Realization Reconciles All Contradictions

Hi Ted,


Your last email really hit home a few points for me, especially the sentence, “Ultimately, truth is not an ‘either-or’ proposition, but a ‘both-and’ realization.”


I see now how all the thoughts and issues that have been causing agitation are simply apparent issues. As I stand as awareness in awareness, I can see the apparent nature of things. Although they exist within awareness, they only exist apparently.


Ted: Yes, it’s important to understand that self-realization does not make apparent objects, issues, interactions, events, and even injustices disappear. It simply reduces their perceived affect to that of a picture show, so to speak. Thus, we can still participate in the apparent reality, but we know that when we pack up and go home our wellbeing will not have been compromised or, for that matter, improved in the least by the grand game of make-believe.


Charles: So when seemingly contradictory points are raised, they are only contradictory in the dualistic sense, but once seen from non-duality, then all things are “both and.”


Ted: Yes, this image still looks like Darth Vader and that one like Yoda, but in the end both are simply images composed of light.


Charles: Statements like “both and,” “it is and it isn’t” used to drive me mad! But as all things are awareness, then it can only be that way.


Have I got this right?


Ted: Yes.


Charles: Funny how this has only just become apparent!


Ted: Interesting choice of words.


Ultimately, realization is realized to be only apparent. For you realize (i.e. understand) that you never actually were anything other than yourself all along.


Charles: And yeah, going back to the statement I am awareness, certainly has helped!


Thanks again,



All the best,


Who or What is Witnessing?

Hi Ted,


Thank you for the kind words regarding the poem. Things have been going well, but I seem to have been derailed by a thought. So I’ll try and explain, I know I am not the apparent individual. Ultimately, there is only awareness (I have stopped saying I am awareness, and saying there is only awareness as I get caught up in personalizing awareness).


Ted: I understand your reason for not saying, “I am awareness,” as for now it is helping you break your identification with the apparent person. But actually “I am awareness” is the most accurate statement you can make regarding your true identity. Eventually, you are going to want to take a stand in that identity. Claim it. For, since there is only awareness, Charles is awareness too. In fact, Charles is just a name attached to a particular projected “design” appearing within awareness and made of awareness. It is similar to calling a gold ring a ring instead of simply referring to it as gold. What ultimately matters is not what you call yourself, but what you understand to be the true nature of whatever name you use.


Charles: So now when there is witnessing who/what is witnessing/experiencing?


Ted: You.


Okay, I’m being a little coy. Your question is legitimate.


The witnessing/experiencing as we think of it (i.e. from the apparent individual’s point of view) is the result of the conjunction of awareness and the upadhi (i.e., conditioning agent) of the mind-body-sense complex. Since awareness alone is, it cannot witness anything, for there exists no object other than itself, which is not an object, to witness. Since the mind-body-sense complex is nothing but inert gross and subtle matter, it cannot witness anything. But due to the magic of maya, when these two factors come together, so to speak, the mechanism of the mind-body-sense complex manufactures the phenomenon that the apparent individual  “knows” as the experience of objects.


Ultimately, of course, it is awareness knowing itself in the form of objects through the object of the mind-body-sense mechanism. For awareness is the only sentient “entity” or factor capable of knowing.


The reason we say awareness is not a “knower” is because the function or phenomenon of thinking is not an essential aspect of its being. In other words, thinking is not necessary for awareness to be. In order for thinking to be happening, awareness must be present, enlivening the mind-body-sense mechanism and illumining the thoughts. But the absence of thought does not indicate the absence of awareness. Awareness always is, whether thinking is occurring or not. Moreover, awareness itself doesn’t think. It is only maya that makes the “substanceless substance” of awareness appear to be images, ideas, entities, and events. Pure awareness itself doesn’t see, sense, know, or experience these phenomena. The experience of these phenomena is the product of the mind-body-sense mechanism.


So, we might say that awareness itself is not the knower, but does “know” through the mechanism of the mind.


The point is very subtle, and really the bottom line is that it is all awareness no matter what the name, form, and function might be. So awareness is the knower and at the same time is not the knower. The explanation depends on what perspective from which you are analyzing the circumstance. This is how it is with Vedanta. Since awareness is limitless, all explanations are provisional. Ultimately, truth is not an “either-or” proposition, but a “both-and” realization.


Charles: As all things are in awareness but awareness isn’t actually observing, it is the light in which the observed and observing takes place, including the apparent individual.


I seem to have gotten myself in a bit of a mess, not sure if it’s more “mind vomit!”


Ted: Well, as I mentioned, the doubt is legitimate. But with regard to the removal of existential suffering, which is the essential point and intended end of Vedantic self-inquiry, the issue is not that important.

Whether you are the “knower” or simply the “light” that makes knowing possible, what is important is that you, awareness, are free of whatever you “see.” Everything is you, but nothing can affect you. Objects come and go, but you are always good.


Charles: Thanks again,




Ted: As ever, my pleasure.


All the best to you,



Experiential Mumbo-Jumbo

Hello Ted,

What makes a ‘liberated one’ laugh?

Ted: Whatever humor appeals to his or her values, which are determined by his or her vasanas, which are in turn dictated by his or her guna make-up, which are the same factors that influence anyone’s sense of humor.

Nick: Would a ‘liberated one’ push away one kind of food over another?

Ted: Yes, refer to the previous answer for the reason why.

Nick: Would the answer to these two questions be identical for an (another) ‘liberated one’?

Ted: Yes.

Nick: Is the simple answer, as explained by my Indian teacher, who was described by Swami M in reverential terms, and by Swami Lakshmanjoo as “the greatest living saint in the past 10,000 years” . . . to paraphrase, it’s an ‘individual’ who is enlightened, who is liberated, with his or her own likes and dislikes.

