Awareness is Ever-unaffected and Can Never Be Forgotten

Ted,

 

I have been contemplating your writings. I have these last few questions:

 

Referring back to your analogy, does the “power supply” get affected in any way if the “computer” becomes realized/awakened/enlightened?

 

Ted: No. Limitless conscious existence (i.e., the “power supply” within the context of the analogy of the relationship between the computer and its power source) is totally unaffected by the objective phenomena (i.e., objects, events, experiences, etc.) that appear within the scope of its being.

 

First, limitless non-dual awareness is nirguna, formless and attributeless. Therefore, it is not an object—not even a subtle object, such as a thought or emotion, which does have a character or quality that renders it distinguishable from other thoughts and emotions—that possesses any aspect that can be affected.

 

Second, due to its impersonal nature, limitless non-dual awareness does not possess a mind. Therefore, it has no feeling or thoughts that could be impacted by any experience.

 

Third—and most important—is the fact that awareness is of an entirely different ontological order than the apparent reality inhabited by the apparent individual inhabits. Limitless awareness is sat (real); it is the fundamental “isness” that supports the entire manifest universe in both its gross and subtle aspects. The manifestation itself is nothing more than mithya (apparent) due to the fact that it has no independent self-nature and its existence is entirely dependent on awareness in the same way that a wave is entirely dependent on water. And just as water-as-such is entirely unaffected by the nature of the waves arising within it, so awareness remains ever unaffected by the objective phenomena of the apparent reality.

 

The entire manifestation is essentially a cosmic mechanism comprised of subtle and gross matter. The intelligence that informs its structure as well as imbues all living beings with sentiency is awareness. In the absence of awareness (though such a circumstance is not possible), no objects—including time and space, which are subtle conceptual objects—would have a “field” of being in which to exist nor would the subtle body of any sentient entity be “illumined” by the “light” of consciousness that allows the mind to perform the function of knowing within the relative subject-object context of the apparent reality. Moreover, while the entire manifestation depends on awareness for its existence, awareness-as-such is ever free of the manifestation. That is, whether objects and experiences appear or do not appear within the scope of awareness, awareness itself always is.

 

We get a taste of this every night during the deep sleep state. Though the mind is entirely dormant during dreamless sleep and we neither think nor feel anything, we don’t cease to exist. If we did, we would neither wake up nor remember that we slept soundly (for you can only remember something that you’ve experienced). Thoughtful analysis of this commonly experienced yet rarely contemplated occurrence reveals that the limitlessness we experience is our very own nature, for it is that which obtains when all the projected apparent objects cease to captivate our attention and distract us from noticing the “light” of awareness in which they are appearing, which must be our true nature given the fact that all other possible sources have left the building, so to speak.

 

To be clear, the limitlessness we experience during deep sleep is not pure awareness itself, but rather the reflection of awareness in a pure mind—that is, a mind sufficiently still to “catch” an accurate reflection of awareness. Due to the unmodified nature of the mind and the accuracy of the reflection it renders, however, the reflection is as good as awareness itself.

 

The problem with the deep sleep state in terms of gaining self-knowledge is that the mind is for all intents and purposes completely dormant during deep sleep. The discriminating intellect is not functioning, and therefore we fail to glean any knowledge from the experience, which is why we are as ignorant as ever when we wake up. The trick is to “see” or recognize the limitlessness that underlies all apparent forms while we are conscious and the intellect is in full swing. This is why we need Vedanta.

 

Which leads us to your second question…

 

Orion: Is this non-dual realization not another conditioning of the apparent person (albeit a “good” type of conditioning) and therefore a function of memory?

 

Ted: In one way, you might say that Vedanta is a means of re-conditioning the mind. But the truth it reveals is not a conditioned belief. Once revealed, the limitless nature of the self is recognized as an already existent fact.

 

Vedanta is the means of knowledge for the self, limitless awareness. Since the self is not an object available for perception or perception-based inference, it cannot be positively apprehended. That is, we can never comprehensively define it in terms of attributes, because it doesn’t have any. Moreover, our ticket in the door to the grand dance of the apparent reality is avidya, self-ignorance, which utilizes two powers to delude us. By means of avaruna shakti (i.e., veiling power), it conceals, as it were, our true nature, and by means of vikshepa shakti (i.e., projecting power), it throws up an irresistible array of apparent objects, both gross and subtle, that attract our attention and distract us from “seeing” what actually is. By analogy, this is similar to the way we are so fascinated by the images appearing on the movie screen that we tend to forget they are nothing but modifications of light.

 

Given this predicament, scripture (i.e., the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Brahma Sutra, and countless other supplementary texts written by sages) is our only means of gaining knowledge of our true nature. While the scriptures do wax poetic at times concerning the nature of the self, the true value of the scriptures resides in the implied meaning of its words. This is why a qualified teacher is also necessary. If one tries to read scripture on one’s own, 99.99999% of the time one’s self-ignorance will cause one to misinterpret its intended meaning, for one will invariably view reality from the perspective of being a person rather than the awareness in the scope of which the apparent person is appearing.

 

A qualified teacher is one who knows how to unfold the intended or implied meaning of the words of scripture so that they remove all the erroneous notions one has about the nature of reality. In this way, scripture doesn’t impart information about the self, but rather strips away all the erroneous notions “hiding” the self until the self stands revealed in all its naked glory.

 

Thus, self-knowledge is not a mere intellectual knowing. That is, it is not an assemblage of information that one has to remember. Vedanta simply removes one’s erroneous ideas and reveals that which always is, that which is ever-present even in the presence of objects just as light is always present as the essence of the apparent forms interacting on the movie screen. Once one has recognized the true nature of reality, one is no longer deluded by the apparent forms arising within it. What once seemed to cover it, is now recognized as nothing other than it. Such being the case, there is no need to remember anything. You can forget something in its absence, but you can’t forget the ever-present self.

 

Orion: Could anybody tell the difference between a “realized” and “non-realized” person after they lose their memory (as in, say, Alzheimer’s)?

 

Ted: No. But nobody can tell the difference when the person is in full command of his or her faculties. Self-knowledge is an “internal affair.” Only you know if you know your limitless nature. And while there are some behavioral indications that one knows the self—chief among them is the fact that the person doesn’t transgress dharma (i.e., universal ethical norms) due to the fact that he or she abides in his or her perfect fullness and, thus, has nothing to gain by breaking the rules to fulfill a desire—there are no hard and fast rules concerning how an “enlightened being” must behave. Once one knows the self, one will simply allow the prarabdha karma yet to be exhausted in this lifetime to play out as it will, all the while remaining completely unattached to the results of his or her actions.

 

This doesn’t mean he or she will be apathetic or irresponsible or try to justify immoral behavior in the name of non-doership. It simply means that the person will play his role and make his contribution to the cosmic drama of the universe, but he will all the while abide in the peace and happiness that is his true nature.

As for losing one’s memory, such a condition is merely a malfunction of the instrument of the mind. It has nothing to do with the self. Again, as an apparent object (i.e., anything perceivable, conceivable, or experienceable), it is not essentially real. What is real is the “light” which illumines the mind whether it is in good working condition or a state of distress.

 

Thanks,

Orion

 

My pleasure,

Ted

We Need an Absolute Method

Ted,
Thanks for a fabulous exposition! I’ve found very few truly realize the non-dual nature of the One. And thanks for being so open with your viewpoint.

For me, I am still ‘teaching myself’, as I am not ‘there’ yet, and I do find it helpful for me to explain to others, as that makes me see the Truth more clearly.

 

Ted: Yes, this is one of the aspects of nididhyasana that is advocated by Adi Shankara. The more you keep the teachings boiling away in the mind, the more they distill the ignorance.

 

Xena: There is absolutely no reason that the absolute Truth cannot happen instantaneously to us upon the asking; karma? no.

 

Ted: Well, truth itself is not a happening. Limitless awareness is all-pervasive—though pervasive is not exactly the right word given the fact that there exists nothing other than “itself” for awareness to pervade—and, thus, achala, incapable of change, which is the defining characteristic of a “happening.”

 

Of course, the assimilation of self-knowledge is an event, but even that is not in itself the truth. The understanding that remains in the wake of the thought or recognition of the fact that I am limitless conscious existence is what we call atma-jnana, or self-knowledge. But, yes, this realization can and does occur in an instant. Fully assimilating the knowledge is what takes time and effort.

 

The dawning of the realization that one’s true nature is limitless conscious existence that you suggest can “happen instantaneously to us upon the asking” is not an event visited upon us by chance or delivered unto us by the grace of some volitional cosmic entity. Rather, “grace” is earned through karma.

