Search & Read
Don’t Believe in Maya
Ben: Hi, Arlindo. I hope you are well, and Happy New Year to you.
I have been following the program as presented at the ShiningWorld website and have noticed a number of changes in my attitude. Most notably is a decreased desire for blissful meditative experiences, a subtle but steadily growing conviction that I am not the physical body.
Arlindo: That is great news, Ben. Dispassion towards pleasurable sense objects is a good indication of maturity. The emotional happiness experienced in meditation is not bad nor a problem – we do not have a problem with enjoying a good chocolate cake, for example. But due to ignorance, it almost invariably becomes a problem because the meditator easily identifies and gets attached to those objects of experience.
A binding vasana is a binding vasana; it may cause an attachment and dependency on the physical body, the son, the wife, the silence, the peace, the bliss of meditation, etc. – any binding vasana becomes an obstacle to moksa because it produces “dependence.” Your true nature is that “independent” essential principle called pure consciousness. How will the mind, once attached and dependent on objects, realize its independent nature? To a large degree, the mind needs to be free of attachments and dependencies because they disturb the mind, compromising its discrimination faculty.
Ben: There is still, however, much confusion as to what I am. The question that I seem to be a little stuck on is this: How can it be known that mind is a quality of awareness and awareness is not a quality of mind?
Arlindo: How do you know what you know? You may say that the mind knows, but that is not really the case, because without consciousness the mind is not able to know. Consciousness without the mind cannot know either, but it is self-knowing because knowledge is its very nature. But the mind is not self-conscious at all. It is inert matter with the property of reflecting consciousness to create the jiva, the knower/experiencing entity. The Upanishads say that pure awareness is the “mind” of the mind, the “ear” of the ears, the “eye” of the eyes, etc.
Your difficulty is common because Maya, the greatest trickster, seemingly reverses the relationship between awareness and the mind. It makes awareness appear as a by-product of the mind. But how could it be so? How could the reflection of your face in the mirror be the cause of your real face? How can the waves on the ocean be the cause of the ocean? How can the clay pot cause the existence of the clay ?
Furthermore, awareness is attributeless. It has no qualities or properties. All properties belong to mithya: energy and matter. So, literally, mind is not a quality of consciousness but only an “apparent” function of awareness whenever Maya is in operation. The mind is only a bundle of thoughts appearing and disappearing in consciousness. It is a common experience that we can witness the mind, every time our mind is clear or disturbed we know that, and we say, “my mind is so and so.” The mind is an “object” like any other – consciousness; the witnessing principle is the “subject.”
The subject cannot have any quality or property, because qualities and properties can only be witnessed by a quality-less principle. If awareness would have qualities and properties it would be impossible to apprehend the properties of objects. The conscious principle must be “stable” (free of qualities/modifications) in order to apprehend and determine the qualities of the objects of mithya. Consciousness and the objects (mind included) do not belong to the same order of reality.
Your trouble is probably due to the fact that you are confusing mind with consciousness. Mind may be referred to as “jivatama” (individual self) in some of our texts, but that does not mean to say that mind is paramatman, the pure self. Only in its fundamental, independent nature jivatama is equal to paramatman (Tat Tvam Asi). What science calls “consciousness” is but the reflection of pure consciousness in a subtle body, i.e the jiva.
The “three states” of the mind teaching (waker, dreamer and sleeper) will help you to understand the difference between the two. In deep sleep, the thoughts/mind goes “off” but consciousness remains “on,” shining its “light” on the experience of blankness or no-thoughts. If consciousness would be a quality of thoughts, it would go “off” when thoughts go to sleep and the body would be found dead cold in the morning because without consciousness, the pranas and the vital air also go.
Ben: I see that logically, as the mind takes the form of contents, awareness must be a prerequisite for the existence of the mind. However, it feels as if awareness arises because of mind, and not the other way around.
Arlindo: You’ve got the logic, and logic is far superior to feeling and sense perception. If we would base our knowledge on sense perception alone, we would be stuck with the erroneous notion that the sun revolves around the earth or that objects exist separate or apart from consciousness. Vedanta is the highest of all knowledge; it is the knowledge of reality revealed to us by Isvara. It is definitely counter-intuitive. Maya makes us feel that reality is “duality” and that consciousness is a product, part or property of matter. Don’t believe in Maya, the greatest trickster.