Ted: Yes. But, of course, the idea of an individual getting liberated has to be properly understood. On the one hand, no individual gets liberated because an inert mechanism cannot realize its true identity by attaining self-knowledge. In this regard, then, it is only awareness recognizing itself through the instrument of the apparent person’s intellect. Of course, awareness has no need for enlightenment or liberation because awareness is the “light” and its very nature is freedom. Awareness already always knows itself simply by virtue of being itself. But it doesn’t know itself as one would know an object. Hence, on the other hand, awareness seems to play this game of pulling the wool over its own eyes, so to speak, through its own inherent power of ignorance, and then rediscovering and recognizing itself through the mechanism of the apparent individual with whom it is associated transacting within the context of the apparent reality with which it finds itself, both of which are nothing more than projections appearing within the scope of its being. This rediscovery still does not allow awareness to know itself as an object, for no object can comprehensively define or characterize limitless awareness, but within the context of the apparent reality, the apparent person with whom it has associated and to whom it has lent sentiency can gain self-knowledge as a result of “seeing” the reflection of its true limitless nature as awareness in a sufficiently purified intellect.

Nick: This teacher often reminded us that a teacher teaches according to the student’s understanding. If a person has had a glimpse of their true identity there’s one teaching. If that person is established in their true identity, that would be reflected by a corresponding physiology and according to Deepak Chopra will soon be able to be measured, another teaching, etc.

Ted: I understand what you are getting at, and it is true that the teachings are presented to the apparent individual in a way that corresponds to his or her current level of understanding. This is the reason, for instance, that reincarnation is taught. From the ultimate perspective, nothing other than awareness exists, so nothing is even happening. Thus, the accrual of karma and the subsequent experience of it is a moot point. Moreover, since awareness is the singularly existent being, there are no individual souls or subtle bodies that could be doing any transmigrating, not to mention the fact that they would have no other “place” to transmigrate to. But if we were to just bonk someone over the head with the declaration that nothing is actually happening, how effective do you think that would be in liberating the person from his or her erroneous notions about the nature of reality? He or she wouldn’t be able to get beyond the apparent level of reality to understand the meaning of the teaching and its essential truth. And, what’s most important, is that rather than alleviating the person’s existential suffering, it would most likely add to it. They would be left with a negation of their experience that they would have no way of assimilating on their own. This is why the non-dual vision of Vedanta needs to be systematically unfolded.

However, there is a part of your statement that makes no sense. If a person is established in his or her true identity, why would they need a teaching? At that point, the teaching is no longer necessary and simply drops away. The point of Vedanta is to reveal the self and liberate one from suffering, not amass a bunch of philosophical points that make for a bully contribution to the conversation at the next spiritual cocktail party. Thus, one is not left with a bunch of facts that he or she must remember. One simply knows one’s true identity and then moves through the charade of the apparent reality with a sense of ease, bringing one’s inherent sense of joy to what life offers rather than seeking to procure joy through the pursuit of objects.

Nick: And at that stage then one truly begins to witness sleep (awake within himself) for example, and with further refinement of the nervous system, the tamasic element of the witnessing of sleep begins to dissolve with more sattva, more light during sleep, being experienced.

Ted: Again, I get your point, but this all seems like a bunch of experiential mumbo-jumbo. I mean, what does it mean to “witness sleep”? You are not going to start witnessing sleep any more than you are already witnessing it. It’s not the apparent person who witnesses sleep, for the intellect is dormant in deep sleep. Awareness, you, witness deep sleep. Which you, awareness, are already doing. As are all apparent persons, for all apparent persons are essentially nothing other than awareness. They just don’t know it. If the sleep to which you are referring is a figurative way of characterizing our general state of ignorance, then it is true that the apparent person’s mind becomes subtler and less inclined toward a fascination with objective phenomena. But it all seems rather confusing and, moreover, seems to equate enlightenment with a particular experience.

The point is that enlightenment is not defined by experiential changes. No doubt, self-knowledge with have an affect on one’s experience, but there is no way to define enlightenment in terms of a particular change. Moreover, the teaching is that you are already limitless, non-dual awareness, which, if considered from an experiential standpoint, means that you are already experiencing awareness 24/7. Hence, no change of experience is going to establish you as awareness, for nothing can give you what you already have.

The teachings give one X-ray vision, we might say, that allows one to see “through” the appearance and understand the true nature of reality. Thus, the experience can stay the same as it ever was, but the understanding of it will be completely transformed. It is true, as you say, that the mind needs to be sattvic (i.e., calm, quiet, contemplative) in order to gain this understanding. One needs to have neutralized one’s binding vasanas through understanding to the point where he or she is no longer fascinated by the allure of appearances and no longer to compelled by the erroneous notion that objects are the source of happiness. Once the mind is no longer distracted by appearances, then it can start to inquire into the essential reality underlying those appearances.

Nick: And with this, the ripening, and the readiness for the teachings of Vedanta.

Ted: Yes. Simply put, once one realizes that objects are not the source of joy, then one is ready to turn one’s attention on oneself, which is the only other alternative.

Nick: Perhaps the reason why this teacher’s teaching about Vedanta hasn’t surfaced is because of his constant warning that this teaching is not only not for those who aren’t ready, would not only be confusing, but would be a great danger to their evolution.

