Experience and the Orders of Reality

Thank you for the clarifying my thoughts. Much help it is. If I may continue the dialogue…


The mind/body we think we are is not real. It’s not that experiences aren’t happening. Experiences happen but they’re not real. I can discern between experiences and real better now. It’s like that quote I heard before. “We don’t deny the experience of duality, only its reality.”


Ted: Correct. Experience is not real because 1) it is a perceivable phenomenon (i.e., an object) that has no independent nature of its own and is totally dependent on awareness for its existence and 2) because it has a limited shelf-life (i.e., it doesn’t last), and what is real must by definition be that which cannot be negated, that which always is, that which is the very essence and fundamental support of all that exists.


Burton: Just like in a typical day. Think of how many things we experience that don’t really even happen.


Ted: Be careful here. What you are articulating here is an ultimate truth from the perspective of pure awareness, but the manifest universe is cannot be reduced to a mere hallucination.


In this regard, it is important to understand the three ontological orders that constitute existence.


Paramarthika satyam is the level of absolute awareness. This is non-dual reality as viewed from the perspective of Brahman or pure awareness. At this level, any notion of differentiation does not even arise, and the entire manifest universe is dismissed as a non-existent non-happening, so to speak.


Vyavaharika satyam is the transactional reality, or what is referred to as Isvara shrishti, “God’s creation.” It is the objective aspect of the dualistic apparent reality or manifest universe that is available to all. In other words, it is the realm of the “surrounding world.”


Pratibhasika satyam is the subjective reality, or what is referred to as jiva shrishti, the apparent individual’s “creation.” It is the subjective aspect of the dualistic reality and consists of the individual’s guna-rooted, vasana-inspired, raga-dvesha-influenced interpretations and evaluations of the transactional reality. Because it is available only to the person in whose mind the thoughts are arising, it can be thought of as the “inner world.” It is considered the individual’s “creation” because the character of the individual’s thought essentially “create” the quality of his or her experience.


Thus, we can say that from the paramarthika perspective nothing has ever happened, while from the vyavaharika perspective many events have certainly occurred. Since everything that does takes place is filtered through the mind, however, and every mind is conditioned by a unique bundle of vasanas and consequent raga-dveshas (i.e., likes and dislikes, desires and fears), it is invariably the case that the experience that constitutes the pratibhasika perspective is colored by these factors and consequently deviates to some degree from what “actually” transpired.


Burton: Like Mark Twain said… “I’ve known a great many troubles, and most of them never happened”. Like the anger we feel when we think such and such happened only to find out later it didn’t. The anger was experienced and based on something not real.


Ted: Perfect example of how the apparent individual’s conditioning often causes him to project invalid interpretations and evaluations of events and entities he experiences.


Burton: My identity as Burton is experienced (against the backdrop of awareness), but is not real. He is a fiction. Burton is a fiction. We experience things that never happen all the time. Our identity is just one of those things—albeit a more persistent and “real” feeling one.


Ted: Yes. Burton does exist within the context of vyavaharika satyam, and his personal experience is had within the context of pratibhasika satyam. Both of these orders of reality, however, are nothing more than apparent or dependent realities. So Burton is a fiction in that sense.


Burton: In a weird way, looking out at a gathering of people, I see just a bunch of fictional identities having their vasanas (I think I used that right) playing out thru them and they are unaware of their true nature. So caught up in their ambitions and things and schedules and appearances! Ha. Completely asleep to the truth of being just (and only) the witness of this body/mind identity.


Ted: That pretty much sums up the character of about 98% percent of the populace.


Burton: Opens up a huge sense of compassion. Not only for them, but for myself included.


Ted: That’s great. Understanding does usher in compassion. None of us would be what we are if we could help it. And we can’t help it that we are afflicted with avidya (i.e., self-ignorance). It’s the ticket in to the grand “Monster Mash” of the manifestation. Some of us are fortunate enough—assuming that defusing suffering is what one wants—to cultivate the X-ray vision that allows us to see the underlying reality and evade the suffering that comes with taking the costumes to be real.


Burton: We are all just one, being expressed in so many countless ways. Right?


Ted: Correct-a-mundo, my man.