 

First, we must put forth the proper effort to cultivate the antahkarana shuddhi, mental purity, and antahkarana nishchaya, mental focus, necessary to enable us to engage in effective self-inquiry. This is the purpose of the fundamental spiritual practices of karma yoga, living in accordance with dharma (i.e., universal ethical norms), meditation, and devotional worship. Though these practices themselves won’t produce self-knowledge, they are necessary aids to self-inquiry in that they make the mind introspective and render it still enough to “see” a reflection of the limitless nature of the self in the “word mirror” of the teachings. In other words, only a mind sufficiently undistracted by conditioned beliefs and extroverting desires Xena be able to recognize the non-objectifiable “light” in which all objective phenomena (i.e. sensations, emotions, and cognitions) appear.

 

Next, once we have caught a “glimpse” of our true nature, we must make the effort to engage in nididhyasana, the continuous meditation upon and application of the teachings to each and every aspect of our lives, both in terms of our internal thoughts and external actions. Because our old patterns of thinking and the dualistic paradigm in terms of which we interpret our experience is so deeply ingrained in us, it takes quite a bit of effort, for all but a few highly qualified seekers (perhaps one in a million), to sand away its stain.

 

Xena: When the realization comes, the sages say karma dissolves at that instant.

 

Ted: Karma dissolves because the sense of doership has been erased.

 

Limitless conscious existence is impersonal, all-pervasive, and perfectly full. These three factors render it incapable of action. First of all, given that it is not a personal entity, it has no volition or Xena to act. Second, because it is all-pervasive, there is no “arena” or “field,” so to speak, in which it can move nor is there any background or substrate against which any movement or change, which is the defining characteristic of action, could be measured. Moreover, it neither possesses any parts or instruments with which to execute an action nor does there exist any other entity for it to act upon or in response to. What’s more, its attributeless, immutable singularity means that there is no second entity that could threaten awareness, nor any possible source of enhancement or diminishment, and thus awareness would have absolutely no reason to act. Third, even were we to grant impersonal awareness some sort of volitional Xena, given the fact that it is perfectly full, it would have no motivation to act, for it would have nothing to gain by means of action.

Xena: So, what are we doing here? We know that we should have liberation, but not necessarily be separated from Samsara because we have work to do here.

 

Ted: What we’re doing here is experiencing the fructification of the punya and papa karma (i.e., merits and demerits) that we’ve earned through our past actions. Also, given the capacity for discrimination, self-reflection, and Xena power with which we have been endowed as human beings, we also have the opportunity to seek release from the existential whirlpool of samsara, the repetitive and self-propelling cycle of birth and death that tends to be characterized by fleeting experiences of joy and languishing periods of sorrow (or at least disturbance, discomfort, and dissatisfaction).

 

So, we basically have two options with regard to what you call the work we have to do here.

 

The first option is to unconsciously move from one experience to the next, exhausting little by little the prarabdha karma (i.e., the punya and papa that is slated to play out within the context of our present incarnation) while at the same time engaging in actions that create agami karma (i.e., punya and papa that Xena eventually have to fructify either in this lifetime or a subsequent birth) that Xena be credited to our store of sanchita karma, which is what we might call the vast reservoir of punya and papa that constitutes our entire karmic account. The problem with this option is that it only perpetuates our existential dilemma and keeps us bound to the wheel of samsara.

 

The second option is to engage in self-inquiry and thereby to gain knowledge of our true nature as limitless conscious existence and thereby gain moksha (i.e., liberation or ultimate inner freedom). Once this ultimate inner freedom is gained, the manifest universe doesn’t simply go up in a puff of white light. As long as our prarabdha karma lasts, so Xena we as apparent individuals. The difference Xena be, however, that we Xena no longer suffer.

 

We Xena understand that since everything is essentially nothing other than impersonal, all-pervasive, attributeless awareness, the whole notion of being an individual person who executes actions is only the result of a projected appearance with which we have identified and believed to be real. Thus, having gained the understanding that the doer we believed ourselves to be is actually nothing more than an apparent entity and that the body-mind-sense complex with which we are associated as well as the entire mechanism of the manifest universe are nothing more than organic cosmic machinery that functions according to its design when illumined by awareness, we Xena no longer consider ourselves doers and, thus, Xena not create or accrue any further karma. In short, because there is no more karta (i.e., doer), there is no longer any entity who can create new karma nor any entity to which the stored karma belongs. It is in this sense that the whole karmic Ponzi scheme collapses once and for all.

 

Xena: Long ago I had a doctoral-level knowledge of what I thought was Vedanta, and Buddhism; I could quote almost anything (including Aparokshanubhuti), but where did that get me…nowhere. Direct action was absent. Wise sayings were worthless without the realization. Oh, I’ve had many, many ‘aha’ moments; I remember once seeing all reality and saying to myself, “I’ve got it!” to which the mortal mind said, “I’ve got WHAT?” as, outside the Awareness, it was incomprehensible…

 

Ted: There is nothing “outside” awareness. Awareness is the very substratum of existence. In fact, it is existence itself. Only by means of awareness is anything known to exist. Even time and space are dependent upon awareness for their existence. We are not talking about the “field” of awareness accessible to the mind of the person you take yourself to be. Rather, we are talking about universal awareness. By the same token, this universal awareness is your personal awareness in the same way that the ocean water is the content of any particular wave arising within it.

 

In light of this consideration, the question to contemplate is who was witnessing those “aha” moments? Who watched them come and go? Who is the ever-present witness of each and every moment of your existence? Sure, our experiences appear in the mind, but what is the mind? The mind is not a thing per se, but is the name we give to the thought-forms arising within (and actually made out of) awareness. Thus, awareness is watching itself appear to itself. And while all the forms depend on awareness for their existence (for what else could they consist of or their existence be confirmed by?), awareness itself remains ever free of all forms. That is, while the forms come and go, awareness always remains the ever-present witness of what is and what is (seemingly) not.

Xena: Intellectualizing doesn’t help, as you know.

 

Ted: It is the starting point. You’ve got to understand the teachings before you can assimilate them. But you’re right, mere intellectual understanding doesn’t resolve the fundamental problem. You’ve got to “see” your true nature in the “word mirror” of the teachings. Once you recognize the “isness” that you are, you Xena never doubt it again.

 

Xena: Meditation, maybe.

 

Ted: Meditation is a platform for self-inquiry. Once the mind is sufficiently introverted and still, you can begin to reflect on who is witnessing the mind.

 

Xena: We do need an absolute method…

 

Ted: Exactly, which is what Vedanta is.

 

Xena: …and I have not yet found it; I hope that you have, or that at least you are close.

 

Ted: Traditional Vedanta is a valid means of knowledge that infallibly reveals the true nature of reality to those whose mind is sufficiently qualified. Moreover, if the mind is not yet sufficiently purified to “see” or recognize one’s own true nature, it also provides the various spiritual practices through which one can cultivate such a mind.

Xena: I have been ‘around the block’ with this issue too many times. I probably should have accepted Swami Bhashyananda’s invitation to stay with him at the Vivekananda Vedanta Center many years ago, but I wasn’t ready and I was married with a young child. I recently discovered he wrote “From the Unreal to the Real”, a fine book which resonated well with me.

 

Ted: You can take this for what its worth to you, but my suggestion is that you read either “How to Attain Enlightenment” or “The Essence of Enlightenment” by James Swartz. Both of these books lay out the entire teaching of Vedanta in a very practical and accessible way that might help you move beyond a mere intellectual understanding of the teachings, and see the truth they reveal in terms of your own experience. Then, if any further questions arise, feel free to contact me, and I Xena be happy to help you resolve your doubts.

Xena: Thanks for your input. Thanks for contributing to the rest of us…

Peace.

 

All the best,

 

Ted

Sorting Out Satyam and Mithya

Hi Ted,

 

I was hoping you could answer this time a good friend’s inquiry?

 

He said…

 

“I look back at my dead parents and feel like I’m losing my mind because if the past has no reality outside my memory, then did those people ever really exist? And if they were never real, then how can I be real? It’s not a pleasant feeling. I don’t like feeling like I’m not real or that all that stuff never happened, even though most of those years were hard and painful. What are your thoughts? I need your brain right now.”

 

And….

 

“My father existed (past tense) a very long time ago (he died in 1973). He no longer exists outside my very distant memories. But how can existence not exist? How can something exist and then not exist? And if it no longer exists, did it ever have any existence within the illusion of time? Is it like emptiness and form—form being condensed emptiness so in that regard only emptiness is real? Am I real?”

 

Gerard

 

 

Hi, Gerard.

 

Well, there’s good news and bad news, you might say. You can assure your friend that he does exist and that all the people that inhabit his memories did exist and that all the events he remembers did take place. On the flip side, however, none of that stuff—including the person he believes himself to be—is real.

