. You have only experienced the objects that appear to you at any moment, and these objects are not separate from the thoughts that make them up. Creation is only an idea, a thought. It’s not that the world around you isn’t there. It’s there, but you’ve never lived there. You’ve never even been there for a visit. The only place you’ve ever been is inside your mind. When a thought appears in you, the mind imagines the totality of objects by inference, but those objects are never directly experienced. All that is directly experienced is you, consciousness, and the properties of objects. The only issue left to resolve is whether or not consciousness or matter is primary. Which came first? When we use the word “first,” we mean which stands alone? Does matter exist prior to consciousness so that we can still have matter without consciousness? No. You cannot separate an object from the consciousness of the object.
In other words, objects are not conscious. They do not know themselves or other objects. Consciousness is not conscious in the way we understand what it means to be conscious. Isvara (consciousness in the role of Creator, wielding Maya) 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 consciousness to be to be conscious of, i.e. objects, matter. Consciousness is “prior” to matter in the sense that matter depends on consciousness. Consciousness stands alone. It is the first “principle” out of which everything arises.
Finally, as we have established that you cannot get something out of nothing, if matter depends on consciousness, it must come from consciousness. Therefore the effect (matter) is just an apparent transformation of the cause, consciousness. It is not an actual transformation, because if it were, consciousness would have lost its limitless nature when it transformed into matter. It would have become limited, bound by time and space, and there would be no sentient objects and no movement possible in the Creation. Matter (subtle and gross objects) arise in you, consciousness, which if you apply logic to our thinking, is actually your (unexamined) experience. You are only ever experiencing consciousness, nothing else, whether you know it or not.
Even if science is grounded in consciousness, without self-knowledge it won’t make any difference to existential suffering. Vedanta is a science of consciousness, but scientists (and intellectuals) invariably dismiss non-duality as spiritual nonsense. You can approach consciousness with the intellect, but you will only get to the doorway of Self-knowledge and no further. Isvara is very strict about such things. You will not get through the door until the intellect has been trained to think differently and the mind has evolved to want different things or Isvara will not give you a pass.
To want different things, the mind must be purified. And to think differently, you need to be taught. To be taught, you need the right qualifications. Without qualifications, you will not get anywhere and dismiss non-duality as an interesting theory. You have glimpses of it, but it fades in and out, which is very common with inquirers, especially those with so many ideas and opinions.
Vedanta has no quarrel with science, but it is only a suitable means of knowledge for objects. But how do you explain that to someone who thinks the Creation is real? The problem with science is that it represents the mind’s best effort to figure out the objective truth of the material reality, within the confines of the apparent reality. It cannot step outside of the apparent reality without Self-knowledge. The only way to step out of Maya/mithya is with Self-knowledge, there is no other way.
Recently, a branch of science has evolved to a more enlightened approach regarding their “study” of consciousness, but even the most enlightened scientists still objectify consciousness and confuse the apparent reality, reflected consciousness (mithya), with pure consciousness (satya).
Donald: There are within some traditions clear evidence of powers attained that give a strong indication that their system is authentic. Yes, avoid the powers, as they are just evidence to show progress, but it’s something. It’s all good, as they say as well. If the person is put into a good state of mind with sitting/meditation, then what’s to complain about? Your belief can drive you to be as the belief suggests for your entire life. With some religions, the power can be scary, as they believe that only their god is the truth and will justify killing for it.
Sundari: Progress towards what? “Special powers” are not evidence of progress, because no special powers are required for Self-inquiry or Self-realization. Consciousness is not exalted. It is ordinary because it is all there is; and it has no “powers,” although it makes all powers possible. All powers are part of the apparent reality, they are not real, meaning they do not last. Yes, the experience that these powers bring, albeit it temporary, may uplift some people for a lifetime, but they nonetheless will not remove Self-ignorance. Only Self-knowledge can do that.
And what do you mean by “authentic”? How do you define the word? Do you mean “real”? There are only two things in existence: consciousness (that which is real) and the objects known to it (that which is apparently real). The only truly authentic/real thing is consciousness. Anything else is relative to and a reflection of consciousness because everything else is always changing and impermanent. If an experience is authentic for you according to your level of understanding and emotional/intellectual conditioning, that does not make it permanent, i.e. real.
