The Subtle Body is the Soul

Hi, Ted.

 

Ever since I have been able to comprehend the things around me, I have known that I’m not like most people in this world. The best way I can explain it is I’m not “brainwashed” into all the emotions and thoughts that seem to distract others so easily.

 

Ted: I could definitely tell you are on a different wavelength than the average teenager, Melanie. I mean that as a compliment. You remind me of myself. Despite how I appear when I’m playing my teacher role, I am a reserved person. I have always been a bit of an outsider, more inclined to observe the drama than try to dominate it.

 

Melanie: When you say our mind and body get disturbed by things, would our ‘inner self’ be like our soul which doesn’t get disturbed? I have always believed that the human being is made up of the body, mind/spirit and soul. And because we have our soul, we are able to become aware of things that are deeper than just our mind and body from physical things, (not sure if the soul and inner self are considered as the same thing).

 

Ted: The “inner self” is actually deeper (subtler is actually a more appropriate word to use) than the soul. The soul is a rather nebulous or vague term. Though it is bandied about a lot in the “spiritual” and religious world, no one ever explains exactly what it is. However, Vedanta, which is the oldest “spiritual” tradition (i.e., means of investigating the true nature of reality and one’s own real identity) in the world, offers a very clear explanation of the subtle body, which is basically the equivalent of what is referred to as the soul.

 

Vedanta says that the human being is composed of three bodies: the gross, subtle, and causal bodies. These bodies are the “layers” of costuming, you might say, that pure awareness, which is our true nature, dons in order to play the role of a human being.

 

The gross body is composed of the five elements (i.e., space, air, fire, water, and earth). It is what we normally think of as the physical body. It is the body that “dies” or, to state it more accurately, resolves back into its elemental state after the “death” of the individual person.

 

The subtle body is referred to as the “inner instrument” and is composed of four different components: the mind, intellect, ego, and memory. Though what Vedanta specifically refers to as the mind is only one component of this “inner instrument,” sometimes the whole instrument itself is referred to as the mind. The subtle body is what is the closest equivalent to what is commonly called the soul. While the gross body is the counter across which our transactions with the surrounding world take place, the subtle body is the location of our actual experience (i.e., our perceptions of sensations, our emotions, and our thoughts).

 

The component of the mind performs the functions of perceiving sense data, integrating that data into a comprehensible experience, doubting or wondering what to make of the experience and how to react to it, and ultimately emoting and thereby instigating the response to the experience that will be executed by the active organs.

 

First, the mind perceives the sense data that is encountered by the sense instruments (i.e., the ears, skin, eyes, tongue, and nose). While the sense instruments are located in the gross body, the actual sense organs are located in the mind. This is evidenced by the fact that you can’t pluck your eyeball out of your head and leave it at home to watch TV while the rest of you went to school. The eyeball is the instrument through which seeing occurs, but seeing itself is a function of the mind. This is also why we can sometimes stare blankly into space when we are daydreaming and essentially see nothing. Since our mind’s attention was not directed toward an object outside ourselves, when somebody asks what we were staring at we find ourselves uncertain. Obviously, in that case we don’t see absolutely “nothing” because the mind is backing our eyeball to some degree, but such an occurrence does illustrate the fact that the basis of seeing is the mind.

 

Once the mind has perceived the sense data, it then integrates it into a coherent whole. This is why we don’t have to scramble about trying to match up what we see with what we feel and hear, etc. These don’t seem to be separate. They seem to go together. So when we see someone’s lips move and hear sounds in the form of words, we naturally assume that the person is the source of the sound.

 

Having integrated the sense data into a cogent experience, the mind then wonders what it means and how it—and by extension the person with whom it is associated—should respond to the experience. Is it a “friend” or “foe,” so to speak? Might it produce pleasure or pain? Should the person run away from or embrace the experience?

 

The mind, however, has no discriminative capacity of its own, so it cannot decide for itself what to do. This is where the intellect comes in. The intellect is the discriminating instrument. It is capable determining the nature of the experience and deciding how to respond to it. So the mind presents its doubts over to the intellect and awaits a decision.

 

While the intellect is the decider, it too requires some guidance concerning what decision it should make. In order to do this, the intellect actually goes beyond the body within which it is housed and seeks the counsel of the causal body, the third of the three “layers” or bodies that comprises a human being.

 

The causal body is the reservoir of all impressions left by one’s past experiences. These impressions are general in nature. They do not include every detail of one’s past experiences, but rather the general nature of those experiences. Say, for instance, that you eat a chocolate ice cream cone and find it pleasurable. The impression left in the causal body is one of pleasure. Your may not remember every bite you took, but you remember that eating the ice cream cone was a good experience. Thus, next time you are presented with the opportunity to eat a chocolate ice cream cone, the causal body will send a message to the intellect that it should eat the cone.

 

This, by the way, is the reason our responses to situations tend to be predictable and easily develop into habits. In one way, our habits can be good in that they can save us from danger or dumb decisions. In another way, however, our habits can become so automatic that they control us and rob us of our own free will. And if our interpretations of the impressions of past experiences are not altogether accurate or healthy, they can lead to problematic behaviors that lead to our ruin. For instance, if my response to stress is to smoke a cigarette and I enjoy the chemical affect of the nicotine in my system, then I most likely will repeat that behavior in times of stress and in no time can easily develop a habit that could be detrimental to my health.

 

The impressions left in the causal body are referred to as vasanas. These vasanas become the basis of the individual person’s likes, dislikes, desires, and fears. The impressions remain in unmanifest seed form in the causal body, and then sprout as desires and fears in the subtle body. These desires and fears in turn influence our decisions and eventually manifest as physical actions executed by the gross body. As mentioned, this cycle quickly becomes repetitive because every time we execute an action it fortifies the impression that initially spawned it and thus we become more and more prone to acting in the same manner. Eventually, we basically become robots acting at the behest of the desires and fears determined by our past impressions. Hence, we can say that we are basically controlled by our vasanas. In fact, we are so closely identified with our vasanas that we basically define ourselves by the aggregate of vasanas that are associated with our particular mind-body-sense complex. Only when we know who we really are can we break free from the tyranny of the vasanas.

 

At any rate, once the intellect has received counsel from the causal body about how it responded to similar experiences in the past, it then decides what to do. Usually, it decides to do what produced the most immediate pleasure in the past, which as pointed out may not actually be the most beneficial response.

 

Having decided what to do, the intellect assumes a sense of doership. That is, it identifies with the ego or the I-sense and thinks I will do this. In this sense, the ego is not the excessive pride or arrogance that is the common connotation of the word in the West, by rather the I-sense, the sense of being a separate independent individual person. With this added sense of doership, the intellect in the guise of the ego then sends the message back to the mind.

 

The mind feels this message as emotion, which we might think of more simply as energy in motion. In fact, if you look closely at the emotions you feel, you find that they are basically physical sensations that result from particular thoughts. These physical sensations are the initial impulses that register in the active organs (i.e. speaking, grasping, locomotion, generation, and excretion) and are then executed through the active instruments (i.e., the tongue, hands, feet, genitals, and anus).

 

Having said all that, the subtle body is essentially what is thought of as the soul. The causal body could be considered an extension of the subtle body, but it is not persona. The causal body becomes associated with a particular mind-body-sense complex (i.e., a particular individual person) because that particular mind-body-sense complex provides a certain aggregate or collection of vasanas an appropriate context in which to play out. In other words, the apparent person with whom a particular set of vasanas taken from the universal pool of vasanas (i.e., the macrocosmic or universal causal body) are associated has the body, mind, and living conditions that give the desires and talents produced by those vasanas the opportunity for their expression. For instance, a whole slew of highly refined musical vasanas were attracted to the subtle body that was housed in the fetus that eventually developed into the human being known as Mozart.

 

Obviously, any particular incarnation involves the exhaustion and the cultivation of new or fortification of existing vasanas. Those vasanas that don’t get exhausted in any particular lifetime remain in the vasana bundle associated with that particular mind-body-sense complex. Then, when the person dies, that vasana bundle resolves into a dormant state within the causal body until it finds a new fetus with which to associate that will provide that collection of vasanas the appropriate circumstances it needs to continue to express itself, so to speak. Hence, when we speak of reincarnation, it is not actually a matter of the specific person reincarnating, but rather a matter of the vasana bundle that informed that person relocating in and expressing through another subtle body.

 

The causal body is actually the universal reservoir of all the impressions ever experienced. Only a certain number of these impressions are readily available to a particular individual for reasons that are too complex to get into at present. But suffice it to be said for the moment that the universality of the causal body is the reason that even in cases where we are confronting an experience we have never encountered before we still have an instinctual sense of what to do. Though we are not consciously aware of it, in such instances we are drawing upon the universal pool of experience for feedback on how similar situations have been handled previously within the larger context of humanity as a whole.

 

The “inner self” is altogether different than all three of these bodies. It is the witness of them. Though we tend to think we are the gross, subtle, and causal bodies with which we are associated, we are actually the limitless scope of awareness in which these bodies appear. All three bodies and all experiences that take place within them are simply objects known to the “inner self.” This is why when you know who you really are, you remain undisturbed by the objects appearing within the scope of your being. “Worldly” life, both its “outer” and “inner” aspects, becomes nothing more than a holographic movie appearing within you.

 

Be clear, however, that the “you” we are talking about here is not Melanie the apparent person, but the pure limitless awareness in which Melanie appears as an object. This distinction is the subtlest and most difficult distinction to make. Most people are never able to dis-identify with the body-mind-sense complex that they appear to be and “step back” and see that they are really the unchanging eternal awareness in which the world, the body, the sensations, the emotions, and the thoughts are appearing. This is why, as you say later in this email, that most people think you are crazy when you start talking about reality being more than what meets the eye.

 

Melanie: All I have been trying to do for years is understand and answer my questions about, what you mentioned, the source of life, nature of reality and my true identity. No words can really explain that better.

 

Ted: Despite what the world would have you believe, this is the point of existence, if there can be said to be a point. You are at an “advanced” stage in your evolution as an embodied being, Melanie. The self is starting to see the possibility of knowing—actually “remembering itself” is a more accurate way to put it—itself through the vehicle of your intellect.

 

Although the self hasn’t actually forgotten who it is, due to its own inherent power of delusion, it plays a game, so to speak, of pulling the wool over its own eyes and forgetting its true limitless nature. This deluding power, which is called maya, has two powers: veiling and projecting. Once it veils the self’s true limitless nature, it then projects the “dream” of the world, including the individual person you seem to be, on the “screen” of pure limitless awareness and causes pure awareness to take itself to be a separate individual person within a world of separate independently existent objects.

 

When you understand that everything in existence is actually dependent on awareness for its existence, then you realize that everything is nothing other than awareness. Though the objects seem to exist as separate entities, they are all actually awareness. Just as the objects in a dream are nothing other than the awareness of the dreamer, so the entire universe, including the person you take yourself to be and the emotions and thoughts that seemingly exist “within” that individual, are nothing other than awareness. This is the true meaning of the saying, “One is all, all is one,” that you refer to later in this email.

 

Melanie: I am already aware of my inner self…

 

Ted: Remember, however, that the “inner self” we are talking about is not Melanie’s, so to speak. Melanie is actually an object within you. You are the “inner self,” the “light” of awareness in which Melanie appears and is known.