Ted: There is only one teaching that constitutes Vedanta, and it “surfaced” thousands of years ago. Any teachings this teacher has have already surfaced, and any that haven’t aren’t Vedanta and so would be, as you say, dangerous to one’s evolution in the sense that they would simply burden one with more erroneous beliefs that one would have to eventually have eradicated by the true teachings of Vedanta. Again, I understand what you might be getting at in the sense that some of the teachings can be abused when co-opted by the unripe ego and used to justify unethical behaviors in the name of non-duality. But there are no new teachings or secret teachings or more advanced teachings involved in Vedanta. Moreover, the teachings don’t need to be guarded or withheld from anyone. Those who are not qualified to understand the teachings generally don’t have the capacity to stick with them. Ultimately, its all in Isvara’s hands, so to speak, anyway. No one is going to be hurt by the teachings of Vedanta. An improper understanding might delay one’s progress toward the assimilation of self-knowledge, but one isn’t going to be more damaged than one be having never heard the teachings.

Nick: The term he often used was “mood making.”

Ted: I’m not sure what he means by this, but it sounds like he might have been referring to the fact that self-knowledge is not characterized by a particular “feel-good” or transcendental or “spiritual” state of mind.

Nick: This teacher credits his understanding to his teacher who was a Shankaracharya, who millions referred to as the “Pope” of India.

Ted: Yes. Vedanta needs to be taught. One cannot wield the means of knowledge on oneself, for the wielder in such a case is conditioned by the very ignorance he or she is seeking to eliminate. A qualified teacher is necessary.

Nick: (For me, nice as these names are, nice as the robes and mutual admiration society is, keep your head up boys if your in the batter’s box, you may get a dusting off if you get too close to the plate. Namaste. Let’s play ball. Let’s dance. Just for the fun of it.)

Ted: Yes, it is wise to use common sense and discretion when encountering teachers. The teacher should “walk the talk,” so to speak. Ultimately, it is the teachings that are important, not the teacher. You need a qualified teacher, but the teacher cannot neutralize your vasanas and assimilate the knowledge for you. The teacher is merely a vehicle for the teachings. And most certainly not a substitute for one’s own spiritual work in the form of purificatory/preparatory practices and the continuous application of the teachings to one’s own life.

Nick: Of course, none of this teaching has anything to do with what I may or may not think about what I heard from this teacher. I don’t feel any attachment, but there is a resonance.

That being said, your commentaries are obvious to me and don’t really need to be thought about at all. And are appreciated.

Approaching all things anew . . . especially what I just wrote. 😉



Ted: Your welcome.

All the best,



Bliss Is the Nature of Being

Alright Ted I think after much contemplation I finally got it.

Ted: Who is the “I” who is talking here? If it is you, awareness, then so be it. If Bob thinks he “got it,” then again it’s just the ego co-opting the “enlightenment.” The circumstance you detail throughout this email is correct. But there is a hint that Bob is still speaking. Of course, at this point inquiry gets very subtle and the understanding is difficult to express by means of dualistic language. So, ultimately only you will know what you know and what you don’t know. Thus, the question concerning who is the “I” that is talking in any given situation is one that you should continuously contemplate. If Bob is trying to grasp or hold on the something, then you simply know that the knowledge has not yet been fully assimilated. If, on the other hand, you know that you are the formless substance—which, of course, isn’t a substance at all—then you, awareness, are “seeing” a clear reflection of yourself in the intellect associated with Bob.

Bob: It’s the fact that reality is Nondual and that there is only one principle operating in existence and it’s me…

Ted: …Awareness, not Bob…

Bob: …despite the numerous names/forms/individual beings that appears. It’s all one thing operating and appearing simultaneous. I know it’s already been spouted numerous of times but I believe my problem was that my self-inquiry actually over complicated things more and since it is a dualistic method; it made me try to imagine the self as some formless entity that I can grasp a hold of in my mind and know it in order to know this oneness.

Ted: Yes, the truth is very simple. You are. I am. Whether or not the mind thinks it knows or not, I am. Vedanta is all about the mind in that the understanding of my true identity as limitless awareness takes place in the intellect. But my true nature, pure awareness itself, is beyond the mind. The mind is a reflection of myself, and a reflection of me can appear in the mind. In this way, we might say that the mind is evidence of me. But I am whether the mind is or not.

Bob: But it’s simple, everything is made out of this formless awareness and it’s what’s causing everything to happen.

Ted: Due to its all-pervasiveness, perfect fullness, and immutability, awareness is not an actor/doer/creator, but, yes, we might say awareness is the “cause” of all happening as the “substanceless substance” that is the substratum of all being and because it is the “light” in which all happenings appear.

Bob: The formless substance is me. This is actually where all the peace/bliss comes from.

Ted: Yes. But if we want to be very, very precise—which we do—then it is important to clarify that peace and bliss do not “come from” you. You are peace and bliss. On the one hand, you are the source of everything, so in that sense we can say they come from you. But, again, you, awareness, cannot be defined by an experience. So if by “peace/bliss” you are referring to the knowledge that you, awareness, are entirely unassailable and invulnerable, that nothing can enhance, diminish, change, or affect you in any way whatsoever, then that is correct understanding. If “peace/bliss” refers to a constant state of experiential good cheer and contentedness, then that is not true. Certainly, the knowledge of who you are will have an experiential affect on Bob’s moods. But you, awareness, are whether Bob is peaceful or stressed, happy or sad, glad or mad, agitated or apathetic. Sensations, emotions, and thoughts do not matter at the “level” of the self. You, awareness, are the ever-unsullied witness of whatever arises and subsides, whatever comes and goes. You watch with the knowledge that whatever you see you cannot be—in the sense of being comprehensively defined as any particular apparent object/experience. You are limitless, eternally free. This is the true meaning of the bliss that lies beyond the birth of any object, the bliss that is your very being.

Bob: The knowledge that all is just one self.

Ted: Yes, the self is bliss (eternal being), and self-knowledge is the source of the experiential bliss (peace and happiness) that ensues from understanding the non-dual nature of reality.

