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‘Inthisbookitissuggestedthatconsciousnessisthefundamental,underlyingreality oftheapparentdualityofmindandmatter,andthattheoverlooking,forgettingor ignoring of this reality is the root cause of both the existential unhappiness that pervadesandmotivatesmostpeople’slivesandthewiderconflictsthatexistbetween communities and nations. Conversely, it is suggested that the recognition of the fundamentalrealityofconsciousnessistheprerequisiteandanecessaryandsufficient conditionforanindividual’squestforlastinghappinessand,atthesametime,the foundationofworldpeace.’

RUPERTSPIRA

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FromanearlyageRupertSpirawasdeeplyinterestedinthenatureofreality.Atthe

FromanearlyageRupertSpirawasdeeplyinterestedinthenatureofreality.Atthe

ageofseventeenhelearnttomeditate,andbeganatwenty-yearperiodofstudyand

practiceintheclassicalAdvaitaVedantatraditionundertheguidanceofDr.Francis

RolesandShantanandaSaraswati,theShankaracharyaofthenorthofIndia.

During this time he immersed himself in the teachings of P. D. Ouspensky, Krishnamurti,Rumi,RamanaMaharshi,NisargadattaandRobertAdams,untilhemet

histeacher,FrancisLucille,in1997.FrancisintroducedRuperttotheDirectPath

teachingsofAtmanandaKrishnaMenon,theTantrictraditionofKashmirShaivism

(whichhehadreceivedfromhisteacher,JeanKlein),and,moreimportantly,directly

indicatedtohimthetruenatureofexperience.RupertlivesintheUKandholdsregular

meetingsandretreatsinEuropeandtheUSA.

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THENATUREOFCONSCIOUSNESS

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Andasimaginationbodiesforth

Theformsofthingsunknown,thepoet’spen

Turnsthemtoshapesandgivestoairynothing

Alocalhabitationandaname.

WILLIAMSHAKESPEARE

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CONTENTS

ForewordbyDeepakChopra

Acknowledgements

INTRODUCTION TheHardProblemofConsciousness

CHAPTER1 TheNatureofMind

CHAPTER2 OnlyAwarenessIsAware

CHAPTER3 PanpsychismandtheConsciousness-OnlyModel

CHAPTER4 TheInward-FacingPath:TheDistinctionbetweenConsciousnessand Objects

CHAPTER5 TheDirectPathtoEnlightenment

CHAPTER6 Self-EnquiryandSelf-Remembering

CHAPTER7 TheExperienceofBeingAware

CHAPTER8 TheEssenceofMeditation

CHAPTER9 TheOutward-FacingPath:CollapsingtheDistinctionbetween ConsciousnessandObjects

CHAPTER10ExistenceIsIdenticaltoAwareness

CHAPTER11TheWhiteRadianceofEternity

CHAPTER12TheFocusingofConsciousness

CHAPTER13ThereAreNoStatesofConsciousness

CHAPTER14WordsworthandtheLongingforGod

CHAPTER15TheSharedMediumofMind

CHAPTER16TheMemoryofOurEternity

CHAPTER17Consciousness’sDream

CHAPTER18TheSearchforHappiness

AfterwordbyBernardoKastrup

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FOREWORDBYDEEPAKCHOPRA

Oneofthegreatmysteriesofhumanexistenceissobasicthatmostpeopleneverthink

toaskaboutit:Canweeverknowwhowereallyare?Simplyposingthequestionruns

intoanobstacleifwebelievethatwhoweareisawalkingpackageofbillionsand

billionsofcells.Cellsarelittlebottlesofsaltwaterthatprocesschemicalsintotally

predictableways.Thesamegoesforbraincells,andnomatterhowcloselyyoustare

ataCTscanorfMRIofthebrain,thehotspotsthatlightupseemalongwayfrom

ShakespeareandMozart.Nobodyhasconvincinglyshownhowglucose–orblood

sugar,whichisn’tallthatdifferentfromthesugarinasugarbowl–suddenlylearnsto

thinkafteritpassesthroughathinmembraneandentersthebrain.

RupertSpirabelongstoacompletelydifferentbranchofinvestigation,whichtakes ‘Whoarewe?’asaninteriorquestion.Beinghumanisn’taboutcellsandchemical reactions but about exploring the essential nature of ourselves and the world. Followingthispath,evensciencereachesnon-dualconclusions.Thegreatpioneering physicist Max Planck, who coined the term ‘quantum’, insisted that ‘Mind is the

matrixofmatter’.Heelaboratedonthepoint,speakingtoaLondonreporterin1931:

‘I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness.Wecannotgetbehindconsciousness.Everythingthatwetalkabout, everythingthatweregardasexisting,postulatesconsciousness.’

Needlesstosay,modernsciencedidn’tfollowPlanck’slead–quitetheopposite.We areinthemidstofaheadlongrushtosolveeverythinginlifethroughtechnologyand compilingmountainsofdataforsupercomputerstodigest.Butthetotalinabilityto explainconsciousnessbybuildingitupfrommolecules,atomsandsubatomicparticles is a clear failure of science. To claim that discovering more and more complex particleswilleventuallyleadtotheemergenceofmindislikesayingthatifyouadd enoughcardstothedeck,theylearntoplaypoker.

Inshort,onecandividetheargumentbetweenthe‘mindfirst’positionandthe‘matter

first’position.Farandaway,the‘matterfirst’campprevailsatthepresentmoment,

sinceeveryoneacceptsthatthephysicalworld‘outthere’existswithoutquestion.

Spirasays,inhistypicallyquiet,patientvoice,that‘matterfirst’and‘mindfirst’are

bothshort-sighted.Takingthesimplestpossiblefacttobetrue–thatthereisonlyone

reality–Spiraconcludesthatthereisalsoonlyoneexplanationforreality.Inthese

essayshemaintainsunwaveringlythattheonlyrealityispureconsciousness,and

everythingelse,includingmindandmatter,isamodulationofthatreality.Athought

issomethingconsciousnessdoes–itisnotanentityinitsownright;likewiseanatom.

Naturegoestothesameplacetoproducethesmellofaroseandaspiralgalaxy.

Thebeautyofthisposition,whichSpiraexpresseswitheloquentconviction,isthatthe

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thornyquestion‘Canweeverknowwhowereallyare?’leadstotheanswer‘Yes’.To bemoreprecisewecouldsay,‘Yes,but…’,becausefindingoutwhowereallyare doesn’t come in words, but only as an intimate experience, an awakening. And althoughthatexperienceconfrontsusateverymomentandinvitesusin,itcannotbe comparedtoanyotherexperience.Itliesoutsidethephysicaldomainandthemental domainatthesametime.

Wherewouldsuchaplacebelocated?Everywhereandnowhere.Howdoyouget there?Thejourneydoesn’trequireyoutogoanywherebuthereandnow.Those answers,howeverfrustrating,arethetruth.There’sanancientbacklogofdiscussion onthisparadoxofstartinganywhereandgettingeverywhere,sometimescalled‘the pathless path’. The time-honoured advice, echoed in every spiritual tradition, has pointedinward.Thebasicnotionisthatbeneaththerestlesssurfaceofthemindisa deeperlevelthatisunmoving,silentandatpeace.Thisjourneyrelievesoursenseof selfofallsuperimposedlimitationsandrevealsitstruereality.Illusionsfallaway.The egolosesitsgrip.WiththeexperienceofthetruenatureoftheSelf,atransformation takesplace.Thekeyistotranscendourmisguidedsenseofself,andthenthelight dawns.

Inanidealworld,everyonewouldobeytheOldTestamentinjunctionto‘Bestilland

knowthatIamGod’.Notthatreligioustermsarenecessary:thegreatBengalipoet

RabindranathTagoredeclared:

Listen,myheart,tothewhisperingoftheworld.

Thatishowitmakeslovetoyou.

Inotherwords,intimatecontactwiththeSelfiseverywhere,anditsallureisthesame

aslove’s.

Ifwecannothearwhattheworldwhispers,thereisanotherway,pointedoutby

Tagoreagain:

Igrewtiredoftheroadwhenittookmehereandthere.

ImarriedtheroadinlovewhenittookmeEverywhere.

Tobeginwith,theoutwardworldseemstobeinfiniteandinexhaustible,butifwe

pursueitfarenoughweinevitablycometotheconclusionthatitisconsciousnessitself

thatisinfiniteandinexhaustible.Theoutwardjourneywearsitselfout,andthenthe

inwardonebeckons.

Ifyoutrysayingthistoasceptic,yourunintothesameobjection:‘Gostandintraffic. Whenabushitsyou,you’redead.Endofstory.’Materialistskeepinsistingthatthe physicalworldcomesfirstandthatnoamountoftrickymentalgymnasticscanget around that fact. Even sympathetic listeners and committed seekers cling to materialism–perhapssecretly,perhapsguiltily,butmostly,Ithink,becausethefull storyhasyettosinkin.Inhisgentlebutuncompromisingway,Spirainsistsupon tellingthefullstoryandbeyondthat,makingitanimmediatepersonalexperience.

Thefullstoryisn’tnew.ItsoriginslieinIndia’sancientpast,although,historyand

humanconfusionbeingwhattheyare,manyotherstoriesarosetooverlapandmuddle

it.SomeonewithknowledgeofIndianspiritualitywillreadafewpagesofthisbook–

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orevenjustthetitlesoftheessays–andsay,‘Ah,Vedanta.That’swhatheteaches.’ ButtosaythisismerelytopastealabelonSpira’sapproach,whichalsoincludesthe understandingfoundintheTantrictraditionsofKashmirShaivismandDzogchen Buddhism. The Vedas are the sacred scriptures of India, and Vedanta, translated literally,meanstheendoftheVedas.Inotherwords,Vedantaisthelastwordin spiritual knowledge, the place you arrive at after absorbing everything else the scripturescanteachyou.Vedanta’spromisecanbestatedinasinglemaxim:‘Know thatonething,byknowingwhich,allelseisknown.’

There’senormousappealinVedanta’struth-in-a-nutshell,sowhydidn’titbecomea kindofuniversalspiritualpath?Whynotskipthebulkofspiritualteaching–notjust Indianbutfromallsources–andfollowthisgoldenthread?RupertSpiraisrareand allbutuniqueindoingexactlythat.InIndia,Vedantahasareputationforbeing complexandintellectual,asubjecttowhichprofessorsandreligionistsdevotetheir entirelives.Whatwasmeanttobepracticaladvice–theonethingyouneedtoknow in order for all knowledge to fall into your lap – somehow became abstract and exhaustinginitsobscurity.

Vedanta needed to be revived for modern people who want practical results; otherwise,themostbeautifultruthswouldbeunreachable.Vedanta,tobeblunt,was likeopeningacanoftunawithapieceoflimpspaghetti.Spirahasbeenthroughall that–althoughhemodestlydoesn’tleanuponhislearning–andcomeouttheother side. He has one thing to say because there is only one thing to know: It’s all consciousness. Because consciousness is creating everything, here and now, and becauseitscreationisendlesslyfascinating,hefindsbeautifulwaystoexpressone thing,oftenpoetically,alwayscompassionately.Withadiamondinhishand,hewants toshowuseveryfacet.

Forewordsriskthepitfallofsoundingfulsome,butinallcandour,I’vegaineddeeper understanding listening to Rupert Spira than I have from any other exponent of modernspirituality.Realityissendingusamessagewedesperatelyneedtohear,and atthismomentnomessengersurpassesSpiraandthetransformativewordsinhis essays.

DeepakChopra

September2016

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Ihavespentfortyyearsponderingthenatureofexperience,andthisbookisthe

distilledessenceofthatexploration.Strangely–andperhapsnotsostrangely–whenI

wassixyearsoldIsaidtomymother,‘IthinkourlivesareGod’sdream’.Almost

exactlyfiftyyearslaterthisbookmakesthatintuitionexplicitinrationalterms.SoI

wouldfirstliketothankmymotherfornurturingthisintuition,andalsomyfather,

fromwhomIinheritedthemeanswithwhichtoexpressit.

TodojusticetoallthosetowhomIamindebtedwouldtakeabookinitself,butin

spiteofthisIwilltrytocondenseitintoafewparagraphs.Thewarpofmyspiritual

enquiryandpracticehasalwaysbeentheVedantictradition,whichIfirststudied

undertheguidanceofDr.FrancisRolesatColetHouseinLondon,whichwaslikea

secondhomeforthefirsttwentyyearsofmyadultlife.Dr.Roleshadreceivedthe

traditionalAdvaitateachingfromShantanandaSaraswati,thethenShankaracharyaof

thenorthofIndia,whomIconsidertobemyfirstteacher.

However,ifthewarpofmyinvestigationintothenatureofrealitywasmadeofone colour,theweftcontainedmany.DuringtheseyearsIlearnedtheMevleviTurning,a practiceofprayerandmovementdevelopedbyfollowersofthethirteenth-century PersianmysticJalaluddinRumi.ThistraditionwaspreservedatColetHousebymy late stepfather, Vilhelm Koren, whose presence in our family, though somewhat distant,wasapowerfulandsubliminalinfluenceinmyteenageyearsthatconveyedto metheessenceoftheSufitradition.AtthattimeIalsolearntGurdjieff’sMovements andstudiedthewritingsoftheRussianPhilosopherP.D.Ouspensky,whichhada profoundandinitiatoryeffectonme.

During those years, I regularly attended the last meetings of Jiddu Krishnamurti, whose school at Brockwood Park in Hampshire, UK, was close to my childhood home.OnonesuchoccasionIfoundmyselfstandingnexttohiminthequeuefor lunchand,tothisday,thequalityofourencounterleftadeeperimpressiononmethan anythingIeverheardorreadhimsay.Hisfierceandtenderpassionwerebothan initiationandanincentiveintheearlydaysofmyinvestigation.

Alsoduringthoseyears,theteachingsofRamanaMaharshiaccompaniedmeona

dailybasis,butitwasnotuntilImetmyteacher,FrancisLucille,thatthenon-dual

understandingbecamemylivedexperience.Whatitisabouttherelationshipwitha

friendthathasthecapacitytotransformintellectualunderstandingintofeltexperience,

Idonotknow.Sufficeittosaythateverythingbeforethatencounterwasapreparation

fortheongoingrevelationofthenon-dualunderstandingthatbegantounfoldunder

Francis’sguidanceandfriendship.

Until meeting Francis my approach had been primarily a devotional one. Francis

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introducedmetoAtmanandaKrishnaMenon’sincisivelinesofhigherreasoning,on theonehand,andtotheTantrictraditionofKashmirShaivism,whichhehadlearned fromhisteacher,JeanKlein,ontheother.Boththeseintroductionsopenedupnew avenues of exploration and experience. Under Atmananda Krishna Menon’s meticulousguidance,Ifeltreallyfreeforthefirsttimetothinkabouttruthorreality and was, as a result, relieved of the misunderstanding – common among many traditionalandcontemporarynon-dualapproaches,andtowhichIalsosubscribedin theearlyyears–thatthoughtisinimicaltospiritualunderstanding.FromtheTantric approachIlearnedtotakemyunderstandingintothewayIfeltthebodyandperceived theworld.