 

The true self simply sees all that is and even what is not (i.e., the absence of things, like in deep dreamless sleep), and remains ever calm, peaceful, and happy. The mind and emotions that we take to be ourselves (i.e., the person we seem to be) get disturbed, but the self (“I”) never actually does. It takes a quiet mind to “see” or understand this (you don’t actually see it because awareness is not an object). It’s so easy to get distracted by all the thoughts and emotions and things going on around us and to identify with this mind and body we appear to be. But if you can get really quiet, you’ll see that you are actually not the mind and body, but the one (the disembodied awareness) that sees these phenomena.

 

When you understand that you are the self and not the person you take yourself to be (and that everyone tells you you are), then you can rest in an eternal source of peace and serenity. Then the world can never really rock you socks. You can deal with the world in an efficient way and do what you need to do and all. But you never really get swept away by it. You always remain centered and can handle anything that life throws at you, so to speak, because you know that it is no more real that watching a cosmic, holographic movie. It’s pretty dang convincing, but it’s not real. The only real (and by real I mean unchanging) thing is you, awareness, the self.

 

Melanie: …and the peace that can come with it, but I haven’t been able to balance it with my body and mind.

 

Ted: There is no balancing it exactly. What you are calling “your” body and mind are only objects appearing within the scope of you, attributeless awareness.

 

Melanie: All these years of me hiding away in my room I found there’s more to humans than simply just the body and mind. So, I’m aware of it, but can’t make the connection. Just recently did I realize the relation between meditation and yoga with the inner self, so I am interested in it.

 

Ted: Meditation and yoga are means of purifying the mind and thus preparing it for the assimilation of the knowledge of your true identity as limitless awareness. In this sense, purifying the mind means calming it, quieting it, withdrawing it from its fascination with the surrounding world to a degree sufficient to allow for self-inquiry. Purifying the mind doesn’t mean you have to become a perfect person or some saintly being who never has a negative thought or emotion. You don’t have to be holy, you simply need a mind that is dispassionate (i.e., not swept up in the daily drama of the world) and calm enough to see that you are the whole.

 

Melanie: As “nerdy” as this sounds…

 

Ted: Hey, this “nerdy-ness” is great. I’m the biggest nerd there is. Welcome to the club!

 

Melanie: …the reason I became fascinated about understanding these things was from watching an anime show. The show is called Fullmetal Alchemist. It mentions how humans are made up of the body, mind/spirit and soul. And how “One is all, all is one.” ‘One’ being us individually, ‘all’ being the world. (We are all apart of one another, our bodies die, decay, and grow into the grass, a rabbit eats the grass, a fox eats the rabbit, etc).

 

The story is about these young brothers who lose their mother to a severe illness. They try to bring her back by a failed process of human transmutation with alchemy and also try to find out the truth of the world and life itself.

 

The moral of the story was you can’t bring back those who have passed and you can’t dwell in the past. This made me start thinking about death. Obviously, our bodies and mind are left here to be broken down.

 

Ted: There actually is no such thing as death. The elements that comprise the body simply resolve back into their elemental state. The subtle body transmigrates into another body. The causal body stays as it ever was.

 

And the self simply watches it all.

 

Because the self is not the mind, it doesn’t think, so to speak, so it doesn’t know itself as one would another person or even as you think you know yourself as the person you seem to be at present. The self is limitless awareness, so it has no attributes or qualities or characteristics by which it can be identified. It knows itself by virtue of being itself. In this way, it is similar to the deep, dreamless sleep state. Just because no objects arise in dreamless sleep doesn’t mean you don’t exist. Upon awakening the mind/intellect registers the memory of having slept soundly. If you had not been there and were not now here, you wouldn’t be able to remember now what had occurred then.

 

The bottom line is that you are always present. And experience doesn’t happen to you. It happens in you. When you illumine the mind or subtle body of an apparent person, that person sees what is within his or her mind and/or what seems to surround the person’s body. When that person “dies,” you illumine the next body-mind-sense complex (i.e., apparent person) that the subtle body inhabits. The slate of the subtle body is wiped clean between incarnations, so to speak, so it doesn’t remember its past associations, and thus it’s memory aspect (the fourth function of the subtle body, which was not addressed in the description I offered of the anatomy of the three bodies and the process of experience) doesn’t provide the intellect with specific images of experience from past lives.

 

Melanie: What I was trying to understand is the part that makes us who we are, the inner self, or soul. Possibly, our soul lives on forever, or has been here forever, eternity with no beginning or end. Whatever the case is, I’ve been interested in it, and can’t seem to get a grasp on exactly what I’m looking for yet.

 

Ted: Hopefully, the explanations I’ve offered have given you a start toward identifying the self.

 

Melanie: I feel like if I were to find peace with myself, I would find things to become pointless. If I’d be able to “see” through emotions and everything hectic going around out in the world, what would be the point in participating in everyday life if you knew inside that none of it is a big deal and that it is only affecting the physical part of ourselves that will eventually be left behind? Or is it something different and more deep than that?

 

Ted: The realization that you are not your experience and that all experience is ultimately no more real than a dream can be quite shocking and even disheartening. Once you get past that stage, however, you realize the freedom that is your inherent nature. Thereafter, rather than chasing experiences in life to try to get joy or meaning from them, you simply enjoy the experiences life offers without the stress of needing them to be any certain way or provide any certain outcome. Whatever happens is fine because you know that nothing can actually enhance, diminish, or affect you, awareness, in any essential way.

 

This doesn’t mean that you don’t care about life or live in a way that is considerate toward others and “meaningful” to yourself. You simply play the game for the joy of it, but are rocked by the ups and downs that are an inevitable part of it. You don’t need anything outside your self to be happy. You do what you do according to what your nature dictates, but you don’t need anything to be other than the way it is. I know that sounds paradoxical, but when you understand who you are, you play the role of the apparent person you seem to be to the hilt, but ultimately accept that whatever happens is simply the way the script was written for that character.

 

Melanie: I may sound a bit all over the place with all of this. It may be from lack of sleep, but it’s a bit hard for me to explain how I feel and compare it with what you have shared for some reason, it’s difficult to put my thoughts into words I suppose.

 

I haven’t been able to talk to anyone about these things without them thinking I’m insane.

 

Ted: I understand completely.

 

Melanie: I hope I made some sense in what I’m attempting to say and share. I want to try to understand this as best as I can.

 

Ted: If you really want to get a better understanding of this whole elaborate puzzle of existence, spend some time reading the information on the website. This will provide you with a good understanding of the fundamental teachings of Vedanta and will also provide us with a common vocabulary. Thus, we will have a better basis for a continued dialogue. My suggestion is to first read the Intro Articles in order, then read the FAQs, and then go to the Publications section and read the first selection, Tattva Bodha.

 

Then feel free to contact me if you have any further questions.

 

Also, I’ve written a book, “Self-Knowledge: The King of Secrets,” that should be coming out sometime between September and December.

 

Melanie: Thanks again for your thorough response.

 

Ted: My pleasure.

 

All the best you, Melanie.

 

Ted

Correct Understanding and Ultimate Actualization

Hi Ted,

 

Hope all is well, I have slowed down a little, as I realized since getting in touch last week my mind has been going into overdrive!

 

So all I’m asking is whether the following statement is enough to keep me on the right track,

 

I am awareness.

The apparent reality, including ‘myself’, is a reflection of awareness.

I can’t find awareness, because I am awareness.

I simply am.

 

I see now how it’s important to still understand there still is ‘Robert’, but ultimately I am awareness. And while the part of Robert is played out, I must hold firm in the knowledge that I am awareness.

 

Much love,

 

Robert.

 

 

Hi, Robert.

 

Your statement reflects correct understanding. Ultimately, actualization of the knowledge means that two results have taken place within Robert’s psyche.

 

First, the knowledge has negated your sense of doership. This means that Robert is still there doing, but you know that this projected entity—which is actually only an insentient mechanism that is lent sentiency by virtue of its being illumined by awareness—is not the doer.

 

Second, it has rendered your binding vasanas non-binding. This means that while you will still have preferences (i.e., desires and fears, likes and dislikes), you can take them or leave them because you know that you need nothing to complete yourself as you are the whole, the limitless scope of awareness in which all objects (i.e., the entire manifest universe in both its subtle or “inner” aspect and gross or “outer” aspect) appear and of which all are made.

 

Keep exposing yourself to the teachings, contemplating them, and applying them to each and every experience of your life. This will eventually break the back of the old conditioned thought patterns and you, awareness, will stand victorious over Robert, the apparent person, the apparition shaped and projected by ignorance.

 

All the best,

 

Ted

Words and Awareness

Hi Ted,

 

Hope your doing well.

 

Ted: Marvelous.

 

Robert: So I’ve come to the conclusion that there is only Awareness.

 

Ted: Yes, strictly speaking, this is true. But for the purposes of analysis we make a distinction between pure awareness, which is limitless and actionless, and reflected awareness, which appears as and enlivens all the names, forms, and functions abounding in the manifest universe.

 

Robert: Through Awareness the apparent reality we live in was created, then due to the power of maya, ignorance happens, duality comes into play, and we all start thinking we are something special and separate from everything else.

 

Ted: You’re on the right track, but awareness does not create the reality we live in. It would be more appropriate to say that awareness is the reality we live in. But even that statement is not wholly accurate as awareness is not a place in which we are located. Awareness is the “light” by means of which the apparent reality we live in is known. By analogy, we might think of the apparent reality we live in being a dream. And awareness? Well, where exactly is a dream located? And since the dreamer’s eyes are closed, where exactly is the light that illumines the dream world coming from? Think about it. It’s the same in the waking state. Though we seem to see things in the waking state by the light of the sun or some other external light source, awareness is the “light” by means of which even the sun is illumined.

 

The apparent reality is a projection—or “creation” if you will—of maya, or ignorance. Thus, maya—or, more precisely, maya illumined by awareness—is the creator. But maya doesn’t create ignorance. Maya and ignorance are synonymous terms. Maya is ignorance.

 

Moreover, maya, or ignorance, is an inherent power in awareness. As such, it has no beginning. It was not created. Ignorance simply is. Ironic as it may seem, if pure limitless awareness did not have the power to apparently delude itself, it would not be limitless. Unlike awareness, however, ignorance is not limitless. Though it has no beginning, it does have an end—at least in terms of the apparent individual. For once self-knowledge dawns, the darkness of ignorance is dispelled.

 

Robert: When in fact we as individuals do not truly exist, we only believe we do, due to years of conditioning.

 

Ted: I think I know what you mean by this statement, Robert, but the language you use to convey your understanding needs to be sharpened. Vedanta is a shabda pramana, which means that it is a means of knowledge based on sound (i.e., words). As such, the words we use to reveal the truth need to be very precise, otherwise they can easily mislead. In fact, words shape our thoughts, and therefore are the foundation of our understanding. And our understanding essentially constitutes our reality. Thus, we must be quite conscientious with regard to our choice of words.

 

Having said that, it is important to understand that we as individuals do exist. Vedanta is not nihilistic. It doesn’t deny the existence of the world. It simply says that the world is not real, meaning that none of the objects that appear or experiences that occur within its context last. All its myriad “parts” are conditioned by its defining parameters of time and space, and thus all are but ephemeral phenomena incapable of providing lasting satisfaction or permanent fulfillment.

 

Quite obviously, we can’t experience something that doesn’t exist. So if the apparent reality did not exist, we would not experience it. Thus, we know that the apparent reality does exist.