Thank you

All the best,


No Need to Get “Behind” Yourself

Alright Ted,

I think I got it. I am basically “that” which is behind this movie screen projection (reflected awareness)…


Ted: Actually, you, awareness, are not “behind” anything. You are all-pervasive and non-local. If by “behind” you mean “prior to” (which is also a ineffective term because it implies time, and you are “beyond” time as well as space), then you are correct. You are the ever-existent, eternal (not long-lasting, mind you, but altogether “beyond” time) being, at once both the “field” of awareness in which all objects appear and the “substanceless substance” out of which they are made.


Bob: …which is creating this realm of objects and this apparent person which feels/think as though he is acting/moving/and experiencing the world.


Ted: You’re on the right track, but you don’t create anything. As limitless, attributeless awareness, you are by definition actionless, for there exists no “arena” in which you can act/move other than yourself and thus no boundaries by which any action/movement could be measured, no “other” upon which you could act, no desire (due to the fact that you are perfect, complete, and full) that would compel you to act, nor are you mutable/changeable and thus not subject to any transformation that would indicate action has occurred. Thus, you are incapable of “creating” anything. Only through the conjunction of yourself, pure awareness, and your inherent power of maya, ignorance, does “creation” (i.e., projection) take place. This conjunction is personified as Isvara, the creator.


Bob: By trying to turn my attention away from objects towards myself, though it’s quite impossible to turn the entire attention around 360 degrees…


Ted: Do you mean 180 degrees? An “about face” “inward” toward the self?


Bob: I can still realize that I am this formless non-descriptive being behind this projection.


Ted: Yes, you realize through the mechanism of the intellect that you are “that” which you already know by virtue of being “it.”


Bob: What takes my attention away are certain objects prompted by vasanas (likes/dislikes) which distracts me and in turn causes emotional agitations/fantasies in my mind making me believe what’s out there is actually solid/real and that I must indulge, chase them, or avoid them.


Ted: Yes.


Bob: To inquire is to take my attention from objects (pretty much anything appearing) and back to myself. Then the knowledge written in scriptures describing the self i.e. actionless, ordinary, non-dual, ever present, whole, complete, unborn awareness can be known and contemplated by the jiva in order to remain and know that he/she is in fact “that.”


Ted: Yes. Of course, the “remaining” to which you refer is only in terms of understanding. You have always been, are now, and always will be the self, pure awareness, whether the jiva knows it or not.


Bob: But I assume self-inquiry is only a practice to realize that everything is the self in the end. Because the whole point is to understand why reality is non-dual.


Ted: The point is to be free of suffering. But, yes, this freedom results from the understanding that reality is non-dual. There is no why. It is simply the way it is.


Bob: Anyways, in spite of the fact that I am this formless indescribable substance-less substance behind the screen of projection which pervades as distinct forms in maya; penultimately there’s no inner/outer self so there’s no need to continuously try to “behind myself” as this light behind a movie screen, or to ignore the objects but to simply view the objects as what they are which are simply objects manufactured out of awareness me.


Ted: Yes. You can’t be “behind” yourself. You are what is and all the objects appear within the scope of your being.


Bob: Though I don’t consciously have the power to create these appearances to suit my likings they are simply what they are projections on the screen of awareness. Ex. This entire email viewed from your Jiva’s perspective is just a thought form manufactured out of your awareness and also from my own Jiva’s perspective vice versa.


Ted: Yes. But it is important to be clear that each individual is not creating a separate empirical reality.


There are three levels or perspectives from which to view the “creation.” From the perspective of pure awareness, which is called paramarthika satyam, there is nothing other than awareness, so there is no “creation.” Isvara creates what is called vyavaharika satyam, the empirical reality or the transactional level of reality. This is the world of objects that all the jivas have in common. This is also called Isvara shrishti, or God’s creation. On top of Isvara’s creation, so to speak, the jiva projects his interpretation of the vyavaharika satyam. This projected interpretation is called pratibhasika satyam. They way the jiva interprets the objects he encounters in the empirical reality is based on the vasanas associated with the jiva’s mind-body-sense complex. They form his values and compel his actions. This level is also called jiva shrishti, or the apparent individual’s creation.


So, in terms of you analogy of this email, the message appears to both of us as part of vyavaharika satyam, the empirical reality. What we think about the email’s content, how we feel about it, the importance the email holds in our lives, what we like about it, what we dislike about it, what understanding we have of it, etc., are all unique to each of us as part of pratibhasika satyam.


Overall, it sounds like you have a pretty sound understanding of reality, Bob. Now, just keep applying it to every moment of your life until it becomes the natural way of seeing things rather than something you are still trying to assimilate. This will happen (if it has not already) because this way of looking at reality aligns with the truth of your being. And awareness will not stop inquiry until it “rests” fully in (i.e., understands) its true identity. Awareness is, after all, the one “doing” inquiry through you.
Bob: Bob


Ted: All the best,



Knowing the Non-Objectifiable

Hello Ted,

I really enjoy your site and it’s organized format explaining vedanta in a no nonsense format devoid of all the spiritual mumble jumble pervading the spiritual world. I’ve listened and read Mr. Swartz audio and also his book “How to Attain Enlightenment”. I’ve also read the entire Tattva Bodha and the FAQ section on your site currently and I have a few questions to ask.

Ted:  It sounds like you’ve definitely got mumukshutva, a burning desire for liberation. That’s great. Everything else should fall into place as long as the desire to be free is your top priority.