 

This confusion is universal among seekers. It is a consequence of not understanding the difference between satyam and mithya, the real and the apparent.

 

Satyam is that which has independent “isness.” It is self-luminous and self-dependent. The only “thing” that is satyam is the self, pure awareness, limitless conscious existence. The self is the adhishthanam, the substratum of the entire manifestation in both its gross and subtle aspects. In other words, it is both the “substanceless substance” of which all tangible objects and subtle phenomena (i.e., sensations, emotions, and cognitions) are made and the knowledge-as-such that informs the manifestation with “intelligent design” and imbues conscious beings with sentiency.

 

Asat is what your friend finds disturbing. Asat refers to that which is non-existent, such as the horns of a hare, the child of a barren woman, or a square circle. Some of these non-existent things we may be able to conceive of by means of mentally assembling existent objects that we know of (i.e., we can imagine a rabbit with a rack of antlers because we have knowledge of both of these objects), the objects in combination don’t actually exist. Other non-existent objects, such as the son of a barren woman or a square circle are irresolvable paradoxes. In any case, non-existent objects cannot be experienced within the context of the transactional reality or “external world” (more will be said about this later).

 

Mithya is that which is neither sat (real) nor asat (unreal in the sense of being altogether non-existent). The entire manifestation in both its gross and subtle aspects is mithya. We can’t say that any object is real because no object has an independent self-nature. In other words, since awareness is both the material of which they are made and the intelligence that shapes them, so to speak, all objects are entirely dependent on awareness for their existence. On the other hand, we can’t say that these objects are non-existent because we experience them and their interactions produce effects within the context of both the “eternal” world and our “inner” psycho-emotional landscape. Therefore, anything perceivable, conceivable, or experienceable in any way whatsoever is considered apparently real or dependently real. In a word—mithya.

 

To be clear, mithya is not a thing in itself. Rather, it is the nature of all names, forms, and functions that exist within the manifestation.

 

By analogy, we can liken satyam to water and mithya to the waves that arise within it. We would not say that the waves do not exist, but by the same token we wouldn’t say that they have any existence independent of or separate from water. Moreover, while waves come and go, water remains ever present. And what’s more, no matter what forms the waves take or in what manner they might crash or splash about, the water remains entirely unchanged and unaffected. Similarly, the objects that comprise the manifestation and the events that transpire within its context do exist, but they have no existence independent of awareness. Moreover, while objects and experiences come and go, limitless conscious existence remains ever constant, for what is real cannot cease to exist. And what’s more, the quality of the objects and character of the experience or character of behaviors that take place within the apparent reality do not enhance, diminish, or otherwise affect the essential nature of limitless conscious existence.

 

In addition to understanding the distinction between satyam and mithya or the real and the apparent, it is also important to understand that existence never ceases to exist. While objects (i.e., forms that are referred to by particular names and that perform particular functions or serve particular purposes) come and go, limitless conscious existence always is. With regard to our recognition of any object, there are two aspects: the “object” cognition and the “is” cognition. For instance, we can say, “The carrot is,” “The computer is,” “The kid is,” and so on. While the object cognized in each case is different, the fundamental existence of the object as indicated by “is” remains constant. Even if we say, “Nothing is” or indicate that something is not, “isness” or existence-as-such remains as the ever-existent substratum.

 

Such being the case, we only speak of objective phenomena as being manifest or unmanifest rather than existent and non-existent, for actually there is no such thing as non-existent. Everything that ever was, is, or will be has its basis in limitless conscious existence. Those objects that are not manifest now are simply abiding in a dormant, seed-state within the causal body, the unmanifest realm of pure potentiality. That is, what we might call the “archetypal blueprints” of all objects abide in dormant form in the causal body. The unique individual form of any given object may never appear again, but the objects-as-such will continue to arise and subside within the scope of consciousness. Thus, in more practical terms, while your friend’s father will never appear in physical form again, male human beings that perform the function of fathering children will continue to manifest forever. The point is that existence itself never ceases to exist, and while names and forms do exist and are experienced for a given period of time, only existence itself is real in the sense of being both non-negatable and fundamentally immutable.

 

The distinction between satyam and mithya also can be analyzed in terms of three “layers” of reality (i.e., three different ontological orders or orders of existence): paramarthika satyam, vyavaharika satyam, and pratibhasika satyam.

 

Paramarthika satyam is the realm of absolute, non-dual, non-objectifiable awareness or pure, unmodified, limitless conscious existence. From this perspective, there is no manifestation, for there is nothing other than awareness. By analogy, this is the realm of water as pure H20 prior to its manifestation as ocean, lake, pond, pool, cloud, steam, stream, glacier, ice cube, wave, swirl, sprinkle, or splash.

 

Vyavaharika satyam is the transactional reality, the aspect of the manifestation that is available to all. It includes tangible items and consists of sensory stimuli, such as color, shape, pitch, volume, tone, weight, texture, density, malleability, temperature, odor, aroma, and the various taste sensations. It is referred to as Isvara shrishti or “God’s creation.”

 

Pratibhasika satyam is the subjective reality, the aspect of the manifestation that consists of thoughts and emotions that arise within the mind of each individual and are only available to the particular individual in whose mind they are arising. This realm consists of the apparent individual’s subjective ideas and the interpretations and evaluations he or she projects upon “God’s creation” that are the consequence of his or her guna-based, vasana-influence, raga-dvesha (i.e., likes and dislikes)-determined values. Because these interpretations and evaluations and the actions they inspire basically determine the quality of the apparent individual’s experience, this realm is referred to as jiva shrishti or the individual’s “creation.” Of course, this realm is fundamentally an aspect of vyavaharika satyam, for Isvara (i.e., Brahman, limitless conscious existence, conditioned by maya upadhi, the power that causes limitless non-dual awareness to appear as the innumerable limited and seemingly separate objects that comprise the manifestation) is the progenitor of the entire manifestation. Because this aspect is exclusive to the apparent individual whereas the transactional reality is the province of all and because the individual has more control of this aspect of the manifestation, we separate this “internal” aspect from the “external” aspect of the manifestation for the purposes of analysis.

 

Ultimately, only paramarthika satyam is sat or real. While both vyavaharika satyam and pratibhasika satyam do exist and are experienced, their existence is wholly dependent on paramarthika satyam, and therefore they are both mithya or only apparently real.

 

That should cover all the bases, I believe. If any further questions arise, let me know.

 

All the best,

 

Ted

Staying True to the Traditional Teachings

Ted,
I must thank you for the work on your website.

I’ve studied Vedanta for 40 years and RARELY have I seen an exposition so full of clarity and with an absence of cryptic Indo-cultural references, which distract one from the Truth. Let me pick your brain…

Do I have your permission to further disseminate the teachings on your site (with proper credits, of course)?

Again, thanks.

Xena

 

 

Hi, Xena.

Thank you for the kind words. You are certainly most welcome to disseminate Vedanta as long as you stay true to the traditional teaching and its pedagogical methodology.

The teachings of Vedanta are often bastardized and don’t align with the intended meaning of the scriptures, the non-dual purport of which has been thoroughly clarified and defended by the sage Badarayana in the Brahma Sutras and comprehensively explicated by the sage Adi Shankara in his bhashyas, scriptural commentaries, on the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, and Brahma Sutras.

The traditional teachings of Vedanta are founded upon two fundamental principles.

First, the fundamental reality of the self and the absolute are the same. Pure awareness, the conscious existence that is both the “substanceless substance” of which all objects are made and the “field of light” in which they appear, is limitless and, as such, is both eternal and infinite (i.e., entirely beyond the limiting parameters of time and space that define the apparent reality). When referenced in terms of its universally pervasive nature, it is called Brahman; when referenced in terms of its association with the apparent individual person, it is called atma. Truly speaking, however, Brahman-atma is a singular being—pure non-dual awareness, limitless conscious existence. This is the basis for the mahavakya “You are that,” which equates the jiva, the apparent individual, and Isvara, God (i.e., the creator, sustainer, and resolver of the universe). Though the apparent individual has only limited knowledge, power, and presence due to the conditioning adjunct of the body-mind-sense complex, whereas Isvara enjoys omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence due to “its” relatively unlimited conditioning adjuct of maya upadhi, both share the same essential identity as limitless conscious existence. What’s more, Brahman-atma, the fundamental reality, is only available for knowledge as one’s own “inner” self. Anything other than the non-objectifiable awareness that illumines one’s own mind is an object, and since all objects are by nature limited (i.e., perceptibly or conceptually discrete), no object—or, for that matter, even the collective of all objects—can comprehensively define the limitless conscious existence in which they obtain. Thus, while all objects depend on awareness for their existence, awareness is ever free of all objects in the sense that its own existence is self-dependent. Objects come and go, but awareness always is, for awareness itself must exist prior to the appearance of any object.

