Pure Awareness is Not the Act of Knowing

Hi Ted,
Thanks so much for your reply. It has clarified things for me.  Thanks for the information on satyam-jnanam-anantam-brahman vs. sat-chit-ananda-atman. That was a very important clarification for me since I used to think that sat-chit-ananda referred to Brahman (which was a little confusing).


Ted: Sat chit ananda does refer to Brahman. Brahman and atman are one and the same awareness. Brahman is simply the term used to indicate it in its universal aspect, while atman is the term used to indicate its association with the jiva, the apparent individual person.


By analogy, Brahman is like space in its universal or all-pervasive aspect, while atman is like the space inside a particular house. Just as space is the same in either case, so Brahman and atman are the same non-dual awareness. In fact, the conjunction Brahman-atma is often used to indicate the true nature of the self.


Natasha: Ultimately, even saying ‘pure awareness’ is just using a pointer for the self (which, of course, is beyond attributes).


Ted: Due to the inherent dualistic nature of language, no word can denote that which is limitless. Words, by definition, are used to represent objects, both subtle and gross, whose characteristics, qualities, or attributes serve to distinguish them from other objects.

Natasha: I had one follow up question: could you explain a little more on what you mean by  ‘consciousness which is the essence of knowledge’ (i.e., when you wrote: jnanam, which in this context represents the consciousness that is the essence of knowledge).


Ted: “The consciousness that is the essence of knowledge” is pure awareness. No knowledge, whether of objects or the self, can obtain unless supported or “illumined” by awareness.


Natasha: For example, would I be correct in using ‘pure knowledge’ or ‘pure intelligence’ (rather than pure awareness) to refer to Brahman (which is limitless and beyond space-time).


Ted: If by “knowledge” or “intelligence” you mean awareness, those terms would be appropriate. The awareness that is the self, however, is not knowledge or intelligence in the relative sense. In other words, it does not indicate the mental cognition of objects. Awareness is simply the limitless “field” of existence in which all objects appear. It is being or “is-ness.” We refer to it as “awareness” because its existence is not inert like that of an insentient object, such as a rock or a chair or even the subtle body/mind, but is rather, to employ another analogy, the sourceless “light” that illumines all objects.


Natasha: I know I’m getting hung up on semantics, but awareness, for me, is a term that often has an association with a human state of mind.


Ted: The pure awareness that is indicated by the Sanskrit compounds satyam-jnanam-anantam-brahman and sat-chit-ananda-atman is not, as just mentioned, the relative awareness that a relative subject directs toward or has of objects. Awareness, the self, is not a mental action, but the “light” that illumines all mental activity or in which all thoughts, emotions, and sensations appear.


Natasha: For me, it seems that when Brahman associates with jiva—then it makes sense to use awareness (since there is something to be aware of).


Ted: Again, awareness in the sense of indicating the self, pure consciousness, is not the awareness or knowledge of anything. Awareness is the conscious being or “is-ness” itself in which the relative action of knowing or “being aware” or cognizing takes place through the encounter of a relative subject with an object.


Natasha: But for Brahman (in it’s universal sense), I prefer to use ‘knowledge’ or ‘intelligence’ or simply ‘existence’. Perhaps, similar to how Vedanta uses Jnanam for Brahman and Chitta for atman.


Ted: Your reference to Vedanta’s use of the term jnanam holds true in the sense of its use in the Sanskrit compound satyam-jnanam-anantam-brahman. But jnanam is also used to denote relative knowledge. Thus, you have to be clear about what you mean by jnanam—whether, that is, you are using it to indicate pure, limitless awareness or the relative knowledge of objects.


Your reference Vedanta’s use of the term chitta, however, is entirely mistaken. Chitta is thought. I’m guessing that the term you meant was chit, which is pure awareness or pure consciousness. To reiterate, awareness is not thought—even in its association with the jiva. Awareness, chit, is the “light” in which thoughts appear. Moreover, while we say that chitta (i.e., thought) is chit (i.e., pure awareness or pure consciousness), chit is entirely independent of chitta. That is, all thoughts—in fact, for that matter, all objects—depend for their existence on awareness, but awareness exists—for it essentially is existence itself—whether objects are appearing within its scope of being, such as in the waking and dream states, or are not appearing, such as in the states of deep sleep or nirvikalpa samadhi (i.e., thought-free meditation).


The bottom line is that whether objects appear or do not appear within the scope of your being, you—pure, limitless awareness—always are.


Again, much gratitude,