Bob: Though awareness is absolutely formless it resides in every object of perception as the three gunas in maya…

Ted: Yes, awareness is formless. Because it is all-pervasive and, thus, the only “thing” that is, it has no definitive limits or boundaries. The traditional metaphor that is used to convey this idea is that of the wave and the ocean. The water itself is formless. It appears in the form of discrete waves, but those waves do not in any way change the essential quality of the water. Nor can the waves be said to be distinct entities unto themselves, for they are nothing but formless water. The analogy breaks down at this point because within its context we are able to view the ocean and the waves from a perspective that is outside both. In non-dual reality, however, we—and, in fact, the entire collective of all apparent objects, both subtle and gross—cannot step outside of awareness, for awareness is all there is. There is no “inside” or “outside” of awareness; there is not perspective from which to view awareness. Thus, we cannot see awareness. We can only be awareness.

What we do see is what you rightly identify as the play of the three gunas, the three constituents that in various combinations and permutations constitute every object, both subtle and gross. Though nothing exists other than awareness, maya is the deluding power inherent in awareness (weird, I know, but if limitless and all-powerful awareness did not have the ability to apparently delude itself, it would not be limitless and all-powerful) that “creates” the three gunas and by means of these three qualities projects the holographic movie “within” the “field” or “screen” of awareness that makes awareness appear to be the innumerable forms that comprise the apparent reality. The best analogy is that of a dream. Though the fabric of a dream is nothing other than the consciousness of the dreamer, that consciousness appears to be all these discrete and identifiable objects, entities, and events.

Bob: …does it mean that I should view myself as a substance or as a movie screen of perception which I am seeing/experiencing these objects in front of me? Or maybe this perceiver in me that’s looking at my bodily sensations/thoughts/emotions similar to buddhist meditation practices.

Ted: Both of these “perspectives” are valid. The essential idea is that you, awareness, are the unattached witness of all objective phenomena. This means that anything perceivable (i.e., sensations that appeal to any of the five senses), conceivable (i.e., thoughts, emotions, memories, fantasies, dreams, beliefs, opinions, ideas, etc.), or experienceable in any way whatsoever is nothing more than an apparent object that has arisen out of the unmanifest state (i.e., causal body), abides for a longer or shorter period of time in a manifest state or form, and inevitably subsides back into the unmanifest state. You, awareness, are none of these objects. You are simply their witness. You remain ever un-touched, un-sullied, un-affected in any way by these objects.

Now, yes, from the ultimate non-dual perspective, it is true that these objects are you, awareness, since there is nothing other than you, awareness. But while the objects are you, awareness, you, awareness, are not the objects. Simply put, while the objects are you, you are not the objects. Paradoxical as it sounds, what this means is that while the objects are made of the “substanceless substance” that is you (what else could they be made of?), none of these objects can comprehensively define, describe, or constitute you, limitless awareness. Just as your hand is you (i.e., Bob, the apparent person) but all that constitutes Bob as a person cannot be reduced to one hand, so each and every object is awareness but no one or even the collective whole of all of them constitute limitless. Here, too, we must go beyond the limits of the analogy because even if all the objects in the manifest universe (and by “manifest” I mean even subtle objective phenomena, such as thoughts and emotions) are not appearing (i.e., in the deep sleep state or nirvikalpa samadhi, the thought-free meditative state), awareness still is. The intellect doesn’t register a conscious thought concerning the absence of objective phenomena because the intellect itself is simply an object that is not appearing, but awareness does continue to obtain despite the absence of objects. We know this because we can recall upon awakening that we slept soundly. Having returned as a component of the waking entity, the intellect infers its own absence based on memory. It is only able to do this because awareness was there all along “experiencing” or “illumining” the absence of objects. We know this because not only did we not cease to exist while we slept (if we had, we couldn’t have woken up), but also because we can only remember something we have experienced. So some “thing,” some part of us, which can only be pure awareness, must have been “there” “experiencing” the absence of objects.

All the objective phenomena, including the subtle body or mind itself, is only reflected awareness (i.e., like the dream images in the dreamer’s mind). You are pure awareness, the “substanceless substance” of which all these objects are made as well as the “formless field” in which they all appear (i.e., the consciousness in which appear all the dream images that essentially constitute the dreamer’s mind).

Having said all that, we need to address a confusion that is reflected in the language with which you describe these perspectives from which you might view the apparent reality. You speak of viewing yourself as a “substance” or “movie screen” on which you are seeing/experiencing objects in front of yourself, and next you refer to “this perceiver that’s looking at my bodily sensations/thought/emotions.” Who is the “you” to whom you are referring. It seems to jump from reflected awareness (i.e., the subtle body or “substance” or “movie screen,” which is basically the apparent person) to pure awareness (i.e., the “me” in which the “perceiver” or apparent person abides, looking at “my”—whose?—sensations, thoughts, and emotions). So my question is, “Which one are you?” Are you the apparent person? Or are you pure awareness? Are you the one who comes and goes? Or are you the one who witnesses the coming and going of the one who comes and goes?

Bob: I find it hard to objectify awareness though it’s “me.”

Ted: You find it hard to objectify awareness because it is impossible to do so. YOU CANNOT OBJECTIFY AWARENESS. If you can “see” (i.e., understand) that you are the one who is the ever-present witness of all comings and goings, then you will “see” (i.e., know) how you, awareness, are non-objectifiable. Limitless awareness is by definition unobjectifiable. It has no attributes, characteristics, qualities, or boundaries by which it could be identified, delineated, defined, or described as separate or different from anything else…most fundamentally because there isn’t anything else other than it that it could be distinguished from. Just as the images on a movie screen seem to be different objects but are in fact nothing other than light, so it looks like there are different objects constituting an apparent reality but they are all nothing but projections of ignorance made of and appearing within the scope of awareness. So whether or not you seem to be separate objects, in reality you are only limitless, non-dual awareness. And you, awareness, always are whether objects appear within the scope of your being or not.