However,ofthemanythingsIlearnedwithFrancis,andforwhichIameternally

grateful,perhapsthemostsignificantwastherealisationthatmyintensedesireto

knowthenatureofrealityandmyloveofbeautywerethesameendeavour,thus

reconcilinginmethetruthseekerandtheartist.IntheyearsIspentwithhim,Icame

tounderstandJohnKeats’swords:

Beautyistruth,truthbeauty,–thatisall Yeknowonearth,andallyeneedtoknow. *

There have been many other influences, too many to be named here, except for MichaelCardew,withwhomIapprenticedasaceramicartistinmylateteens.No accountofmyinfluenceswouldbecompletewithoutreferencetohim.Hetaughtme, without my realising it, the language of form and the process that an artist must undergo,bothwithinhimselfandinrelationshipwithhismaterials,ifhewantshis worktotransmitmeaningfromthemakertotheseeroruserthroughlinesofcognition thatarenotaccessibletoreason.Hetaughtmewhatittakestomakeanobjectthathas thecapacitytoindicateviscerally,asCézanneputit,thetasteofnature’seternity.

IwouldliketothankDeepakChopraforhischaracteristicallygenerouscommentsin

theForewordtothisbookandforhisunreservedsupportofmywork.Likewise,

BernardoKastrupforhispenetratingandinsightfulAfterword,andforthefearless

humilitywithwhichheextendsthesubjectmatterofthisbooktoafieldintowhichI

cannotventure.IamalsogratefultoMarkDyczkowski,PaulMillsandPeterFenwick

fortheirkindandgenerousendorsements.

Iwouldalsoliketothankallthosewho,inamoredirectway,havebeeninstrumental

inthefruitionofthisbook,especiallyJacquelineBoyleandRobBowdenfortheir

endlesspatienceandscrupulousattentiontodetail,andtoLindaArzouniandCaroline

Culme-Seymourfortheirhelpfulcommentsaboutthemanuscript.

Finally,Iwouldliketothankmycompanion,EllenEmmet.Iamnotoftenlostfor

wordsand,asyouareabouttodiscover,haveyettotransposeintomywritingtheart

of‘lessismore’that,atleasttosomeextent,Imasteredinmystudio.However,when

itcomestoacknowledgingmygratitudetoEllen,Iamsimplylostforwords.

RupertSpira

October2016

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*From‘OdeonaGrecianUrn’(1820).

TheNatureofConsciousness

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INTRODUCTION

THEHARDPROBLEMOFCONSCIOUSNESS

Ourworldcultureisfoundedupontheassumptionthatrealityconsistsoftwoessential

ingredients:mindandmatter.Inthisduality,matterisconsideredtheprimaryelement,

givingrisetotheprevailingmaterialisticparadigminwhichitisbelievedthatmind,or

consciousness–theknowingelementofmind–isderivedfrommatter.

Howconsciousnessissupposedlyderivedfrommatter–aquestionknownasthe‘hard problemofconsciousness’–remainsamystery,andisindeedoneofthemostvexing questionsinscienceandphilosophytoday.Strangely,thefactthatthereisnoevidence forthisphenomenonisnotdeemedsignificantenoughtodissuademostscientistsand philosophers from their conviction that consciousness is a derivative of matter, althoughmoreandmorearebeginningtoquestionit.Moststillbelievethat,with advancesinneurology,theneuralcorrelatesofconsciousnessandthemeansbywhich it is derived from the brain will sooner or later be discovered, and this belief is reinforcedbythemainstreammedia.

However, until such time, the hard problem of consciousness remains an uncomfortabledilemmaforexponentsofthematerialistparadigm.Ironically,inall otherfieldsofscientificresearchsuchlackofevidencewouldunderminethepremise uponwhichthetheorystands,butinaleapoffaiththatbetraystheirrationalnatureof materialism itself, the conviction at its heart is not undermined by the lack of supporting evidence, nor indeed by compelling evidence to the contrary. In this respect,theprevailingmaterialisticparadigmsharesmanyofthecharacteristicsof religion: it is founded upon an intuition that there is a single, universal and fundamentalreality,butitallowsbeliefratherthanexperiencetoguidetheexploration and,therefore,theimplicationsofthatintuition.

Somecontemporaryphilosophersgofurtherthanbelievingconsciousnesstobean epiphenomenon, or secondary function, of the brain. In an extraordinary and convolutedactofreasoningtheydenytheveryexistenceofconsciousness,claimingit tobeanillusioncreatedbychemicalactivityinthebrain.Indoingso,theydenythe primaryandmostsubstantialelementofexperience–consciousnessitself–andassert theexistenceofasubstance–matter–whichhasneverbeenfound.

Infact,itisnotpossibletofindthissubstanceonthetermsinwhichitisconceived, becauseourknowledgeofmatter,andindeedallknowledgeandexperience,isitself an appearance within consciousness, the very medium whose existence these philosophersdeny.Suchanargumentistantamounttobelievingthatanemailcreates thescreenuponwhichitappearsor,evenworse,thattheemailexistsinitsownright, independentofthescreen,whoseveryexistenceisdenied.

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***

Formanypeoplethedebateastotheultimaterealityoftheuniverseisanacademic one,farremovedfromtheconcernsanddemandsofeverydaylife.Afterall,realityis whateveritisindependentofourmodelsofit.However,IhopethatTheNatureof Consciousness will show clearly that the materialist paradigm is a philosophy of despairandconflictand,assuch,therootcauseoftheunhappinessfeltbyindividuals andthehostilitiesbetweencommunitiesand nations.Farfrombeingabstract and philosophical,itsimplicationstoucheachoneofusdirectlyandintimately,foralmost everythingwethink,feelanddoisprofoundlyand,forthemostpart,subliminally influencedbytheprevailingparadigminwhichwehavebeenraisedandnowlive.

Aslongaswecontinuetoseekthesourceofhappinessonthepartofindividuals,and peace amongst communities and nations, from within the existing materialist framework,theverybestforwhichwecanhopeistofindbriefmomentsofrespite fromthegeneraltrendofexperiencethatisgrowingevermoredivisive.However, there have been epochal moments in history when the collective intelligence of humanitycouldnolongerbecontainedwithintheparametersthathadevolvedover thepreviouscenturiesforthepurposesofadvancingit.Theculturalformsthatevolve preciselytodevelop,refineandexpresshumanity’sgrowingintelligenceare,atsome point,nolongerabletoaccommodateitandbecometheverymeansbywhichitis stifled.Thebeliefsinaflatearthandageocentricuniversearetwosuchexamples.

Theideaofaflatearththatprevailedintheancientworldwasfirstchallengedby Pythagorasinthesixthcentury BCE,butittookanothertwothousandyearsforhis spherical-earthmodeltobefullyacceptedbyallcultures.Likewise,theideaofa heliocentricuniversewasfirstsuggestedasearlyasthethirdcentury BCE,butitwas nearly two thousand years before the Copernican Revolution would make it mainstream.

Ineach case, abelief that hadserved humanity’s evolutionthus far subsequently becametheverymeansofitsconstraint.Butnotwithoutresistance!Ineachcasethe prevailingparadigmwassotightlyinterwovenintothewayspeoplethought,felt, acted,perceivedandrelatedwithoneanother,andsodeeplyinculcatedintothefabric andmechanismofsocietyitself,thatittooktwomillennia,moreorless,forthelast vestigesoftheseideastobeerased.

InTheNatureofConsciousnessitissuggestedthatthemattermodelhasoutlivedits function and is now destroying the very values that it once sought to promote. I believethatthematerialistparadigm,whichhasservedhumanityinwaysthatdonot needtobeenumeratedhere,cannolongeraccommodateitsevolvingintelligence.All around,withinourselvesandourworldculture,weseeevidencethattheshellof materialism has cracked. The growing organism of humanity can no longer be accommodatedwithinitsconfines,andhumanity’sstruggletoemergeisexpressing itself in all aspects of society. Nor can its host, the earth, any longer survive its degradationandexploitation.

However,itisnolongersufficienttotinkerwiththeexistingparadigmfromwithinits

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parameters.Anewparadigmisrequiredtodefinitivelyaddressthedespairandsorrow

feltbyindividuals,theconflictsbetweencommunitiesandnations,andhumanity’s

relationshipwithnature.

***

Mostrevolutionsseektomodifytheexistingstateofaffairstoagreaterorlesser degreebutleavethefundamentalparadigmuponwhichtheyarepredicatedintact.In TheNatureofConsciousnessanotherkindofrevolutionissuggested,onethatstrikes atthebasicassumptionuponwhichourknowledgeofourselves,othersandtheworld isbased.ItistherevolutiontowhichthepainterPaulCézannereferredwhenhesaid, ‘Thedayiscomingwhenasinglecarrot,freshlyobserved,willtriggerarevolution.’ * ItistherevolutiontowhichMaxPlanck,developerofquantumtheory,referredwhen hesaid,‘Iregardconsciousnessasfundamental.Iregardmatterasderivativefrom consciousness.’

ItistherevolutiontowhichJamesJeansreferredwhenhesaid,‘Iinclinetothe idealistictheorythatconsciousnessisfundamental,andthatthematerialuniverseis derivativefromconsciousness,notconsciousnessfromthematerialuniverse….In general,theuniverseseemstometobenearertoagreatthoughtthantoagreat machine.Itmaywellbe…thateachindividualconsciousnessoughttobecomparedto abrain-cellinauniversalmind.’ ItistherevolutiontowhichCarlJungreferredwhen hesaid,‘Itisnotonlypossiblebutfairlyprobable,even,thatpsycheandmatterare twodifferentaspectsofoneandthesamething.’ §

Thisrevolutionisaninneroneandaddressestheverycoreofourknowledgeof ourselves,uponwhichallsubsequentknowledgeandunderstandingmustbebased. Thisbookdoesnotexploretheimplicationsofthisrevolutioninanythingbutthe broadest terms, but its ramifications touch every aspect of our lives. It is my experiencethattheimplicationsofthe‘consciousness-only’modelthatissuggestedin thisbookcontinuetorevealthemselveslongaftertheinitialinsightorrecognition itself, gradually colonising and reconditioning the way we think and feel, and subsequentlyinformingandtransformingouractivitiesandrelationships.Itisforeach ofustorealiseandlivetheseimplications.

Theconsciousness-onlymodelisnotnew.Allhumanbeingsareatthedeepestlevel

essentiallythesame,thereforetheremustbeafundamentalknowledgeofourselves

thattranscendsthelocal,temporalconditioningthatweacquirefromourculturesand

thussharewithallhumanity,irrespectiveofourpolitical,religiousorideological

persuasions.AldousHuxleyreferredtothisasthe‘perennialphilosophy’,thatis,the

philosophythatremainsthesameatalltimes,inallplaces,underallcircumstances

andforallpeople.

IntheEast,theSanskrittermsanatanadharmareferstothesameessential,eternal

truthsthattranscendallculturallyboundbeliefsandcustoms.Sanatanadharma,the

perennialphilosophy,hasbeenavailablesincethedawnofhumanityandhasappeared

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inmanydifferentformsandculturesthroughouttheages,eachculturelendingitsown particular characteristics to it but never fundamentally changing its original understandingoritsessentialmessageforhumanity.

Nevertheless,inacquiringthelocal,temporalconditioningoftheculturesinwhichit appeared, the perennial understanding not only acquired new forms, which is a necessary and inevitable outcome of the transmission of knowledge. It was also inadvertentlymixedwithideasandbeliefsthatbelongedtothespecificculturesin whichitaroseandwas,assuch,modifiedanddilutedtoagreaterorlesserextent. Eveninthoseculturesinwhichitsessentialmeaningwasnotmodifiedordiluted,it wasoftennotfullyunderstoodand,asaresult,waswrappedinashroudofmystery which,whilstsuperficiallybearingthehallmarksofwisdom,concealedandsanctified thismisunderstanding.

The Nature of Consciousness is also, of course, subject to and a product of the conditioningofthecultureandlanguageinwhichitwaswritten,althoughtheessential understandingthatisexpressedinittranscendsculturalandlinguisticconditioning. However,itismyhopethatitsconditionedformwillservetoclarifyratherthan mystify, obscure or dilute the essential understanding that lies at the heart of the perennialphilosophy.Ihopeinthiswaytobringthenon-dualunderstandingoutofthe closetofdogmaandesotericismandreformulateitinawaythatisaccessibletothose whoseekunderstanding,peace,fulfilmentandfriendshipbeyondboundaries;whodo notfeeltheneedtoaffiliatethemselveswithanyparticulargroup,traditionorreligion; andwhohavebecomewaryofreferringtoanydoctrine,authorityorinstitutionatthe expenseoftheirowndirectexperience.

Inthisbookitissuggestedthatconsciousnessisthefundamental,underlyingrealityof the apparent duality of mind and matter, and that the overlooking, forgetting or ignoring of this reality is the root cause of both the existential unhappiness that pervadesandmotivatesmostpeople’slivesandthewiderconflictsthatexistbetween communities and nations. Conversely, it is suggested that the recognition of the fundamentalrealityofconsciousnessistheprerequisiteandanecessaryandsufficient conditionforanindividual’squestforlastinghappinessand,atthesametime,the foundationofworldpeace.

*JoachimGasquet,Cézanne:AMemoirwithConversations(1991).

†FromaninterviewpublishedinTheObserver. ‡FromaninterviewpublishedinTheObserver. §Jung,C.G.,‘OntheNatureofthePsyche’,inH.Readetal.,eds.,TheCollectedWorksofC.G.Jung,Princeton

UniversityPress(1985;originalworkpublished1947).

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CHAPTER1

THENATUREOFMIND

Allthatisknown,orcouldeverbeknown,isexperience.Struggleaswemaywiththe

implicationsofthisstatement,wecannotlegitimatelydenyit.Beingallthatcouldever

beknown,experienceitselfmustbethetestofreality.Ifwedonottakeexperienceas

thetestofreality,beliefwillbetheonlyalternative.Experienceandbelief–or‘the

wayoftruthandthewayofopinion’,asParmenidesexpresseditinthefifthcentury

BCE–aretheonlytwopossibilities.

Allthatisknownisexperience,andallthatisknownofexperienceismind.Bythe word‘mind’inthiscontextIdon’tjustmeaninternalthoughtsandimages,asin commonparlance;Imeanallexperience.Thisincludesbothourso-calledinternal experienceofthoughts,images,feelingsandsensations,andourso-calledexternal experienceofconsensusreality,thatis,theworldthatweknowthroughthefivesense perceptions. Mind thus includes all thinking, imagining, remembering, feeling, sensing,seeing,hearing,touching,tastingandsmelling.

Ifallthatcouldeverbeknownisexperience,andallexperienceisknownintheform

ofmind,theninordertoknowthenatureorultimaterealityofanythingthatisknown,

itisfirstnecessarytoknowthenatureofmind.Thatis,thefirstimperativeofany

mindthatwishestoknowthenatureofrealitymustbetoinvestigateandknowthe

realityofitself.

Whethermindperceivesaworldoutsideofitself,asisbelievedundertheprevailing materialist paradigm, or projects the world within itself, as is believed in the consciousness-only approach suggested in this book, everything that is known or experiencedisknownorexperiencedthroughthemediumofmind.Assuch,themind imposesitsownlimitsoneverythingthatitseesorknows,andthusallitsknowledge andexperienceappearasareflectionofitsownlimitations.Itisforthisreasonthat scientists will never discover the reality of the universe until they are willing to explorethenatureoftheirownminds.

Everythingthemindknowsisareflectionofitsownlimitations,justaseverything appearsorangewhenwearewearingapairoforange-tintedglasses.Onceweare accustomedtotheorangeglasses,orangebecomesthenewnorm.Theorangecolour weseeseemstobeaninherentpropertyofconsensusrealityandnotsimplyaresultof thelimitationsofthemediumthroughwhichweperceive.Inthesameway,themind’s knowledgeofanythingisonlyasgoodasitsknowledgeofitself.Indeed,themind’s knowledge of things is a reflection and an extension of its knowledge of itself. Therefore,thehighestknowledgeamindcanattainistheknowledgeofitsownnature. Allotherknowledgeissubordinatetoandappearsinaccordancewiththemind’s

20

knowledgeofitself.