 

Upon analysis, however, we soon reach the inevitable conclusion that not only is the existence of objects impermanent, but it is entirely dependent on awareness. In other words, objects have no independent nature of their own. The essence of all objects is awareness. Not only is awareness the “substanceless substance” of which all objects are composed, but moreover in the absence of awareness—a logical impossibility given the fact that awareness is the very “light” by which the concept of absence is illumined—no object can be known, which is the defining characteristic of existence.

 

Thus, all objects are apparent. We can’t say they don’t exist. But we can’t say they are real. They do appear. But they don’t last. And moreover they are not what they seem to be. Just as upon analysis a t-shirt is revealed to be nothing other than cotton, all the seemingly discrete objects constituting the apparent reality are ultimately revealed to be nothing other than awareness.

 

I’m guessing this is the understanding you meant to convey, Robert. But, for the reasons mentioned, it is important that as inquirers we be precise.

 

Robert: From my perspective then, I see now that I am just a part of the ‘process’…

 

Ted: “Process” means? Maya’s projection?

 

Robert: …no different from my dog, the trees, the birds in the tress etc, etc. It’s all one playing out the game, as the cosmic laws dictate. Robert doesn’t really have much to go with this, as past karma, Vasanas, play out in life. But he does need a pure mind to see this.

 

Ted: Yes. We are basically machines functioning according to our programming.

 

However, from the perspective of the apparent individual, the expression of the vasanas feels like free will. Thus, we cannot sit back and do nothing…well, we can, but in that sense doing nothing is doing the something we call doing nothing…assuming, that is, we want to make progress toward gaining self-knowledge. As apparent individuals, we are apparent doers; as awareness, we are actionless. So in the context of the apparent reality, we exercise our apparent free will with the understanding that from a broader perspective that apparent free will is simply Isvara enlivened by awareness working through the intellect to ultimately reveal our true identity to the intellect.

 

This is why we needn’t get too uptight about the presence of even the most agitating vasanas. Admittedly, self-knowledge will not take place in an agitated mind, so its not that we should become completely complacent and make no effort to neutralize them. But the truth is that we cannot eradicate vasanas simply by giving them the boot, denying or repressing them. We need to understand their cause and continually contemplate the inherent defects in pursuing objects to satisfy them. That is, we need to get clear on just exactly why acting at the behest of our binding vasanas and attempting to assuage their pressure by indulging them does not work. When we see for ourselves that pursuing joy in objects does not work, then we don’t have to struggle to give up our agitating desires. Rather, they will naturally drop away on their own.

 

This is why Swami Chinmayananda used to advise people to “sin intelligently.” Rather than denying your urges or judging them (and by extension yourself) as bad, indulge them to a moderate degree, all the while inquiring into their limitations.

 

Basically what you will find is that while objects do seemingly afford us some joy, our pursuit and even obtainment of objects has several fundamental defects. First, it is painful. The pursuit of the object requires effort, involves stress, and expends or even exhausts such resources as time, energy, materials, and money. And even if we secure the object of our desire, we are burdened with some degree of anxiety concerning how to preserve it. Second, the joy associated with the obtainment of the object is inherently limited. Either the object changes (material objects wear out, break, or become outdated; people change in both appearance and attitude) or you change (you outgrow the object, your taste changes, or your tolerance for the object increases and you seek more or better versions of it). Third, and worst of all, indulging a vasana only fortifies it and thereby increases its hold over you, which obviously runs counter to our goal of freedom.

 

Robert: So now, I focus on Awareness, not trying to experience it, just affirming the knowledge that It is. Now I look at my life and think, ‘So much time and energy has been put into this idea of Robert, that it’s actually nice to just watch and see what happens, not worrying about it.’ Ultimately I’m beginning to see that everything is fine as it is, as it can’t really be any other way!

 

Ted: Therein lies freedom.

 

Robert: I am not the play, there is no I.

 

Ted: There is definitely an “I.” Who else would you be? There is both an apparent “I” (i.e., Robert) and the real “I” (i.e., awareness). As was previously explained, the apparent “I” is not real, but it does exist. In order to fully assimilate self-knowledge, you need to acknowledge the existence of both “I”s, but be able to distinguish the real one from its reflection as an apparent individual.

 

You, awareness, are. So, as awareness you can say, “There is an “I” and it is me.” You simply need to understand that when you say that, the “I” you are referring to is awareness and not the apparent individual referred to as Robert.

 

Robert: There is still the idea of Robert as it acts out its role, and is used to experience duality, but it is just a small idea in a vast infinite sea of possibility.

 

Ted: Yes. And you, awareness, are the “light” in which even the “infinite sea of possibility” (i.e., the macrocosmic causal body or Isvara/God) is known. You, pure awareness, are “beyond” all possibility, all energy, all experience, all ideation.

 

Robert: There are times when the mind still tries to grasp Awareness…

 

Ted: Good luck J.

 

Robert: …’it has to be something surely’ but this soon gets replaced with, ‘it just is, you know this now get over it!’ Ha, ha.

 

Ted: That is a good example of applying the knowledge. You need to counter those experiential tendencies over and over and over again, every time they rear their head. It’s like playing Whack-a-Mole with your vasanas. Eventually, they will stop popping up.

 

The vasanas are like any other beast. They linger as long as there is food to be had. Once you stop feeding them, they go away. It is worth reiterating, however, that neutralizing the binding vasanas in this way is not a matter of denial but understanding. If you simply deny them, they will just recoil into a state of dormancy and then pop back up as soon as your discipline slackens and a suitable circumstance arises.

 

Robert: This answer replaces all the other questions, as the mind tries to keep its role in questioning everything.

 

Ted: Yeah. It’s funny. The mind actually thinks it knows something.

 

It doesn’t realize that it is nothing more than an inert object, an insentient ocean of thought-waves that only become “known” when illumined by awareness. It neither perceives nor conceives on its own. It simply “see”/”knows” the thoughts that shine in the “light” of awareness.

 

Robert: I know I don’t know all the technicalities, but it doesn’t matter. If I need too I’m sure it will be realized when needed.

 

So I’m just constantly affirming, there is only truly Awareness, and everything else is part of the play.

 

Ted: Good. This constant affirmation—backed by continual exposure to and contemplation of the teachings—is the “work” required to remove the illusory bars of the jail cell of ignorance.

 

Robert: Just wondering am I on the right track? It certainly feels good, random bouts of laughter, at inappropriate times, seem to be the order of the day at the moment!

 

Ted: With the tweaks discussed in this email, you are on the right track. But also be aware that the good feeling and the laughter do not constitute knowledge. I’m not belittling or dismissing them. Hell, bring ‘em on. Let’s have as much mirth as possible. But don’t get hung up on them. Joy is just another object in you, awareness, the “light” by means of which the joy is known. You are not yourself only when you are joyful. You were there before the joy arrived, you are now experiencing the joy, and you will continue to be as you watch the joy go…and then come again and then go again and then come again and then….well you get the idea. Ultimately, you’ll find that you can even be pissed (i.e., angry) and “blissed” at the same time J, as the object referred to as Robert doesn’t obscure you, awareness, at all.

 

Robert: Thanks,

 

Robert.

 

Ted: A pleasure as ever.

 

All the best,

 

Ted

 

Notions Versus Knowledge

Hi Ted

I discovered Advaita Vedanta thru your site a few weeks ago and since then I’ve gone bonkers reading on it trying to absorb all I can when I’m not at work or sleeping. I bought James’ book as you recommend and have read big chunks of it. I’ve also been scouring the Internet for information.

I’m 43 and English and live in England. I’ve been a big spiritual searcher and have had lots of phases of being into different things. My biggest influences include Zen from DT Suzuki, Traditionalism from Coomaraswamy and co, the New Church teachings from Swedenborg and a good look round western philosophy. Somehow AV had evaded me.

Ted: You certainly have made a thorough search, Morton. Sounds like it’s time to find. Vedanta will not let you down. Vedanta pretty much evades everyone until they have reached the end of their rope regarding “spiritual” seeking. It is the basically the court of last appeals for “spiritual” seekers. Two things separate it from most, if not all, other “spiritual” teachings. First, it is a complete teaching based on a logical analysis of one’s own experience. It does not ask you to believe anything that you cannot personally verify. Second, it emphasizes the fact that knowledge is the means of “attaining enlightenment” or gaining moksha (i.e., ultimate inner freedom or freedom from dependence on objects for happiness), which is the actual goal as it is termed in the Upanishads and other Vedantic scriptures.

Morton: My basic position is I reject all claims to metaphysical truth as I believe metaphysical reality to be unknowable…

Ted: First preconceived to notion to toss in the trash bin. Vedanta will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that “metaphysical reality,” which is just a grandiose term for “me,” is knowable. In fact, the whole point of Vedanta is to gain self-knowledge. Granted, you cannot know it as you would an object because who you really are—pure limitless attributeless awareness—is unobjectifiable. But once you have exposed yourself to the teachings of Vedanta and engaged in the logical analysis of your own experience that Vedanta leads you through, you will see that you have actually known…dare I say it…”metaphysical reality”…all along as the plain old ordinary awareness in which every experience of your entire life has appeared.

Morton: …but I choose to believe in free will…

Ted: Actually, there is no free will. But this is a complex topic that requires spiritual maturity and a subtle intellect to fully grasp. We can address this topic later. For now it is better to proceed as if you do enjoy free will. In fact, understanding the truth of the circumstance will not really change the apparent individual’s approach to life. Ultimately, even when you understand that you really have no free will, it will still seem as though you do. Thus, you will still make decisions and do what you feel is best and whatnot, but will simply know that you (i.e. the apparent individual) are not actually the source of those decisions and subsequent actions. Anyway, enough said for now.

Morton: …and an afterlife…

Ted: The Vedas do acknowledge the existence of an afterlife. In fact, the first three-quarters of the Vedas is concerned with basically two things: how to get what you want in this life by ethical means and how to build up enough merit to secure a pleasurable sojourn in heaven in between one’s present life and the next. Vedanta, however, doesn’t give a damn about the afterlife. Vedanta, which is the final portion of the Vedas, reveals the true nature of reality. It is for those who are no longer mesmerized by the false promises of object-happiness and are fed up with riding the endlessly whirling merry-go-round of joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain, birth and death that characterizes life in the apparent reality. Students of Vedanta seek knowledge of the truth, not simply another titillating yet temporary experience.

Morton: …as spiritual minimums in order to give life meaning. I call this spiritual minimalism.

Ted: Trash bin entry number two. Life has no meaning.

The nature of reality—i.e., me—is limitless, non-dual awareness, which is whole, complete, full, and perfect as it is. It lacks nothing, needs nothing, desires nothing, and has nothing to gain. Nothing can enhance or diminish pure awareness—most notably for the reason that there is nothing other than itself to enhance or diminish it. So what meaning can the apparent reality really have? I, pure awareness, remain entirely unaffected by any and all of the objects and events that appear within the scope of my being. From the ultimate perspective, the entire apparent reality is no more real than a dream. And just as nothing that takes place within a dream has any affect on the dreamer, nothing that exists or transpires within the apparent reality has an affect on pure awareness, the “light” by which all objects, events, and experiences are known.