Second, moksha, liberation, is a matter of understanding rather than experience, and it results from having assimilated knowledge rather than action. Though action in the form of spiritual practice is necessary in order to prepare the mind for self-inquiry and the assimilation of the self-knowledge, moksha itself is the consequence of having assimilated self-knowledge rather than having attained and continuing to sustain a particular psycho-emotional state by means of such activities as meditation, breathing techniques, ethical observances, or devotional practices. Since the seeker is already what he or she is seeking, the search ends not with the obtainment of some object or arrival at some destination, but rather with the discovery or recognition of the already existent fact of one’s true nature.

The traditional means by which the fundamental reality is revealed and self-knowledge made available for assimilation is a specific teaching methodology that has been employed and passed down through the Vedanta sampradaya, an unbroken teacher-student lineage, since time immemorial. The basis of the methodology is atma-anatma-viveka, the discrimination between the self and the “not self.” This discrimination is conducted through various prakriyas, modes of analysis, most notably drg-drishya-viveka (the seer-seen-discrimination), avastha-traya-prakriya (analysis of the three states of experience), pancha-kosha-prakriya (analysis of the five sheaths), and karya-karana-viveka (cause-and-effect discrimination). All of these modes of analysis utilize the discriminative technique of adhyaropa-apavada, superimposition and negation. This method of analysis investigates and deconstructs all erroneous notions about the nature of reality by proceeding through a series of provisionally granted platforms or perspectives from which to view experience and resolving each into its subtler and more expansive substratum until ultimately all incidental aspects of being (i.e., everything perceivable, conceivable, or experienceable) are resolved into the essential reality of limitless conscious existence. In this way, Brahman-atma is revealed as the singular self.

 

Quite often, people think Vedanta is simply intellectual, but the beauty of the teaching methodology is that it takes one beyond a mere intellectual understanding and enables one to understand that which is technically not experienceable in terms of one’s own experience.

 

The reason the methodology of adhyaropa-apavada, superimposition and negation, is so vital to the process of self-inquiry is that it enables the student to actually “see” the “object” of the inquiry (i.e., recognize the non-negatable presence of non-objectifiable awareness) in terms of an examination of his or her own previously unexamined—or at least erroneously interpreted—experience. Consequently, the student can take “ownership” of the teachings and can stand with unshakeable conviction in the truth they reveal—which is his or her own essential nature as limitless awareness—rather than having to rely on mere belief. Vedanta, after all is a means of knowledge, for the self. It does not want the student to merely accept or believe anything. Its purpose is to so clearly reveal the self that the student is left with no doubt about his or her true identity as limitless awareness and thereafter lives fully emancipated from samsara, the repetitive cycle of joy and sorrow, and abides permanently in the inviolable fullness that is his or her true nature, completely free of all sense of dependency on objects or experiences for his or her peace and happiness.

I know you did not ask for this explanation, but once I got rolling the momentum took over so to speak :-). It also just dawned on me that you may have not been intending to teach yourself, but simply wanted to make the teachings available for others. In either case, however, please make sure that whatever teachings you do pass along—assuming you want to pass along the truth—align with the points explained above.

All the best,
Ted

Objects Change, Not Awareness

Thank you so much Ted. I’m gonna catch a siesta and then really look your responses over. The one thing that stands out to me right off the bat is that I don’t understand how “something” —pure awareness is absolutely “immune” to any change (so it / I am) changeless and it / I / pure awareness, does nothing but there is this apparent reality is here and movement even seemingly moving is still moving. To say it’s not “moving” or whatever at the “highest level” seems theoretical. Would the wave and ocean metaphor be accurate in describing Jiva / Ishvara / Awareness? Can you site scripture that explains this? This must be a very difficult part of the teachings, more so than others to understand?

 

And if my mom asks me to take her to doctors appointment, how is it possible that she can actually get there unless I get up and “do” something this, I have moved, I have taken action. If she’s (Jiva / Ishvara) is dependent on me (awareness), how can I say the entire process of setting up transportation, meeting with her, going to the doctor and listening to his suggestions, then taking her home didn’t involve me (awareness) breaking my unmoving composure? I’m not trying to nit pick. Just looking for an answer(s) on a subject I have struggled with for years understanding. Is it possible to try to hard to “get this” and sometimes best to just chill out and relax to some music once in a while?

 

Thanks,

 

Henry

 

 

Hi, Henry.

 

In response to your last two emails, my guess is that your questions will be answered if you contemplate the explanations provided to your questions in my response to the one you sent previous to them.

 

The analogy of the wave-ocean-water does appropriately express the relationship between jiva-Isvara-Brahman (individual-God-pur awareness).

 

The bottom line is that the individual is and always will be an apparent doer. But none of the apparent individual’s apparent actions have any affect on pure awareness. Think about it. Has your “isness” ever been changed by the things you’ve done or the experiences you’ve had? Is the fact that you are different now than it has ever been? Sure, Henry’s body has changed and the sensations, emotions, thoughts, ideas, beliefs, opinions, memories, knowledge, relationships, experiences, etc. have changed. But has the fact that you are aware of them ever changed? Or to put it another way, has the awareness in which these objective phenomena appeared ever changed?

 

Just as the dream doesn’t affect the dreamer, so the apparent individual doesn’t affect the pure awareness in the “light” of which it appears.

 

Yes, I know you can say that a dream can leave a lingering affect on the emotions of the waker, but that’s the limitation of the analogy. By the same token, you, the waking state entity, wouldn’t be prosecuted for murder if you killed a person in your dream.

 

The point is that the apparent has no impact on the real. They belong to two different ontological orders, two different realms of existence. It’s all awareness, so YOU as awareness are neither a doer (since you have no space other than yourself in which to do anything and thus are not subject to change) nor an experiencer (since no actual change takes place, which is the defining characteristic of experience). BUT due to the magic of maya, YOU appear to be individual who seems to do and experience and undergo change.

 

The point is that pure awareness always is. Just as gold retains its essential nature no matter what forms it is shaped into, so limitless conscious existence retains its nature despite its appearance as objects. Moreover, it remains unaffected by the character of the objects that appear and the actions that occur within it. This can be “experienced” directly by contemplation of the fact that the “isness” that is your true nature never changes. In order to illustrate this point, consider yourself riding alongside someone in an automobile. Because you are both moving at the same speed, the other person doesn’t seem to be moving from your point of view. If you were to be viewing the person and the car while standing in a particular spot on the side of the road, however, the person would appear to zip by you. In terms of your essential nature, if you were actually changed by the objects or were in action yourself, you would not be able to notice the change or the action, for your essential being would have changed and, thus, there would be no “background” against which the measure the change or “baseline” in contrast to which you could monitor the action. In short, since you are able to notice the actions that occur and the changes that take place, you can’t be the one acting and changing. You are the limitless conscious existence in which all actions and changes appear.

 

At any rate, give my last response some due consideration, and get back to me if confusion stills reigns.

 

All the best, my friend.

 

Ted

Free Will and the Three Levels of Reality

Hi Ted,

 

Thank you again for helping me look at myself in light of the absence of my girlfriend. To “go through it” reflecting on no one knowing when someone will die on this earth: some die in the crib, some die in they’re teens and some live into 100 and above. So I’m happy that she may have lived out the body she had to the fullest she could, giving her conditioning and vasanas. I mean, my guess is that vasanas or karma are responsible for when the Jiva dies? Maybe you can expand on that for me?

 

Ted: Vasanas are indirectly responsible for when a person dies. Prarabdha karma is directly responsible.

 

Our every action is not only motivated by the vasanas, the impressions of our past actions that fructify as our likes, dislikes, desires, and fears, but also either fortifies an already existent vasana or creates a new one.

 

Moreover, our every action produces not only drishta phala, an immediate or seen result, but also adrishta phala, a future or unseen result. For instance, if I have developed a habit of smoking cigarettes, I may find that smoking a cigarette in a time of stress has the immediate affect of calming me down. The long-term affect, however, might be that I develop cancer. Adrishta phala may fructify within one’s present lifetime, determine one’s experience in the afterlife, or play a role in determining the circumstances and experiences of a future incarnation. Because the manifestation is governed by the inviolable and infallible law of karma, no action goes without its just reward or consequence. That is, every action sets into motion a chain reaction of events that eventually revisits upon the perpetrator of the action a circumstance whose nature correlates with the intention behind the original action. Even if the immediate results don’t seem to correlate with the nature of the deed, there will come a point in time when the person who performed the action reaps what he or she sows, so to speak.

