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The Non-Locality of the Self
James: Hi, Selvi. I asked my wife Sundari, who is a realized person and one of my disciples, to answer this. I checked it carefully and it is perfect. I could not have done better myself.
Selvi: Namaste, dear Mr. Swartz. I have been a seeker for some years now. I understand the concept of awakening very well. When I meditate “I” am aware as a witness. But what is the reason for concluding that this witness, awareness, is non-local? How can we jump to the conclusion that “my awareness” is “THAT” (cosmic awareness)? Aren’t there other possible explanations as well?
Sundari: A seeker is an altogether different entity to a finder. The “spiritual scene” is awash with seekers and very few finders. If you really understood the “concept of awakening” you would know that it is neither a concept nor an accurate description of awareness. First of all, it implies a doer, which awareness is not; it is not a concept either, as it does not think – all thinking appears in it – and secondly, it implies that awareness “slept,” which is also not possible. The self never woke up, because it never slept. The self, awareness, consciousness, “That,” is simply your true nature. It is whole and complete, non-dual, actionless, unchanging, ORDINARY awareness. It is the I that witnesses the “I” in your meditation. Although consciousness is unlimited, is all there is and there is nothing outside of it, it holds within it the power to project ignorance or it could not be unlimited. Maya, ignorance, is simply all objects – meaning everything other than you, awareness. That includes your body, your thoughts, your feelings, all objects appearing in you, awareness. Although these objects appear to be separate, they are not, they have a dependent reality on you, awareness. They do exist, but not without you, awareness – and they do not enjoy the same order of reality, meaning they are not real, the definition for “real” being “that which lasts eternally.” It is not hard to see that nothing other than you, awareness, lasts eternally. You can negate everything except you, awareness. In maya, until you realise who you really are, you exist as awareness under the spell of ignorance.
There are no other possible explanations that provide the knowledge that sets you free. Only Vedanta does this as a proven means of knowledge, knowledge being “that which cannot be negated.” Assuming you have the qualifications necessary for this inquiry, the most important being a burning desire for freedom, Vedanta will get you there.
Selvi: For example, my awareness might be just my own local awareness. “I” in this scenario could mean my body-mind system. Isn’t this a valid explanation as well? Sleeping and dreaming are just other states of my body-mind system in this case, still perfectly local.
Sundari: The “awareness” you speak of here is the reflected “I” and exists as an object in you, pure awareness. The same applies to your “body-mind system.” Waking, dreaming and deep sleep are the only three valid states available as a means of proving your true nature as the self. Applying the definition of what is real as that which has an independent reality and lasts eternally to the meaning of the word “state,” it is easy to eliminate everything that is not you, awareness. From the gross elements of the waking world to the subtle elements of the dream state and even the bliss of the deep sleep state, none of it lasts. There is only one element that lasts and cannot be negated in these three states, which is you, the one who is aware of all three states. This awareness is totally non-local, non-physical and yet ever-present. You are never not present. Who do you think is aware of “you” asking these questions?
Here is one more thing to contemplate that proves the pervasiveness of consciousness: wherever you go there is consciousness. If it was only located in one place, you could go somewhere where it wasn’t. There is no place apart from the knower of the place. Consciousness appears to be localized when it is seen through a specific body-mind entity. But the body-mind entity is a specific location in locationless consciousness.
Selvi: We know the Big Bang happened and universe was created some 15 billion years ago. Thus we can infer intellectually and scientifically that we are all universe. Everything is ultimately universe. I have no doubt about this reality at all. But how did the Vedic seers arrive at this oneness before the emergence of science? They could not have known about the Big Bang or the age of universe. So I can believe the conclusion reached by them was a result of their meditative inquiry. If so, what was that final proof that convinced them of the non-locality of self?
Sundari: The “Big Bang” is a theory, nothing more. Nothing comes from nothing, and science is now catching up to that reality with newer models of understanding, such as the Planck scale and superstring theory. Everything comes from consciousness; it is the substrate of absolutely everything. The materialists, stuck in ignorance and holding on for dear life to their defunct theories, have it backwards. Vedanta is a revealed knowledge, it was not thought up by any one “person.” It is many thousands of years old and the accumulated revelations of many seers who put together a body of knowledge which is eternally valid, i.e. it cannot be refuted or negated. It will always be so because you can never not be you, awareness. It was given to “humanity” to help it solve its own riddle of existence.
Selvi: Well, if I provisionally take it as a given that my true self is non-local and I live accordingly, I (?) do “feel” happy, benevolent and loving to other people and things. But feelings are not facts. Just because I feel that way does not mean that it is objectively true. Hence my question. ☺
Sundari: Feelings, like everything else in maya, are objects appearing in you, awareness. They exist, but they have a dependent reality on you – as awareness. As awareness you have no feelings, no parts and no qualities. You just are the fullness and the emptiness of everything. As a jiva (awareness shining on the subtle-body bundle) the only way to feel permanently “happy” is to seek and FIND real freedom, moksa, which is freedom from the notion of yourself as the reflected self, the body, doer, thinker, feeler. When you know who you are it does not matter any longer what you think or feel, as you know you are not the doer and it is all just objects appearing in you – awareness. The absence of all anxiety about anything and everything that comes from this realisation brings total peace. What follows once you know who you are is that you learn that the greatest joy is a devotional attitude to everything because everything is you.
~ All the best, Sundari