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Trace the I-Sense II
Vivek: Dear Ram, you say:
“Tracing the I-sense can be a useful teaching, as you know, but Vedanta does not teach it – although it fits in as a sadhana – because it gives the impression that you can gain moksa by action, i.e. tracing the source of the I-sense, and it implies experiential enlightenment, meaning that you will experience the self once you find the source. One problem with this is that the one who is doing the tracing is already the source, i.e. awareness. It also implies that the source is not known. But awareness is known to you. It is you, the ‘tracer.’
“However, if by ‘tracing’ you mean thinking logically back to what supports the I-sense, then this is a Vedanta teaching. There is no I-sense without you, awareness. Vedanta says that the I-sense is just an idea in the intellect that, ‘I exist,’ that, ‘I am.’ Apart from the simple fact that no thought of I is necessary for you to be awareness, it can be only known by awareness. So all a proper teaching has to do is to reveal the fact that you are awareness. If tracing the I-sense does that, then it is Vedanta. Anything that reveals the self to be limitless awareness is Vedanta.
“A problem with Ramana’s teaching, which is not actually a teaching, only discrete statements made to different people at different times, is that it does not reconcile the experiential notion of enlightenment – yoga – with Vedanta. He presents both yoga and Vedanta as equally valid means of moksa without unfolding the obvious downside of yoga, which I do in the second chapter of my book. The statements of a jnani do not amount to a teaching unless they coincide with scripture and unless they include the supporting logic. Without the supporting logic they will be inevitably be misinterpreted.”
Sure, I agree with what you say, but at least for me, the feeling of I-sense manifested itself as a distinct sensation in the back of my head. And I (ego; don’t know the Vedanta term) was watching the I-sense. Later on only after your explanation was I able to recognize the underlying state of awareness that is below the three states. Ironically, it was my cat that helped me get it. I was sleeping one night and suddenly the cat started meowing, and when I was in the state between sleep and awake, I asked the question, “Who is listening to the cat meow?” and I realized, “Awareness because there is no ‘I,’” yet I was cognizant of the cat meowing. It was kind of intuitive. This sort of questioning happened after the event, not during the event. Does this make sense?
Ram: Yes, indeed, Vivek. But there are two things that you might like to know. Awareness is not a “state” unless you are a “state.” So you were watching the “I.” The realization of yourself as an object is called indirect knowledge. Direct knowledge, i.e. moksa, is taking the object, in this case awareness, as the subject, you. You still have the experiential view of enlightenment. Indirect self-knowledge does not negate the doer, the “intuiter,” but direct knowledge does. The problem is that you interpreted the self as a state, something Vivek was experiencing. You were tricked by maya because it was really the self experiencing itself. Maya made it seem as if awareness was an experiencer – and awareness was the object of experience.
Vivek: If enlightenment is knowing that seeker is the sought and awareness is the ground of being, then it is obvious. No big deal. It happens to everyone.
James: It may “happen” to everyone, but if the knowledge was direct, “everyone” would be free. However, this is not the case.
Vivek: But if you think about it carefully, this awareness co-exists with the mind, otherwise this would not have become a memory and I would not be writing this email about the experience.
James: Indirect self-knowledge is experiential, and when the experience goes the knowledge goes. Self-knowledge is not memory-based. If you look at this experience, it is gone now because it was simply a state of mind. The mind was sattvic and awareness reflected in it and maya made it look like Vivek and the object of experience, the self appearing as a “state,” were two different things.
Vivek: So my big conundrum is, how do you define self-knowledge? Self = awareness; knowledge = mind.
James: It is, “I am awareness,” assuming the meaning of this is known in terms of the apparent reality, i.e. Vivek’s life. It will stop the search, neutralize your binding vasanas and negate your sense of doership.
Vivek: BUT, and this is a big BUT, knowledge is a function of the mind, it is embedded in your neural circuits, ergo awareness cannot be separated from the mind, because awareness requires the mind to know its existence.
James: It can be separated because it is always free of the mind. This is a fact you need to appreciate. No experience will resolve it. Awareness is self-aware, self-luminous, self-revealing. It does not need the mind to know anything. And in fact the mind cannot know anything, because it is inert. It merely reflects light. It is not sentient. Awareness is sentient. You do not need a mind to know you exist. You exist in deep sleep and have a very nice experience, yet your mind is not there.
Knowledge is necessary to remove the ignorance, nothing more. It takes place in the mind because the mind is where the ignorance is. The self is never ignorant of what it is. Maya makes it appear as if the self is not known by itself.
Vivek: In our previous conversations, you mentioned awareness is free from mind. In my daily experience it looks like they are inter-related. Can you please help and clarify this point?
James: Your daily experience is misleading. Experience is controlled by maya, which makes what it non-dual seem to be dual. Only by inquiry can you resolve this. Think about it this way: I know the mind, but the mind does not know me. The mind is always an object. You are never an object. There is no one or anything that can turn you into an object.
Vivek: I have been doing some research on what Maharaj meant by “the state prior to Consciousness.” I think what Maharaj describes is the Absolute. This would be variously described as consciousness at rest or consciousness in deep sleep. In meditation it appears as a dark void. Some people also describe it as “deep sleep but awake.”
James: I don’t think so. I think by “Consciousness” he means the subtle body and by “the Absolute” he means pure consciousness. This statement is responsible for more confusion in the spiritual world than almost any other. I have several recent satsangs posted at the website that explain this so-called “teaching.”
Vivek: Then what would you describe the dark void that manifests itself during meditation? Obviously it is not self, since awareness is witnessing the void, but thoughts seem to arise from the void and fall back into it.
James: It is the causal body, the unmanifest (avyakta). It is the womb out of which the thoughts come and into which they return. It is known by you, awareness. Many people confuse the self with the causal body because the causal body as awareness in its most subtle form. You can’t actually “see” it except as the dark void when you are in some kind of meditative state. From the level of the “conscious” mind it is known only by inference. Nisargadatta was not conversant with scripture, so he used his own terms. And you have to understand that he spoke in Hindi or Marathi and he was translated by a person for whom English was not his native tongue and someone who was probably not a realized soul.
~ Love, James