Because we are never sure exactly when the adrishta phala of any given action will fructify—and because not everyone in the West buys into the idea of the law of karma—we often attribute its effects as simply luck or God’s grace when results are to our liking or the divine plan when they are not.

 

All adrishta phala can be characterized as either punya (merit) or papa (demerit). Good actions (i.e., those that accord with dharma, which in this case refers to universal ethical norms) accrue punya karma, and bad actions (i.e., those that violate dharma) accrue papa karma. This punya and papa karma accumulates in one’s general karmic account, so to speak, which is what is called sanchita karma.

 

As you can imagine, the amount of sanchita karma that one has accumulated through innumerable previous incarnations is quite large. There is no way that it can all fructify within the context of any one given lifetime—whether that lifetime is spent in a physical body or is experienced as a hiatus, so to speak, between incarnations. Thus, only a certain portion of sanchita karma can play out within the context of any given lifetime, and the portion that is allotted to play out during one’s present lifetime is called prarabdha karma.

 

The prarabdha karma that is slated for expression determines the circumstances of one’s birth—the body-mind-sense complex required for its expression as well as the environment, opportunities, etc. that are necessary. It is basically comprised of a particular bundle of vasanas and punya-papa. Prarabdha karma also determines the length of one’s life in the sense that the person inhabits the body for as long as the prarabdha karma takes to exhaust.

 

Henry: My question now has to do with a few things:

 

1. Am I typing these words, or are the words just “being typed.” So as a Jiva, is my Jiva “choosing” to type, does he (Henry) has a say so in the matter? And if not my Jiva, then who?

 

2. Am I, as awareness typing these words? If not then who?

 

(So, basically how is all of this typing, thinking “I don’t like this cracked iPad I’m using, plans to get a new IPad. Getting out of bed to take shower, feed the cat, go to groups, choose what to eat tonight and going to store to buy the food… Etc. how is that all happening, including free will and choice etc?)

 

Ted: The concept of free will is a subtle understanding, and its validity depends on which of three perspectives you are viewing experience from.

 

From Brahman’s perspective (i.e., the perspective of pure, limitless, actionless awareness), there is nothing actually happening due to the fact that no change is occurring with regard to Brahman’s essential nature. In other words, since Brahman is all-pervasive and there is nothing other than Brahman, no apparent event actually has any affect on Brahman.

 

From Isvara’s perspective (i.e., Brahman conditioned by maya upadhi and, thus, imbued with the powers of omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence), prarabdha karma is simply playing out according to its nature. In this regard, it is important to understand that Isvara is not a personal volitional entity, but rather the personification of the impersonal and inviolable dharma (in this case, not only the ethical norms, but the physical and psychological laws as well) that governs the operation of the manifestation. Thus, the way prarabdha karma plays out and the consequent punya and papa it generates (which is known as agami karma and gets added to the store of sanchita karma) is entirely governed by Isvara in the form of dharma. Moreover, the vasanas that accompany one’s prarabdha karma are responsible for one’s preferences and predilections and serve as the motivating factor that drives one’s actions. So, from this perspective, the individual person basically has no free will.

 

From the individual’s perspective, however, free will is a factor. Though we could say that the individual is essentially a computer program playing out according to Isvara’s design, the only way our programming becomes known to us is through what appears to us as choice. Although we seem to have free will, all of our choices are determined by our vasana-determined likes, dislikes, desires, and fears. And we did not choose these. Though we cannot choose what we like and dislike, what we desire and what we fear, what we are attracted to and what we have an aversion for, we do seem to have some choice regarding whether we act on those inclinations. It can be argued that even those choices are ultimately out of our control—which is true—BUT for all practical purposes, the individual does have free will regarding his or her responses to internal impulses and external circumstances. And for this modicum of free will the person needs to take responsibility—that is, assuming one wants to accomplish anything in life, not to mention obtain self-knowledge. Choosing to refrain from indulging one’s gratuitous desires and to engage in self-inquiry is the only means we have to neutralize binding vasanas and erase the conditioned self-ignorance that keeps us bound to the pursuit of objects and the subject to the inevitable suffering that is its consequence.

 

3. I as awareness, is aware that there is sight (finger typing on black iPad), noises (fan blowing in the other room), pain (physical body) sight and sensation (my cat moving around on my bed). I guess it’s the cat as a question. Is there a cat right here now, able to live and do everything it’s doing, even while I’m at groups 1 mile away? I am conscious but the physical objects aren’t? It seems she’s conscious, just as I am. I don’t understand this part. I could swear she is an actual being apart from me.

 

Ted: Well, she is and she isn’t.

 

The confusion is due to a lack of understanding of what we might call the three “levels” of reality.

 

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 call 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, as previously mentioned, 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.

 

Henry: Anyways, maybe I would do well to have a cup of coffee. Lol. But if you understand what I’m saying in this all, could you please help me understand.

 

Ted: Coffee is always good, and hopefully the explanations provided will help you enjoy a cup with a sense of clarity.

 

Blessings,

 

Henry

 

All the best,

 

Ted

Moving Beyond Intellectual Understanding

Thank You Ted. I have found your writings immensely helpful in tying the loose ends of my understanding.

 

Regards,

Orion

 

 

Hi, Orion.

 

Glad the explanations were of help.

 

In addition to what has already been said with regard to your concern about whether self-knowledge can be anything more than an intellectual understanding, you might also contemplate your experience of deep sleep. Though the mind has basically resolved into a state of dormancy during deep sleep, it hasn’t completely died. It has taken the form of a single extremely subtle thought—the thought of limitlessness. Because the mind is not actively processing information at this time and hasn’t been exposed to the teachings that reveal the nature of this formless existence, it doesn’t know what to make of it and, thus, upon regaining its discriminative capacity in the waking state considers the deep sleep state to be a state of non-existence or a “void.” Given the fact that something can’t come out of nothing, the deep sleep state, which is the unmanifest state of pure potentiality that is the nature of the causal body, cannot be nothing. If it were, you would never wake up, for you would have ceased to exist—which is actually not possible at the essential level of being.

Though the individual person undeniably ceases to exist at the time of “death,” the awareness that illumined and lent sentiency to the body-mind-sense complex does not itself cease to exist. Awareness, the self, is of the nature of limitless conscious existence. Were limitless conscious existence to cease to exist at any time, the whole jig of the manifestation would be up, never to return again, for existence would have ceased to be and, hence, there would remain no source from which to draw further existence. In this light, the very existence of the manifest universe as it presently stands attests to the eternality (i.e., existence altogether transcendent of the parameter of time) of awareness. That is, in order for existence to be now, it must necessarily have always been, so to speak, for again something cannot have come out of nothing. Thus, existence is limitless. And since the only means by which existence is established is through an awareness of it, existence must necessarily be conscious. Hence, the essential nature of the self, the fundamental reality, the truth, or whatever name you want to give it is limitless conscious existence.

Bearing in mind all that has been said, contemplation of the experience of deep sleep offers a rather profound revelation concerning one’s true nature that exceeds mere intellectual understanding. During deep sleep you experience your true limitless nature. Because, as mentioned earlier, the intellect is not functioning during the state of deep sleep, the mind of the person one takes oneself to be does not consciously recognize the limitlessness experienced during deep sleep as its true nature, and thus upon awakening one remains as self-ignorant as ever. But the “field” of pure limitless conscious existence does not disappear upon awakening. Rather it is modified, so to speak, by the projection of thought-forms whose content is nothing other than the “substanceless substance” of awareness itself. By analogy, we can liken this to the still water of a lake suddenly being whipped up into waves by a fierce wind. Similarly, the still “water” of pure awareness is whipped into “waves” of thought forms—which are are a combination of 1) the reflected images and sensations that result from contact with the external world or transactional reality that is Isvara shrishti, God’s creation, and 2) the vasanas that arise internally to create the individual’s dream experience as well as color his or her subjective interpretation and evaluation of the external manifestation, which is referred to as jiva shrishti, the individual’s creation—by the “fierce wind” of the active antahkarana that obtains during the waking and dream states.

The point is that pure awareness always is. Just as gold retains its essential nature no matter what forms it is shaped into, so limitless conscious existence retains its nature despite its appearance as objects. Moreover, it remains unaffected by the character of the objects that appear and the actions that occur within it. This can be “experienced” directly by contemplation of the fact that the “isness” that is your true nature never changes. In order to illustrate this point, consider yourself riding alongside someone in an automobile. Because you are both moving at the same speed, the other person doesn’t seem to be moving from your point of view. If you were to be viewing the person and the car while standing in a particular spot on the side of the road, however, the person would appear to zip by you. In terms of your essential nature, if you were actually changed by the objects or were in action yourself, you would not be able to notice the change or the action, for your essential being would have changed and, thus, there would be no “background” against which the measure the change or “baseline” in contrast to which you could monitor the action. In short, since you are able to notice the actions that occur and the changes that take place, you can’t be the one acting and changing. You are the limitless conscious existence in which all actions and changes appear.

