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No Finish Line
Tony: Hi, James. Thank you for hitting the mark regarding the “finish line.” I as awareness have no finish line, as I am already complete. Tony is concerned about it because he sees that line as the end of his discontent.
James: Why is that a concern, Tony? It seems to me that ending discontent is quite desirable. The whole idea of Vedanta is to end discontent. Self-knowledge brings peace.
Tony: Identifying as Tony is automatic. Identifying as awareness is a deliberate practice, samadhana.
James: This is the essence of Vedanta, until continuous contemplation on the meaning of “I am awareness” destroys the sense of Tony-ness.
Tony: I have a fairly accurate grasp of what Tony is, and I as Tony find it interesting to look into the mechanics of it.
James: That’s generally not regarded as a good sign Vedanta-wise. Why? Because Tony is not real. It is an existent entity, but it is impossible to determine its nature, because it is in a state of constant flux, particularly by the very one that is being investigated. In other words, thinking about Tony gets you nowhere. You can look forever at him and you will never come up with anything definitive.
And anyway, Tony’s mechanics are the same as everyone else’s mechanics: consciousness, a gross, subtle and causal body, karma, etc. Vedanta says there is only one individual, not a whole lot of unique individuals.
Tony: But you say what is lacking is not knowledge of Tony, but knowledge of the one who Tony resolves into the “always” which is me.
James: Yes, knowledge of the one who is aware of Tony. Tony is known to you. Tony is only an idea, an object appearing in you, awareness. You cannot be Tony. You are the knower of Tony.
Tony: I thought self-knowledge was a matter of knowing what is not me.
James: There is nothing that is not you, awareness, Tony. Knowing who you aren’t, i.e. Tony, is half of it. Tony is you, but you are not Tony.
So who are you? As I just said, self-knowledge is knowing that you are the knower of Tony. And once this is clear then you see that what you call Tony is actually awareness, you. You are not going to lose anything by accepting your identity as awareness. You get to keep Tony, for what that’s worth, and you get a limitless self. How cool is that?
Tony: Seeing it ever more clearly until it is no longer believed in. I understand what you’re saying. What feels closer?
James: We need to leave feelings out of it. This is not experiential. This is knowledge. Knowledge does not feel like anything. You cannot validate the self with experience. I am saying that you are awareness, that there is no finish line. You only need to understand what that means.
How can you believe or not believe in Tony? This is how you should contemplate: when you say the word “Tony” see if you can find anyone to whom it refers. If you say “tree” you know the referent. But Tony? Is there anything experienciable that it refers to except an identity concocted out of many past experiences as interpreted by the vasanas at play at the time.
There is something right now that you are experiencing that is very real and tangible. What is that? Does it have a name on it?
Furthermore, there is no “closer,” Tony. We are talking about you. How close are you? Close to what? The word Tony only refers to you, awareness, because there is only awareness. There are not two awarenesses. There is one awareness with the Tony-thought in it.
Tony: Obviously the whole point is for I as awareness to be the subject, with Tony as the object. And it’s just a matter of seeing that is the way it ALREADY is. It is a matter of appreciating it.
James: This is the truth. There is nothing to be done about it at all except to appreciate it
Tony: If it isn’t fully appreciated then keep looking at it (not looking FOR it). But looking at WHAT? Well, the only thing you can look at is what isn’t you, and you can keep reminding yourself of that.
James: Wrong. In every experience there is a subject and an object. The “isn’t you” is known by whom? Contemplation on the knower of the object is proper contemplation. Why would you remind yourself of what isn’t you? You need to remind (put your mind on) what is you.
Contemplation is looking at awareness, not the objects appearing in it, like the Tony-thought. When we say “looking at it,” what do we mean? We mean looking at the idea that you are whole and complete, missing nothing, not an experiencer, unborn, non-dual, non-separate, eternal, etc. You need to contemplate on these ideas until you can see that they are true. Any one of these thoughts takes you directly to awareness, you, because they reveal your nature.
Tony: I would say it is a “plugging away” until you see the absurdity of plugging away. That of course implies waiting for an experience to happen, one that could be called “the experience of seeing how ridiculous your efforts to be enlightened are.”
James: It all depends on how you “plug away.” If you mean inquiry, then no, because inquiry is not absurd. It reveals your nature as awareness. You may “plug away” at inquiry if you do not know how to inquire. But if you know how to inquire you will get quick results. If you mean plugging away at other actions, yes, definitely, you will ultimately realize how absurd it is to do something to get what you already have.
Tony: If that is the case then I have failed to grasp the whole point of Vedanta! No problem though, I’m here to reveal my ignorance to you.
James: You did a good job. I hope I did a good one removing it for you.
Tony: Thank you for your reply. Some longstanding questions have been answered and some necessary corrections made. Clarification on what is contemplation is a great relief to me. I have been focusing on objects as a way to objectify them, thus proving they are not me. It only takes a moment to do that, however, and I have (almost) been making a meditation out of it. Contemplation is attention on the subject, I, who know the object with the idea of my nature as eternal, actionless, etc. (which is a true idea). The true idea resolves into the realized truth.
James: There is no need to consciously objectify objects. Just look and see what is seen, then contemplate the seer.
~ Love, James