The realization that life has no meaning doesn’t reduce life to a meaningless exercise in futility as it might seem to. Life is a beautiful albeit unreal experience. We can enjoy it, but should not expect it to provide us with joy. Vedanta reveals that joy is our true nature. Once this truth is assimilated, then we can calmly embrace life as a whole rather than frantically hurrying and scurrying here and there trying to squeeze some temporary bits of pleasure and happiness out of the parts we like and dodging those parts we don’t. In short, self-knowledge sets us free, and thereafter we can enjoy life without seeking to get joy from it. No stress, no mess. Thus, we might say that if there is any meaning to life, discovering, understanding, and living in accordance with our true nature is it.

Morton: However, AV has got a hold of me and I want to get to the bottom of it.

Ted: Good. We call this mumukshutva, or a burning desire for liberation. It is the chief qualification for one who wants to undertake effective self-inquiry.

Morton: Politically I’ve been all over the spectrum from extreme left to anarchy to extreme right. Eventually I settled on a gentle form of eugenic meritocracy.

Ted: Hm…Didn’t he run for the U.S. Presidency back in the early 1970’s? No…wait…that was Eugene McCarthy :-). McCarthy was a liberal Democrat, however, so he probably would’ve been sympathetic your beliefs.

Morton: I find what I know about the caste system really disgusting as it is profoundly unmeritocratic (unless you take the ruling class’s word on reincarnation – direct knowledge of which you are denied by ‘the system’) and using the ‘by their fruits you will know them’ principle the politics of Hinduism are something that do make me immediately suspicious of the claims to metaphysical truth that underpin them.

Ted: The present caste system is a perversion of the original model. The original model was not based on birthright, but on ethical and spiritual maturity as evidenced by one’s personality. One’s caste was determined by the predominant gunas influencing one’s character. Those with a predominance of sattva and little rajas and tamas were brahmins or priests, the caretakers of the spiritual wisdom than informed society; those with a predominance of rajas supported by a good deal of sattva and very little tamas were kshattriyas or warriors, those responsible for running the government and upholding dharma (i.e., ethical values); those with a predominance of rajas supported by a good deal of tamas and a smaller portion of tamas were businessmen, those responsible for taking care of commerce and supplying the material needs of the people; and those with a predominance of tamas supported by a good deal of rajas and only a small amount of sattva were the laborers, those responsible for building the buildings and cultivating the food and doing the various tasks that don’t require a great deal of creative thinking or critical analysis. Whether they have an officially acknowledged caste system or not, all societies divide into these four basic social categories. The caste system in India became corrupt when the priests transformed it into a method of subjugation based on birthright. The point is that you should not discard the wisdom inherent in the basic principles of Hinduism because of the corrupt interpretations of that wisdom that abound in modern Hindu culture.

At any rate, Vedanta has nothing to do with Hinduism, per se. Vedanta is not a religion or a belief system. It is a means of knowledge for knowing the non-objectifiable awareness that is our true identity, which is otherwise unavailable to us due to the fact that both perception and inference, our God-given means of knowledge, only work in relation to objects.

Morton: Right, to my question. About 15 years ago when I was exploring Christianity I made my central text The Catechism of the Catholic Church. This is a fabulous book that maps out all of RC thought in a most impressive, logical and comprehensive way (even tho I believe its claims to be ultimately rubbish). Thru that book I managed, in my mind, the condense Christianity into two core concepts: the economy of creation and the economy of salvation. ie how the world was made, what went wrong, and how God has provided for us to put things right for ourselves.

What I really want is something that maps out the story of creation according to AV. How do (excuse me if I get some of the words a bit wrong, I’m still learning) Brahman and Maya relate to Ishwara and Jiva and Avidya and the gunas and the elements and how organisms with their senses came about. How knowledge was then given to man thru incarnations/revelation etc and put into scriptures then delivered via gurus to those who are ready etc, etc. So really the equivalent of what the catechism gave me for that other great faith.

Do you know of such a thing? I quite like the charts James uses in his Youtube videos (of which I’ve watched many). I’d love something that maps it all out and makes the central concepts clear. I find bits here and bits there but nothing that comprehensively maps out the AV theory of creation starting from the big eternal concepts and then going thru the progressively more detailed levels and phases the universe went thru to bring about the elements, us and the world we have now. Really a handbook of the mechanics of the history of everything.

Ted: Read Chapter 3, “The Means of Knowledge,” and Chapter 6, “Obstructions,” in “How to Attain Enlightenment.” Chapter 3 will provide you with information about how the wisdom of Vedanta was culled from the insights of the ancient rishis, or seers and how it has been passed down in an unbroken chain from teacher to student since the beginning of time. Chapter 6 will provide you with the basics concerning how the three-bodied manifestation comes into being. This chapter corresponds with the pyramidal charts that are available on the Shining World website under the heading “Charts” in the Gallery section accessible through the menu bar at the top of the home page. You might also want to buy a copy of Swami Tattvavidananda Saraswati’s translation and commentary of “Panchikaranam.” This is an ancient scripture that describes in detail the process by which the manifested universe is brought into being. It is available through the Arsha Vidya Gurukulum bookstore in Saylorsburg, PA. You should be able to find it easily enough if you Google “Arsha Vidya Gurukulum.”

 

Having said that, I should add that while Vedanta does provide a thorough model of the manifestation, its concern in doing so is not to establish a scientifically verifiable explanation for the origin and evolution of the universe.

 

For one thing, self-inquiry reveals that the manifest universe is nothing more than an apparent reality. It is essentially a dream. And just as a dream does not “evolve” within the psyche of the dreamer, the apparent reality did not evolve within the scope of awareness. Though we speak of it as having evolved in order to analyze its apparent parts, the implication of the manifestation having been projected by ignorance is that is was instantaneously “cast upon the screen of awareness” like a hologram.

 

Moreover, just as a dream is wholly dependent upon the dreamer for its existence, which is evident by the fact that it completely disappears with the dreamer when awareness “reverts” to the waking state entity, the apparent reality is wholly dependent upon awareness for its existence.

 

Thus, the point of the Vedantic creation theory is to show the pervasion of awareness throughout the apparent reality, and to reveal awareness as the adhishthanam, or the substratum, of the entire universe in both its gross and subtle aspects.

 

The bottom line is that Vedanta is less concerned with proving how the apparent reality came to be than determining its essential nature. For if the manifest universe is real, then there is no getting free of it. If, as Vedanta proves, the manifestation is only apparent, however, we aren’t doomed to suffer and the hands of its duplicitous machinations.

 

Keep in mind always that Vedanta is not a philosophy dreamt up by people to explain the universe. It is the revealed wisdom concerning the nature of existence and our true identity as limitless awareness. It is the means of knowing that which being beyond the scope of perception and inference is otherwise unknowable to us. Thus, its primary concern is not to map the dream, but to set us free from it.
Morton: Many many thanks!!

Morton

Ted: My pleasure.

All the best,

Ted

 

Actionless Awareness Is Not the Doer

I have tried several spiritual paths (being Advaita the last one) and I was always stopped in my search for this question: How does this path explain suffering? And I again repeat the same scenario with Advaita: why does all pervading, partless, actionless Consciousness create, allow, dream of Auschwitz? This Consciousness could not do better than this?

 

Thanks for your answer.

 

Felix

 

 

Dear Felix,

 

Your question is certainly understandable. It is the same question just about everybody has at an early stage in their spiritual understanding. It is based on a fundamental erroneous assumption we make about the nature of reality due to the conditioning we receive either directly from religion or indirectly from the religious beliefs that undergird the generally accepted perception of reality that informs the society.

 

Our mistaken assumption is that awareness is an anthropomorphic (i.e., human-like) entity who has some overarching personal agenda and is orchestrating—or at least overseeing—the activities and events transpiring in the world with a vested interest in their nature and results. But this is not the nature of awareness.

 

As you state in your query, awareness is all pervading, partless, and actionless. All three of these aspects of awareness preclude any possibility of awareness being a creator, doer, or even an “allower.” In fact, its all-pervasive nature alone renders awareness incapable of acting. Because there is nothing other than it and thus no location where it is not, awareness has no “arena” in which to move. Because it has no boundaries by which it can be distinguished as a discrete entity in contrast to a contextual background or any other entity, there is no way for it to undergo any change. Therefore, since movement or change is the defining characteristic of action, its absence as an aspect of awareness makes awareness by definition actionless.

 

In addition, because it is partless, awareness has no attributes, organs, or “equipment” with which to act. And what’s more, due to the fact that awareness is all-pervasive, it is whole, complete, full, and neither lacks nor needs anything. Thus, awareness harbors absolutely no desire that could possibly compel it to act.

 

It is for these reasons that awareness is actionless, not because it is some entity that is choosing not to act.

 

Awareness simply is. It is the self-dependent, self-effulgent “light” by means of “whose” illumination all objects, both gross (i.e., tangible objects) and subtle (i.e., sensations, thoughts, and emotions), are known. It doesn’t try to illumine objects so that they can be known. Rather, its nature is illumination. It doesn’t direct its “light” toward or turn its “light” upon anything. It simply is the all-pervasive, ever-shining “light” in which all things appear.

 

In fact, you can verify the actionless nature of awareness for yourself through a simple inquiry into your own experience. For you are awareness. THE awareness. Awareness is all-pervasive, remember, so reality is non-dual.  Due to the limited mind-body-sense mechanism with which you, awareness, have associated in order to have a human experience, your scope is limited. But your essential nature is the same awareness as absolute awareness. Just as the space inside a pot is no different from the space surrounding it, your seemingly personal awareness is no different from universal awareness. So, bearing that in mind, do you—not Felix, mind you, but the awareness to whom Felix is known or the “light” in which Felix appears—have to try to “shine” or exist? Do you have to try to know the objects that appear within the scope of your being (i.e., awareness)? Granted, there are things you in the guise of an apparent individual do inquire into or study or make an effort to experience or understand, but that’s not the issue here. Here, we are talking about the spontaneous perception of whatever objects present themselves within the scope of your (i.e., the apparent individual’s) perceptive organs and mind. For instance, when the sun is shining, you don’t have to try to see the sun. You “illumine” the object of sunshine and spontaneously experience it. Such is the nature of pure awareness—though, to be clear, awareness itself is not even an experiencer. It is the “light” by means of which it is possible for the intellect of the apparent individual to experience and know objects.

 

The bottom line is that awareness itself doesn’t do anything.

 

However, within awareness there exists a power called maya, or ignorance. Maya has two powers: concealing and projecting. It causes awareness to apparently forget its true attributeless, all-pervasive, actionless nature, and then it projects the vast array of objects that comprise the manifest universe on the “screen” of awareness, thus making awareness seem to be all the objects, interactions, and events taking place in the “creation.” The “creation,” however, is not real. It is simply a projection, an apparent reality that is no more real than a dream.

 

So, to repeat, awareness itself isn’t actually doing anything.

 

When pure awareness “mixes with” or is conditioned by its own inherent power of ignorance, it seems to forget who it really is and assumes the apparent identity of Isvara, or God-the-Creator. Thus, blasphemous as it may sound, ignorance is actually the nature of God.

 

To be clear, ignorance doesn’t mean stupidity in the relative sense of not knowing facts and figures or being naïve about “the ways of the world.” Rather, ignorance in this context refers to not knowing the true nature of reality, the essence of all the names, forms, and functions that abound in the universe.