Infact,untilthemindknowsitsownessentialnature,itcannotbesurethatanythingit knows or experiences is absolutely true and not simply a reflection of its own limitations.Thus,theknowledgeoftheultimatenatureofmindthroughwhichall knowledgeandexperienceareknownmustbethefoundationofalltrueknowledge. Therefore,theultimatequestionthemindcanaskis,‘Whatisthenatureofmind?’

Thecommonnamethatthemindgivestoitselfis‘I’.Hence,wesay,‘Iamreading’,‘I

amthinking’,‘Iamseeing’,andsoon.Forthisreason,thequestion‘Whatisthe

natureofmind?’couldbereformulatedas,‘WhoorwhatamI?’Theanswertothis

questionisthemostprofoundknowledgethatthemindcanattain.Itisthesupreme

intelligence.

Thequestion‘Whatistheultimatenatureofthemind?’or‘WhoorwhatamI?’isa

uniquequestioninthatitistheonlyquestionthatdoesnotinvestigatetheobjective

contentofthemindbutrathertheessentialnatureofminditself.Forthisreasonthe

answertothisquestionisalsounique.Theanswertoanyquestionabouttheobjective

contentofmindwillalwaysitselfappearasobjectiveknowledge.Forexample,the

question‘Whatistwoplustwo?’andtheanswer‘Four’arebothobjectivecontentsof

mind.Butthenatureoftheminditselfneverappearsin,norcanitbeaccurately

describedinthetermsof,objectiveknowledge,justasthescreenneverappearsasan

imageinamovie.

Themind’srecognitionofitsownessentialnatureisadifferentkindofknowledge,a knowledge that is the ultimate quest of all the great religious, spiritual and philosophicaltraditionsandthat,althoughwemaynotrealiseit,liesattheheartof eachperson’slongingforpeace,fulfilmentandlove.

***

Wheretobegin?Asexperienceisallthatcouldeverbeknown,wemuststartwith experience, proceeding cautiously, like a scientist, trusting only our observation, doubtingeverybeliefandassertion,andonlymakingstatementsthatcanbetestedand verifiedbyindependentobservers.Ifsomethingistrueforonepersonbutnotanother, itcannotbeabsolutelytrue.Ifthereisanabsolutetruth,itmustbetrueforallpeople, atalltimesandunderallcircumstances.

Initssearchfortheabsolutetruth,sciencerejectssubjectiveexperienceonthegrounds

thatitispersonalandthereforecannotbevalidatedbyanyoneotherthantheperson

havingtheexperience.Forinstance,avisionoftheVirginMarymaybetrueforone

person,butmanyotherswhohavenothadtheexperiencewillconsideritanillusion.

However,sciencehasmadeanerrorinrejectingallsubjectiveexperienceonthese

grounds,forintheultimateanalysisallexperienceissubjective.Therefore,itisnot

subjectiveexperiencebutratherpersonal,exclusiveoridiosyncraticexperiencethat

shouldberejectedasevidenceofabsolutereality.

So we could refine the ultimate question as, ‘Is there any element of subjective

21

experiencethatisuniversalorsharedbyall?’or‘Ifthemindonlyeverknowsitsown

contents,isthereanyelementofthemind’sknowledgeorexperiencethatiscommon

toallminds?’Thatknowledgealonewouldqualifyasabsolutetruthand,therefore,

thatknowledgealonewouldserveasthebasisofaunifiedhumanity.

Letusagreethatthereisexperienceandthatexperiencemustbethetestofreality.Our experienceconsistsofthoughts,images,memories,ideas,feelings,desires,intuitions, sensations,sights,sounds,tastes,textures,smells,andsoon,andeachoftheseis known.Itisnotpossibletohaveathought,feeling,sensationorperceptionwithout knowingit.Whatsortofexperiencewouldbeonethatisnotknown?Itwouldnotbe an experience! Thus, we can say for certain that there is experience and that experienceisknown,eventhoughwemaynotknowexactlywhatexperienceis,nor whoorwhatitisthatknowsit.

All experience – thoughts, feelings, sensations and perceptions – has objective qualities,thatis,qualitiesthatcanbeobservedormeasuredinsomeway,haveaname andaform,andappearintimeorspace.ItisinthiscontextthatIrefertoeverythingin objectiveexperienceas‘objects’,bethoseobjectsapparentlyphysical,suchastables, chairs,treesandfields,ormental,suchasthoughts,images,memoriesandfeelings. Assuch,allobjectiveexperiencehasaformintimeorspaceand,havingaform,ithas alimit.

Butwithwhatisallobjectiveexperienceknown?Athoughtcannotknowasensation,

asensationcannotfeelaperception,aperceptioncannotseeafeeling,afeelingcannot

knowanimage,andanimagecannotexperienceamemory.Thoughts,sensations,

perceptions,feelings,imagesandmemoriesareknownorexperienced;theydonot

knoworexperience.Whateveritisthatknowsobjectiveexperiencecanneveritselfbe

knownorexperiencedobjectively.Itcanneverbeknownorobservedasanobject.It

istheknowingelementinallknowledge,theexperiencinginallexperience.Wecould

saythatthemindconsistsoftwoelements:itsknowncontentanditsknowingessence.

However,theseelementsarenotactuallytwoseparate,discreteentities,andlaterwe

willcollapsethisdistinction.

Thecommonnamefortheknowingorexperiencingessenceofmindis‘I’.‘I’isthe name we give to whatever it is that knows or is aware of all knowledge and experience.Thatis,‘I’isthenamethatthemindgivestoitselfinordertoindicateits essential,knowingessenceinthemidstofallitschangingknowledgeandexperience. I am that which knows or is aware of all experience, but I am not myself an experience.Iamawareofthoughtsbutamnotmyselfathought;Iamawareof feelings and sensations but am not myself a feeling or sensation; I am aware of perceptionsbutamnotmyselfaperception.Whateverthecontentofexperience,I knoworamawareofit.Thus,knowingorbeingawareistheessentialelementinall knowledge,thecommonfactorinallexperience.

‘I’ refers to the knowing or aware element that remains present throughout all knowledgeandexperience,irrespectiveofthecontentoftheknownorexperienced. Whateveritisthatknowsthethought‘Twoplustwoequalsfour’isthesameknowing thatknowsthethought‘Twoplustwoequalsfive’.Thetwothoughtsdifferandare,as

22

such,amongstthecontinuallychangingobjectsofexperience,buteachisknownby

thesameknowingsubject,irrespectiveofthefactthatoneistrue,theotherfalse.

Whateveritisthatknowsthefeelingofdepressionisthesameknowingthatknows thefeelingofjoy.Thetwofeelingsaredifferentbutareknownbythesameknowing subject,irrespectiveofthequalityofthefeeling.Thefeelingsofdepressionandjoy may alternate, but the knowing with which they are known remains continuously presentthroughouttheirchanges.Whateveritisthatknowsthesoundofbirdsongis thesameknowingthatknowsthesoundoftraffic.Thetwoperceptionsdiffer,and eachcomesandgoes,buttheyareknownalikebythesameunchanging,subjective essenceofallchangingexperience.Thename‘I’denotesthatknowingessencethatis commontoallknowledgeandexperience.

Iampureknowing,independentofthecontentoftheknown.Iamtheknowingwith whichallexperienceisknown.Iamtheexperienceofbeingawareorawarenessitself whichknowsandunderliesallexperience.Pureknowing,beingawareorawareness itself is the essential ingredient of mind – the ever-present, subjective, knowing essenceofmind,independentofitsalways-changing,objectivecontentofthoughts, feelings,sensationsandperceptions.Beingawareorawarenessitselfistheknowingin allthatisknown,theexperiencinginallexperience.

***

Allmindsrefertothemselvesas‘I’.OurChristiannamesarethenamesthatour parentsgivetous,but‘I’isthenamethatthemindgivestoitself.Whateverthemind isexperiencing,itknowsitselfasthe‘I’thatisexperiencingit.Throughoutthedaythe mindsays,‘Iamthinking’,‘Iamhungry’,‘Iamcold’,‘Iamlonely’,‘Iamtired’,‘I amtravellingtowork’,‘Iamforty-fiveyearsold’,andsoon.Assuch,themind consists of a continuous flow of changing thoughts, images, sensations and perceptions.However,thereisoneelementofthemind–thefeelingofbeingorthe experience of being aware – that runs continuously throughout all changing experience.

If,insteadofbeinginterestedinthecontinuousflowofchangingthoughts,images, sensationsandperceptions,themindbecomesinterestedinitsownessentialnature,it willdiscoverthatthefeelingofbeingortheexperienceofbeingawareisthecommon factorinallexperiencebutdoesnotsharetheparticularqualities,characteristicsor limitations of any particular experience. All the qualities, characteristics and limitationsofexperiencearetemporaryandever-changingcolouringsormodulations ofmindbutnotitsessential,irreduciblenature.

Inotherwords,asafirststeptowardsrealisingtheessential,irreduciblenatureofthe

mind,weseparateoutthepermanentelementofexperiencefromitschangingforms.

Weseparateouttheexperienceofbeingawarefromwhatweareawareof.

‘I’ is the formless or non-objective presence of pure knowing, being aware or awarenessitself,whichistemporarilycolouredbythequalitiesofexperiencebutnot

23

inherentlylimitedbythem.‘Iamaware’,‘Iamaware’,‘Iamaware’runsever-present

throughoutallexperience.Assuch,‘I’istheknowingorawareelementthatunderlies

andpermeatesallexperience.

***

All objective experience changes continually. Thoughts, feelings, sensations and perceptionsareinaconstantstateofflux.Athoughtisbydefinitionalwaysflowing,a feeling always evolving, a sensation always pulsating and a perception always changing,albeitattimesimperceptiblyslowly.Infact,laterwewillseethatwenever actually experience a discrete object such as a thought, feeling, sensation or perception,letaloneamind,bodyorworld.Butforthetimebeingletusagreethatall experiencecontinuallychanges.

However,eachchangingthought,feeling,sensationorperceptionisregisteredbythe sameknowing‘I’,thecommonelementinallexperience.Theknowing‘I’thatis seeingorknowingthesewordsisthesameknowing‘I’thatwasknowingorawareof whatever‘I’wasexperiencinganhourago,lastweek,lastmonth,lastyearortenyears ago.Thatknowing‘I’–consciousnessorawareness * itself–isthecommoningredient inallexperience.Itremainsthesamethroughoutallexperience.

Eachofusfeelsthatwehavealwaysbeenthesameperson,althoughtheexperienceof thebodyandmind,whichwenormallyconsidertobeourself,iscontinuallychanging. Allweknoworexperienceofthebodyarechangingsensationsandperceptions,and allweknowofourmind isaflowofconcepts,imagesandfeelings.Infact,thebody neverknowsitselfas‘I’.Itisthemindthatcallsitself‘I’.SowhenIsay,‘Wehave alwaysbeenthesameperson’,Imeanthatthemindrecognisesthatthereissomething in its own experience of itself that always remains the same. Thus, although everythingwehaveeveridentifiedasourselfhaschangedinnumerabletimesinour lives,eachofusfeelsthatthereissomepartofourselfthatremainsconsistently presentthroughoutallexperience.

Whenwesay‘I’todaywerefertothesame‘I’thatweweretwodaysago,twomonths ago, two years ago or twenty years ago. What part of our experience of ourself accountsforthefeelingofalwaysbeingthesameperson?Whatisitinourexperience ofourselfthatalwaysremainsthesame?Onlytheknowingwithwhichallchanging knowledge and experience are known. Only the experience of being aware or awarenessitself.Only‘I’.

Theknownorexperiencedalwayschanges,buttheknowingwithwhichallchanging

experienceisknownalwaysremainsthesame.Whenwewerefive-year-oldgirlsor

boystheexperienceofourparents,homeandgardenwasknown.Asaten-year-old

childtheexperienceofourfriends,teachersandclassroomwasknown.Asateenager,

ourfirstkiss,ourstudiesandthepartieswewenttowereknown.Asanadult,our

activitiesandrelationshipsarealwaysknown.Thecurrentexperience–thesewords,

thethoughtsandfeelingstheyprovoke,sensationsofthebodyandperceptionsofthe

24

world–arebeingknown.Allexperienceisknown.

Experienceneverceasestochange,but‘I’,theknowingelementinallexperience, neveritselfchanges.Theknowingwithwhichallexperienceisknownisalwaysthe sameknowing.Itsconditionoressentialnatureneverchanges.Itisnevermodifiedby whatitknows.Beingthecommon,unchangingelementinallexperience,knowing, being aware or awareness itself does not share the qualities or, therefore, the limitations of any particular experience. It is not mixed with the limitations that characterise objective experience. It is, as such, unqualified, unconditioned and unlimited.

The knowing with which a feeling of loneliness or sorrow is known is the same knowingwithwhichthethoughtofafriend,thesightofasunsetorthetasteofice creamisknown.Theknowingwithwhichenthusiasmorexuberanceisknownisthe sameknowingthatknowsourdarkestfeelingsandmoods.Theobjectiveelementof experiencealwayschanges;thesubjectiveelementneverchanges.Theknownalways changes;knowingneverchanges.

Thisknowing‘I’–theexperienceofsimplybeingawareorawarenessitself–isnever itselfeitherexuberantorsorrowful.Beingthecommonelementinbothexperiences,it isnotqualified,conditionedorlimitedbyeither.Inbothexperiences,indeedinall experience, it remains in the same pristine condition, without qualification or limitation. The knowing with which exuberance or sorrow is known is not itself changed,moved,harmedorstainedbytheexuberanceorsorrowitself.Whenthe exuberanceorsorrowpasses,thesameknowingremainspresenttoknoworbeaware ofthenextobjectofexperience,beitthethoughtofafriend,thesightofasunsetor thetasteoficecream.

Nothingeverhappenstotheknowingwithwhichallexperienceisknown.Itisnot enhancedordiminishedbyanythingthatitknowsorexperiences.Whenafeelingof sorrowappears,nothingisaddedtotheknowingwithwhichthesorrowisknown. When the sorrow leaves, nothing is taken away from it. If any thought, feeling, sensationorperceptionwereidenticaltoouressentialnatureofpureknowing,then everytimeathought,feeling,sensationorperceptiondisappearedwewouldfeelthata littlebitofourselfdisappearedwithit.Indeed,ifthought,sensationorperceptionwere inherenttotheessentialnatureofmindorpureknowing,itwouldnotbepossiblefora thought,sensationorperceptiontoappear,becausewhatisessentialtomindmust alwaysandalreadybepresentwithinitandasit.Therefore,theessentialnatureof minddoesnotappearordisappear;ithasnobeginningorend.Itwasnotbornandwill notdie.

Wealwaysfeelessentiallythesamewhole,indivisible,consistentlypresentperson,

onlywemistaketheessentialnatureofthatperson.Althoughinnumerablethoughts,

feelings,sensationsandperceptionsareaddedtousandsubsequentlyremovedfrom

usduringthecourseofourlives,thepersonorselfthatweessentiallyareremains

alwaysthesame.Thatis,pureknowing,theessenceofmind,‘I’,alwaysremainsin

thesamepristinecondition.

Exuberance,enthusiasm,sorrow,loneliness,thethoughtofafriend,thetasteofice

25

cream,andsoon,arenotseparatefromtheknowingofthem–notseparatefrom‘I’– butneitheraretheyidenticaltoit.Theknowingwithwhichallexperienceisknownis toexperienceasaself-awarescreenwouldbetoamovie–thatis,amagicalscreen thatiswatchingthemoviethatisplayinguponit.Themovieisnotseparatefromthe screen, nor is it identical to it. Our changing thoughts, feelings, sensations and perceptionscolourouressentialbeingofpureknowingorawarenessitself,buttheydo notmodify,qualify,conditionorlimitit,noraretheyidenticaltoit.