Bob: I am running around in circles thinking about this though it has been explained hundreds of time that awareness can only be revealed as knowledge in the intellect.

Ted: The fact that awareness is revealed as knowledge in the intellect does not mean that the self, you, awareness, are a bit of information to be known as an object. It means that the limitless awareness that is your true nature, as has been explained, cannot be comprehensively defined or described by any particular experience or state of being. You are awareness not matter what is appearing or seems to be happening within the scope of your being. You are not the apparent person who seems to be observing, doing, and enjoying all these objects and experiences, for that apparent person is only another object appearing within you.

However, it is through the intellect of the apparent person that the cognition (i.e., thought and understanding) of your true identity occurs. You, awareness, don’t need the intellect to know who you are, for you “know” who you are by virtue of being who you are. But the way the game of life, to speak in analogical terms, is set up is that the mechanism of the intellect is required in order for the experience of the apparent limited individual recognizing its true identity as pure limitless awareness to take place within the scope of limitless awareness (i.e., you).

The bottom line is that you will never be able to point to any particular object or even the collective of all objective phenomena as say that it as such defines you. You are always and ever the observer “behind” all observations. Thus, you can—and, in fact, do—know yourself. But just not as an object.

Bob: If so, am I suppose to simply repeat it as a mantra “I am whole complete limitless actionless awareness?”

Ted: Parroting a mantra is pointless unless you understand what it means. What you are “supposed” to do is make inquiry. Contemplate the meaning of the teachings and continuously discriminating yourself as awareness from the objects appearing within the scope of your being. Keep doing this until one day the penny finally drops and you “see” (i.e., understand) the truth of the mantra.

Bob: It’s been written that I have absolutely no way to experience this in samsara (unless through subtle body reflection) or even imagine it in my mind???? Because it’s beyond everything that is! Help!

Ted: Awareness is “beyond” even the mind, so there is no way to directly experience awareness other than by knowing that you are awareness. The reflection of awareness in a purified (i.e., predominately sattvic) mind is as close as the apparent person comes to “seeing” his true identity. When the mind is quiet enough (i.e., sufficiently free of binding vasanas, or compelling desires and fears that disturb the mind and extrovert one’s attention toward objective pursuits), there comes a moment when the akhandakara vritti, the “thought without limit,” appears in the mind either as a thought or what we might call an intuitive insight that reflects the understanding that one is whole, complete, limitless, all-pervasive, ever-present, non-dual awareness. Once this truth is “seen,” it becomes known.

Keep investigating yourself. Look into your experience. Has there ever been a time when you were not there (we’ve already discussed your apparent absence of deep sleep, so don’t fall back on that idea)? And have any of the experiences you’ve ever had ever changed you, the witnessing awareness? Certainly, Bob has changed, but have you? Isn’t the same “you” looking out through Bob’s eyes now as was looking through them when Bob was seven? Has that awareness ever changed? This is a subtle contemplation, so take your time. But this discrimination between you, awareness, and all the objects, including the identity of the perceiver of those objects, is the key to moksha, freedom from limitation.

Bob: Also, since the role of a teacher is to simply clarify the scriptures for the students. I assume you are the teacher who can help me out? Not that I have to meet you face to face in real life so I can hear your voice to receive the teachings or some sort of mental transmission but rather a logical explanation through email am I correct?

Ted: Yes, you are correct. We don’t need to be in each other’s physical presence. We can interact through email. The teaching is what’s important. Addressing your doubts and laying them to rest. That is what sets you free, not me (i.e., the physical entity called Ted).

Bob: Thanks,


Ted: My pleasure.

All the best,



You Are the “Light”

Hello Ted,

Thank you for clarifying the concept of reflected awareness which I want to confirm that it is indeed “The movie screen” projecting awareness in the form of ignorance/creation onto the unattached witness (the real me) which is always never a part of maya nor the one who creates anything in it. The reflected awareness (Ishvara) which projects ignorance is not known why it does what it does nor is the origination of it important to inquiry but it’s just simply there and it pervades in the mind of all sentient beings. Which means anything perceived out there is actually the subject but in a certain distinct separate name/form when seen from the body/mind perspective. Am I correct?

Ted: Yes.

Bob: Now that I know of this, that pretty much means that anything of this world is not actually pure awareness “me” because it’s observable/perceivable. So this means that the closest description of me is none other than being a witness/knower/awareness that not of maya meaning it can not be experienced/perceived in maya. Unless through a more reflected purified sattvic mind in the subtle body, which is actually meant to help develop a stronger conviction on the knowledge of who I am instead of gaining some impossible permanent state of some sort. Am I correct?

Ted: Yes. Just be clear that this witnessing/knowing/”aware-ing” is not an action. It is what you are. The closest analogy is light. Light doesn’t try to shine on objects, and it doesn’t know objects the way a person knows objects. The “light” simply illumines the objects…and is ever unaffected by whatever objects it illumines. That is, no objects enhance, diminish, divide, or otherwise affect the light in the least. And, as you say, the light has no particular, specific, special, or spiritual experience. All experiences are the light (speaking now in terms of the self and the “not-self”), but the light is ever free of all experiences. In other words, it doesn’t matter what objects or experiences appear in the light. The light ever remains what it is.

Bob: Spiritual practices are meant to purify the mind in order to have a stronger conviction of knowledge and not the actual practical applications after the conviction remains permanent. In other words, I am not meant to do/experience anything (since I am not the doer/experiencing entity anyways)…

Ted: Yes. That is not to say experiences won’t happen. They may or they may not. But either way it doesn’t matter. You are the light in which the experiences appear, not the experiences (except from the ultimate point of view, of course). And once you know who you are, you won’t care about experiences. All experiences will only be limitations onto you, but will never be wholly you. You will be happy to view experiences from the broader perspective of your being as the “container” of all experiences.