I explained “special powers” in my last email. Once again:
These “powers” you speak of do not have the power to remove ignorance, but they may inspire the seeker affected by the experience of the siddhis to begin self-inquiry. In this case, we call them a “leading error.” Siddhis or spiritual experiences of whatever kind do point to the Self, but only if the knowledge they are meant to impart is understood and assimilated in a qualified mind.
Often though the experiences created by these siddhis becomes an impediment to self-inquiry because seekers misunderstand them unless they are explained within the context of Self-knowledge. The truth that all experience is pointing to is that all powers in the apparent reality belong to Isvara, not the jiva, even though Isvara and the jiva share the same identity as consciousness. And they point to the knowledge that you, consciousness, or the Self, are the knower of the experience. You are not the experiencing entity.
Siddhis do not take the place of Self-knowledge. There is no greater siddhi than Self-knowledge. That is your ONLY protection from ignorance. If you believe that unless you have the correct spiritual credentials, such as siddhis, you cannot claim to be enlightened, you are VERY wrong, and this will keep you stuck thinking enlightenment is something special you must gain. But no experience is required to validate you, consciousness, which includes siddhis of whatever nature.
Donald: Vedanta is exceptional in that it embraces all paths, which they realize are the same thing for the most part. As I am familiar with Tao, it is Brahman. Call it what you will. Again, it a great concept (I’m not saying that I believe these thoughts but am speaking in the third person) and gives you that warm fuzzy feeling, but where is the evidence to support joining the club? It’s in some ways like death. I’m fine with death (my wife not so much ☺, as it’s just a door. However, you hear it all the time: “Well, that sounds interesting, but have you heard back from anyone who has passed and confirmed what you’re saying?”
Sundari: Death is just a change of experience, nothing more. You are always here, you have always been here and you always will be “here.” Vedanta does not embrace all paths so much as underpin all paths, because it is the knowledge that makes all knowledge – and ignorance, which is another form of knowledge – possible. It is not about “warm fuzzy” feelings either. Feelings are another object known to me, the Self.
There is no need to prove I am conscious, because it is self-evident. From our analysis of consciousness, we discover that it is existence, “what is.” If I ask if you have a doubt about whether you exist or if you are conscious, you will never answer in the affirmative. It is fair to say that nobody ever told you that you exist or that you are conscious. These facts do not need revelation, because they are self-evident.
Every object needs to be validated by consciousness, me, but consciousness itself requires no validation. As stated above, there is no way I can know anything unless I am conscious. You can negate all objects, but you can never negate the knower, because the knower must be there to negate anything. Consciousness proves the existence of everything. Since it is eternally existent, existence must be its intrinsic nature. There are not two or more existences. Vedanta says there is only one, and it is non-dual. If consciousness is borrowed from some other source, it will not last. We know it is the only “thing” that does last. Everything else, all objects, come and go. What is borrowed is non-essential. What is intrinsic is essential. Essential means that nothing exists without consciousness.
The trick is to understand what it means to BE consciousness. Therein lies all the ignorance and all the teaching.
Donald: Anyway, sorry about that I’m going too much…
It’s interesting (there’s that word again) because I’m shopping at Costco and this guy has this interesting name, hinting at Hinduism or thereabouts. Sure enough, as we speak he says, “Oh, your talking my language,” as to words related to Vedanta/advaita, etc. However, his story is one I don’t have the ending to, but it’s along the lines of having to be a Hare Krishna(?) because of family, and now he’s stuck with the name but doesn’t care to follow in his father’s footsteps. I’m intrigued and try to get his father’s whereabouts to contact him. His father has a PhD in religious studies related to Vedanta. The other day, I see him again, but he doesn’t give me the contact information for his father and just says that “you can look him up online, just look for Dasa.” Well, apparently there a quite a few Dasas around and I’m not sure why he would give me this word.
Sundari: False and deluded teachers abound in the spiritual world and the academic world. There are Vedanta teachers and there are Vedanta teachers. Some of the most academic and brilliant minds still confuse ignorance with knowledge.
Donald: I will say that I have had some experiences that seem to confirm the teachings of Vedanta. It just fits, you might say, and especially for what I have experienced, which is more than just book knowledge.
Did I say quick response? Also, please excuse my skeptical side.
Sundari: You are welcome; scepticism is good, as long as you don’t fall in love with your doubts. Thank you for your good wishes and the same to you.