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The Knower and the Knower of the Knower
Sarah: You said, “Awareness is the knower of the experiencing entity.” But that is also only apparent, within the upadi, or maya, and that disappears also, because consciousness is actually self-aware and not aware of the upadi, or maya – right?!
Sundari: 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, i.e. the subject and object are different. The seer, Isvara, is also known as saguna brahman because it operates maya (the gunas) but it is never deluded by them, i.e. Isvara/maya is pure sattva.
The seer and the seen is also called the witness and the witnessed. There are two witnesses: What is called the “opaque” witness (saguna brahman) and the “transparent witness” (nirguna brahman). The opaque witness is the jiva with qualities looking at awareness through its conditioning (vasanas). The transparent witness is pure awareness with no qualities conditioning it – and it is the witness of the opaque witness. Isvara is also referred to as saguna brahman, or the knower with qualities (the gunas) although Isvara is not conditioned by the gunas, whereas the jiva is.
Quote from Ramana: “The witness really means the light that illumines the seer, seen and the process of seeing.”
Bhagavan: “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 of 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 because with the appearance of maya, there is something for awareness to see, i.e. 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 (which 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; conscious and unconscious objects (Isvara and jiva respectively) arise when maya (ignorance) appears.
The apparent reality is called “apparently real” because it is not always present and always changing. And as stated above, as long as the apparent entity or 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 attachment to 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.
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. As stated, Isvara is the wielder of maya but is never deluded by maya. Purity and holiness are projected by the jiva when it is under the spell of sattva. Our experience confirms this if we work out the logic: Awareness is without parts; being partless, purity and impurity are dualisms. Yes, they are experienced and continue 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 even though it still apparently exists.
The question to ask yourself is who knows purity and impurity, who knows the witness? Who is aware that I am witnessing (or not witnessing)? Who knows all the states of existence, uphadis, or koshas? Me, awareness.
The uphadi for the jiva is the five sheaths, which are impermanent. Maya, which is the uphadi for Isvara (awareness plus the gunas), however, 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 manifesting because maya is not always manifest. When ignorance or maya does manifest, Isvara in its capacity as a Creator appears, followed by the apparent creation (Isvara srsti), the world of sentient beings and insentient elements (objects).
Sarah: You said, “The jiva is the lens through which you, awareness, have contact with objects.” It is also called the counter of existence, as in a store; the jiva is the counter over which one transacts one business with the world… right?!
Sundari: Got it!
Sarah: You said, “As ignorance lifts and the light of knowledge starts to shine brightly in the mind…” But when I was looking at Ram and seeing the fullness of myself, there was no light, it was fullness in noticeable darkness. That is my own darkness that will eventually be dispelled?
Sundari: Does the Light need light to see itself? Does the sun need another source of light to know that it is shining? NO. You, the Light, awareness, are self-luminous. You do not need anything to shine. You are the Light that knows light. Light is an object known to you.
Sarah: You said, “All is known, all is seen and understood.” That sounds like Isvara is who we really are, when we have knowledge?!
Sundari: Yes. We do not have the same omniscience as Isvara, who is the knower of all FACTS. Isvara is karma phala data, the giver of all results, because only Isvara knows what is good for the total in the apparent reality. As a jiva, enlightened or not, we only have knowledge of the facts of the objects we have contact with. However, as I know my true nature is awareness, I know the essence of everything to be me, because I know there is nothing but me, awareness. Understanding Isvara is the key and the importance of this cannot be over-emphasized, if self-actualisation is what we are after. We cannot escape Isvara, our environment, because the jiva never leaves the apparent reality. Freedom is the discrimination of the jiva from you, awareness. This is why the teaching on the gunas is so important. With this knowledge, you have a crystal-clear view of everything that is going on in the environment at any moment, from the macrocosmic to the microcosmic. This is why all is known and understood.
Sarah: Thank you again. You are Ram’s heir apparent.
Sundari: Thank you, Sarah, you are too kind!
~ With much love to you, Sundari