Itisforthisreasonthattheessentialnatureofmindissaidtobepureknowingorpure awareness.‘Pure’inthiscontextmeansunmixedwithanyofthequalities,conditions orlimitationsthatitknowsorisawareof,justasthescreenisnotinherentlymixed withanyofthelimitedformsthatappearinamovie.Theessentialnatureofmind– the experience of being aware, pure knowing or awareness itself – is inherently unconditionedandunlimited.

Likewise, just as a screen is never disturbed by the drama in a movie, so pure knowing,beingawareorawarenessitselfisneverdisturbedbyexperience,andthusit isinherentlyimperturbableorpeaceful.Thepeacethatisinherentinus–indeedthatis us–isnotdependentonthecontentofexperience,thecircumstances,situationsor conditionswefindourselvesin.Itisapeacethatispriortoandatthesametime presentinthefluctuationsofthemind.Assuch,itissaidtobethepeacethat‘passeth understanding’.

***

Whatever it is that knows, experiences or is aware of all experience is the most intimate,essentialandirreduciblenatureofmind,‘I’orourself.Knowingorbeing awareisnotaqualityofourself;itisouressentialself.Ourselfdoesn’thaveor possessawareness;itisawarenessorconsciousnessitself.Thesuffix‘-ness’means the existence, state, presence or being of, so the words ‘awareness’ and ‘consciousness’implythepresenceofthatwhichisawareorconscious. *

Thedangerofusinganountodenotetheexperienceofbeingawareorpureknowing isthatwereifyorobjectifysomething–whichisnotathing–thatwehavealready discovered to be without objective quality. Conventional language has evolved to describeobjectiveexperience,andinusingtheterms‘awareness’and‘consciousness’ weareborrowingelementsofconventionallanguageandadaptingthemtoapurpose forwhichtheywerenotintended.Infact,ifwereallywanttospeaktheabsolutetruth weshouldremainsilent,asindeedsomedo.

However,othersamongstuswhofeelcompelledtoarticulaterealityinwordstryto

makethebestuseoftheseill-adaptedsymbols,usingthemasskilfullyaspossibleand

inawaythatevokestherealityofexperiencewithouteverconfiningitwithinthe

limitsoflanguage.Othersspeakthelanguageofpoetry,andportraytherelationship

betweentheobjectiveelementsofexperienceandtheessentialnatureofmindasa

playofseparationandunionbetweenaloverandherbeloved,therebyavoidinghaving

toframerealitywithintheconfinesofreason.

26

Allexperienceisknown,andthereforepureknowing,beingawareorawarenessitself

ispresentinallexperience.Itwouldnotbepossibletohaveorknowexperienceif

knowingorawarenesswerenotpresent.Assuch,awarenessistheprerequisiteforall

experience;itistheprimaryandfundamentalelementinallexperience.Wecannot

legitimatelyasserttheexistenceofanythingpriortoawarenessorconsciousness,forif

suchanassertionwerebasedonexperienceratherthanbelief,awarenessitselfwould

havetobepresenttoknowtheexperience,andthereforethatexperiencewouldnotbe

priortoit.

Infact,wecangofurtherthanthis.Notonlyispureknowingorawarenessitselfthe

primaryelementofmind;itistheonlysubstancepresentinmind.Itiseasytocheck

thisinexperience.Allthatisorcouldeverbeknownisexperience,andallthereisto

experienceistheknowingofit–infact,nottheknowing‘ofit’,becausewenever

encounteran‘it’independentofknowing.Allthereisto‘it’istheexperienceof

knowing.

Inotherwords,weneverknowanythingotherthanknowing.Allthereistoexperience isknowing.Thereisnoobjectthatisknownandnosubjectthatknowsit.Thereisjust knowing.Andwhatisitthatknowsthatthereisknowing?Onlythatwhichknowscan know knowing. Therefore, only knowing knows knowing. That is, awareness or consciousness is all that is ever known or experienced, and it is awareness or consciousnessthatisknowingorexperiencingitself.Thus,theonlysubstancepresent inexperienceisawareness.Awarenessisnotsimplytheultimaterealityofexperience; itistheonlyrealityofexperience.Experienceisafreelyassumedself-modulationof awarenessitself,butwhateverthecontentofthemodulation,atnotimedoesany substanceotherthanawarenessevercomeintoexistence.

Theword‘reality’isderivedfromtheLatinres,meaning‘thing’,betrayingourworld culture’sbeliefthatrealityconsistsofthingsmadeofmatter.However,nobodyhas everexperiencedorcouldexperienceanythingoutsideawareness,sotheideaofan independently existing substance, namely matter, that exists outside awareness is simply a belief to which the vast majority of humanity subscribes. It is the fundamentalassumptionuponwhichallpsychologicalsufferinganditsexpressionin conflictsbetweenindividuals,communitiesandnationsarepredicated.Ifwerefer directlytoexperience–andexperiencealonemustbethetestofreality–allthatisor couldeverbeknownexistswithin,isknownbyandismadeofawarenessalone.

Anyintellectuallyrigorousandhonestmodelofexperiencemuststartwithawareness, andindeedneverstrayfromit.Tostartanywhereelseistostartwithanassumption. Ourworldcultureisfoundeduponsuchanassumption:thatmatterprecedesandgives riseto awareness. Thisis in directcontradiction to experienceitself, from whose perspectiveawarenessistheprimaryandindeedonlyingredientinexperience,and mustthereforebetheoriginandcontextofanymodelofreality.

*Theterms‘awareness’and‘consciousness’areusedsynonymouslythroughoutthisbook.

†Theword‘mind’isusedhereintheconventionalsense,toindicatethoughts,imagesandfeelings.

27

*Being‘conscious’inthiscontextisnotmeantintheconventionalsenseofbeingawareofanexternalobjectora

thoughtorfeeling,butratherthesimpleexperienceofbeingaware,independentofobjects.

28

CHAPTER2

ONLYAWARENESSISAWARE

OurworldcultureisfoundedontheassumptionthattheBigBanggaverisetomatter,

whichintimeevolvedintotheworld,intowhichthebodywasborn,insidewhicha

brainappeared,outofwhichawarenessatsomelatestagedeveloped.Noneofthis

couldeverbeverified,becauseitisnotpossibletolegitimatelyasserttheexistenceof

anythingpriortoawarenessorconsciousness.Therefore,anyhonestmodelofreality

muststartwithawareness.Tostartanywhereelseistobuildamodelontheshifting

sandsofbelief.

Itiscommonlybelievedthatawarenessisapropertyofthebody,andasaresultwe

feelthatitis‘I,thisbody’thatknowsorisawareoftheworld.Thatis,webelieveand

feelthattheknowingwithwhichweareawareofourexperienceislocatedinand

sharesthelimitsanddestinyofthebody.Thisisthefundamentalassumptionofself

andother,mindandmatter,subjectandobjectthatunderpinsalmostallourthoughts

andfeelings,andissubsequentlyexpressedinouractivitiesandrelationships.

However,itisnot‘I,thebody’thatisaware;itis‘I,awareness’thatisaware.Abody doesn’thaveawareness;awareness‘has’theexperienceofabody.Thebody,asitis actuallyexperienced,isaseriesofsensationsandperceptionsinthefinitemind,and theonlysubstancepresentinmindispureknowingorawareness.Itisthoughtalone that conceptualises and, as such, abstracts the body as an object made of matter appearing outside awareness. However, if we stay strictly with the evidence of experience,thebodyisanappearanceinawareness;awarenessisnotanappearancein thebody.

Aninevitablecorollarytothebeliefthatawarenessisaby-productofthebodyisthe beliefthatawarenessisintermittent,thatitappearsanddisappears,thatitstartsatone timeandendsatanother.However,toasserttheabsenceofawarenessasanactual experience, something would have to be aware of that experience, and that very ‘something’wouldbeawarenessitself.Therefore,suchaclaimconfirmsthepresence ofawarenessratherthanitsabsence.Itisourexperiencethatwearecontinuously aware.

WhenIsaythatwearecontinuouslyaware,onemightlegitimatelyaskwhoisthe‘we’ thatisbeingreferredto.Whoisthe‘we’thatisawarethatwearecontinuouslyaware? Whoorwhathastheexperienceofbeingaware?Whoorwhatknowsthatthereis awareness? Awareness is the aware or knowing element in all experience and is, therefore,theonly‘one’presenttoknowwhateverisknownorexperienced,including itsownpresence.

Therefore,theexperienceofbeingaware,ortheknowledge‘Iam’,‘Iamaware’or

29

‘Thereisawareness’isawareness’sknowledgeofitself.Onlyawarenessknowsthat

thereisawareness.Onlyawarenessisaware.Assuch,awarenessisself-aware.Justas

allobjectsonearthareilluminatedbythesunbutthesunaloneisself-luminous,soall

experienceisknownbyawareness,butawarenessitselfisself-knowing.Thus,itis

awareness’sexperiencethatitiscontinuouslyor,moreaccurately,eternallyaware.

Being aware is awareness’s primary experience. Awareness knows its own being beforeitknowsanyotherthing.Thus,awareness’sknowingofitsbeingistheoriginal knowledge, the primary, fundamental and subjective knowledge upon which all objectiveknowledgeisbased.Itisthegroundfromwhichallexperiencerisesand uponwhichitrests,justasthecolourlessscreenisthefoundationuponwhichall imagesplay.

Awareness’sknowingofitsbeingisalsoitsultimateorfinalknowledge,thatis,the

knowledgethatremainsoveraftereverythought,feeling,sensationandperceptionhas

vanished,justasthescreenremainsoverafteramovieends.Itistothisunderstanding

thatJesusrefersintheBookofRevelationwhenhesays,‘IamtheAlphaandthe

Omega,theFirstandtheLast,theBeginningandtheEnd.’Itisalsotheknowledgeto

whichthetermVedanta,meaningthe‘endofknowledge’,refers.

***

Becausewenormallybelievethatitis‘I,thebody’thatisawareorhasawareness,the body and, by extension, the world are considered to precede awareness. Thus, awarenessisconsideredtobederivedfromthebody,asanepiphenomenonofthe brain.However,inordertolegitimatelyclaimthis,wewouldhavetoexperiencethe bodypriortotheexperienceofbeingaware,andthennoticetheexperienceofbeing awarearisinginthebody.Nobodyhaseverhad,orcouldeverhave,thisexperience.If wemaintainthehonestyandrigorofthescientist,whoiswillingtostateonlythefacts ofexperiencewithoutanyregardfortheirimplicationsorconsequences,wemust acknowledgethatawarenessistheprimaryelementinallexperience.

Beingawareorawarenessitselfisnotapropertyofaperson,selforbody.Allthatis

knownofabodyisaflowofcontinuouslychangingsensationsandperceptions.All

sensationsandperceptionsappearinmind,andtheonlysubstancepresentinmindis

awarenessorconsciousnessitself.Thus,thebodyisanappearanceinmind,andthe

ultimaterealityofmind,andthereforethebody,isawareness.

Theessentialnatureofawarenessistobeaware,justasitisthenatureofthesunto

shine.Simplybybeingitself,awarenessisawareofitself,justasthesunilluminates

itselfsimplybybeingitself.Awarenesscannotceasebeingaware,forbeingawareis

itsnature.Ifitceasedbeingaware,itwouldceasebeingawareness.Wherewould

awarenessgoifitweretoceaseandthereforedisappear?Thereisnothinginour

experience–thatis,thereisnothinginawareness’sexperience–thatispriortoor

‘furtherback’thanawarenessitself,intowhichawarenesscoulddisappear.

Itisthoughtthatmistakenlyidentifiesawarenesswiththelimitsanddestinyofthe

30

bodyandthusbelievesthatawarenessisintermittent.However,inawareness’sown

experienceofitself–andawarenessistheonly‘one’thatisinapositiontoknow

anythingaboutitself–itiseternal,orever-present.

Althoughawarenessiseternallyawareofitself,itisnotalwaysawareofthebody.The body is an appearance in and of the finite mind, and the finite mind is itself a modulation of awareness. Thus, the body is a temporary modulation of and an appearanceinawareness;awarenessisnotanappearanceinthebody.Awarenessitself isnotintermittent.Itisacontinuous,or,moreaccurately,ever-present,non-objective experience.

How could something that is ever-present be a by-product of something that is intermittent?Tobelievethatawarenessisaby-productofthebodyislikebelieving thatascreenisproducedbythemoviethatappearsonit.Thescreeniscontinuous;the moviecomesandgoes.Themovieisaby-productofthescreen.Awarenessislikea self-awarescreen:initsownexperienceofitselfitiscontinuousorever-present.

***

Awarenessvibrateswithinitselfandassumestheformofthefinitemind.Thefinite

mindisthereforenotanentityinitsownright;itistheactivityofawareness.Thereare

norealobjects,entitiesorselves,eachwithitsownseparateidentity,appearingin

awareness,justastherearenorealcharactersinamovie.Thereisonlyawarenessand

itsactivity,justasthereisonlythescreenanditsmodulation.

Awarenessassumestheformofthefinitemindbyidentifyingitselfwiththebody, throughtheagencyofwhichitknowstheworld,inthesamewaythatatnightourown mindcollapsesintothemindofthedreamedcharacterfromwhosepointofviewthe dreamedworldisknown.Justastheactivityofourindividualmindappearstoitselfin theformofthedreamedworld,soawarenessappearstoitselfastheworldintheform oftheactivityofeachofourminds.Itisonlyfromthepointofviewoftheapparent awareness-in-the-bodyentity–thefinitemind–thatawarenessnowseemstobe limited and temporary, and that the body and world seem to have their own independentstatusasobjects.

Awarenessassumestheformofthefinitemindinordertosimultaneouslycreateand

knowtheworld,butitdoesn’tneedtoassumetheformofmindinordertoknow

itself.Awarenessismadeofpureknowingorbeingaware,andthereforeknowsitself

simplybybeingitself.Awarenessdoesn’tneedtoreflectitsknowingoffanobjectin

ordertoknowitself,justasthesundoesn’tneedtoreflectitslightoffthemoonin

ordertoilluminateitself.

Achildsometimestakesamirrorandcatchesthelightofthesunwithit,reflectingthe

sun’slightintoafriend’seyes.Tobelievethatawarenessneedsafinitemindtoknow

itselfislikebelievingthatthesunilluminatesitselfbyreflectingitslightoffalittle

pieceofmirror.Thesundoesn’tneedamirrortoilluminateitself;itilluminatesitself

byitself.Likewise,awarenessdoesn’tneedtoshineinoronanobject,suchasamind

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orabody,toknowitselfthroughthereflectedlightofthatobject.Theonlysubstance

thatispresentinawarenessisbeingaware,awarebeingorpureknowing.Therefore,

theknowingofitselfiswhatitis,notwhatitdoes.

Inordertoilluminateanobject,thesunmustdirectitsraysawayfromitself,towards

thatobject,butinordertoilluminateitselfthesundoesn’thavetodirectitsrays

anywhere.Likewise,toknowanobject,otherorworld,awarenesshastoriseinthe

formofmind,whichitdoesbylocatingitselfinabody,fromwhosepointofviewit

cannowdirectthelightofitsknowingtowardsthatobject.Butinordertoknowitself

itdoesn’tneedtodirectitsknowinginanyparticulardirection.Itdoesn’thavetogo

anywhereordoanything.Forawareness,beingitselfisknowingitself,justasforthe

sun,beingitselfisilluminatingitself.