Contemplate this, and see for yourself if it isn’t so. Once you “see,” then you will know.

Though this knowledge is unlike relative knowledge in that the “object” of this knowledge has neither tangible nor conceptual form, it is for this very reason something that you know your true nature rather than experience “it” as a discrete entity or state. At the same time, this knowledge is not simply an intellectual understanding, because it is the result of having “seen” the reality to which the words (i.e., the teachings) point and recognizing beyond the shadow of a doubt that “it” is you. And you are not merely an intellectual understanding.

All the best,

Ted

The Event of “Enlightenment” Versus Self-Actualization

Ted,

Thank you for your response. My understanding, while admittedly not as “technical”, resonates with everything you wrote.

However, when I read quotes (elsewhere) such as “Don’t mistake understanding for realization” and also read about people who can provide a date and time to their awakening/realization, I wonder if “I” (or “this computer” to use your analogy) is adequately configured to claim “realization.”

 

Ted: Usually, such claims are a sign that the ego has co-opted the event of “enlightenment” and claimed it as its own. Actually, the person doesn’t get “enlightened.” The mind gains knowledge of its true nature and realizes the self was a never a person after all. The self is awareness, not the body-mind-sense complex that the ego claims ownership of.

 

Yes, from the absolute perspective, everything is awareness. But, as was explained in the previous email, that understanding means that essentially there is no “everything,” for in reality there is no other thing that is different or apart from awareness, and awareness itself is not made up of parts. What could possibly constitute the gap between any such parts? The tacit acceptance of a gap implies the existence of a more pervasive substratum, which is impossible given the fact that any object—which is what any substratum other than pure awareness is—requires awareness in order to exist.

Niraj: It seems to me that if I don’t indulge myself in matters concerning Advaita (books, satsangs etc.) for an extended period of time, I tend to easily get lost in the world of people, things and places (in other words, I go back to sleep).

 

Ted: Yes, nididhyasana is essential for the assimilation of self-knowledge. Nididhyasana is the practice of continuously meditating upon the teachings of Vedanta. This type of meditation is not to be confused with formal seated meditation. The discipline of formal seated meditation can be helpful for cultivating the introspective mind necessary to engage in self-inquiry, and can in fact serve as a platform for self-inquiry. But nididhyasana is the third phase of self-inquiry.

 

The first phase of self-inquiry is shravana. During this phase one is exposed to the teachings and initially gains a sound intellectual understanding of them.

 

The second phase of the process is manana. It is during this stage that the student is encouraged to approach the teacher with all doubts and confusions that may arise in his or her mind in order to lay them to rest under the teacher’s guidance. This resolution of all doubt is vital in order for the intellectual understanding to become assimilated knowledge. As long as any doubt remains in the student’s mind, the student will not be able to stand with unshakeable conviction in his or her true identity as limitless awareness. He or she will continue to think awareness as something he or she just has an intellectual understanding of, rather than knowing it to be his or her essential nature.

 

The third phase is nididhyasana. Because the ideas that reality is dualistic, the manifest universe (i.e., apparent reality) is real, and that one is the limited person one appears to be are so deeply ingrained in one’s psyche, it takes time and effort to remove its stain. For this reason, one has to continuously dwell on the teachings and apply them to each and every thought, circumstance, encounter, interaction, event, and experience of one’s life. While self-realization may be a “one-off” in that there is a moment when you “see” who you really are, self-actualization (i.e., the full assimilation of that knowledge, which allows one to live as the limitless self within the context of the limited body-mind-sense complex inhabiting an apparent reality characterized by limitation) takes time to establish.

 

Having said that and bearing in mind both your reference to Advaita books and satsangs and your concern with whether self-knowledge is something more than intellectual understanding, I’m going to guess that you may not have yet been exposed to the traditional teachings of Vedanta. If you are interested in gaining the self-knowledge that is tantamount to moksha, liberation or ultimate inner freedom, I strongly urge you to immerse yourself in traditional Vedanta. While modern Advaita teachers spout the highest non-dual truth, few—if any—unfold the teachings in a systematic way that enables the student to actually “see” the truth of his or her being. As you suggest, it’s one thing to think you’re limitless awareness, but it’s an entirely different matter to know it.

 

The teachings of traditional Vedanta have been preserved since time immemorial through an unbroken teacher-student lineage. What’s more, the tried and true teaching methodology that makes the knowledge accessible for the student has been preserved as well. In order to actually “see” the truth of the knowledge in terms of your own experience, you really need to have the teachings unfolded according to this systematic pedagogical methodology.

 

In this regard, I would highly recommend any of the teachers that have been taught under the guidance of Swami Dayananda. You can find a listing of many of them in the Related Sites section of the Arsha Vidya website. My own teacher, James Swartz, was trained in this tradition and has passed the methodology onto me and the other teachers associated with his Shining World website.

 

Niraj: I guess my follow-up questions are –
(1) If there are no special “states” as you say, how is realization/awakening/enlightenment different from just having a solid understanding of and belief in non-duality?

 

Ted: When you have been guided through a logical analysis of your own previously unexamined—or at least erroneously interpreted—experience, you will “see” the truth of your limitless nature. Thereafter, you will not have to rely on intellectual understanding or belief. You will know who you are.
Niraj: (2) Is the understanding of Advaita enough for the body-mind computer? Does the body-mind computer have to do something more such that self-remembrance becomes a habit for it?

 

Ted: Actually, the body-mind computer doesn’t have to do anything. Self-knowledge is not a matter of accumulating information, but rather of removing misunderstanding. You are already the self and your true nature is already limitless awareness. You simply haven’t seen yourself in the right light, so to speak. Once the mind is exposed to the teachings, the teachings do the work of correcting the mind’s misapprehension.

 

Of course, then, as you say, the mind has to rewrite its programming.

 

Ted,

Thank you for your response. My understanding, while admittedly not as “technical”, resonates with everything you wrote.

However, when I read quotes (elsewhere) such as “Don’t mistake understanding for realization” and also read about people who can provide a date and time to their awakening/realization, I wonder if “I” (or “this computer” to use your analogy) is adequately configured to claim “realization.”

 

Ted: Usually, such claims are a sign that the ego has co-opted the event of “enlightenment” and claimed it as its own. Actually, the person doesn’t get “enlightened.” The mind gains knowledge of its true nature and realizes the self was a never a person after all. The self is awareness, not the body-mind-sense complex that the ego claims ownership of.

 

Yes, from the absolute perspective, everything is awareness. But, as was explained in the previous email, that understanding means that essentially there is no “everything,” for in reality there is no other thing that is different or apart from awareness, and awareness itself is not made up of parts. What could possibly constitute the gap between any such parts? The tacit acceptance of a gap implies the existence of a more pervasive substratum, which is impossible given the fact that any object—which is what any substratum other than pure awareness is—requires awareness in order to exist.

Niraj: It seems to me that if I don’t indulge myself in matters concerning Advaita (books, satsangs etc.) for an extended period of time, I tend to easily get lost in the world of people, things and places (in other words, I go back to sleep).

 

Ted: Yes, nididhyasana is essential for the assimilation of self-knowledge. Nididhyasana is the practice of continuously meditating upon the teachings of Vedanta. This type of meditation is not to be confused with formal seated meditation. The discipline of formal seated meditation can be helpful for cultivating the introspective mind necessary to engage in self-inquiry, and can in fact serve as a platform for self-inquiry. But nididhyasana is the third phase of self-inquiry.

 

The first phase of self-inquiry is shravana. During this phase one is exposed to the teachings and initially gains a sound intellectual understanding of them.

 

The second phase of the process is manana. It is during this stage that the student is encouraged to approach the teacher with all doubts and confusions that may arise in his or her mind in order to lay them to rest under the teacher’s guidance. This resolution of all doubt is vital in order for the intellectual understanding to become assimilated knowledge. As long as any doubt remains in the student’s mind, the student will not be able to stand with unshakeable conviction in his or her true identity as limitless awareness. He or she will continue to think awareness as something he or she just has an intellectual understanding of, rather than knowing it to be his or her essential nature.

