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The Location of Objects and Negation
Felicity: Dear Sundari, I heard your teachings and find them very efficient for me, especially the suggestion to create a “Truth vasana”…
I have a long-time confusion about “who am I?” When I ask this question, there is a sense of knowing or intuiting that I am limitless awareness, but how can I be certain that this is Truth and I’m not fooling myself?
Sundari: This is why consciousness evolved Vedanta, or self-knowledge, so that it would have a means to remove ignorance when maya is operating. Scripture (Vedanta) and the words of enlightened people say you are awareness. If you have faith in the scripture (shreddha) that should be enough to confirm your sense of knowing or intuition. This is one of the most important qualifications for self-knowledge to take place in the mind and the starting point for self-inquiry.
Moksa is simply discriminating what is real from what is apparently real, and this is why the qualifications are so crucial. Without them, self-knowledge will not stick in the mind. If you have discrimination (viveka) you will have dispassion (viragya), which is indifference to the results of your actions based on self-knowledge. The platform from which we discriminate is not ego-determined, however. An individual can set up his or her own parameters and think critically within those parameters.
Whereas for moksa the knowledge you use to think critically is totally impersonal. It is object-oriented, the object being moksa, not oriented to the subject or the ego. Self-knowledge is always true because it is true to the self, meaning it cannot be dismissed or negated by any other knowledge. It is not knowledge unless it is true to the object. If it is my knowledge then it is my interpretation of an object, which is not necessarily knowledge. Ignorance (or my point of view) causes me to see or experience objects as though they are actually there. People believe that ignorance is knowledge because they believe that what they experience is knowledge. It may be knowledge but it may not be.
Moksa by its very nature means freedom from the individual, not freedom for the individual. Perhaps the biggest erroneous notion is the belief that the individual is going to get this wonderful thing called freedom. But it is not like that. By accepting yourself as an individual – setting yourself up as the authority as an individual, or ego – you accept dependence on samsara. Moksa is the knowledge “I am awareness and not the individual that I have been led to believe I am.”
Awareness is the only thing free of samsara.
Once you know who you are, you cannot argue with or defend the position of ignorance any longer. Before self-knowledge is firm, one has to take a stand in awareness as awareness, which requires negating all thoughts to the contrary with great dedication and diligence. Once self-knowledge is firm, knowledge, like ignorance, is an object known to you and you are free of both. Nothing is hidden, nothing is unknown, nothing is beyond understanding – because it is all you and arises from you, awareness. You are the essence of everything and that upon which the essence of everything depends. You are free of bondage to objects – and so are free to enjoy objects for what they are, without expecting them to deliver something that they are incapable of delivering – happiness – because you are already it. Nothing takes this away; there is no more fine print.
If you understand that the subject matter of self-knowledge, or Vedanta, is you – then you would know that Vedanta is the very foundation of life itself – and life is dependent on it, not the other way around. Self-knowledge, or Vedanta, is the knowledge that underpins all knowledge; it is the irrefutable logic of your own unexamined experience. Vedanta is the only means of knowledge at our disposal to actualise freedom from ignorance. Unless you dump everything you think you know and ignore what everyone else thinks they know (unless they know that their true nature is unlimited awareness) you will be an ego trying to experience awareness instead of realising that you are awareness apparently experiencing an ego.
Ignorance only ends for the jiva, or the self the spell of ignorance, when self-knowledge removes it. Critical thinking is good in that one needs to question everything; in fact the ability to doubt and reason (manas) is built into the nature of the mind for the very simple reason that reality is not what it appears to be. Doubting is essential and it is a function given to us by Isvara, by awareness, when maya is operating so that the spell of ignorance can be broken. But unless the critical mind is guided in its thinking, it is not able to free itself. Ignorance is hardwired, too powerful and too seductive.
Felicity: I mean, how can I be sure that whatever I recognize is not drishya (what is seen)?
Sundari: Whatever you recognise is drishya, what is seen, how can it be otherwise? Ask yourself who is asking this question. You, awareness, are the one that sees what is seen in that seeing cannot take place without awareness. Through self-knowledge you see yourself as awareness because there is only awareness.
Felicity: How can I recognize something without qualities? It seems that I can only understand who I am by inference – by negating everything so I am that which is left after negation.
Sundari: This is correct because inference is a valid means of knowledge. Now look and see if what is left has qualities. Awareness is just you. Felicity is a name for you. You see qualities and no qualities. Both are just ideas appearing in you, made out of your thoughts. You are the awareness of both.
Felicity: Another problem is that negation seems not so honest to me because it is not totally true that I am not the body-mind. Neti neti creates duality… I am not only the body-mind, for sure, but it is the self (atma) as existence (sat). It’s extremely confusing for me, for my logic, that I am aware (chit) of an object which is also me (sat). Though I do have a sense that existence is one, and not dual… I guess the essence of my question is: how to be sure that this is reality and not imagination?
Sundari: Yes, you and what you are aware of is just awareness. Examine your own experience. Again, ask yourself “Who is asking this question?” Duality is superimposed onto non-duality when maya is operating. Ignorance is so hypnotic that from the jiva’s point of view it is almost impossible to negate duality without the help of the scripture and a qualified teacher. Having the scripture unfolded by a qualified teacher is essential for self-inquiry so that you can see the logic of your own experience. Reading and listening to satsang is not enough. You have to examine your own experience using the teachings of Vedanta to guide you.