Bob: …but rather just have the knowledge firm in my head and allow my jiva to do what it needs to do in this apparent creation.

Ted: Yes. Before enlightenment I chopped wood and carried water. And after enlightenment I chopped wood and carried water.

Bob: Also, are the results of spiritual practice (the yogas/meditation) the same through the method of self-inquiry? That is, I will be burning vasannas and remaining as the detached witness anyways through discrimination and not simply having a certain attitude towards life. Or are they both two sides of the same coin. It was mentioned that karma yoga is for “doers” those who have many vasannas and inquiry is for the sannyasi those who have burned off much of their karma and have renounced the world.

Ted: This last part is a little confusing for me, but I think I get the gist. Yes, vasanas get burned through self-inquiry just as they do through spiritual practices. Actually, self-inquiry is a spiritual practice. It is jnana yoga. The difference between it and other yogas is that yogas purify the mind and prepare it for jnana yoga or self-inquiry, while self-inquiry results in knowledge. And knowledge—once it is fully assimilated—is tantamount to moksha, liberation, freedom.

Though I am not familiar with your circumstances, unless you are a renunciate who lives away from the world, it is best to engage in both yoga and self-inquiry. Might as well cover all bases.

Bob: Thanks.

Ted: My pleasure.


The Purusha and the Practice of Inquiry

Great hearing from you, Ted.


The question marks in the Subject were kanji for asobimasu.

Ted: I’m not sure what these words mean. You’ll have to enlighten me.

Part of my “inquiry” is whether purusha is pure awareness, or awareness, intelligence and will.

Ted: As with all Sanskrit words, there are several meanings that can apply depending on the context in which the word is used.

Sometimes purusha refers to pure, attributeless awareness. In this case, there is neither intelligence nor will, since pure awareness has no qualities or characteristics. We might say that pure awareness is intelligence if our intended meaning is simply “consciousness” or “conscious being” as opposed to awareness of an object.

At other times purusha refers to Isvara, which is pure awareness apparently conditioned by maya upadhi, its own inherent power of ignorance. In this case, purusha is the omnipotent creator and, thus, wields both will and intelligence.

In terms of the apparent individual, purusha is nothing more than an inert mechanism that is empowered through the presence of reflected awareness (chidabhasa). In this case, the apparent individual possesses neither intelligence nor will. The mind-body-sense complex is simply a machine that produces and processes experience when illumined by awareness. As such, it doesn’t think or choose. What’s really strange, however, is that neither does the pure awareness illumining it. All intelligence and will is simply a spontaneous occurrence brought about by means of the conjunction of these two factors. Thoughts arise and choices are made to be sure, but no one is technically thinking or choosing.

Nelson: This inquiry beginning after over 30,000 hours of deep meditation. Stilling, transcending, abiding in at least the reflection of pure awareness.

Ted: The mind should be ripe for inquiry at this point. Now you no longer have to worry about “stilling, transcending, and abiding,” because stillness is your nature, and there is neither anything to transcend nor abide in. There is only you. Meditation is wonderful, but it doesn’t remove ignorance in itself. The quiet mind that is cultivated through meditation simply allows for a dispassionate platform from which discriminative self-inquiry can be effectively conducted. Now is the time to examine who observed all that “stilling, transcending, and abiding,” and, moreover, who continues uninterruptedly observing every moment of your existence whether the character of any given moment be “sacred” or “profane,” still or busy, yogic or bhogic.

Nelson: I’ve read a commentary of the Yoga Sutra that suggests the individual purusha has volition. That it is more than ‘just’ pure awareness.

Ted: This was addressed above. For a more detailed explanation of this topic, you might also read my article, “The Cycle of Life and the Illusion of Free Will” in the Publications section of my website.

Michael: Also from the Shankaracharya lineage I was initiated in, Vedanta isn’t explored until at least dharma megha samadhi. Because the reality in one state, for example dream, is different from another state, for example waking. Different reality, different teaching.

Ted: Sounds like a lot of mind candy too keep the apparent person occupied. There is only one reality. Pure, limitless awareness. Everything else, including all states, are only apparent objective phenomena. Why do we need different teachings for different states? You, awareness, are the one constant factor in all states, and at the same time are entirely free of all states. That is, while the states depend on you, awareness, for their very existence, you do not depend on any or all of the states. You are the knower, the observer, the witness of the states. But whether the states arise or do not arise, you remain as you are.

But please do not take my word for this. Inquire. See for yourself. Look within—you should be good at that after over 30,000 hours of practice—and see if you can find a time when you began. Sure, the body began, the notion that you are Michael began, thoughts and feelings and sensations arise. But you are always there to see these phenomena, are you not? And if you never began, then by extension you can never end, for only what is born can die. Thus, you, awareness, ever are. Moreover, consider whether any of the experiences you’ve ever had—including those of “stilling, transcending, and abiding”—have ever affected you, awareness, even one iota. Sure, Michael has had many experiences of various character, But are you not the same you you’ve always been observing these experiences, watching them arise, abide, and subside within you, awareness?

Nelson: As for me, I’m a closet yogi and neither attached or non attached, neither desiring or not desiring.

I just listen, sometimes, to the whispering of my muse. And take it as it comes.

Ted: In terms of reality, this statement betrays a fundamental misconception of your true identity. Pure awareness is not a yogi. And pure awareness is not an entity who is either attached or non-attached, who neither desires or doesn’t desire, who listens the whisperings of “his” muse.  Awareness—you—is the one observing the person claiming these various attributes.