 

When we say that God created the world, what we are really saying is that ignorance veiled the true nature of non-dual awareness and projected upon the “screen” of its being the dualistic universe. Therefore, ignorance, not awareness, is the “cause” of both the bad and the good, the dark and the light, the positive and the negative, the beautiful and ugly, the kindness and the cruelty that are intrinsic to dualistic existence. Awareness is neither executing nor sanctioning the actions occurring within the “movie” of the apparent reality. Awareness is simply the “light” that illumines the projection.

 

Even ignorance, or God, is not a volitional anthropomorphic entity orchestrating events according to some personal agenda, or, worse, testing the allegiance of individuals by subjecting them to a battery of alluring temptations and then severely punishing those who disobey his rules or succumb to his enticements.

 

God is simply the set of impersonal and inviolable dharmas (i.e., universal physical, psychological, and ethical laws) that govern the cause-and-effect functioning of the apparent reality (i.e., manifest universe). There is no personal agenda involved. Awareness has no volition and is incapable of doing and so it doesn’t try to delude itself. Ignorance is an insentient object—power is an object, for it can be observed and experienced—and thus has no personal will and so it doesn’t try to condition awareness. It is simply the way it is. Maya conditions pure awareness and thereby projects the dualistic universe, which operates according to impersonal laws that maintain its overall harmony, balance, and wellbeing.

 

Admittedly, from our perspective as apparent individuals, it doesn’t always seem as though what is happening is serving the best interests of the total. But earnest and honest scrutiny does bear out the fact that life is essentially a zero-sum game. For every pleasure, there is a pain. For every loss, there is a gain. Thus, while ignorance is responsible for seeming injustice and consequent suffering, it is also inherently self-corrective and infallibly sustains the cohesive functioning of its projection.

 

Essentially, the apparent reality is a gigantic mechanism that is capable of continuously reconfiguring itself in order to accommodate any action executed within itself in such a way that will serve the best interests of the total mechanism. In other words, all actions are integrated into the dharma-governed chain of cause-and-effect that sustains the functionality of the mechanism. Its laws are impersonal and inviolable. For instance, fire burns so if you stick your finger in a flame it will get burned. In terms of ethical values, a sense of dharma (i.e. right and wrong) is part of our programming, so to speak. If we lie, cheat, steal, or otherwise injure someone, we feel guilty and experience an agitated mind. Thus, all deeds meet with their just rewards, so to speak. This is the basis of the saying that what goes around comes around.

 

Though this understanding does not warrant turning a blind eye to moral atrocities or failing to address ethical transgressions, it does help alleviate the unbridled umbrage, existential angst, and inconsolable suffering that ensues from believing the world to be inherently unjust. When we understand that the apparent reality is taking care of itself, and, moreover, that the apparent reality is just that—only an apparent projection within awareness—and thus has no affect on the essential nature of awareness, it enable us to do our best in any given circumstance to uphold dharma while simultaneously accepting things as they are. In short, while pain persists (and indeed calls upon us for an appropriate response), suffering ceases.

 

Upon analysis, we realize that all ethical transgressions and existential angst are rooted in self-ignorance. As has been shown, awareness is neither executing nor sanctioning injustice, and it is not the cause of suffering. Instead, ignorance is the culprit. Because we are ignorant of our true identity as whole, complete, limitless, all-pervasive, ever-present, non-dual awareness and believe we are limited, inadequate, and incomplete, we pursue objects that we hope will complete us and thereby provide us with lasting happiness and permanent peace. When our desire or perceived need for these objects becomes too strong, we are compelled to seek them at all cost—even if we have to violate the universal value of non-injury. If you contemplate this point, you will see that on both the microcosmic (i.e., personal) level and the macrocosmic (i.e., societal or global) level this basic ignorance is invariably the cause of all the unethical and immoral behavior in the world.

 

Though unethical and immoral behavior will never be eliminated from the world, for they are intrinsic to the dualistic nature of the apparent reality, one’s personal suffering can be alleviated by the removal of self-ignorance through the assimilation of self-knowledge. Understanding the true nature of reality enables one to bear the pain that is an integral and unavoidable aspect of worldly life without being swept away by feelings of anger, impotence, and/or grief. And understanding one’s own true nature frees one from the compelling desire to seek fulfillment through objects and the endless frustration caused by their inability to provide lasting satisfaction. Thus, one neither continues to wallow in a state of self-pity nor compound one’s own suffering as well as that of the world through the execution of deviant actions. Knowing one’s true nature to be both whole and the whole, one plays one’s role within the grand drama of the apparent reality to the hilt while simultaneously reveling in one’s own inherent peace and happiness.

 

All the best,

 

Ted

 

Awareness Doesn’t Happen

Hi Ted,

Thank you for the very quick response. I live in South Wales, Great Britain, so in relation to time I’m six hours ahead, so it was good to wake up this morning with an email from yourself, which has answered a lot for me, and provided a deep level of calmness, and understanding, I guess is the only way to describe it!

I spent a good couple of hours reading your satsangs last night and they have really had a great impact on me, and they actually answered the questions regarding Vasanas, I had in the previous email. So although I’ve replied quickly this time I will take my time and study more, but I just felt compelled to write again.

Something I would like to ask though, as it does seem to be hindering my understand of Awareness. I have an intellectual understanding of Awareness, that it has always been, and that everything is happening ‘in’ Awareness, and that it is limitless and beyond attributes, and it simply IS. But I can’t help but personalize the concept.

Ted: I understand, but there is nothing personal about awareness—aside from the fact, of course, that it is you. But in that regard, awareness is not the apparent individual you, awareness, take yourself to be. You see, you, awareness, have fallen under the spell of your own deluding power of maya, or ignorance, and as a result have identified with the particular mind-body-sense complex referred to as Robert.

What happens is that for some unknown reason you, awareness, “wield” your power of ignorance on yourself. Maya (ignorance) has two powers: concealing and projecting. So when you cast the spell of ignorance on yourself, you forget your true identity as pure limitless awareness and you project the apparent reality (i.e., manifest universe in both its subtle or “internal” and gross or “external” aspects) of names, forms, and functions upon the “screen” of your being. Therefore, you, awareness, are not really separate from any of the objective phenomena that you experience through your association with the mind-body-sense complex.

The mind-body-sense complex is simply a mechanism that allows awareness to transact within the context of the apparent reality. It is the vehicle through which the vasanas can express both in the form of thoughts and emotions within the mind and as actions through the gross body. It is essentially the machine that manufactures subjective experience.

In order to understand what I mean by this, you need to know that there are three “levels” of existence.

The “highest” level is that of pure limitless awareness. At this level, nothing ever happens. There are no objects and thus no interactions and thus no experiences. As there is nothing other than awareness itself and awareness is not a happening—a point that we need to discuss in reference to some of the comments you make later in this email—no activity occurs. Awareness simply is. In Sanskrit, this level of existence is called paramarthika satyam. It is the only level that we can refer to as real because it is the only level at which there is no change.

The next level is that of the empirical reality, the manifest universe. This level is what we often refer to as God’s creation. It consists of all the seemingly separate tangible “outer” objects, including body of the apparent individual one takes oneself to be, as well as all the subtle “inner” objects (i.e., thoughts and feelings) experienced by the apparent individual that constitute the “surrounding world” from the apparent individual’s point of view. This is the arena in which all “worldly” transactions take place. It is characterized by limitation and changeability. Every object existing within its defining parameters of time and space has a limited shelf life and a limited range of power. In Sanskrit, this level of existence is called vyavaharika satyam. This apparent reality is nothing more than an elaborate dream projected by the power of ignorance on the screen of pure awareness. Though pure awareness is attributeless, all-pervasive, and perfectly full and thus incapable of action, when pure awareness “wields” its own inherent power of maya it assumes the role of Isvara, or God-the-Creator. Hence, we say the manifest universe is Isvara’s creation, which is referred to in Sanskrit as Isvara shrishti.

With regard to the manifest universe being Isvara’s creation, however, it is important to understand that Isvara is not a personal entity, or some grand grey-bearded cosmic king, orchestrating events within his creation according to his own agenda. Though Isvara is personified as a benevolent entity watching out over the universe, the reality is that Isvara is simply a name we give to the universal, impersonal, inviolable set of physical, psychological, and ethical laws that govern the cause-and-effect operation of the apparent reality. Isvara is essentially the dharma (collection of universal laws) that governs the karma (action) that takes place in the world. Contained within the physical laws of the universe are the blueprints, so to speak, for all the objects, both gross and subtle, that exist within its realm. These blueprints are basically Isvara’s vasanas. In this context, we can think of vasanas as ideas for creation. And since ideas are essentially the foundation of desires (i.e., even at the individual level desire is rooted in our ideas of how things should be or how we would like them to be), we might say that the manifest universe is the outpicturing of Isvara’s desire. Moreover, Isvara is both the totality of the creation itself and each seemingly discrete aspect existing within it. In other words, Isvara is at once both the universal and individual aspects of the apparent reality.

Be that as it may, Isvara’s creation is quite obviously not under the control of the apparent individual. The apparent individual exists within the manifest universe and his life is governed by its laws of operation. Though pure awareness is beyond all limiting factors, when it pulls the wool over its own eyes, so to speak, and assumes association with a particular mind-body-sense complex it also assumes the limited scope of knowledge, presence, and capability of that mechanism. In reality, pure awareness never loses its limitless nature, but in order to assume the role of an apparent individual within the context of Isvara’s creation it seemingly forgets or “pretends” to forget its true nature and subjects itself to the limitations imposed upon it by Isvara, which is actually itself. All in all, it is simply one grand game of make-believe.

The fundamental existential problem—i.e., suffering—arises when, having forgotten its true nature, awareness identifies with the mind-body-sense complex with which it is merely associated and takes the apparent person it appears as to be real, assumes the experiences (i.e., the interactions, sensations, emotions, and thoughts) generated by the mind-body-sense mechanism to be its own, and believes that it can actually be enhanced or diminished, helped or hindered, strengthened or weakened, improved or worsened, etc. by these experiences. This erroneous notion is the root cause of all the desires and fears that mire one in a perpetual feeling of existential angst and compel him to pursue objects that he hopes will complete him.

The final level of existence is that of the jiva, the apparent individual person. In Sanskrit, this level of existence is called pratibhasika satyam. This level is the apparent individual’s interpretation of Isvara’s creation, which essentially determines the apparent individual’s, experience. It is based on the vasanas, the likes and dislikes, associated with and expressing through the mind-body-sense complex of that particular person. Outside of a few universal ethical values, all of which essentially boil down to the principle of non-injury, the manifest universe is value neutral. No object within it is inherently good or bad, no experience intrinsically right or wrong. The judgment imposed on any object or experience is subjectively determined by each individual with regard to how it accords with his vasana-influenced values and goals. This superimposed interpretation of Isvara shrishti is referred to as jiva shrishti, or the individual’s creation.

Thus, Vedanta’s assertion that the entire universe is a projection of the self does not amount to solipsism—i.e., the idea that the universe is nothing more than a projection of the individual’s mind. Rather, awareness assuming the role of Isvara, who enjoys universal knowledge, will, and power, creates one “level” of the grand dream of existence, and awareness having associated with a particular jiva, who enjoys limited knowledge, will, and power, creates another.

Having said all that, you might now be able to understand the “how’s and why’s” of the impersonal nature of awareness—which is your own impersonal nature as awareness. In order to more fully assimilate the impersonal nature of your own being, which you say is now simply an intellectual understanding, you might engage in the following contemplation. You say that you know that awareness always is and that everything is happening within awareness. The validity of this statement can be verified by an examination of your own experience.