Allobjectsandselvesareknownbyawareness,butawarenessisknownbyitself alone.Thus,allobjectsandselvesdependuponandarerelativetoawareness,but awareness is relative to nothing. All knowledge is relative except awareness’s knowingofitsownbeing.Awareness’sknowledgeofitselfisthusabsolute.Infact, awareness’sknowledgeofitselfistheonlyabsoluteknowledgethereis,andisassuch thefoundationandfountainofallrelativeknowledge.

Justasthesunistooclosetoitselftoturnroundandilluminateitselfinsubject–object

relationship,soawarenessistooclosetoitselftostandapartfromitselfasaseparate

subjectofexperienceandknowitselfasanobject.Thus,awareness’sknowledgeofits

ownbeingisutterlyunique.Itisacategoryofknowledgethattranscendsallother

knowledgeandexperience.Itissacredknowledge.Itisabsolute.Itremainsthesame

atalltimes,inallplaces,andunderallconditionsandcircumstances.Itistheonly

certainty,fromwhichallotherknowledgeborrowsitsrelativecertainty.

Awareness’s knowing of its own being is imperturbable, indestructible, inextinguishable,indivisible,immutable,immortal,invulnerable.Itcannotbetouched, butallknowledgeandexperiencedistouchedbyit.Itistheonlyknowledgethatdoes notrequirethedivisionofexperienceintoanapparentdualityofsubjectandobject, andsoitissaidtobenon-dualknowledge.

Theselfthatknowsistheselfthatisknown,justasthesunthatilluminatesisthesun that is illuminated. All other knowledge and experience requires the division of experienceintoanapparentsubjectfromwhoseperspectiveanobject,otherorworld maybeknown.Inrelationtoallobjects,awarenesscanbesaidtobetheultimate subject of experience, but its knowing of its own being transcends the duality of subjectandobject.

The belief that awareness needs a mind in order to know itself is a common misunderstandinginthefieldknownasConsciousnessStudies,wherethedisciplines ofnon-dualityandsciencemeet,andparticularlyincontemporaryexpressionsofthe non-dual understanding. Awareness need only assume the form of an apparently separatesubjectofexperience,thefinitemind,inordertoknowaseparateobject, otherorworld.Toknowitselfitneednotassumetheformofaseparatesubject,nor canitknowitselfasanobject.

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Forawareness,thereisnodistancebetweenitselfandtheknowingofitself.Itis simultaneously the subject and the object of its own experience. The essential, irreduciblenatureofawarenessistobeandknowitselfalone.Theknowingofitsown objectless being is awareness’s primary experience. Just by being itself, it knows itself.Awarenessistheknowingelementinallthatisknownorexperiencedandis, therefore,theonly‘one’presenttoknoworexperienceanything,includingitself.The ordinary, intimate and familiar experience of simply being aware is awareness’s awarenessofitself.

***

Themindcanneverknoworfindawareness,althougheverythingthatitknowsor

findsismadeofawarenessalone,justasacharacterinamoviecanneverknoworfind

thescreenalthougheverythingthatsheknowsorfindsismadeonlyofthescreen.The

mindthatseekstoknoworfindawarenessislikeacharacterinamoviethattravels

theworldinsearchofthescreen.It'slikeacurrentintheoceaninsearchofwater.The

mindismadeoutoftheverystuffforwhichitisinsearch,butitcanneverfindthat

stuffonitsownterms,thatis,asanobjectiveexperienceintimeandspace.

Imaginephysicalspacepriortotheappearanceofanyobjectwithinit,justavast, borderlessspace.Nowimagineaddingtothisspacethequalityofbeingawareor knowing.Thespaceisnowavastawareorknowingfield,withoutbordersandempty of objects. If we were now to remove the space-like quality from this aware or knowingfield,wewouldendupwithpure,dimensionlessknowingorbeingaware, thatis,wewouldendupwithawarenessorconsciousnessitself.

In fact, it is not possible to imagine something that has no dimensions. Indeed, somethingthathasnodimensionsisnotathing.Whateverwecanthinkofmusthave objectivequalitiesandthereforeadimensionintimeorspace.Awarenessitselfhasno dimensionsandisthusnotathingorobjectofanykind,andyettheexperienceof awarenessorbeingawareisanundeniable,albeitnon-objectiveexperience.However, thisdoesnotinvalidatetheattempttothinkofawareness.Intryingtoimaginethevery awarenessoutofwhichitismade,themindwillbringitselftoitsownend,andasa result,objectlessawarenesswillshineasitis.

Thereisactuallynosuchexperienceastheendingofmind.Indeed,thereisnosuch

thingasthemindoramind.Theonlyentitypresentinmind,ifitcanbecalledan

entity,isawarenessorconsciousnessitself,andawarenessorconsciousnessnever

ends,norindeedstarts.Mindonlybelievesthatawarenessstartsandendsbecauseit

identifiesawarenesswiththelimitedandtemporarybody.However,inawareness’s

ownexperienceofitself–andawarenessistheonlyonethatknowsanythingabout

awareness–awarenessisever-present.

Mindistheactivityofawareness.Therefore,inthesamewaythatthescreendoesn’t

cometoanendwhenamovieendsbutsimplylosesitstemporarycolouring,so

awarenessdoesn’tendwhenthemindstops,butsimplyceasescolouringitselfinthe

formofmind’sactivity.

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Mindisaself-colouringofawareness,justasamovieisaself-colouringofthescreen.

Intheattempttoknowtheawarenessoutofwhichitismade,themindsimplylosesits

colourandstandsrevealedaspure,dimensionless,colourlessawareness–pureinthe

sensethatitisnotmixedwithanythingotherthanitself,anddimensionlessinthatit

hasnoobjectivequalitiesextendedintimeorspace.Thiszero-dimensionalawareness

isnotanabstractionofthoughttowhichnoonehasaccessorknowledge.Itisthevery

awarenesswithwhicheachofusiscurrentlyknowingourexperience.

Infact,itisnottheawarenesswithwhichweareknowingourexperience.Thisnon-

dimensionalawarenessisnotaqualityofourself,nordoesitbelongtoourself.Itis

ourself–andnotevenourself.Itistheself,ifitcanbecalledaself.Thereisno‘me’

or‘us’towhomawarenessbelongs.Itbelongstoitself.

Wedonothaveawareness;weareawareness.Awarenessisnotanattributeofthe

body,justasthescreenisnotapropertyofacharacterinamovie.Norisawarenessin

thebody;rather,itis‘initself’.Justasthescreendoesnotappearinthespaceand

timethatexistforthecharacterinamovie,soawarenessdoesnotappearinthespace

andtimethatseemtoexistforthefinitemind.

Asaconcessiontothemindthatwantstothinkaboutthenatureofawareness,itis legitimate and even necessary to add a subtle space-like quality to it to give it apparentlyobjectiveandthusconceivable,describablequalities.So,toaccommodate ourdesiretothinkandspeakofawareness,letusconceiveofitasavast,borderless, empty,self-awarespace,afieldormediumwhosenatureissimplyknowingorbeing aware.Intime,thinkingaboutawarenessgiveswaytothecontemplationofawareness –itscontemplationofitself–ofwhichmorewillbesaidinsubsequentchapters.

***

Everythingappearstomindinaccordancewithitsunderstandingofitself.‘Asaman is,sohesees.Astheeyeisformed,suchareitspowers.’ * Itisforthisreasonthat sciencecannottellusanythingaboutthenatureofawareness.Whatpassesforthe increasinglypopularfieldofConsciousnessStudiesis,inalmostallcases,astudyof brain activity, not a study of consciousness. Only consciousness knows about consciousness.Onlyawarenessisawareofawareness.Scienceisanactivityofthe finite mind, that is, an activity of thought and perception, and necessarily superimposesthelimitationsofminduponeverythingitknowsorperceives.

Everything that is known by the mind is an expression and reflection of its own limitations. Being temporary and finite itself, the mind believes awareness to be likewise.Mostminds,throughwhichobjective realityisknown, forgettheir own limitations and project them instead onto whatever they know or perceive. Thus, everythingexperiencedbythemindappearstobetemporaryintimeand/orfinitein space.Forgettingthatithasprojecteditsownlimitationsonreality,themindbelieves thatthetimeandspaceitseemstoexperienceareinnatequalitiesofobjectivereality itself,whereasinfacttheyaresimplyreflectionsofitsownlimitations.

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Timeandspaceare,infact,dimensionlessawarenessrefractedthroughtheprismof thefinitemind,thatis,refractedthroughthoughtandperception.Theyarethefilters throughwhichawarenessperceivesitsownrealityintheformoftheworld.Ifreality isrefractedthroughthemindofaflea,itwillappearinaccordancewiththelimitations ofaflea’smind;ifthroughthemindofadog,inaccordancewiththelimitationsofa dog’s mind; and if through the mind of a human being, in accordance with the limitationsofahumanmind.

However,mindisnotsomethingseparatefromreality.Itisrealityitself–awareness

itself–whichassumestheformsofeachofthesemindsandthroughtheiragencyis

abletoknoworperceiveasegmentofitsowninfinitepotentialintheformofthe

world.Inotherwords,theillusionofamultiplicityanddiversityofobjectsknownby

aseparatesubjectremains;ignoranceofitsrealitygoes.Astheeighth-centuryZen

masterHuangPosaid,‘Peopleneglecttherealityoftheillusoryworld.’

Evenwhentheessentialnatureofmindhasbeenrecognised,realitywillstillappear asamultiplicityanddiversityofobjectsandselves,inaccordancewiththelimitations ofthemindthroughwhichitisknown.However,thisappearancewillbeinformedby theunderstandingthattheapparentmultiplicityanddiversityofrealityisnotaquality ofrealityitself,butofthemindthroughwhichandaswhichitisperceived.Itwillbe recognisedthattherealitythatunderliestheappearanceofmultiplicityanddiversityis itself an infinite, indivisible whole, and this understanding will inform all the subsequentactivitiesofsuchamind.

Themindcannotknowthenatureofrealityuntilitknowsitsownnature,thusthe scienceofmindisthehighestscience.By‘scienceofmind’,Idonotmeanthestudy ofthecontentofmind;Imeantheknowledgeoftheessentialnatureofmind.The essentialnatureofmindisthatelementofmindwhichremainscontinuouslypresent throughoutallitschangingknowledgeandexperience.Itisthatelementofmindthat cannot be removed from it. It is original, unconditioned mind, pure knowing, awareness or consciousness itself. Thus, the ultimate science is the science of consciousness.

However,thescienceofconsciousnessisauniquescience,becauseitistheonly branchofknowledgethatdoesnotrequireconsciousnesstoriseintheformofthe finitemindand,assuch,directitselftowardsobjectiveknowledgeorexperience.The science of consciousness is entirely between consciousness and itself. It is about awareness’sknowledgeofitsownbeing.

Awareness’s knowledge of itself is the only absolute knowledge. It is sacred knowledge;inreligiouslanguageitisGod’sknowledgeofHimself. * Itisthehighest understanding,uponwhichallsubsequentknowledgemustdepend.

*WilliamBlake,lettertotheReverendJohnTrusler(1799).

*ReferringtoGodas‘Him’isusedsimplyasaconventionandhasnoothersignificance.

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CHAPTER3

PANPSYCHISMANDTHECONSCIOUSNESS-ONLYMODEL

Theunderstandingthatonlyawarenessisawareisoneofthemostchallengingaspects

ofthisapproachand,atthesametime,themostimportanttograsp.

Ifwestartwiththebeliefthatitis‘I,thebody’or‘I,theperson’thatisaware,

everythingwesubsequentlyknowwillbeconditionedbythatbelief.Iwouldsuggest

thatthereasoncontemporarysciencehassomuchdifficultyfittingconsciousnessinto

itsmodeloftheuniverseispreciselybecausetheinvestigationisfoundedonthe

assumptionthatconsciousnessisapropertyofthebody.

Havingmadetheassumptionthatthebodyorthepersonisaware,mostpeoplein

general,andscientistsinparticular,legitimatelyassumethatanimalsarealsoaware.If

wetreadonourcat’stailitscreeches,andfromthisitisreasonabletoconcludethat

thecatisaware,inthiscaseawareofthepain.Thebeliefthatthecatisawareis

simplyanextensionofthebeliefthatthebodyisaware,orthatawarenessisan

attributeofthebodyorperson.

Reasoning in this way, the scientist who is open to the possibility of fitting consciousness into his model of the universe continues down the animal chain, grantingvariousdegreesofconsciousnesstobirds,fish,snails,flies,amoeba,andso on,eventuallywonderingwheretodrawthelinebetweenwhatisawareandwhatis not.Wherevertheydrawthelineposesanuncomfortablequestion:Howdoinanimate objectsononesideofthelineevolveintoawarebeingsontheother?Inotherwords, howdoesinsentientmattergiverisetoconsciousness?Thisquestion,knownasthe hard problem of consciousness, lies at the heart of the debate in science and philosophytoday.

Theideathatconsciousnessisderivedfrominertmatterisprofoundlyinimicaltoour deepest intuition. Recognising this impossibility, many physicists conclude that a degreeofconsciousnessmustbepresentthroughouttheuniverse,andthisconclusion leads to the statement, common in the field of Consciousness Studies, that consciousnessisfundamentaltotheuniverse.Thisformulationeliminatestheneedto explainhowtheuniversegeneratesconsciousness–thatis,itseemstosolvethehard problemofconsciousness.

The belief that consciousness is fundamental to the universe, which is known in philosophyaspanpsychism,doesnotinfactsolvetheproblem.Itsimplypositsthat consciousnessisfundamentaltomatter,therebydoingawaywiththeproblemofhow matter generates consciousness. It doesn’t address the relationship between consciousnessandmatterbutmerelypostponesit.Iwouldsuggestthatthebeliefthat consciousnessisfundamentaltotheuniverseisstillasubtleformofmaterialism.

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***

Panpsychism,thebeliefthatconsciousnessormind(inphilosophythesetwotermsare equated,unlikeinthenon-dualtradition,wheretheyaredistinguished)isanessential andfundamentalpropertyofthings,isnotanewidea.ItwasprevalentinearlyGreek philosophy. The word ‘panpsychism’ comes from the Greek pan-, meaning ‘everything’or‘all’,andpsyche,meaning‘mind’or‘soul’.Aristotle,forexample, believedthat‘everythingisfullofgods’.

Thebeliefthatallthingsarefullofgods,orthatconsciousnessisfundamentaltoall things,dependsupontheexistenceofthings.Itstartswithamultiplicityanddiversity of things! It is equivalent to saying that the screen is fundamental to an image. Althoughthisappearstobeatruestatement,itcontainsamisunderstanding,anditis inthissubtlemisunderstandingthattherealproblemforcontemporaryphilosophylies.

Tosuggestthatthescreenisafundamentalpropertyoftheimageistocredittheimage withmoreexistencethanitdeserves.Itistostartwiththeimageandworkbackwards from there to the screen. Likewise, to state that consciousness is a fundamental propertyoftheuniverseistostartwiththeuniverseandworkbackwardsfromthereto consciousness.Inotherwords,itistostartwiththematerialistassumptionthatthereis somethingcalledauniverse.

Ifwestartwiththeassumptionofauniverseandtrytofitconsciousnessintothat

model,weendupwiththeclassicpanpsychiststatementthatallthingshaveadegree

ofconsciousnessor,moresimply,thattheuniverseisconscious.However,fromthe

perspectiveofconsciousnessthereisno‘all’.Fromconsciousness’sperspectivethere

isjustitsownseamless,indivisible,unified,infinitewhole.