 

The third phase is nididhyasana. Because the ideas that reality is dualistic, the manifest universe (i.e., apparent reality) is real, and that one is the limited person one appears to be are so deeply ingrained in one’s psyche, it takes time and effort to remove its stain. For this reason, one has to continuously dwell on the teachings and apply them to each and every thought, circumstance, encounter, interaction, event, and experience of one’s life. While self-realization may be a “one-off” in that there is a moment when you “see” who you really are, self-actualization (i.e., the full assimilation of that knowledge, which allows one to live as the limitless self within the context of the limited body-mind-sense complex inhabiting an apparent reality characterized by limitation) takes time to establish.

 

Having said that and bearing in mind both your reference to Advaita books and satsangs and your concern with whether self-knowledge is something more than intellectual understanding, I’m going to guess that you may not have yet been exposed to the traditional teachings of Vedanta. If you are interested in gaining the self-knowledge that is tantamount to moksha, liberation or ultimate inner freedom, I strongly urge you to immerse yourself in traditional Vedanta. While modern Advaita teachers spout the highest non-dual truth, few—if any—unfold the teachings in a systematic way that enables the student to actually “see” the truth of his or her being. As you suggest, it’s one thing to think you’re limitless awareness, but it’s an entirely different matter to know it.

 

The teachings of traditional Vedanta have been preserved since time immemorial through an unbroken teacher-student lineage. What’s more, the tried and true teaching methodology that makes the knowledge accessible for the student has been preserved as well. In order to actually “see” the truth of the knowledge in terms of your own experience, you really need to have the teachings unfolded according to this systematic pedagogical methodology.

 

In this regard, I would highly recommend any of the teachers that have been taught under the guidance of Swami Dayananda. You can find a listing of many of them in the Related Sites section of the Arsha Vidya website. My own teacher, James Swartz, was trained in this tradition and has passed the methodology onto me and the other teachers associated with his Shining World website.

 

Niraj: I guess my follow-up questions are –
(1) If there are no special “states” as you say, how is realization/awakening/enlightenment different from just having a solid understanding of and belief in non-duality?

 

Ted: When you have been guided through a logical analysis of your own previously unexamined—or at least erroneously interpreted—experience, you will “see” the truth of your limitless nature. Thereafter, you will not have to rely on intellectual understanding or belief. You will know who you are.
Niraj: (2) Is the understanding of Advaita enough for the body-mind computer? Does the body-mind computer have to do something more such that self-remembrance becomes a habit for it?

 

Ted: Actually, the body-mind computer doesn’t have to do anything. Self-knowledge is not a matter of accumulating information, but rather of removing misunderstanding. You are already the self and your true nature is already limitless awareness. You simply haven’t seen yourself in the right light, so to speak. Once the mind is exposed to the teachings, the teachings do the work of correcting the mind’s misapprehension.

 

Of course, then, as you say, the mind has to rewrite its programming.

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 
 

Is a Permanent Witness State Possible?

Hello Ted,

I have read your articles on the Advaita Vision site as well as your own Never Not Present site. Thank you for your time and effort to guide others on this path.

I do have a question:

I think I have arrived at a point where I intellectually understand and am fully convinced of everything you and other Advaita teachers like yourself point to.

However, I wonder if it is even possible to “permanently” reside in this state of plain “awareness” separate from the mind-body (“apparent individual”).

For example, when we are in a cinema hall watching a movie, knowing fully well that nothing on the screen is “real” and that it is just a movie with actors – we still get lost in the story, root for the good guy, get upset during tragic scenes and yearn for a happy ending. When we cannot stop losing ourselves for two hours in the cinema hall (despite full conviction that we are watching a movie), what chances do we have against this movie of the world that plays before us for 24/7/365?

I guess what I want to know is, is it even practically possible for somebody to go beyond just intellectual understanding of Advaita? Related to this question, I am curious about your own state. Are you permanently in the “witness” state or does it come and go? Sorry, if this is a naive question to ask.

Thank You,

Orion

 

 

Hi, Orion.

This is not a naïve question at all. It is perfectly legitimate. The answer is couched in a rather subtle understanding that will take some time to unfold.

The first thing you need to understand is that awareness is not a state. States are physical-emotional-mental conditions that come and go. They are limited in terms of both time and character. That is, they last only a certain length of time and they are identifiable as specific states because of certain characteristics that distinguish them from other states. In short, states are objective phenomena that appear within the scope of awareness. No state, therefore, defines awareness, for limited object can comprehensively define or characterize that which is limitless.

Of course, from the absolute perspective all states are nothing other than awareness, for in non-dual reality there is no second entity or condition. Hence, awareness is both the upadana karana, the material cause of the manifestation, the “substanceless substance” out which it is made, as well as the nimitta karana, the intelligence that “shapes” that substance into the myriad forms that comprise the manifestation and the intelligence that informs both its physical structure and constitutes the dharma, the universal physical, psychological, and ethical laws that govern its functioning.

But awareness as such is ever free of the manifest universe (both its gross and subtle aspects) that maya projects like a hologram within the scope of its being. This inherent and eternal freedom is due to two fundamental factors. First, the manifestation is only apparent, so it cannot actually “touch” or affect the real. To say it can is, by analogy, like saying that a shadow can affect the person from whose form it is cast. Second, awareness doesn’t undergo any actual change in order to appear as the manifestation. Just as gold retains its essential nature despite the myriad ornaments into which it is shaped, so awareness retains its essential nature as pure awareness despite its appearance as the innumerable forms—both gross (i.e., tangible items) and subtle (i.e., sensations, emotions, and cognitions)—that comprise the manifest universe.

Awareness is simply the “light” by which all objects, including all states—which are objects in the sense that they are known phenomena, are illumined.

Illumining, however, is not a karma, an action, performed by awareness, but rather the svarupa, the essential nature, of awareness. The “knowing” we speak of with regard to pure awareness is not the act of knowing that we attribute to the relative knower (i.e., the apparent person comprised of the body-mind-sense complex). Though we refer to pure awareness as “witness consciousness” or “witnessing awareness,” this witnessing is neither a matter of observing objects nor accumulating knowledge of information. The “witnessing” or “knowing” we speak of with regard to awareness is simply the luminous presence of consciousness that lends sentiency to the subtle body or, more specifically, the antahkarana (i.e., the “inner instrument” or general mind) and enables it to perform the various functions associated with the manas (indiscriminate perceiving and emoting), buddhi (discriminative deliberating and deciding), chitta (remembering), and ahamkara (taking responsibility for doing and enjoying) that we call thinking and knowing and attribute to the relative knower or individual person.

The point to be taken from this explanation is that awareness is not a personal entity who experiences states. In the absence of awareness—that is, when the instrument of the mind is not serving as a reflective or manifesting medium for awareness, such as in the case of a dead person—no experience can be had by the mind, but awareness itself is not an experiencer.

Now brace yourself for this next bit because the ego hates this part…

The mind is actually nothing more than an inert mechanism composed of subtle matter. It does not think on its own. Though this can come as quite a shock, it is verifiable though a logical analysis of one’s own experience. It can be inferred by the observation of a dead person. Since the instrument of the mind is not serving as a manifesting medium for awareness, it does not produce thoughts. Direct experience also attests to the fact that awareness is invariably present with regard to anything and everything you know. In other words, you can’t say that you know anything unless it abides within the field of your awareness. Or, to put it conversely, nothing you know stands outside the scope of awareness.

Moreover, nothing known—that is, no known object—is the knower, for the knower cannot be that which is known to it. In practical terms, no object knows itself; no idea thinks up itself, no emotion feels itself, no sensation feels itself. All ideas, emotions, and sensations are known by the mind. But the mind itself is a known object—in fact, the mind is actually nothing other than the name we give to the modifications arising within the scope of awareness and the functions by which these modifications are processed and experienced, and these modifications as we have just said are known objects. Thus, the mind is entirely dependent on awareness for its capacity to know.

The grand irony of the whole set-up is that neither awareness nor the mind actually knows or experiences anything on its own. By analogy, the situation is like that of a computer plugged into a wall socket or connected to Wi-Fi. Neither the computer nor the power by means of which it operates can call up information or make calculations on its own, but when the two are combined, all the elaborately complex and seemingly magical things of which computers are capable can take place. The analogy falls short in that a computer needs a person to operate it, but I’m sure you get the point.

What’s more, awareness is entirely beyond the relative realm of the apparent reality. In terms of our analogy, computers—as well as all the information they “produce” and activities they “perform”—come and go, but the power remains untouched and eternally present. Similarly, awareness abides altogether “beyond,” “prior to,” “transcendent of,” and entirely unaffected, modified, or limited by any of the objects, events, or conditions that appear within it. And since even time and space are objects, awareness lies “outside” and is not subject to their limiting parameters. Thus, when we say awareness is “permanent” or “eternal,” we mean that awareness is altogether free or independent of time.