Now for the inquiry.
You exist. You exist as awareness. You experience everything in awareness, nothing outside of awareness (there is no such thing as inside or outside awareness but we have to use these terms – it is best to say “within the scope of” awareness). The physical objects you experience are the thoughts of the objects as they appear in awareness. See if this isn’t true. The feelings that you have are just awareness appearing as feelings. The thoughts you have are just awareness appearing as thoughts. So you and what you see are non-different; you and what you think are non-different. Maya is a power in awareness that makes it look like the seer, you, and what you see are separate. It is tricking you.
The subject-object split is only a belief based on a false perception of objects. The way you can be sure is to accept the words of the scripture. It is the testimony of hundreds of thousands of enlightened people. Or contemplate on the teaching in this paragraph. It is called the “location of objects” teaching. See if you can find an object that is not made out your thoughts.
Then see if your thoughts are made out of anything other than you, awareness. Everything you experience is coming out of you. Can you find any other place where you are experiencing things except in you?
The neti neti teaching is a trick, but a necessary trick. All the objects are you because reality is non-dual. But the objects have a dependent existence on you. Awareness exists regardless of the presence or absence of objects. Take the ocean and the wave: both have a dependent existence on water but water is free of the ocean and the wave. If you don’t know what non-duality means, i.e. you do not know you are awareness, you will think that you are Felicity, a person, seeking moksa. If you are a person seeking moksa you will be attached to certain objects, including the idea that you are seeking moksa. So you need to break your attachment by understanding that the objects exist within the scope of awareness (you) but are not you.
It is not obvious that they are not you when you are ignorant of your nature as awareness because you need them to make you feel secure or to validate your identity. So you have to free your mind of them. We say that self-knowledge is always good because it is that which you cannot negate. In other words, it is always true and always present. Once you have negated all the objects then you can investigate awareness, which is left over because you cannot negate awareness.
When you have understood what awareness is it becomes clear that the objects are also awareness. Concentrate on the location of objects teaching I give you in this email and your confusion about the not-self will go away.
Felicity: Another thing which is unclear to me these days is: why call atma consciousness? To say that “I am consciousness” is to give an attribute to something which is supposed to be without any attributes. If it is conscious it can be unconscious as well. Conscious and unconscious are only dualistic terms created by the mind. I don’t know how to call it but consciousness/awareness seems confusing to me, something mixed with name and form (nama rupa). In deep sleep, for example, I’m not conscious, at least not in the regular way the word “conscious” is used.
Sundari: It is true, strictly speaking, it is not correct to refer to atma as consciousness or awareness. We are restrained by the use of words. But we use them advisedly, with reference to self-knowledge. There is only one atma, one self. It is you. You have to be conscious to observe your doubts and to write these words. Look and see if you can find an origin for you. You will not be able to find a beginning to you. Consciousness is not an attribute. It is the knower of attributes. It has no form so it has no attributes. It is just the knowing principle. It can know anything because it knows everything. It cannot do this if it is an attribute of something else. It can only do this because it is free of all attributes.
Attributes limit things and attributes are not conscious. They do not know anything. They are objects (ideas) appearing in you, awareness. Consciousness appears to be unconscious because maya makes it seem to be unconscious. But to be unconscious you need to be conscious or you will be dead. In deep sleep you are conscious but not a Felicity. Felicity is unconscious in that state but you are that which makes it possible for Felicity to be unconscious there and to be conscious when the waking state happens in you, consciousness.
It is correct to say that conscious and unconscious are dualistic terms, but how are they known? They are known by you, awareness. So awareness is the knower of what is conscious and what is unconscious. At the same time awareness/consciousness is it conscious of itself whether or not objects are present.
There are only two categories in existence: you and what you see/experience. If you can see something, it is not you. You see your thoughts. In fact all you actually see is thoughts. So they cannot be you. Now look at the one that sees the thoughts. When you understand that one you will see that the objects are you also.
Felicity: If you can help me understand who I am, I will be endlessly grateful. I’m quite stuck with it (though I see more clearly the opposite – that the ego is inert, so the “me” is only apparently real.
Sundari: Yes, the ego is just a thought. It is not alive. It is not conscious. It is inert subtle matter.
Felicity: I also think that my confusion is a result of listening to inaccurate teachers, borrowing false understandings.
Sundari: If you are going to inquire, you should only stick with Vedanta. You should not read or study or listen to anyone who is not a teacher of traditional Vedanta. Yes, there are apparent contradictions in scripture but the teacher can resolve them for you. In this case, I suggest that you only think about the location of objects teaching I have presented in this email. Just stick with it until you understand. It will kill your doubts. It is necessary to know what ignorance is before one can remove it. Vedanta is just the most efficient way to understanding this fact – and most importantly, of translating this teaching into the life of the jiva. This is because it is a complete teaching and not dependent on the teacher.
There is an idea that if it is all one, then one teaching is as good as the other, but this is not true because one way is not as good as the other. Some ways are better than others and there is always a “best” way, assuming qualifications. By “best” I mean a method that does what it purports to do in a timely fashion. This is why you can trust Vedanta.
~ Namaste, Sundari