The belief that the universe is conscious is New Age non-duality, and it is this confusion that leads so many people who would otherwise be open to the consciousness-onlymodeltorejectit.Thebeliefthattheuniverseisawareissimply anextensionofthematerialistbeliefthatthebodyisaware.Fleasarenotaware;fish arenotaware;dogsarenotaware;treesandrocksarenotaware;humanbeingsarenot aware;theuniverseisnotaware.Onlyawarenessisaware!Onlyconsciousnessis conscious.

The word ‘universe’, from the Latin uni-, ‘one’, and versus, ‘turned’, means ‘combinedintoone;whole’.Whatisitinourexperienceoftheso-calleduniversethat iswhole,one,undivided?Onlyconsciousness!Everythingelseweknowaboutthe universe comprises a multiplicity and diversity of objects. The only element of experiencethatisone,undividedand wholeisconsciousnessitself,or self-aware being.Theuniverseisnotconscious;consciousnessistheuniverse!

Infact,themorescientistslookforauniverse,thelesstheyfindit.Themoretheylook

formatter,thelesslikematteritseemstobe.Why?Becausetheyarelookingforitin

objectiveexperience.Soonerorlatersciencewillrealisethatconsciousnessisthe

realityforwhichtheyareseekinginobjectiveknowledgeandexperience.

Ifwewanttobuildamodelofreality,wemuststartwithfirstprinciples.Whatisthe

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primary element in all experience? Consciousness! To build a theory based upon anythingotherthanconsciousnessistobuildahouseonsand.Nomatterhowwellthe housemaybeconstructed,itwillsoonerorlatercollapseduetotheinsubstantial natureofitsfoundation.

Thebeliefthatconsciousnessisfundamentaltotheuniversecreditstheuniversewith toomuchexistence.Theuniversedoesnotexist!Thatis,itdoesnot‘standoutfrom’ consciousnesswithitsownindependentreality. * Onlyconsciousnesstrulyis. The apparent existence of the universe is consciousness itself – indivisible, self-aware being–refractedthroughtheactivityofthefinitemind.Theuniverseborrowsits apparentexistencefromconsciousness,justasthelandscapeinthemovieborrowsits apparentrealityfromthetrueandonlyrealityofthescreen.

***

Matteristhewayconsciousnessappearstoitselfwhenviewedthroughtheprismofa

finitemind.Thefinitemindalwaysknowsexperienceinduality,thatis,insubject–

objectrelationship,sotheobjectmustappearinawaythatisdistinctfromthesubject.

Withoutthisdistinctiontherecouldbenomanifestation.Inotherwords,manifestation

mustappearassomethingotherthanconsciousness.Inordertodistinguishitfrom

consciousness,manifestationmusthavequalitiesthatconsciousnessdoesnothave.

Consciousnessistransparent,empty,non-objective,formless.Therefore,manifestation

mustseemtobesolid,full,objectiveandwithform.Thisiswhytherocksandtreesin

ourdreamsseemtobesolid.

Thereasonwebelievethattheuniverseexistsasanobjectisthatwebelievetheself

existsasasubject.Thatis,thebeliefinanexternaluniverseispredicateduponour

beliefthatourself,theknowingelementinallexperience,livesinandisapropertyof

thebody.Thesanduponwhichmaterialism,andbyextensionpanpsychism,isbuiltis

ourbeliefinourselvesastemporary,finitemindsorentitieslivinginandsharingthe

destinyandlimitsofthebody.

The scientists and philosophers who subscribe to the materialist assumption that dominates our world culture, as well as those who have moved closer to the consciousness-only model and propose panpsychism as the answer to the hard problemofconsciousness,willneverfindtheanswertotheirquestionsuntilthey discovertheultimatenatureofthemselves,thatis,untiltheydiscovertheessential natureofthemind.

Everythingthatisknownbythemindappearsinaccordancewithitsownknowledge ofitself.Aslongaswestartwiththebeliefthat‘I,thebody’isawareofexperience, we are conducting our investigation on a faulty premise. All our subsequent discoverieswillcontainthisfundamentalerrormoreorlesssubtlyconcealedwithin them.Materialismandpanpsychismbothstartwiththingsandproceedfromthereto consciousness.Bothapproachestrytograftnewunderstandingontoanoldmodel; theyputnewwineintooldskins.Wehavetostartwiththeunderstandingthatonly awarenessisaware.Onlyconsciousnessisconscious.

38

Whilst the panpsychist view may be a welcome and necessary intrusion into the prevailingmaterialistparadigm,itwill,Iwouldsuggest,soonerorlaterhavetobe abandoned.Ofcourse,newparadigmsarenotbornovernight.Itwasoverahundred yearsagothatitwasfirstsuggestedbyAlbertEinstein,MaxPlanck,NielsBohr, ErwinSchrödingerandothersthattheobservermayaffecttheobserved,openingthe debateastotherelationshipbetweenconsciousnessandmatter.Althoughthisdebate fellintodeclineduringmuchofthetwentiethcentury,itisenjoyingsomethingofa renaissance.

Panpsychismisasteppingstonethatwill,hopefully,atleastusherinanewparadigm

inwhichourmodeloftheuniversestartswithandisbuiltuponconsciousnessitself.

Soonerorlaterourculturemustwakeupfromthedreamofmaterialism,ofwhich

panpsychismisasubtleextension,andestablishconsciousnessinitsrightfulplaceas

theabsoluterealityofallthatseemstobe.Theuniverseisconsciousnessitself:one

seamless,indivisible,self-awarewholeinwhichtherearenoparts,objects,entitiesor

selves.

*Theword‘exist’comesfromtheLatinex-,meaning‘outof’,andsistere,meaning‘tostand’.

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CHAPTER4

THEINWARD-FACINGPATH:THEDISTINCTIONBETWEENCONSCIOUSNESSANDOBJECTS

Inordertoknowthenatureofawarenessitself,itisfirstnecessarytodistinguish awarenessfromallthatitisawareof.Havingestablishedthepresenceofawareness, we will now explore in more detail the process by which awareness itself is distinguishedfromobjectiveexperience,pavingthewayfortheprocessbywhichthe natureofawarenessisdiscovered.

Inmostpeopletheexperienceofbeingaware,orawarenessitself,issothoroughly mixedwiththecontentofobjectiveexperience–thoughts,feelings,sensationsand perceptions–thatitisusuallyoverlookedand,asaresult,seemstobemissingorat least obscured. How many of us were ever asked by our parents, teachers or professors, ‘What is it that is aware of your experience?’, ‘With what is your experienceknown?’or‘Howisitpossiblefortheretobeexperienceatall?’Ihaveyet tomeetanyonewhoanswers‘Yes’tothisquestion.Althougheveryoneisaware,few areawareoftheawarenesswithwhichexperienceisknown.Thatis,fewareawareof beingaware.

Tooverlookthepresenceofawarenessbehindandwithinallexperienceisequivalent

tooverlookingthescreenduringamovie.Oncethescreenhasbeenoverlookeditisno

longerpossibletoviewthemovieintherightcontext.Likewise,onceawarenessorthe

originalnatureofmindhasbeenoverlooked,itisnolongerpossibletoknowwhoor

whatanyoneoranythingtrulyis.

Allthatisorcouldeverbeknownisexperience,andallthereistoexperienceisthe knowingofit.However,theknowingofexperienceisonephenomenon,nottwo,so onemightlegitimatelyquestionthevalidityofseparatingtheknowingelementof experiencefromexperienceitself,thatis,separatingawarenessfromobjects.Indoing so, are we not falling prey to the very duality that characterises the materialist paradigmwearechallenging?

Intheoryitisnotnecessarytomakethisdistinction,butourworldculturehasalready conceivedadivisionbetweenmindandmatterandattributedultimaterealitytothe latter.Thedistinctionbetweenmindandmatterisfeltatthelevelofhumanexperience astheseparationbetweenourselfandallobjectsandothers,anditisthecauseofthe existentialsenseoflackandthefearofdisappearanceordeaththatcharacteriseand motivatetheseparateselforego.Itisinresponsetothisbelief,andthepursuitof happinessandsecuritythataccompaniesit,thatitisvalidandevennecessarytomake a distinction between the knower and the known. Later we will collapse this distinction,butitisausefultoolintheearlystagesofourinvestigation.

Althoughexperiencecannottrulybeseparatedfromtheknowingorawarenessofit,

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the distinction between awareness and experience is important in this initial investigationinordertoestablishboththepresenceandtheprimacyofawareness–its presence because without awareness there can be no experience, and its primacy because awareness is the essential, irreducible and fundamental reality which precedes,pervadesandoutlivesallobjectiveexperience.

Withoutdrawingattentiontoawareness,theknowingelementinallexperience,one might reasonably conclude either that the body-mind is the knowing subject of experience,asisconventionallybelieved,orthatonlyobjectiveexperience–thinking, feeling,sensingandperceiving–exists,asindeedmanyNewAgeexpressionsofthe non-dualunderstandingassert.Intheseteachingsitisoftenclaimedthat‘Thereisonly this’, implying that all that exists is the multiplicity and diversity of objective phenomena,intheabsenceofaknowingorperceivingsubject.

Inthisview,thefactthatitisnotpossibletohaveamultiplicityanddiversityof

objectswithoutaknowingorexperiencingsubject,justasitisnotpossibletohave

onlyonefaceofacoin,hasbeenoverlooked.Inmakingsuchaclaim,thesubjectof

experience–theegoorseparateself–hasfooleditselfintobelievinginitsown

absence.Foranegoseekingrelieffromthediscomfortofitsownsuffering,thisbelief

isacomfortingbutdeludedrefugefromwhichitmustatsomepointreturn.

***

Howdoesthedistinctionbetweenawarenessandexperiencecomeabout?Inaninfant,

experienceisanundifferentiatedmassinwhichtheknowingelement–beingawareor

awarenessitself–ismergedsoseamlesslywithobjectiveexperiencethatthereisno

senseofbeingaknowingsubjectthatstandsapartfromtheknownobjectorworldin

subject–objectrelationship.Inthissense,aninfant’sexperienceissimilartothatofan

animal.Afishhasnoideathatitisafishorthatitisswimminginanocean.Asfaras

weknow,thefish’sexperienceisanundifferentiatedmassofsensingandperceiving.

Aninfanthasnoideathatitisaninfant,northatithas,letaloneis,abody,separate fromitsmother,lyinginacradleinaroominaworld.Intheinfant’sexperienceof seeing,hearing,tasting,touchingandsmelling,itsknowingofitself,itsmotherandthe worldareentirelymerged.Amultiplicityanddiversityofdiscreteobjectsknownbya separate subject have not yet emerged from the seamless intimacy of pure experiencing.Yettheinfant’sexperienceisstillknownfromtheperspectiveofa body,andalthoughtheinfantisnotyetabletoconceiveofitsindividualidentity,this perspectivewilllaterformthebasisofitssenseofbeingaseparateself.

Thepre-verbal,pre-egoicconditionofaninfantisanearlystageofdevelopmentthat

NewAgethinkingandsuperficialapproachestonon-dualityoftenmistakenlyequate

tothepost-egoicrecognitionthatinfiniteawarenessisthefundamentalrealityofall

existence,towhichmysticsandsagesofallculturesrefer.Itistruethatthepre-egoic

conditionandthepost-egoicrealisationsharequalitiesofinnocenceandspontaneity,

butweshouldnotconfusethechildishstateoftheformerwiththechildlikecondition

ofthelatter.Indeed,youngchildrenandanimalsarealmostuniversallylovedbecause

41

theinnocenceandspontaneitythatweseeinthemremindus,notofagoldenageof

childhoodwhichweonceknewandhavenowlost,butofthepotentialforinnocence

andspontaneitythatliewithinus,onlythinlyveiledorobscuredbytheclamourof

objectiveexperience.

Asaninfantgrows,thesenseofitselfasaseparate,knowingsubjectofexperience

beginstoemergeanditlearnstodistinguishitselffromallobjectsandothers.To

beginwith,theself-mother-worldmatrixisdividedintotwoentities–self-motherand

world–andsubsequentlyintoself,motherandworld,atrinitythatwillsubsequently

becomethebasisoftheconventionalbeliefinthesoul,Godandtheworld.

Theresultofthisnaturalseparationprocessisthedivisionofpureexperiencingintoan experiencerandtheexperienced,aknowerandtheknown.Self,objectsandothers begintoarisefromwithintheundifferentiatedintimacyofpureexperiencing.The infantdiscoversthatthesoft,warmsensationthatwilllaterbeconceptualisedas‘my mother’sbreast’isnotapartofitself,andthatthesmallpatchofwavingpinkthatwill laterbeconceptualisedas‘myhand’isapartofitself.Theseedoftheegoorseparate self that lies dormant in the infant, and that until now has been a process of individuation,beginstocrystalliseintoadiscreteentity,whichidentifiesitselfasthe body-mind.

As a perspective, activity or process the ego is neither a mistake nor a problem. However,asanentityitisaproblem,forthebeliefthatouressentialnatureislimited toandlocatedinthebodyisaccompaniedbythelossofthehappiness,freedomand peacethatareinnateintheknowingofourownessential,irreduciblebeing.That beliefistheultimatecauseofthesearchforhappinessthroughobjectiveexperience whichdefinesanddominatesthelifeoftheseparateself.

Thefinitemindoregois,therefore,muchmorethansimplytheconceptualisationof the‘I’thought.Evenbeforetheinfantbeginstodeveloptheabilitytoconceptualise experience,itknowsitsexperiencefromthelimitedandlocatedperspectiveofthe body.Thatis,itknowsitsexperiencefromthepointofviewofanapparentselfthat seemstobelocatedinandtosharethelimitsofthebody.Thisemergenceoftheego orseparateselfisanaturalandessentialpartofdevelopmentinchildhood.Itisthe process by which the child’s identity as a separate individual is progressively established,andifnotproperlyconcludeditleadstopsychologicalproblemslaterin life.

Asthechildgrowsitbeginstoconceptualiseitselfasanentitylivinginandasthe body,andallobjectsandothersareconceptualisedinrelationtoandasaninevitable counterpart of that self. In this way, the process of individuation becomes an individualentity.Egoasprocessisreplacedbyegoasentity.

Under normal circumstances, by the time we are a young teenager we will have establishedasenseofourselfasanindividualbody-mind,theseparatesubjectof experience,withahealthyconnectionto objects,othersandourenvironment. By adulthood,thebeliefandfeelingthattheessential,irreducibleelementofourself–the experienceofbeingawareorawarenessitself–isidenticaltoandthussharesthe limitsanddestinyofthebodywillhavebecomewellestablished.

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Inotherwords,thebeliefthatawarenessisbothtemporaryandfiniteisinculcatedinto

achildatanearlystageandbecomesthefundamentalassumptionthatunderpinsand

informsitssubsequentthoughts,feelings,activitiesandrelationshipsasitmaturesinto

adulthood.

***

The development of a separate self or ego as an entity is effected by a gradual distinctionbetweentheselfandallobjectsandothers,anaturalprocessthatresultsin a conventional sense of ourself as a separate individual. In a healthy culture this development of the ego would be seen as an inevitable but transitory stage of development through which an individual passes as it matures. However, in our culturetheprocessofindividuationismistakenforaseparateentity,andinmostcases allfurtherdevelopmentisbasedupontheunderstandingofourselfasthatseparate, individuatedselforego.

Althoughthepossibilityoftranscendingtheegoislargelyunknowninourculture, most people recognise at some level that the ego as a fixed entity represents an unnecessaryandunwelcomelimitationuponouressentialidentityandis,assuch,the cause of our suffering and its subsequent manifestation in conflicts between individuals,communitiesandnations.Thefactthattheterm‘egoic’hasderogatory implicationsincommonparlancebetraysthisintuition.

