You Don’t Think, But You Are Conscious

Hi Ted,


I’ve been reflecting on what Awareness is as distinct from Consciousness:

Ted:  Awareness is not distinct from consciousness.  These two words, as used in Vedanta, are synonyms.  They mean the same thing.  This can be initially confusing for Westerners because we are accustomed to thinking of consciousness as the activity of reflected awareness in the subtle body — i.e. sensations, feelings, and thoughts.  These objects, however, are what appear in awareness-consciousness, but are not awareness-consciousness themselves.

Of course, insofar as this is a non-dual reality, they are awareness-consciousness in the sense that awareness-consciousness is their substratum or essential beingness, but no discrete object-experience-modification of awareness-consciousness comprehensively defines awareness-consciousness.  Just as neither the ring nor the necklace nor the anklet nor the bracelet nor the pendant nor the brooch cannot be said to be what gold is even though they are modifications of gold, so no object, gross or subtle, can be said to be what awareness-consciousness is even though awareness-consciousness is the “substance” of which all objects are made.  This, however, is an understanding that comes after one has initially learned to discriminate between the real (i.e. awareness/gold) and the apparent (i.e. objects/ornaments), which is dependent for its existence on awareness.

Returning to the original point, then, while all objects appear within the scope of awareness-consciousness, awareness-consciousness is ever free of all objects.  In other words, while no objects exist without the support of awareness-consciousness, awareness-consciousness exists whether objects appear within its scope or not (i.e. In the deep sleep state or thought-free meditative states).

Anton:  Consciousness is what happens when Awareness illuminates a Jiva in it’s waking state (subtle body and senses operating) so consciousness is not to be looked for outside of the waking-state.

Ted:  The consciousness to which you are referring is the reflected awareness I characterized above.  As such, this consciousness obtains in the dream state as well.  What else are the objects we experience in our dreams but thoughts?  The only difference is that while our thoughts and sense organs are for the most part turned “outward” in the waking state (i.e. in terms of our interaction with the surrounding world as opposed to our contemplation of memories and fantasies, which fall into the category of what we might call the waking dream state, hence the term “daydream”), they are turned “inward” during the dream state.  Thus, while the waker experiences “external” objects obtaining in the surrounding world, the dreamer experiences only his or her vasanas, which are essentially the desires and fears based on past-experience that enter the subtle body/mind from the causal body/subconscious.

Be clear, however, that consciousness as awareness is not something that happens.  Rather awareness-consciousness is the substratum of all objective phenomena and the “field” in which all objective happenings occur.  Awareness-consciousness simply is.  In fact, from the ultimate perspective, nothing is actually happening at all.  Given the fact that awareness is all-pervasive and thus can neither move, change, or interact with another (for there is no other), and the fact that it is perfect, whole, and complete and thus has no desire to do anything, all of the basic criteria by which action is defined are lacking.  Hence, despite all appearances to the contrary, nothing is now or ever has happened.  That said, however, we do apparently inhabit an apparent reality in which apparent happenings apparently occur.  Nevertheless, even within that context, awareness-consciousness is not doing any of the things that appear as though they are being done.  Awareness-consciousness is simply the light illuming and enlivening the happenings.  We might compare awareness to the electricity informing a computer.  The electricity cannot be said to be doing the computing and whatnot occurring by means of the computer, but without the electricity, the computer cannot do any of the complex tasks for which it has been designed.

Anton:  Dreaming is what happens when Awareness illuminates (interacts with?) a Jiva in it’s dream state (Subtle body only).

Ted:  This is correct.

Anton:  Bliss (or nothing?) is what happens when there is no subtle body active for Awareness to interact with.

Ted:  This too is correct, although technically speaking there is no such thing as “nothing.”  What we call “nothing” is simply the state in which all objects and vasanas — which are essentially the constituents of the subtle body/mind — have resolved into a state of dormancy within the causal body.  While awareness-consciousness exists, no differentiation or modification appears within its scope.  Moreover, because no subtle body/mind obtains in this state, so no witness-observer-thinker maintains a presence within the state by means of which it can intellectually process the experience of the state.  In terms of our computer analogy, even though the electricity continues to feed the computer (i.e. is available to the computer), the computer has been put in sleep mode and thus doesn’t perform any of its functions.  Though people don’t like to hear it, the mind-body-sense complex that we believe is an independent sentient being endowed with personal volition is actually nothing more than an elaborate piece of hardware — mind, which is simply subtle hardware, included — that carries out the predictable functions of sensing, emoting, and thinking when illumined by awareness/consciousness.

Anton:  …So if I am Awareness, I am not conscious and I don’t think.

I must be missing something!

Ted:  Yep, you are, and here’s what it is:  You don’t think, but you are conscious — though not in the sense of being a functioning intellect. Remember, the intellect is an object in you.  As such, it is you — that is, it depends on you for its existence and functional capability — but you are not it.

In other words, this apparatus referred to as Anton, which is essentially the subtle body, thinks.  You, awareness, however, do not think.  You are what illumines thought.  You are that by means of which the thoughts are known, not the apparent person who seems to know them.

The basic problem here is that you are superimposing the traits of Andrew on awareness and assigning the nature of awareness to Anton.  That is, you are assuming that awareness is the thinker of the thoughts that the mechanism of Anton cognizes, and you are assuming that the mechanism referred to as Anton is an inherently sentient being.  This is the fundamental symptom of ignorance.  To get clear, know that while Anton thinks, awareness is.  Or while Anton does, you simply are.

Anton:  Secondly…

Enlightenment is when the mind of the waking state Jiva understands what is going on.

Ted:  Or that nothing is “going on” :-).  But, yes, enlightenment is for the mind and is solely a matter of understanding.

Anton:  Presumably this vanishes upon the death of the individual?

Ted:  Yes.  Enlightenment is just an experience like any of the other hundred million that have occurred within you.  Once the mind “gets it,” then the deed is done, and you (i.e. limitless all-pervasive awareness) simply obtain as you always have and always will, though it should be understood that “always” does not refer to time since you (i.e. limitless all-pervasive awareness) exist beyond the parameters of time and space, both of which are simply another pair of objects appearing within you.

Anton:  I wonder if enlightenment, as such a temporary, short-lived state has any value to the universe?

Ted:  Value to whom?  Enlightenment, if it is followed by the assimilation of the self-knowledge that is contained in the enlightenment experience, will be of value to the apparent person referred to as Anton because it will allow the mechanism of the apparent person to escape its frantic manufacturing of objects and experiences that it hopes will make it feel complete.  Anton, then, will enjoy peace of mind and the happiness that comes from the rock solid conviction of his essential invulnerability.  He will know that nothing can be added to and nothing taken away from his true self.  He will know that he is whole and complete, limitless and free.  Then he can simply enjoy the objects that arise within him but will no longer seek joy from them.  He will know that he himself — as awareness — is the true source of all reflected joy that appears in the mirror of the heart and mind of the apparatus of the apparent person.

As for the universe, Anton’s enlightenment will be a boon insofar as it will cause Anton to act in accord with dharma, or universal ethical law.  For when Anton realizes that there is nothing to gain through objective experience, he will cease to find any motivation for “breaking the rules.”  He will naturally do what he feels is best, offer his actions to Isvara, and accept whatever results ensue as prasad, as a gift from God.  In this way, his life will be a service to the total and the total will benefit as Isvara sees fit.

Ultimately, however, enlightenment will make no difference whatsoever to you because you are the “light” and thus are already enlightened.

Anton:  I’m looking forward to your responses!


Ted:  I hope you find these responses helpful.  Let me know if you need further clarification.

Take care,