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