Look to see if you can find a beginning to your self. It is true that the body began at a certain point and that the thoughts and feelings you identify as yours arise and subside within the scope of your being. But when exactly did you begin? This is a trick question in the sense that in order for you to say that you began at any given point you would’ve had to have been there prior to that point to identify it as the point at which you began. Thus, you, awareness, did not actually begin at that point :-). The point is that if you earnestly look and honestly assess what you find, you will find that you cannot find a point at which you began. In short, you can’t find a point at which you began because there is no such point. You, awareness, always were, are, and will be—not that you, limitless awareness, can be measured in terms of time.

Now take a look at the experiences taking place within the scope of your being. Having already established that you are not the apparent person you seem to be, “take a step back,” so to speak, and adopt the broader perspective of pure limitless awareness. From this perspective, you can see that the manifest universe, including the body of the apparent individual you take yourself to be, appears within the scope of your being. This seems weird at first, I know, because we are so conditioned to believing that we are looking out from behind the eyes of the apparent person we think we are. It may help if you can think of yourself as someone watching the movie of “worldly life” and through the technological miracle of maya-vision you are able to see everything from perspective of the main character, the apparent individual you seem to be, as if you were situated within him. If you contemplate this circumstance carefully, you will “see” that all the images and sensations, even those subtle thoughts and feelings that seem to occur “within” the apparent person, are actually appearing “before” or “within” you, awareness. You are the eternal subject, the seer. And one of the principle truths of existence within the apparent reality is that the seer can never be the seen, the subject can never be the object. Yes, you can see “your” body and “your mind,” but we have already determined that those objects are not you. You are the non-objectifiable, attributeless, limitless awareness in which all objects appear.

But don’t take my word for it. Look and see for yourself if this isn’t true. Once you see this truth for yourself, you no longer have to buy the line Vedanta is pitching. Once you see your true nature, you will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you are beyond all objects and untouched by all experience. Once you see, you are free.

Robert: Difficult to explain, I sometimes just know it, that it simply is , but other times I see it as a ‘thing’ that shines it’s light on all things. I guess I’m still not seeing the full nonduality. Am I right in thinking that, putting it very crudely,  Awareness isn’t there in the back ground watching creation/apparent reality, and when something is born it says, ‘right I have to put some awareness in that body!’

Ted: As previously mentioned, awareness is neither a doer nor does it have an agenda.

Robert: Instead, as everything exists in Awareness, Awareness is also happening at that time…

Ted: No, awareness is not something that happens. Awareness is.

This “is-ness” is not something that awareness does. Existence is simply the nature of awareness. If existence was an action that awareness executed, then awareness would eventually and inevitably end because all actions are inherently limited. The defining characteristics of action are that it begins, transpires, and ends. Our direct observation or inference of this process is the only means by which action can be determined to have taken place. But we have already determined that you, awareness, don’t begin. And since you don’t begin you can’t very well continue and then ultimately end. And even if you could, who would be the one observing this process? Would that observer be someone other than you? If so, how would you know? You see, honest inquiry into the experience you assume to be your own inevitably reveals the underlying reality, you/awareness, in which all such experience appears.

So, awareness doesn’t happen with experience. It is the “container” of all experience, though “container” is a bad word to use since limitless awareness has no outer “shell,” so to speak. As you stated earlier, awareness is simply the eternal “light” by means of which all objects and experiences are known. However, it must be understood that shining is not an action that awareness performs. Shining is not something awareness does, but rather is a word that implies what awareness is.

Robert: …it all happens in that given moment, Awareness isn’t waiting for it to happen. Awareness, action, all happens simultaneously.

Ted: As previously explained, awareness doesn’t happen. Neither is it an entity that could be “waiting for it [Experience? Awareness? Shining?] to happen.” Awareness is. So being, it is the arena in which action occurs. Awareness doesn’t happen simultaneously with experience not only because it isn’t a happening, but also because awareness exists “prior to” any and all experience. It is the adhishthanam, or substratum, of all objects and experiences. It is their support. It is the limitless existence or “is-ness” upon which all objects depend for their apparent existence, but which itself is entirely independent of all objects. In other words, whether objects appear or do not appear—think of the deep sleep state, for example—awareness always is.

Robert: So as I try and ‘look’ for awareness, it can’t be grasped…

Ted: True. Awareness is subtler than the means of knowledge that human beings have been endowed with. Because awareness is attributeless (limitlessness precludes any definable qualities, characteristics, or attributes), it cannot be objectified. However, both direct perception and inference, the two basic means of knowledge available to human beings, only work in reference to objects. Thus, pure awareness cannot be seen or otherwise experienced directly. The best we can do is experience or “see” the reflection of awareness in a pure mind. Hence, as we discussed in your previous email, the reason yoga, or spiritual practices intended to purify the mind by neutralizing the binding vasanas that cause it agitation and extrovert it attention, are so important.

Robert: …it’s just happening at this very moment, because it is what I truly am.

Ted: …awareness ain’t happening, but, yes, it is who you truly are.

Robert: But I can’t feel it, or even sense it, I just am it!

Ted: Yes, awareness—i.e., you—knows itself simply by virtue of being itself. In other words, you know yourself because you are yourself.

Again, contemplate this matter. Do you need any proof that you exist? No, you know that you exist because your existence is self-evident. If you were to be doubting that you exist, who is it that would be doubting? Or, more to the point, to whom would such doubts be known? In what “light” would such doubt appear? Thus, it is not that you don’t know you exist. You are simply ignorant of the true nature of your existence. You think you are the apparent individual with whom you, awareness, have apparently identified when in reality you are the limitless awareness in which that particular individual, as well as the entire manifest universe, appears.

And in anticipation of the next question that always arises, which is “If I am limitless awareness, how come I don’t know what other people are thinking and can’t do everything and am not everywhere at once?”, let me add that the only reason you don’t experience your limitless nature is due to the limitations you have assumed through your association with the upadhi, or limiting adjunct/conditioning agent, of the mind-body-sense complex of the particular apparent individual person you seem to be. In other words, in order to play the role of an apparent individual, you have to temporarily forfeit the full scope of limitless awareness in order to see and experience things as an individual. In fact, given the fact that you are limitless non-objectifiable awareness, the only way of experiencing things is by means of the mind-body-sense mechanism. You, awareness, don’t have a mind and body that processes experience. You simply are. As we have previously established, you don’t need a mind or body to experience yourself. But you do need this equipment to experience the apparent world of objects. Hence, inn order to experience yourself as objects you enliven the mind-body-sense mechanism and set it into motion manufacturing/processing experience.

It is for this reason that no individual will ever experience the omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence of Isvara nor the limitless scope of pure awareness. Experience can only be had by a limited individual, and a limited individual can only experience limited objects. When the individual—i.e., the subtle body, which is basically what constitutes the experiencer we take ourselves to be as an individual—has resolved into the causal body during deep sleep, the “experience” of limitless is had. But it isn’t exactly the individual who experiences it. Moreover, since the intellect is in a state of dormancy, there is no knowledge gleaned from the experience. Hence, when the intellect resumes functioning upon waking up, the individual is just as ignorant about his true nature as before he went to sleep.

The bottom line is that experience is only worth the knowledge that is gained from it. Moksha, liberation, ultimate inner freedom is for the intellect. Awareness already knows who it is. It is only the apparent individual who needs to understand his true nature. When the apparent individual knows that he is really limitless awareness and that as such he is eternal and inviolable, that nothing can enhance or diminish his essential being in the least, and that his very own nature is permanent peace and happiness, then he is free to enjoy the world without forever vainly attempting to squeeze a few drops of temporary joy from its various fruits.

Robert: Ha, ha, I seem to have gone off on a rant, I do apologise. Hope this makes sense!

Ted: I followed the argument, but, as I hope you now see, it didn’t make sense :-).

Many thanks, Robert.

Great website by the way!

Ted: Thanks again for your kind words, Robert. And please feel free to contact me if further questions arise.

Love,

Ted

 

It’s Important to Purify the Mind

Hi Ted,

 

I have been reading many of the satsangs on the Shining World website, and also making my way through, How to Attain Enlightenment. It has had a great impact on ‘my’ understanding of non-duality.

 

Ted: This is a great way to get familiar with the overall scheme of

Vedantic self-inquiry. It also indicates that you have self-motivation and a desire for knowledge, which are key qualifications for the student. You are providing yourself with a sound foundation from which to work, Robert, so kudos to you.

 

Robert: What I’m finding, as I delve deeper is that a lot of old habits seem to be resurfacing.

 

Ted: This happens, and is in fact integral to the purification process. So not to worry. It’s great that you are able to identify the habits that arise and see them as objects appearing to you rather than as intrinsic aspects of you. Remember always that you, awareness, are entirely connected to and untouched by these old habits. They are nothing more than projected beliefs based in ignorance. Because they have become so deeply ingrained in the mind, they will not simply dissolve with the mind’s exposure to the truth.

 

These habits have established a firm foothold and some will likely dig their heels in and put up quite a fight before giving in. Persistent application of the teachings of Vedanta–most notably the continual discrimination between the self and the “not-self,” the real and the apparent, you (awareness) and the objects (tangible items, sensations, emotions, and thoughts) appearing to you–will eventually erode the ground of ignorance and these old habits will eventually lose their footing and be washed away once and for all by the purifying rain of self-knowledge.

 

Or not.

 

Some of the old habits may linger indefinitely. If they are rendered non-binding, however, they will not cause a problem. Purifying the mind is not a matter of completely riding ourselves of desires, which is essentially what our habits are founded upon. Rather, it is a matter of freeing ourselves from those desires that have such a strong hold on us that we cannot say no to them, especially those desires that compel us to act in ways that either transgress dharma (universal ethical law) and/or extrovert our mind to such an extent that we cannot turn our attention inward for any extended period of time in order to conduct effective inquiry into our true nature. In fact, the purpose of all the spiritual practices prescribed by Vedanta–i.e., the four yogas (karma yoga, bhakti yoga, jnana yoga, and triguna vibhava yoga) and meditation–is not to produce “enlightenment,” but to neutralize one’s binding vasanas, which are basically the likes and dislikes that are the basis of our distracting desires and/or self-destructive habitual tendencies, so that one’s mind is calm and clear enough to assimilate the knowledge that one is the “light”–i.e., pure limitless awareness.

 

Robert: At first I was spending a lot of time and effort working through these, but my question is, should I accept that they are there, and instead of focusing attention on them, focus my attention on the True Self and not my-self. Not trying to ‘fix’ the idea of my-self.

 

Ted: Based upon your ability to discriminate between the self and the “not-self,” you should first of all take a very adamant stance regarding the fact that none of these old habits are yours. That is, they do not belong to awareness, which is who you truly are. You, limitless awareness, have to attributes, characteristics, or qualities. You are simply the “light” by means of which all such objective phenomena are known. This is the ultimate perspective from which to view your “relationship” to the vasanas.

 

From the apparent individual’s perspective, however, it is necessary to effectively manage the vasanas in order to cultivate the relative purity of mind necessary for self-inquiry. In this regard, it is important to take a fearless moral inventory and acknowledge the degree to which various vasanas have control over you. All vasanas are not bad. There are vasanas that are very helpful to one’s spiritual growth, such as those for self-inquiry, exposing oneself to the teachings, reading the scriptures, practicing karma yoga, engaging in devotional worship, and meditating. As previously mentioned, the vasanas you want to work on neutralizing are those that extrovert the mind and cause you to chase object-oriented happiness rather than turning your attention to the true source of joy, which is your very own self, the pure limitless awareness that you are.