IntheHindutraditionofAdvaitaVedanta,theprocessthatdistinguisheswhatweare

fromwhatwearenotisreferredtoasnetineti,aSanskrittermthattranslatesas‘not

this,notthis’or‘neitherthisnorthat’.Itisequivalenttothe‘vianegativa’ofWestern

mysticisminwhichrealityisdescribedintermsofwhatitisnot,ratherthanwhatitis.

Whilstthedevelopmentoftheinfantintoayoungadultcouldbeconsideredtheinitial,

instinctivenetinetiprocessthroughwhichayoungpersonpassesduringtheearly

stagesoflife,itsfurtherdevelopmentrequiresaconsciouseffortonthepartofthe

adult.

The early stages of the neti neti process in childhood progressively distinguish a knowingselffromaknownobject,otherorworldandculminateinthebeliefand feelingthatweareessentiallyanamalgamofthebodyandthemind.Webelieveand feel that the mind resides in the body, and more specifically in the brain, where thoughts are believed to take place, and that it looks out through the senses to experiencetheworld,whichisconsideredtobeseparateandindependentofitself, madeoutofsomethingotherthanitself,namelymatter.

Thisbeliefisthefoundationofourmaterialistworldview.Thematerialistparadigmis

notbasedupontheknowledgeofmatteritselfbutisareflectionofthefundamental

beliefinourselfasatemporary,finitemindlivinginandasthebody.Theapparent

realityoftheoutsideworldisaninevitablecorollaryofthebeliefinaninsideself.As

weconsiderourself,soweknowtheworld.

The neti neti approach, which is initiated naturally in infancy and developed

43

consciously on the spiritual path in adulthood, is the process through which the presenceandprimacyofawarenessareestablished,anditresultsintherecognition that what we essentially are is awareness itself. What is, in infancy, the natural, instinctiveprocessbywhichthedevelopingchilddistinguishesitsownbody-mind fromitsmotherandtheworldis,inadulthood,thesameprocessbywhichawareness isdistinguishedfromthebody-mind.

Awarenessis,infact,never,fromitsownpointofview,mixedwiththelimitationsof

thebody;itjustseemssofromthepointofviewofmind.However,allthereisto

mindisawareness.Mindisthelimitedformoractivitythatawarenessitselffreely

assumesinordertoknowobjectiveexperience.Inthenetinetiprocess,themind

bringsitselftotherecognitionthattheknowingwithwhichitknowsitsexperience–

pureawareness–isnotmixedwithorlimitedbyanyoftheobjectsthatitknowsoris

awareof.Inthenetinetiprocess,awarenessceasesveilingitselfwithitsownactivity

andpavesthewayfortherecognitionofitselfasitis,eternalandinfinite,justasthe

recognitionthatthescreendoesnotsharethelimitsordestinyofanyofthecharacters

inamoviepavesthewayfortherecognitionofthescreenasitessentiallyis.

Initsnativeconditionawarenesshasnoobjectivequalities,foranyobjectivequality hasaform,andanythingthathasaformisknown;itdoesnotknow.Awarenessisthe non-objectiveknowerofallobjectiveknowledgeandexperience:itispureknowingor beingaware.Beingwithoutform,awarenessissaidtobeempty,thatis,emptyof objective content. It is the witness of all objects but is not itself an object of knowledgeorexperience.

The discovery that awareness is the witness of all objective experience partially liberatesitfromthelimitationsofthebodyinandaswhichitseemedtobelocated, butitisnotafullliberation.Thediscovery‘Iamawarenessorconsciousnessitself’is notwhatisreferredtoasenlightenmentorawakening,althoughitisoftenmistakenas suchincontemporaryexpressionsofthenon-dualunderstanding.

Atthisstageofunderstanding,althoughawarenessisnolongerexclusivelyidentified

withthebody-mind,itstillseemstobelocatedandlimited.Assuch,itstillseemsto

betemporaryandfinite,thetwobeliefsthatgiverisetothefearofdeathandthesense

oflackaroundwhichtheapparentlyseparateselforfinitemindrevolves.Tofully

liberateawarenessfromallsuperimposedbeliefsandfeelings,afurtherinvestigation

isrequiredastotheessentialnatureofawarenessitself.

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CHAPTER5

THEDIRECTPATHTOENLIGHTENMENT

Havingdiscoveredthattheexperienceofsimplybeingawareorawarenessitselfisour

primary,essentialandirreducibleidentity,thequestionremainsastothenatureof

awarenessorconsciousnessitself.Thenextfourchaptersdetailtheprocessbywhich

thenatureofconsciousnessisexploredandrevealed.

Science and psychology focus their investigation exclusively on the phenomenal aspects of experience, mapping the known world with ever-increasing precision. ScienceisdefinedbytheOxfordEnglishDictionaryas‘theintellectualandpractical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment’. Psychology is definedas‘thescientificstudyofthehumanmindanditsfunctions’.

Allthatisorcouldeverbeknownofthe‘physicalandnaturalworld’aresensations andperceptions,andofthe‘humanmindanditsfunctions’,thoughts,imagesand feelings.Inotherwords,allthatisorcouldeverbeknownofthephysicalworldand the human mind is experience, and all experience takes place in consciousness. Therefore, using the same rigor and honesty by which science is defined, the disciplinesofscienceandpsychologycouldberedefinedasthestudyofthecontents ofconsciousness.Inneithercaseisconsciousnessitselfstudied.

Whynot?Becausescientistsandpsychologists,alongwiththemajorityofhumanity,

havelimitedtheirinterestandobservationtothestudyofobjectiveexperience,thereby

overlookingand,insomeextremecases,altogetherdenyingthesubjectiveexperience

ofconsciousnessorawarenessitself.Consciousnessisconsidered,ifitisconsideredat

all,tobeaby-productofitscontents.Anyonewouldberidiculedforbelievingthatthe

skyisproducedbyclouds,thattelevisionscreensarecreatedbymoviesorthatoceans

aregeneratedbywaves,butsuchistheextraordinarydegreetowhichourculturehas

departedfromrealitythatwhenappliedtothematterofexperienceitself,suchanidea

isrevered.Indeed,ithasbecome,withoutourevenrealisingit,theveryfoundationof

ourworldculture.

Fromtheperspectiveofscience,objectiveexperienceconsistsofthebodyandworld, and subjective experience – the realm of psychology – of thoughts, images and feelings.Thus,theobjectiverealmisequatedwithpublicorsharedexperience,the subjective realm with private, idiosyncratic experience. The world is considered sharedandconsciousnessprivate,andthereforeonlytheworldisconsideredaworthy subjectofempiricalstudy.

However,fromtheconsciousness-onlyperspective,bothourexperienceofthebody and world and our experience of thoughts, images and feelings are considered

45

objective–notbecausetheyaresharedbutbecausebothhaveobservablequalitiesor characteristics.Consciousnessaloneisconsideredsubjective,thatis,thesubjective knowerofallobjectiveknowledgeandexperience.However,itisalsolegitimatein thiscontexttosaythatallexperienceissubjective,meaningthatallexperiencetakes placewithinourownminds.Ineachofthesestatementsthewords‘objective’and ‘subjective’ are used with different meanings, and as long as these meanings are understood there is no contradiction between them. What is important is that whicheverformulationisused,experiencenotbedividedintotwoessentialrealms:it iseitherallsubjectiveorallobjective.

Letussticktotheformermeaning,inwhichallexperienceisconsideredobjectiveand consciousness alone subjective. Being subjective and without form or observable qualities, the experience of being aware, awareness or consciousness itself is overlookedbymostpeopleinfavourofobjectiveexperience.Thisapproachistaken to an extreme in the field of Consciousness Studies. Instead of expanding the parameters of science to include the non-objective experience of being aware, researchershavesuperimposedthelimitationsoftheirownmindsontoconsciousness itself,tryingtherebytobringconsciousnesswithinthelimitedparametersofobjective experience,andthusreducingthestudyofconsciousnesstothestudyofneuroscience. However,neurologycantellusnothingaboutthenatureofconsciousness,norindeed cananyotherbranchofscience.Onlyconsciousnessknowsconsciousness.

Everyone has equal access to the experience of being aware, awareness or consciousness itself, and therefore everyone is equally qualified to investigate its nature.Onedoesnotneedtobeatrainedscientistorpsychologist,nordoesoneneed tobelongtoanyreligiousorspiritualtradition.Infact,thepreconceivedideasand, moreimportantly,theemotionalinvestmentthatmayattendsuchaffiliationsoften precludearigorouslyhonestandimpartialinvestigationofexperience,leavingthe fieldopentofreethinkersoutsidetheconstraintsofanyformalinstitution.

***

Howarewegoingtostudyconsciousnessorawareness?Beforebeingabletoanswer

thatquestionwehavetodecidewhatisgoingtostudyawareness.Onlythatwhich

knowsathingcantellusanythingaboutthatthing.

Therefore,onlythatwhichknowsawarenesscantellusanythingaboutawareness.

Whatisitthatknowsawarenessortheexperienceofbeingaware?Thoughts,images,

feelings,sensationsandperceptionsarenotthemselvesaware;theyareobjectsweare

awareof.Butwhoisthe‘we’thatisawareofthem?Itisawarenessitself,theknowing

elementinallexperience.Onlyawarenessisaware,andthereforeonlyawareness

knowsanythingaboutawareness.

Thestudyofawarenessisauniquescienceinthatitisentirelybetweenawarenessand itself. In the East it is known as meditation; in the West it is known as prayer. Althoughthepracticeofmeditationhasbeenreducedbypopularculturetoameansof relievingstressandanxiety,initsoriginalformitisthemeansbywhichawarenesshas

46

accesstoitsknowledgeofitself.Likewise,althoughthroughtheagesthepracticeof

prayerhasbecomethemeanswherebyapersonalselfsupplicatesanexternalgod,in

itsoriginalmeaningitwasunderstoodtobethemeansbywhichthefinitemind

surrendersitslimitationsandisrevealedtoitselfinitsoriginal,irreducibleform.

Thus,intheoriginalmeaningofthewords,meditationandprayerarethemeansby whichthemindhasaccesstoitsownrealityofeternal,infiniteawareness.However, inouragethedisciplinesofmeditationandprayerhaveforthemostpartbeenmixed withthelocal,temporaltraditionsinwhichtheyarepractisedand,asaresult,their essence has been obscured or lost in favour of exoteric spiritual and religious practices.

Inothercases,thestudyofthenatureofawarenessitselfwasconsideredtooesoteric

ordifficultforthosewhosemindswereexclusivelyinvolvedwithandfascinatedby

objectiveexperience.Therefore,asaconcessiontotheobject-facingmind,alongand

arduousseriesofpreparatorypracticeswasconsiderednecessarytopurifythemindof

itsoutward-goingtendenciesbeforeitwasconsideredfitfortheultimateendeavourof

exploringitsownreality.

As a result, the world’s religions have evolved into a mixture of the essential, irreduciblerealityofallexperience–awarenessitself–andlocal,temporaltraditions, theformerbecomingprogressivelyobscuredbythelatter,tosuchanextentthatthe world’smajorreligionshavenow,toagreaterorlesserdegree,losttouchwiththe understandingfromwhichtheyoriginated.

However, this understanding has always been preserved in remote ashrams and monasteries,andintheheartsandmindsofindividualswhodeeplydesiretoknowthe natureofthemselvesortheultimaterealityoftheworld.Threesuchindividualswere RamanaMaharshi,AtmanandaKrishnaMenonandSriNisargadattaMaharaj,who,in themiddleofthetwentiethcentury,betweenthemresurrectedthemeansbywhichthe nature of awareness might be discovered by ordinary people without any prior knowledgeorpreparationandwithnoparticularreligiousorspiritualaffiliation.

Thesethreesagesdidnotinventthemeansbywhichtheessentialnatureofreality may be recognised; they simply extricated and resurrected it from the shroud of accumulatedbeliefbywhichithadbeenobscuredforcenturies,divestingitofthe exoticculturalpackagingwhichservedonlytomystifyit,andreformulateditfora newgeneration.

ThisapproachissometimesreferredtoastheDirectPath,inreferencetothefactthat wegodirectlytotherecognitionofouressentialnatureofpureawareness.Thatis, awarenessgoesdirectlytotheknowingofitselfwithouthavingtodirectitselftowards any objective practice or experience. This is in contrast with many traditional or progressiveapproaches,whichdemandasuccessionofpracticesasaprerequisitefor thisunderstanding,allofwhichrequirethedirectingorfocusingofawarenesstowards anobject,suchasamantra,aflame,thebreath,thepausebetweenbreaths,theguru, andsoon,inordertopurifyitofitsaccumulatedconditioning.

Whilst there may have been justification in previous ages for more progressive

47

approachestotherealityofexperience,itismyopinionthatourageisripeforthe DirectPath.TheresistancetotheDirectPathfeltbysomepeoplewhohavebeenona progressive path for many years or even decades is not due to its difficulty or unsuitability.Itisratherthatsuchpeoplehaveinvestedthemselvesinandbecome attachedtoandlimitedbytheveryformsandpracticeswhich,ironically,theyinitially undertookpreciselyforthepurposeoffreeingthemselvesfromallsuchlimits.

IntheDirectPathitisrecognisedthattheexperienceofbeingawareorawareness itself is the knowing element in all experience, irrespective of the content of experience,andthusnoparticularexperienceisacarrier,indicationorhallmarkof awarenessitself.Justasthescreenisequallyevidentinallmovies,irrespectiveoftheir content, so awareness shines equally brightly in all experience, from our deepest depressionstoourmostjoyfulfeelings.

The Direct Path requires no spiritual or religious affiliation or background. No preparatory practice is required for the simple recognition that being aware or awarenessitselfistheessential,irreducible,indivisibleelementinallexperience,to which we refer as ‘I’ or ‘myself’. None has privileged access to it. It is equally availabletoallpeople,inallplaces,underallcircumstancesandinallsituations.All thatisrequiredisadeepinterestinthenatureofreality,oranintuitionthatthepeace, happiness or love for which all people long cannot be satisfied by objective experience.

***

Howisconsciousnessgoingtodiscoveritsownnature?Inordertoknowobjective experience,consciousnessmustassumetheformofmind,butitcannotknowitselfin the form of mind. The world is known by the mind; the mind is known by consciousness;andconsciousnessisknownbyitself.

Asconsciousnessistheonly‘one’thatcanknowitself,wehavetoaskconsciousness itself,asitwere,whatitsownknowledgeorexperienceofitselfis.Thoughtcan formulatethequestion,‘Whatisthenatureoftheknowingwithwhichexperienceis known?’ but only that which knows experience can legitimately answer it. All experienceisknownbyconsciousness,andthereforeonlyconsciousnesscanknow consciousness.Onlyawarenesscanbeawareofbeingaware.

Irecentlyattendedatalkonthenatureofconsciousnessgivenbyawell-knownand

highlyrespectedprofessorofphilosophyatOxfordUniversity.Inthemidstofthe

abstractandconvolutedlinesofreasoningwithwhichheattemptedtodescribethe

natureofconsciousness,hemadetheremark,‘Somephilosopherssayitispossiblefor

consciousnesstobeawareofitself;suchideasshouldbeputinthetrash.’

Attheendofthemeeting,Isaidtohim,‘Everybodyinthisroomisawarethattheyare conscious.’Heponderedforamomentandthenagreed.Ithenobservedthatwhatever itisthatisawarethatweareconsciousmustitselfhavetwoqualities:one,itmustbe present, and two, it must be aware. ‘What would that be?’ I asked rhetorically.

