Direct and Indirect Knowledge

Hi, dear friend and honorable teacher.


Thanks very much for your time and your answer. It’s precious and I am truly grateful.


There is some confusion in the mind.


You wrote, “Once you realize that within you—i.e., limitless conscious existence—resides all that is now, ever was, and ever will be and therefore know, “Nothing can enhance or diminish me,” then you are free.”


This realization takes place in the intellect? Correct?


Ted: Self-knowledge takes place in the intellect, but it is not intellectual knowledge. Intellectual knowledge is the accumulation of information that needs to be remembered. Self-knowledge is not the accumulation of information, but rather the removal of ignorance. Through self-inquiry, we strip away all the erroneous or false notions we have about who we are and what remains at the end of it all is the recognition that we are the limitless conscious existence in which all objects—including all the concepts and definitions we previously held about ourselves—appear.


Though from the highest non-dual perspective everything is nothing other than awareness, our true nature is none of the objects that appear within the scope of our being (i.e., within the scope of limitless conscious existence) in the sense that no particular object or even the collective whole of all objects (i.e., the manifest universe in both its gross and subtle aspects, or Isvara) comprehensively defines or represents us. The objects appear within me (and, in fact, are made of me), but of the objects I am free. That is, whether the objects appear or do not appear, I am still here.


Rita: The self does not require the intellect to know itself. If so, there is no distance between the self and the intellect?


It is true that the self does not require the intellect to know itself, but the implication of that statement needs to be understood.


The self isn’t a personal entity with a mind, so it doesn’t know things the way people know things. In fact, technically speaking, the self doesn’t know at all. Rather, it is the knowing-principle or intelligence-as-such. It is the consciousness that makes knowing possible. It is the “light” that illumines the contents of the mind, the awareness that lends sentiency to or enlivens the mind and enables the mind the perform the various functions—i.e., perceiving, integrating, doubting, deliberating, deciding, directing, emoting, remembering, etc.—that we call thinking and that result in knowing. When we say that the self doesn’t need the intellect to know itself, we mean that the self doesn’t need the mind in order to exist. Objects require a mind in order to exist, for in order for any object to exist its existence must be verified within the mind of some sentient entity. The self, however, is the substrate of all objects—including the minds of sentient entities—and, thus, it is self-existent.


Given that limitless conscious existence—i.e., the self—is the substance of which all objects are made, the “field” of existence in which they exist, and the “light” by means of which their existence is established and known, there is essentially no difference between the intellect and the self. HOWEVER, while the intellect is the self, the self is not the intellect. That is, the intellect is an object that appears within the self.


The intellect registers the understanding of its true nature, but that doesn’t mean that the intellect realizes that the intellect as the instrument of knowledge is the self. The self is the consciousness that informs or illumines the intellect and enables it to recognize its true nature.


Once that recognition occurs, the intellect doesn’t have to remember its true nature. The limitless conscious existence that is its substrate—i.e., its essence—is self-evident.


Rita: So the thinking/doubt that the intellectual knowledge of the self is still indirect since it takes place in the intellect is not correct? Or is it so as long as the identification is with the jiva’s intellect?


Ted: The intellect is the instrument of knowledge, so it is the only “place” where any knowledge can take place. The knowledge, however, is not the self. The knowledge is of the self. The intellect recognizes the truth of the matter, so to speak. We say that this recognition is direct knowledge because in this case the understanding—unlike the knowledge of objects, which always involves a knowing subject who knows a known object—is that there is no separation between the knower and the known (in fact, there is no subject-object dichotomy at all because, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, both the subject and object are essentially nothing other than awareness). Simply put, when one understands that one’s true identity is limitless conscious existence, then the knowledge is direct.


As long as the jiva takes itself to be real and understands what the self is but hasn’t fully recognized/realized it as one’s true identity, then the knowledge of the self is merely intellectual. When the jiva knows that the body-mind-sense complex and all its experiences are nothing more than objects in limitless conscious existence, and one knows without a shadow of a doubt that one’s fundamental nature is limitless conscious existence, then the knowledge is direct, for jiva can say with unshakeable conviction, “I am Brahman” (aham brahmasmi), which is the ultimate truth.


Much love, my friend.