 

It also goes without saying that you want to refrain from indulging any vasanas that compel you to transgress dharma, or universal moral values.

While people have been known to use the fact that awareness is beyond all objective phenomena and untouched by any transactions within the apparent reality as an excuse to do whatever they want and indulge their desires in whichever way they wish, such behavior does not reflect proper understanding. It is true that awareness is altogether unconnected to the apparent reality, but the apparent individual with whom awareness is associated within the context of the apparent reality is nevertheless accountable for his actions and will invariably experience their karmic consequences. Moreover, since the entire apparent reality is governed by an intricate set of physical, psychological, and ethical laws that maintain the overall balance, harmony, and wellbeing of the whole, one who knows the self would never think of violating those laws for some ostensibly self-serving purpose. He would know that since he is part of the whole, whatever is best for the whole is what is best for him as well.

 

Robert: It just feels a bit of cop out when I think, “Don’t worry about all that, and just focus on the Self.”

 

Ted: It is a bit of a cop out when viewed from the perspective of the apparent individual. Focusing on the self should be one’s main priority, but for the reasons previously explained it is imperative that the apparent individual purify his mind to the extent necessary for him to engage in effective self-inquiry. The self already knows itself simply by virtue of being itself. It is the apparent individual who has to gain self-knowledge, and the intellect is the instrument of knowledge for the individual. Hence, it is important that the apparent individual do the work necessary to cultivate a calm and clear mind that is capable of focusing on, processing, applying, and ultimately fully assimilating the teachings.

 

Robert: As I’m writing this though I seem to be answering the question myself, just thought it would be good to check in with someone who knows what I’m talking about.

 

Ted: It’s good to think through the logic on your own. It is also good to verify your conclusions with a teacher. Self-knowledge only occurs when every last doubt is removed. Only then does your understanding of the teachings qualify as knowledge rather than belief.

 

Robert: Hope this makes sense, as trying to put into words the dialogue of non-duality is a bit tricky!

 

I would just like to say none of the habits are particularly bad! Just old personal hang ups I guess!

 

Thanks,

 

Robert

 

Ted: My pleasure.

 

All the best,

 

Awareness is Not a Zone

Hello Ted

Earlier, as I lay in my bed, I got to thinking that now that I am aware of the science of Vedanta, it is a lot to assimilate in a way because the jiva Marta has previously been led to believe a mass of stuff which turns out not to be real! I was thinking about stuff like being personally responsible for my actions, all that phenomenon I asked about in my email to you, all my moods, actions, – the list is endless for a jiva.

But bottom line is that it is not me, never has been and never will be, because it is Isvara. I do understand this and basically now all I have to do in just remember it 24/7. Be aware of the awareness I am.    Somewhere I recall in Sundari’s blog something about a sign she had which said something about the price of freedom was due vigilance.

Ted: Yes, this is the sadhana, or spiritual practice. We call this nididhyasana. It is the constant meditation on the teachings and application of the knowledge to each and every situation, circumstance, event, encounter, interaction, and experience of one’s life. It basically boils down to atma-anatma-viveka, the discrimination between the self and the “not-self,” the real and the apparent, the subject and the objects.

Because maya’s projection is so convincing and the jiva’s conditioning is so deeply ingrained, this practice does require constant vigilance.

Marta: This comes to mind a lot for me and says it all doesn’t it.  When I am in ‘the zone’ it is the most beautiful way to be,  ever.

This must be the same for a lot of Vedanta students I am sure.

Ted: For Vedanta shishyas, or students, it is this way. For jnanis, those who have assimilated self-knowledge, there is no way to be. The self, pure awareness, is non-dual, which means it is attributeless and all pervasive. The implication of these two words is profound. First, the fact that the self is attributeless means that it cannot be experienced, for only attributes or characteristics can be experienced. Second, the fact that the self is all-pervasive precludes it—as well as any experience of it were such an experience possible—from being defined or distinguished as discrete from any and all other entities and experiences. In other words, the self is not a particular experience, feeling, state, or “zone.” The self is the pure limitless awareness in which all experiences, feelings, states, and “zones” appear.

I don’t know exactly what you meant by the word “zone.” If the implication of that word was “knowledge” or “understanding,” then that is sound. If its implication was some particular emotional state that Marta experiences when she remembers her true nature as limitless awareness, then the word indicates an as yet incomplete and inaccurate understanding of the truth.

To be clear, you are pure limitless, attributeless, actionless, ever-present, all pervasive, ordinary, non-dual awareness. Initially, we practice the discrimination of the self from the “not-self” in order to break the jiva’s identification with the mind-body-sense complex and attachment to the idea that limited objects are real and are a viable source of lasting happiness. But once the apparent individual understands that her true identity is limitless awareness and that limitless awareness cannot be comprehensively defined or characterized by any particular limited object or even the collective whole of all objects—i.e. the entire apparent reality—then the apparent individual is ready for the broader implication of the teaching, which is the fact that only awareness is. That there are, in fact, no independent objects. That all apparent objects are only “images” projected by ignorance upon the “screen” of awareness that make awareness look like something it is not.

This understanding enables one to remain unperturbed, undisturbed, unshaken, by any objective item, emotion, idea, or event that arises within the scope of herself—i.e. awareness. It is the knowledge that you are whole and the whole, that you need nothing to complete you, that you are totally okay no matter what sensations, emotions, or thoughts are arising in the mind, that you know you are just as much the self when Marta is feeling shitty as when Marta is feeling peaceful and happy.

As a student it is vitally important to cultivate a sattvic—i.e., pure, tranquil, peaceful, clear, focused—mind. If the mind is too rajasic—i.e., passionate—it will be continually agitated by desires that extrovert its attention and thus prohibit it from turning within and recognizing its true nature. If the mind is too tamasic—i.e., dull—it will be too dense to appreciate the subtlety of its true nature as pure awareness.

Once one has fully assimilated the teachings and thus assumed an unshakable stance as pure awareness, then it no longer matters what experience, feeling, state, or “zone” presents itself within the scope of one’s being. One realizes all such objective phenomena amount to the same thing—awareness. As Swami Dayananda says, all experience (all objective phenomena) is dumb. No matter how good it may feel, even sattva is an object in awareness. Thus even the “zone,” which is how many students refer to the sattvic “feel-good” state, needs to be seen for what it is and disregarded as a defining characteristic of “enlightenment.” Even the highest state or most tranquil “zone” experienced by Marta does not make you “enlightened.” You are the “light” in which Marta and whatever experience she is having appears.

Again, I don’t know exactly what you meant by the word “zone,” but just be clear that you don’t have to be in any particular “zone” to be who you are. Any “zone” is just another object in you. Moksha, liberation, means you are free of all objects and all “zones.”

This is a very subtle understanding, of course, and may take some time to assimilate (if you have not already done so, which of course only you can know). In any case, within the context of your association with the jiva, it is good to remain ever vigilant and apply the knowledge to every moment of your life. The understanding just explained doesn’t come as a result of effort, per se. In other words, you can’t make it happen. You just keep applying the knowledge, and one day the last vestige of identification with objects dissipates and you are left standing as pure awareness. No big deal. Kind of like withdrawing your attention from the film flickering away on the movie screen because you have to go to the restroom and realizing that the show will go on whether you are identified with it or not. The character that you had been identifying with continues to play out her role within the movie, and thus you are not entirely disengaged from the movie in that sense. But because you understand that the movie is not you, it no longer matters what is happening in the movie. Similarly, you are you—i.e., pure limitless awareness—no matter what seems to be or what it feels like.

It seems like a paradox, I know. “How can I feel good even when I’m not feeling good?” you might ask. But that’s how it is. Once you know you are inviolable, the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” to quote Shakespeare, no longer have the same bite as they used to. You’ll still feel pain (and pleasure, mind you :-)), but you’ll no longer suffer from the feeling that these pains are actually diminishing you in any essential way. This is how understanding eliminates suffering. When you fully understand that no experience can affect you, then the quality of experience ceases to be an overwhelming concern. For when it really makes no difference, what difference does it really make, right?

Marta: Also I got to thinking about Christopher Columbus who told the Church that the world was not flat but round because he was a scientist and knew that to be a fact of knowledge.  I have a vague memory that the church did not believe him!  This is an analogy that came to my mind as I lay in bed.   Anyway you’ll get my gist!!!

Ted: Yeah, knowledge trumps experience every time. And you certainly can’t count on the general populace for confirmation. Almost everyone is still chasing experience. Even most “spiritual” people have simply turned the quest for “enlightenment” into another objective pursuit, and spend their time and energy seeking that experience, state, or “zone” that they believe constitutes self-realization. From the perspective of both the people pursuing “worldly” objects and those pursuing “spiritual” epiphanies, we seem to be nothing more than dry intellectuals. Few understand that while the reflection of the self takes place in the purified intellect, the limitless awareness that is our true nature is ultimately free of both experience and knowledge.

Speaking of the church, I think it was Jesus who said, “I am the light.” This doesn’t mean that I am a particular experience or a discrete bit of information. It means that I am the limitless awareness in which experience and knowledge appear and by means of which they are known. The knowledge of this truth may be gleaned from experience (or may not be as is most often the case) and it does register in the intellect of the apparent individual and thus allows the apparent individual to understand it’s true nature. But neither experience nor knowledge has any affect on me. No matter the quality of the experience or the validity of the knowledge appearing within me, I remain always and ever as I am.

Marta: Marta x

Love,

Ted

 

All Entities and Experiences Appear in You

Hello Ted

I have some more questions that I would like to put to you.

Somewhere James talked about Nadi storytellers and I wondered if they were like mediums/psychics reading akashic records or even channeling?

Ted: I don’t know what Nadi storytellers are.

Marta: Elsewhere in one of James’ articles, he talked about, that from the causal body we get intuitive/instructive thoughts. (What I might describe as a little voice inside my head.) So does that mean that any gut feeling/insight is from Isvara? E.g. knowing when some when is going to ‘die’, getting a place at college, just knowing something before it has even happened yet?

Ted: Everything is from Isvara. But that doesn’t mean all intuitions and feelings one has should be taken as “true” or “right.”

Isvara is not a volitional entity. In other words, Isvara is not some “big person” or “supreme being” with a personal agenda that whispers advice into the ears of the chosen or those who are “tuned in” to the God channel. Though we speak of Isvara personified terms as awareness wielding its inherent power of maya (ignorance), Isvara is essentially the macrocosmic causal body, which is the unmanifest realm of pure potentiality that the entire manifestation in both its gross and subtle aspects springs out of. Moreover, Isvara is the impersonal set of universal physical, psychological, and ethical/moral laws that govern the apparent reality—i.e., the manifest universe. Thus, Isvara doesn’t offer “insights” in the sense of personal advice, so to speak. Through past experience (including those of past lives), the apparent individual person has developed an understanding of the cause-and-effect operation of the apparent reality. This understanding may be conscious or unconscious. If it is more or less conscious, we refer to it as reasoning. If it is more or less unconscious, then one may get “gut feelings” or intuitions about the way certain situations will play out based on the factors involved.