I understand you didn’t ask for my commentary on these matters, but say all this in the spirit of inspiring self-inquiry in a fellow meditation junky. I was up to 6-8 hours a day until I finally encountered self-inquiry. Kept thinking if I got still enough and abided long enough, I would finally transcend the individual purusha and…well, to be honest, I don’t even know what I thought would happen. What I finally realized, however, is that all experience is temporary while I am the eternal being in which it all takes place.

This is point of Vedanta.

Simply enough. May take a while to fully assimilate, but its not complex. And most important it is a matter of understanding, not experience.

As I said, look and “see” for yourself.

Nelson: Again, love your website. And I’ll be back.

Ted: Thanks for the warning :-). Just kidding. Glad to have made your acquaintance, Nelson. Contact me anytime.

Nelson: Enjoy,



Joy Is Not Enjoyment

“There are two types of happiness:  pleasure based on the experience of gross and subtle objects (vishaya ananda), and the bliss of the Self (atma ananda).  The bliss of the Self is true and permanent happiness.  Pleasure is only a fraction of fullness; happiness is total fullness.”

Hi Ted,

Love your website.

I think of this statement this way . . .

‘Bliss’ isn’t blissful.

It’s through the waves of individuality, the splashing about that brings joy.

As the Japanese might suggest in the word asobimasu, we ‘play’ at being
this self or another. We play at being born and dying.

Perhaps like Shankara, we play with Vedanta as children play make-believe on the beach.






Hi, Nelson.

Yes, in the immortal words of Conway Twitty, it’s only make-believe.

And, yes, “bliss” isn’t blissful in the sense of its being experiential. Bliss is the hard and fast, unshakable conviction that one is pure, limitless, actionless, ever-present, all-pervasive, immutable awareness. This understanding will undoubtedly have experiential ramifications, for it takes quite a load of erroneously assumed doership off one’s shoulders, and thus one tends to feel much less stressed and much more happy. But, as your statement suggests, joy is not enjoyment. That is, the joy that is our nature is uncaused. It is happiness that is not based on a happening. It is not something we experience, but rather who we are. This is a subtle understanding, but it sounds like you get it.

Thanks for sharing and for your kind words. Glad you like the site.

All the best,



The Dangers of an Excessively Sattvic Personality

Hi Ted,


What are the dangers of an excessively sattvic personality?


Thanks for everything!





Hi, Luke.

Hope you’re doing well.

Though for the most part, a sattvic mind is the very quality of mind that we want for self-inquiry, there are some drawbacks to an excessively sattvic disposition.

To begin with, since a sattvic mind is a pure mind, it serves as clear mind in which the reflection of the self can appear. Of course, ultimately this is our ticket to freedom. But the value of such an experience is the knowledge that is gleaned from it, not the experience itself per se. If the knowledge is subjected to proper inquiry and the understanding it affords is fully assimilated, then the experience has been worthwhile in terms of moksha, or liberation. If the experience is simply valued for the experiential character of its content, then ecstatic or mind-blowing as it might be, it will simply run its course and disappear like any other experience. Moreover, it will leave a vasana in the causal body that will fructify as a desire for more similar and perhaps even “better” experiences. Since a sattvic mind is prone to “spiritual” experiences and transcendental experiences, there can be a tendency for a person with a sattvic disposition to get “hooked” on the entertainment value, so to speak, of such experiences and fail to mindfully inquire into them. In this way, it is easy for such a person to become waylaid on the path to freedom.

A related problem is that when one has cultivated a pure mind that is subject to both spiritual epiphanies and refined ethical standards, it is easy for such a person to develop an attitude of “spiritual” arrogance. In other words, it is easy for such a person to take a “holier than thou” stance with regard to world issues and interactions with others. Such a person feels like he has the inside track and has a deeper insight into the “meaning of life” than those around him. He often feels like he has a duty to “fix” or “save” others, while at the same time remaining resistant to engaging in worldly affairs. Such a person tends to survey matters from his ivory tower of wisdom and pity the poor fools parading about below, so to speak. Such a person may feel generally happy with regard to their “blessed” situation, but obviously such an elitist attitude toward the world and other people sustains the sense of separation, individuality, and personal attainment that remain thinly veiling the non-dual truth and preventing one from recognizing his inherently free nature, for such a person is still equating self-realization with the experience of purity and experiential happiness.

Another issue that can arise is that one lacks a sense of “groundedness.” Because the person is so “spiritual,” he may feel that he has transcended the world. Such a person may be quite ecstatic, but walking around in a state of ecstasy can be problematic for one still living within the context of society. Preferring to float around in a state of transcendental bliss, such a person may have a hard time holding a job, maintaining relationships, taking care of responsibilities, and conducting daily affairs. Such a person tends to be idealistic and lack common sense. Basically, the person is a “spiritual space cadet.”

Perhaps the biggest issue for a person with an excessively sattvic personality is that he becomes so satisfied with experiential happiness that he gets stuck there and ceases to progress in self-inquiry. Such a person feels so damn good that he loses his desire for freedom and is happy just feeling good all the time. Such being the case, the person fails to recognize his true nature as trigunatita, “beyond” the gunas and their experiential effects. He fails to realize that it doesn’t matter what the apparent person’s state of mind is, that no matter how the apparent person feels the self remains the ever-unaffected witness of all states.

The bottom line is that as long as a person is still “hooked” on sattva, he is still identified with experience and the experiencing entity. As mentioned, it is true that a sattvic mind is necessary for the assimilation of self-knowledge, but once the knowledge has been assimilated it no longer matters, in terms of moksha, what one’s state of mind is. One realizes, understands, knows that one transcends all states and can dispassionately observe them, all the while remaining fully aware that while all states are oneself, as the self, pure awareness, one is ever free of all states. As Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, “All these are in me, but I am not in them.”

Hope that answers the question.

All the best,