Search & Read
Subject and Object
Mike: Dear James, I have been very much in love with Vedanta since I discovered ShiningWorld. I read your book and bought the Vedanta Full Set which I watch every day. Non-duality is still hard for me to understand. For example, you often say that reality is “flat,” meaning that there is no dimensionality to it. But this is not how I experience it. Can you explain it for me again?
James: It is not how I experience reality either, Mike. Nobody experiences reality that way. Non-duality is just knowledge. I know that reality is not dimensional, that it is “flat,” in spite of the way I experience it. To get to this understanding follow this common-sense logic:
From the body’s standpoint, the body is “here” and the tree is “there.” If you take the position of the sense organs, the eyes, for example, the eyes are “here” and the body is “there” because you can see the body with the eyes. The eyes are the subject and the body is the object, just like the body is the subject and the tree is the object. You cannot see the eyes, except with a thought. In other words, the eyes are just the thought of eyes in the mind. So with reference to the eyes the knowledge or thought of the eyes is “here” and the eyes are “there.” It is a matter of your own experience that your thoughts are known to you. Nobody can deny this fact. With reference to what are the thoughts, which were formerly the subject, now the object? The thoughts are known by awareness. You cannot have knowledge – thought – without awareness. Try to think a thought without being aware. You cannot do it.
So with reference to the thoughts awareness is the subject and thought is the object. So far so good. Now tell me who you are that knows awareness. Is there another awareness that makes awareness known? Try as you might you cannot find another awareness. There is only one awareness and this awareness is self-knowing, and it is that by virtue of which objects are known. There is no way you can say you are not aware, because you have to be aware to say that you are not. So where are the thoughts, the eyes, the body and the tree? They are in awareness only. How far are they from awareness? There is no separation.
Awareness, under the influence of maya, shapes up the thoughts, the body and the objects “outside” out of itself. The objects do not hover above awareness or below awareness in front of or behind awareness, because there is no above and below, front or back to awareness. Awareness is everywhere before there is even a “where.” This is the meaning of non-duality. Maya makes it look like the objects are separate from the subject, but it is only an appearance. Once this is understood there is only one question left: “Who am I?” And there is only one answer: “I am awareness.” People have trouble with this teaching because they take themselves to be the body, when it is very clear that the body is an object known to them. Taking one’s self to be the body is duality. It is strong belief that only stands for want of an investigation of the subject and the object.