 

Moreover, one’s intuitions or “gut feelings” are always influenced by one’s vasanas, one’s personal likes and dislikes, desires and fears. In other words, the vasanas determine your priorities, goals, and values, and thus your interpretation of the relative value—i.e., your sense of any object or experience being good or bad, right or wrong, beneficial or detrimental, desirable or undesirable, appropriate or inappropriate—is always tainted to some degree by your personal bias.

 

Because we always see things in terms of our personal preferences, and furthermore because those preferences are constantly mutating or changing, at least to some degree, intuition is not a reliable source of knowledge or a sound basis for making decisions.

Marta: Angels!! Are angels just Isvara? E.g. parking angel?  (I am reading Bhagavad Gita and I noted in Chapter 11 verse 21 that angels and divine healing are mentioned.)

Ted: Everything is Isvara. In other words, all objects—angels are basically thoughts, which are subtle objects—are awareness “wielding” or conditioned by maya (ignorance), which is the definition of Isvara. I don’t know what a “parking angel” is. If it is that “force” that bestows the grand blessing of a convenient or otherwise desirable spot to park your car, then that too is Isvara. But it’s not some reward for good behavior or the handiwork of some ethereal entity that is working on your behalf. It is simply the coincidental result of the cause-and-effect functioning of the apparent reality. Since our thoughts to play a role in the overall chain of cause-and-effect operating in the apparent reality, there are in this sense subtle “forces” that are influencing the events that transpire and both their immediate and long-term results. Given that reality is non-dual, every action, whether it is a subtle thought or a gross word or deed, affects the whole.

Marta: ‘I give’ spiritual healing, which is of benefit seemingly.  Is the energy just Isvara/Maya?

Ted: Everything is just Isvara/Maya. As was just explained, our thoughts and intentions are subtle—i.e., energetic—aspects of the grand cause-and-effect operation of the apparent reality. So our intentions do have a modicum of influence on the results that ensue from our actions.

Our thoughts and intentions—i.e., those of the apparent individual person we take ourselves to be—are not actually our own. They are simply the offspring of our desires and fears, which in turn are the offspring of the vasanas—i.e., the subtle impressions from our past experiences that are the basis of our likes and dislikes and manifest in the subtle body or mind as our desires and fears and eventually are expressed through the gross body as actions. Due to ignorance, we identify with the vasanas associated with and expressing through the mind-body-sense complex of the apparent person we take ourselves to be, and thus we think of these vasanas—i.e., likes and dislikes, desires and fears—as our own. But actually all vasanas are Isvara’s.

All vasanas come from the universal pool of vasanas—i.e., the macrocosmic causal body, or Isvara. The vasanas associated with any given mind-body-sense complex have gravitated to that particular mind-body-sense complex because its constitution and circumstances are appropriate for their expression. Thus, the vasanas I claim as “mine” have only “become mine” because they have gravitated to the particular mind-body-sense complex that I believe is “mine” or, worse, believe is me. But I didn’t choose my vasanas—i.e., the likes and dislikes expressing through the mind-body-sense complex, which not only am I, awareness, associated with but have identified with and take to be me. Thus, all the vasanas influencing “my” perceptions, decisions, and actions were “given” to me by Isvara. Moreover, the energetic quality of the vasanas is determined by the gunas, which are the three constituents or “fundamental building blocks” or “essential energetic ingredients” that combine together in innumerable variations to make up every object in the apparent reality. So whatever energy expresses through “me” is nothing other than Isvara’s song sounding through the flute of “my” person.

Marta: Also, occasionally I see ‘dead’ people like a clairvoyant.  I see them in my minds eye.

Ted: These are simply certain qualities of energy taking subtle form perceivable to the “inner” eye.

Marta: What is purpose for this if any?  Is it just Maya? (In the spiritualist church it is the prove life after ‘death’ even though it is ‘known’ in the church that there is no death just a passing.)

Ted: There is no purpose. Maya (ignorance) has two powers. For starters, it veils our true limitless, attributeless nature, which causes us, pure awareness, to seemingly forget who we are. Then, it projects the vast array of subtle and gross objective phenomena that comprise the apparent reality on the “screen” of our own being, which causes us, pure awareness, to take the world to be real and all the objects in it to be separate from one another and from awareness itself.

Because awareness is attributeless, Maya can project anything upon it. Or another way of thinking about it is that because awareness itself has no form, it can assume any form into which it is “shaped” by the imaginative projecting power of ignorance. So, for instance, if you believe you can see “dead” people, then the form of such a being may very well appear in the mind’s eye just as a dream appears in the consciousness of the dreamer. But, again, there is no purpose. Or, if there is, it would only be to indicate that there is “life” or some existence that survives the demise of the body, which might in turn serve the greater purpose of inspiring the search for the true nature of that transcendent entity.

Marta: Is the ego aspect of subtle body equivalent to solar plexus chakra? I wondered because when a vasana is triggered in me, my guts feel it, as it occurs.

Ted: The ego is the I-sense, the sense of being a separate, independent, volitional entity. In other words, it is the general sense of doership and enjoyership. It is that aspect of the mind that causes us to believe that “I did this,” “I think this,” “I feel this,” “I enjoyed/experienced this,” and “This is mine.” In this sense the ego is equivalent to whatever you claim “ownership” of, which in this case would be the solar plexus chakra or gut.

Marta: When I give an action to Isvara is that the macrocosmic Isvara or ‘deity’ Isvara or are they the same difference?

Ted: I’m not clear what you mean here.

You, the apparent person, don’t give action to Isvara. Isvara acts through you.

If giving an action to Isvara refers to offering “your” actions to Isvara with the karma yoga attitude, then the macrocosmic causal body and Isvara as a personified deity are the same. Some people don’t buy into the idea of a supreme entity influencing their lives and doling out the results of their actions. They feel more comfortable with a technical understanding of the cause-and-effect functioning of the apparent reality. Other people see this as “cold.” They like the idea of a benevolent ruler looking after the best interests of the total. Either way of looking at the operation of the apparent reality is fine as they both amount to the same thing. As previously explained, Isvara is not a personal entity who benevolently orchestrates events to work in everyone’s best interests. But the impersonal cause-and-effect operation of the apparent reality is governed by dharma—i.e., universal physical, psychological, and ethical laws—that maintain the overall balance, harmony, and wellbeing of the total. So whichever way thinking of Isvara works for you is fine.

Marta: And finally a while back on one of my walks, I did wonder about whether a guna/vasana is an object in my awareness?  My answer would be ‘yes’ but I ask it anyway as you are the teacher!

Ted: Yes, the gunas and the vasanas are nothing more than objects appearing within you. All entities, energies, and experiences appear in you. Moreover, they depend on you for their existence, but you are ever free of them. In other words, neither their presence or absence, nor their quality has any affect on you, awareness, whatsoever.

Along these lines, it is important to clarify a subtle point related to the way you have worded your question. Understand that “my awareness” means me—i.e., “I.” Awareness is not some thing that is yours. It is not an object. It is not something other than or separate from you. You are awareness. Thus, it would have been more accurate for you to have said, “…a guna/vasana is an object in me.” This may sound rather “nit-picky,” but such precise use of language is crucial to assimilating the knowledge of your true identity as limitless awareness. After you have intellectually grasped the non-dual nature of reality, the most challenging step is to take a stance in your true identity as whole, complete, limitless, attributeless, actionless, ordinary awareness.

The “ordinary” bit makes this shift in perspective easier. We tend to think that limitless awareness is some big deal and that realizing our true nature is some cosmic mind-blowing experience that incinerates our ego and leaves us basking in a vision of white light. Blah! Awareness is simply that by means of which I know what I know and I know what I don’t know. All objects appear within me. The apparent individual I appear to be may not know everything, be able to do everything, and is not simultaneously existent in all places at once. But I, pure awareness, am that in which all objects—including the apparent person I seem to be—appear.

Marta: Thank you again for your time Ted.

With love and blessings
Marta

Ted: It’s always a pleasure.

Love to you, Marta.

Ted

 

Maharaj’s Meaning is a Moot Point

Ted,
At first I was a little reticent to send the last e-mail and I see in retrospect that I probably didn’t choose the best words to describe the experience, but the whole thing was a really good learning experience.  I see that however the experience went down and any way I might “describe”, “embellish” or “sell it” is ultimately fruitless.  This exchange helped me see from a whole different level (or even levels) your statements about seeing how convoluted chasing experience is and that “This is the fundamental reason why liberation is a matter of knowledge and not experience”.  I’m just not going to get any water from the mirage.
This slightly embellished [i.e. my notes to myself at the end] Nisargadatta quote is what I was referring to in my e-mail:
The I AM itself is nothing but FLUIDS coming together [the ONE substance – i.e., the perceptions, the perceiver, the emptiness, the knowing, the thoughts, emotions, body, the space itself is dependent on the I AM which itself is nothing but the FLUIDS coming together].

If this quote “sinks in” it kicks the stool out-from-under any conceptualization or entity-fication and seems to bring a form/feeling of surrender and perfection into the mind.  I used to remember this as chemicals mixing together instead of fluids coming together.

 

Layne

 

 

Hi, Layne.

Thanks for sharing Nisargadatta’s quote.

I used to love reading Nisargadatta. He did “kick the stool out” from under me at the time. Thus, he set me up for the more formal self-inquiry process of traditional Vedanta. Nisargadatta does speak the truth from the highest perspective, but he offers no method of “seeing” or knowing the self other than simply negating everything that is and reaffirming the I AM thought over and over. This is okay for highly qualified seekers, but it doesn’t provide a thorough analysis of experience that shows why all objects should be negated nor does it provide in spiritual practices, such as karma yoga, devotional worship, or triguna vibhava yoga, that purify the mind and prepare it for the assimilation of self-knowledge.

For example, he says that the I AM is nothing but fluids coming together. Good enough. But why should we accept this statement? How do the fluids come together? And just what exactly are the fluids anyway? You worked out the bit about what they are, but most people are baffled by these kinds of cryptic statements. And rightly so.

In fact, the quote at hand, is totally ambiguous and doesn’t seem to reflect a valid understanding of the nature of reality — assuming, of course, that what Nisargadatta is referring to as the I AM is reality. Pure awareness, which is the sole reality, is an attributeless, partless whole and thus has no “fluids” that can come together. Moreover, nothing needs to come together to “make” pure awareness. Pure awareness is the substratum of all that is. It is that on which all things depend for their existence. It is uncreated and exists “prior” to all objects.

I don’t make this critique to discredit Nisargadatta, but only to show that it’s anybody’s guess as to just what the hell he was talking about in many of the statements he made. One of his most famous ideas is that the self is “prior to consciousness.” This makes no sense. There is nothing prior to consciousness. As just mentioned, consciousness, which is the same “thing” as awareness, is the substratum of all that is. Therefore, consciousness is prior to anything and everything. Now, if what Nisargadatta means by “consciousness” is the subtle body, which is what is commonly conceived of in the West as consciousness, then the statement is valid. But, again, Nisargadatta offers no explanation or logic to support his statement.

Hence, we — meaning the tradition of Vedanta — accept Nisargadatta as a brahmanishta (i.e., one who knows the self), but not as a shrotriya (i.e., a qualified teacher).

Anyway, Nisargadatta’s intended meaning is a moot point at this stage. You’ve lost your virginity in terms of traditional Vedanta. There’s no going back to half-baked teachings now. 🙂

Love,

Ted