Having said all that, we can now more directly address your question concerning whether it is possible, as you put it, to “permanently” reside in the state of “awareness” separate from the mind-body (“apparent individual”).

The simple answer is “Yes.” As awareness, you are already “permanently” residing in your own being, which is “separate” form the mind-body in that your essential nature is entirely unaffected by the modifications, the objective phenomena, appearing within the scope of your being. To the degree that you have assimilated this understanding you will not get “lost in the story” of worldly life.

If what you are expecting is that self-knowledge will render you a numb zombie who feels no pain or pleasure or ever allows him or herself to “dig into life and get his or her hands dirty,” so to speak, then I’m sorry to inform you that such is not the case. For better or worse—you make the call—you still get to be a human being with a human experience that includes pleasure and pain until such time as your prarabdha karma plays out. The difference for the one with self-knowledge is that while pleasure and pain persist, suffering ceases because you know that nothing can enhance, diminish, or change in any way or to any degree your essential nature as limitless awareness. Imbued with this understanding, you can allow yourself—once the understanding is firm, that is—to wander as far as you like into the apparent reality because you know that you can simply “call yourself back home” at any point rather than getting “lost” in it. Thus, while self-knowledge will most likely have a positive effect on your general state of experience due to the fact that you will no longer depend on objects for happiness and, thus, won’t be stressed out about the results of your actions, you will still be privy to the experience of the person you appear to be.

In this regard, full self-knowledge includes the understanding of both the apparent reality and your true nature as pure awareness, and—once assimilated—enables you with the spontaneous capacity discriminate between these two ontological orders and “enjoy” them both, so to speak. You might say that we have two channels: The Apparent Broadcasting Network and the Real Broadcasting System. The Apparent Broadcasting Network offers us much programming pleasure in the way of entertainment, education, and opportunity for service. The Real Broadcasting System affords us the infallible sense of security that is our true nature. Thus, when we want to indulge our desires, broaden our horizons by learning about things we find interesting, or wish to make a contribution to the dharma-field, the manifest universe, by using the unique skill set with which the body-mind-sense complex that we are associated with has been endowed, then we tune into the Apparent Broadcasting Network. When we seek to abide in the peace and happiness that are our true nature, then we tune into the Real Broadcasting System. The ability to navigate between these two channels is what constitutes the actualization of self-knowledge.

The truth is that the Real Broadcasting System, or the self, pure limitless awareness, is always broadcasting and is the adhishthanam, the substratum, on which the Apparent Broadcasting Network, the manifest realm of relative experience, depends. No matter what we are experiencing, the self is always the “field” in which that experience occurs or the “light” by which the experience is illumined. We say, “The tree is,” “The dog is,” “The cricket match is,” “The car accident is,” “The cancer is,” etc. While the object changes, “isness” remains constant. If you begin to take notice of this fact and meditate upon it not only in regard to “external” objects, but also in terms of the body and mind of the apparent person you seem to be, your mind will grow increasingly subtle, and eventually you will understand that you are the “isness” rather than the relative knower whose mind observes the “isness” of the object. Then you will find yourself abiding in your true nature—the limitless awareness in which you have been abiding all along.

Rather than believing yourself to be—and identifying yourself as—the sensations, emotions, and cognitions that occur to you, you will recognize yourself as the “isness” you truly are.

And this recognition will not be simply intellectual.

Try it and “see” for yourself.

And should you have any further questions, please let me know.

All the best, Orion.

Ted

The Fight That Leads to Freedom

Helena has had some things happen today that has the ego going bananas. And beings one of her biggest vasanas is eating she wants to eat big time! My understanding by all I have read and assimilated is that my job is to keep reminding myself this has absolutely nothing to do with me… I am just the illuminating awareness that is making all this insanity possible.:-) correct?

 

 

Hi, Helena.

From the perspective of awareness, it is true that whatever is throwing the ego into panic mode has nothing to do with you, for as pure awareness you are asanga, totally unattached. So, as you say, it is your job as a mumukshutva, one with a burning desire for liberation, to repeatedly remind yourself of this fact. Once you understand the message of the teachings, sadhana or spiritual practice basically boils down to nididhyasana, continuous meditation on the teachings. Meditation, in this regard, doesn’t refer to formal sitting meditation, though such a discipline can be helpful for quieting the mind and providing a platform for self-inquiry. Rather, nididhyasana is the ongoing practice of constantly thinking about the teachings and applying them to each and every circumstance of your life. The reason nididhyasana is necessary is that self-ignorance has left so many messages on the internal voicemail, so to speak, that it takes a long time to record over them all. You’d think we should be able to simply delete them, but—except in very rare cases—it just doesn’t work that way.

I think you already know this, but it’s worth reviewing in moments of frustration.

It’s also worth noting that the fact that you, awareness, are asanga, totally unattached, is a subtle understanding. Attachment requires two discreet entities. But since you are both the material and intelligent cause or adhishthanam, substratum, of the entire manifestation in both its gross and subtle aspects, there is nothing other than you for you to be attached to. The more practical ramification of this, we might say, is that since there is nothing other than you, nothing can affect you in any way. That is, nothing can enhance, diminish, or otherwise affect your essential nature in any way or to any degree. Just as light remains light no matter what holographic projections appear within it, so you remain you—that is, pure awareness remains pure awareness—no matter apparent objects appear within the scope of your being.

That said, however, as long as avidya, self-ignorance, obtains, we still have that pesky apparent person to deal with. That is, rather than simply acknowledging our association with the body-mind-sense complex, we still tend to identify with it and are bothered by its circumstances and experiences, compelled by its desires and fears. Therefore, from the perspective of the apparent person who feels very much attached to the body-mind-sense complex and involved in its circumstances, it may not be enough to simply say, “None of this has anything to do with me” because it sure as hell seems to.

The problem is that the binding vasanas are getting the better of the mind. Binding vasanas are binding because we feel that their objects—whether tangible items, relationships, achievements, conditions, etcetera—are necessary for our wellbeing. We are not talking here about desires for things that are necessary for our survival, such as food, clothing, and shelter, nor  are we talking about the degree of pleasure that provides the physical, mental, and emotional stimulation necessary to sustain both our physical and mental health. What we are talking about are the gratuitous desires and fears that are the offspring of avidya, such as the desire for the approval of others that arises out of the fear that if others don’t love us or think we are cool or find us attractive or whatever, we are not only unacceptable on the surface, but must be at an even deeper level fundamentally flawed or defective.

The erroneous notions of incompleteness and inadequacy that give rise to binding vasanas need to be thoroughly examined in light of the teachings of Vedanta. Only in this way will they be laid to rest. While pratipaksha bhavana, the application of the opposite thought, and the employment of “Neti, neti” (i.e., “Not this, not this”) mind-set as a means of dismissing the reality of apparent objects and reminding yourself of your fundamental non-attachment are valuable practices, they should be accompanied by thorough inquiry into the defects of object-oriented joy.

In this regard, it would probably be beneficial for you to reflect on both the stimuli that trigger your compulsive desire to eat and the act of eating itself.

First consider the object or circumstance that is bothersome? What is the perceived threat? And is the object or circumstance the issue or is the issue something deeper (i.e., I may be upset because I can’t figure out how to resolve a problem with my computer, but the underlying issue is that I feel I am stupid)? In this regard, consider how the object or circumstance affects Helena and how it affects you, witnessing awareness? See if you can mentally separate the two—the body-mind-sense complex undergoing the experience and the awareness illumining it—and notice how the experience has no affect on the awareness within which it obtains. See if that doesn’t calm things down a bit. It is quite a subtle shift in perspective and may take some time to assimilate.

Quite likely, Helena will still want to eat. If this is the case, then rather than castigating the impulse, acknowledge it—and perhaps even moderately indulge it. Whether you indulge it or not, however, what is important is that you duly reflect on the desire. In this case, consider whether eating really produces the pleasure that it seems to promise. That is, while its taste of the food or the mere action involved in shoving it in your mouth may offer a temporary distraction from the issue that triggered the desire to eat, does it really solve the problem?

Binding vasanas do not die easy. And they do not disappear through denial. They need to be thoroughly examined and laid to rest through knowledge. By analogy, we can observe that the child’s desire for a bike naturally drops away once he or she is old enough to drive a car. Similarly, your desire to distract yourself from the feelings of inadequacy and incompleteness triggered by certain events by eating will eventually wane when you fully assimilate how ineffectual indulging it is in terms of producing any lasting effect.

So, returning to your initial question, yes, it is important to remind yourself that experience—whether pleasurable or painful—has nothing to do with you. But it is also worthwhile to make the inquiry that will lay the binding vasanas that color that experience to rest once and for all. Figuratively speaking, this is the fight that leads to freedom.