48

‘Consciousness! Consciousness is precisely that which is present and aware.’ I suggestedthattheexperienceofsimplybeingawarethateachoneofuswashavingat thatverymomentisitselftheexperienceofconsciousnessknowingitself.

‘Oh,no,no’,hesaid,‘you’regoingfartooquickly’,andtookoffagainalonglinesof elaborateandabstrusereasoning,whichborenorelationtoexperienceandwhich concealedhisignoranceinobscurityandcomplexity.WhenIremonstratedwithhim again, he simply turned away and took the next question. It was an example of profoundignorancemasqueradingasunderstanding,allthemoreshockingforcoming fromaneminentprofessoratoneoftheworld’stopeducationalestablishments.

Theprofessorhadoverlookedthesimplest,mostintimateandfundamentalexperience:

theknowingofourownbeing,theconsciousnessofexistence.Ifconsciousnessdid notknowitsownbeing,wewouldnotknowtheexperienceofbeingawareandwould, asaresult,havetoanswer‘no’or‘Idon’tknow’tothequestion‘Areyouaware?’The experienceofbeingawareiseveryone’sprimaryexperience,althoughitisusually overlooked in favour of objective experience. When I say it is ‘everyone’s’ experience, I mean it is awareness’s primary experience that it is aware. Consciousness’sknowingofitsownbeingshinesequallyinallpeople,althoughin mostcasesweseemtoloseouressentialidentitytoobjectiveexperience.Insteadof beingawareofthefeelingofsadness,wefeelIamsad.Insteadofbeingawareofthe feelingofloneliness,wefeelIamlonely.Insteadofbeingawareofthethoughts, feelings,sensationsandperceptionsthataccompanytheageingprocess,wefeelIam gettingold.Inthiswayweallowouressentialbeing,andwithititsinnatequalitiesof freedom and peace, to be appropriated and thus conditioned by experience. The knowledgeofourownbeing–theexperiencethatshinesinthemindastheknowledge ‘Iam’–isthesameinallpeople.Nonehasprivilegedaccesstoit,andforthisreason itistheonlyknowledgeaboutwhichitisnotpossibletodisagree.Itisabsolutelytrue, underallstates,circumstancesandconditions.Ifwefindourselvesdisagreeingabout thenatureofouressentialbeingthenwearemistakingourselfforanobject.Itisonly possibletodisagreeaboutsomethingthathasobjectivequalities.

IfRamanaMaharshiandHitlerwerebothtorefertotheiressentialfeelingofbeing, theywouldbothrefertotheidenticalexperience.Itistruethatintheformercase,the feeling of being would shine as it is, unlimited or uncoloured by any of the characteristicsofthebodyormind,whilstinthelatteritwouldseemtobemixedwith thequalitiesofthebodyandmindand,asaresult,appeartosharetheirlimitationsand destiny.Intheultimateanalysis,onlytheclaritywithwhichtheirownbeingwere knowntoeachofthemwouldaccountforthedifferencebetweentheirideasand feelings,andthesubsequentexpressionofthemintheiractivitiesandrelationships.

Justasonepersonwatchingamoviewillbesoinvolvedinthedramaastoseeonlya multiplicity and diversity of separate and conflicting objects and selves, whilst another,watchingthesamemovie,willseeonlyasingle,indivisibleandinherently ‘peaceful’ screen, so the self-aware ‘screen’ of consciousness, upon which all experienceplays,isequallyavailabletoallpeopleinallcircumstances,thoughitwill appeardifferentlyaccordingtothemindthroughwhichitisfilteredandtheformin whichitseemstobemodifiedorcoloured.

49

Tosaythatconsciousnessisequallyavailabletoallpeoplesuggeststhatpeopleare awareoforhaveaccesstoconsciousness.Thatisjustamannerofspeaking.Only consciousnessknowsand,therefore,hasaccesstoitself.Sometimesconsciousness coloursitselfintheformofthemindandseems,asaresult,tobecomefiniteand temporary. This is known as the states of waking and dreaming. At other times consciousnessceasestocolouritselfandremainsinitsuncolouredcondition,knowing onlyitsunlimited,inherentlypeacefulbeing.Thisistheexperienceofdeepsleep.

In both cases consciousness is only knowing itself. From the perspective of the waking-statemind,consciousnessseemstobelimitedorfiniteinthewakingand dreamstates,andtobemissingorabsentindeepsleep.However,thestatesofwaking anddreamingareconsciousnessknowingitselfintheformofthetemporary,finite mind,anddeepsleepisconsciousnessknowingitsowneternal,infinite,unconditioned being.Inotherwords,the‘somethingness’ofthewakinganddreamingstatesandthe ‘nothingness’ofdeepsleeparesuperimposedonconsciousnessbythought,makingit seemthatconsciousnessitselfassumestheformsofthreeseparatestates.

Themindthatbelievesthatconsciousnessislimitedislikewaterbelievingthatits

essentialformisawave;themindthatbelievesthatconsciousnessisabsentislikea

wavebelievingthatwaterismissing.Consciousness’sknowingofitsownbeingislike

watersimplyknowingitselfaswater,irrespectiveofitsformasawave.Infact,water

knowsnothingofwaves;itknowsonlywater.Likewise,consciousnessknowsonly

itself.

***

Everything the mind knows, with one exception, is founded upon the belief that consciousness shares the destiny and the limits of the body. Thus, all human knowledge, with one exception, is untrue, or at least only true relative to the perspectiveofatemporary,finiteconsciousness.

However,theknowingwithwhichthefinitemindknowsitslimitedknowledgeis infinite consciousness, refracted through the lens of its own activity. So although everythingthatthemindknowsisatbestonlyrelativelytrue,atthesametimeall knowledgeisfoundeduponandmadeofthelightofabsolutetruth.Thatiswhy WilliamBlakesaid,‘Everythingpossibletobebelievedisanimageoftruth.’ *

Thislightofpureknowing,whichshinesinthemindastheknowledge‘Iam’,and which is the ultimate foundation upon which all the mind’s relative and limited knowledgeisbased,isthe‘oneexception’bywhichthemindhasaccesstoreality.

Theunderstandingthateverythingknownbyorthroughthemindisuntrueoratleast

onlyrelativelytruewill,inmanycases,precipitateacrisis.Inmycasethiscrisis

appearedspontaneouslywhenIwasseventeen.Whilststillatschoolstudyingscience

withtheintentionofbecomingabiochemist,Iwasstruckbyarealisationthatwasto

changethecourseofmylife.

Oneday,shortlyaftertheendofaphysicslesson,Iwassittingonmybed,mymind

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simply open and available. Into this availability a thought appeared as if from nowhere,unsolicitedbyanylineofreasoninginwhichIwascurrentlyengagedorhad everpursued:‘Therecanbenoendtoobjectiveknowledge.’

Irealisedthatthemindcouldonlyeverknowitsowncontentandthatallsuchcontent,

beingobjective,waslimited.Itbecameclearinaninstantthatallthoughtwould

evolve,changeandeventuallydisappear,andcouldnotthereforeberelieduponas

beingabsolutelytrue.Apresentimentbegantoformitselfinmymind,althoughitwas

manyyearsbeforeitwasclearlyformulated:‘Whatcanweknowforcertainthatis

absolutelytrue?Cananythingthatisknownbythemindbereliedupon?’

Asthethoughtdeveloped,Inoticedthatitwasaccompaniedbyagrowingfeelingof

fearanddreadinthebody,afeelingthateverythinginwhichIhadinvestedmy

identityandbeliefswassubjecttochangeandcouldnotbereliableorcertain.Ifelt

thatthesolidityoftheuniversewasdissolvingaroundme.Itwasinresponsetothe

discomfortofthisfeelingthatIturnedawayfromtheintuitionandsoughtdistraction

andreliefinobjectsandactivities.

However,suchathoughtislikeanminorearthquake,theeffectsofwhicharenot

alwaysimmediatelydiscernibleonthesurface.AlthoughIdidn’trealiseitatthetime,

thisrecognitionwastobethefirstcrackinwhathadbeenuntilthentheunassailable

edificeofWesternmaterialisteducation.

Inmycasethisrealisationputanendtomyincipientcareerasascientistandinitiated

aninvestigationintothenatureofbeauty,whichIwouldexploreasanartistinmy

studioforthenextthirtyyears.However,althoughIcouldnotseeitatthetime,the

scientist’ssearchforknowledgeisexactlythesamesearchasanartist’squestfor

beauty.Infact,thescientist’ssearchisnotforknowledgeitselfbutforunderstanding.

Knowledgeisthought,butunderstandingtakesplacewhenthoughtcomestoanend,

justasbeautyisrevealedattheendofaperception.

Understandingisthustheendofknowledge.Itis,ofcourse,nocoincidencethatthe SanskritwordVedāntacomesfromveda,meaning‘knowledge’,andanta,meaning ‘end’,andthereforemeanstheendofknowledge.Thebeautyoflanguageisthatso muchunderstandingcanbeexpressedwithsofewwords.WouldthatIpossessedthat skill! In those ten minutes at school I had spontaneously intuited the end of knowledge,althoughitwouldbeanothertwentyyearsbeforeIrealisedthattheendof knowledgeanditssourceorbeginningarethesame.

Ifeverythingthatisknownbyorthroughthemindisareflectionoftheassumption

thatconsciousnessislimited–abeliefthat,whenexplored,isfoundtobeuntrue–can

themindknowanythingthatisabsolutelytrue?Thesimpleansweris‘No’,forthe

minditselfisalimitedformofconsciousness,whoseapparentexistenceasaseparate

entity,andwhoseentirebodyofknowledge,areonlytruefromitsownlimitedpoint

ofview.

Sowecouldsaythateverythingthemindknowsisareflectionofitsassumptionof

itselfasaseparateentity–thetemporary,finiteconsciousnessthatknowsitselfas‘I,

thebody’–thatliesatitsorigin.Inthesamewaythatascreenassumestheformofan

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imagewithwhichitseemstoveilitself,soeternal,infiniteconsciousnessassumesthe

formsofthoughtandperception,fromwhoseperspectiveconsciousnessitselfseemsto

betemporaryandfinite.

Thus,allthemind’sknowledgeandexperienceappearinaformthatisconsistentwith itsownlimitations,includingitsownbeliefinitselfasanindependentlyexistingself or entity, just as the character in a dream, who in its own view of itself is an independentlyexistingentity,isinfactsimplytheactivityofthedreamer’smind.At thesametime,theveryknowingwithwhichtheseparateselfknowsitsapparently finite experience, irrespective of however good, bad, right, wrong, pleasant or unpleasantthatexperiencemaybe,isitselftheeternal,infinitelightofpureknowing or consciousness, whose knowing of its own being is the only absolutely true knowledgethereis.

Itistheinfinitelightofpureknowingthatprecipitateswithinitselfamultiplicityand

diversityoffiniteknowledgeand,insodoing,seemstoveiltheknowingofitsown

beingfromitself.Asaresult,thetrueandonlyrealityofpureconsciousnessnow

seemstoexperienceitselfasatemporary,finiteselfthatsharesthedestinyandlimits

ofthebody.Withthisbelief,thepeace,happinessandlovethatarereflectionsofthe

knowingofourownbeingareapparentlylost,thoughinfactonlyignored,overlooked

orforgotten.

Thisveilingofpeace,happinessorloveislikeawoundwhichresidesintheheartof theapparentlyseparateself,andwhichcontinuouslytriestoalleviateitselfthroughthe acquisition of objects, substances, activities, states of mind and relationships. However,atsomepoint,eitherthroughintuitionoratthesuggestionofafriend,it becomesclearthatthislongingwillneverbefulfilledbyobjectiveexperience.Asa result,anewpossibilityopensup,inwhichitisrecognisedthatinordertofulfilits longingforlastingpeaceandhappinessthemindmustbedivestedofitslimitations.

Allspiritualandreligiouspaths,inonewayoranother,areaimedatdivestingthe

mindoforexpandingitbeyonditslimitations.However,whenthemindisrelievedof

itslimitationsitceasestobemind,assuch,andstandsrevealedastheeternal,infinite

consciousnessthatisitsessential,irreduciblereality.Thatknowingofourownbeing

asittrulyis–consciousness’sknowingofitselfinus–istheexperienceofpeace,

happinessorlove.

*FromTheMarriageofHeavenandHell(c.1790).

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CHAPTER6

SELF-ENQUIRYANDSELF-REMEMBERING

Whatdoesconsciousnesshavetodotoknowitself?Inorderforconsciousnessor awarenesstodiscoveritsownnature,ithasto‘lookat’itself.However,awareness cannot separate itself from itself and look at or know itself in subject–object relationship,justasthesuncannotturnroundandshineonitself.

Toknowobjectiveexperienceawarenessassumestheformofmind,buttoknowitself

awarenessneednotassumetheformofmind;itneedonlyremaininitself.Thisself-

restinginandasawarenessistheessenceofmeditationorprayer.Itisthenon-activity

inwhichawarenessknowsitsownbeing.

Amindthatisaccustomedtodirectingitsattentionexclusivelytowardsobjective

experiencewilloftenobjecttothissuggestion,sayingthatitdoesnotknowwhereto

findawarenessorinwhatdirectiontolook.Forsuchamindthepresenceofawareness

mayfirstbeaccessedastheexperienceofsimplybeingaware,thefeelingofbeingor

theknowledge‘Iam’.Lateron,themindwillrecognisethatallthereistoexperience

istheknowingofit,andthereforetheonlysubstancethatawarenessevertrulyknows

orcomesincontactwithisitself.

However,amindthathasbeenindoctrinatedwiththematerialistparadigmfroman

earlyagewillbelievethatitexperiencesamultiplicityanddiversityofobjects,each

withitsownseparateandindependentexistence,whichitseemstoknowfromthe

perspectiveofaseparatesubjectorself,justasthedreamedworldseemstobeknown

fromtheperspectiveofadreamedsubjectwithinthatworld.Thus,asacompassionate

concessiontosuchamindwemaysay,tobeginwith,thatthepresenceofawarenessis

knownastheexperienceofsimplybeingaware,thefeelingofbeingortheknowledge

‘Iam’.Turningthemindtowardsanyofthesewilltakethemindonauniquejourney,

inadirectionlessdirection,onapathlesspath,inwhichitwillgraduallydissolveinto

thelightofawarenessfromwhichitarises,likeanimageslowlyfading,leavingthe

screen,itsreality,visible.

Inreligioustermsthisrestingofthemindinitssourceisreferredtoasthepracticeof

thepresenceofGod.Thepenultimateprayeristhedirectingofthemindexclusively

towardsGod,butthisprayerstillleavesthemindintactasanentityseparatefrom

God.Theultimateprayeristhesurrenderoftheverymindwhichconsidersitselftobe

anentityinitsownright.Tothemindthatbelievesitselftobealimitedentityinits

ownright,Godissomethingotherthanitself.ButifGodissomethingother,thenGod

mustbefinite,andsuchaGodcannotbeGod.AstheSufimysticBalyanisaid,

‘OthernessforHimisHimwithoutotherness.’

Inotherwords,GodcanonlybeknownbyHimself,andinordertoknowHisown

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existenceGodmustbeself-aware.Therefore,God’sknowledgeofHimselfmustbe awareness’sknowledgeofitself.Awareness’sknowledgeofitselfshinesineachof ourmindsastheknowledge‘Iam’,thefeelingofbeingorthesimpleexperienceof beingaware.Thatis,theknowledgethateachofushasofourveryownbeingis God’s knowledge of Himself. Later we will also see that the ultimate reality – awareness’s knowledge of itself or God’s knowledge of Himself – shines in the experienceofpeace,happiness,loveandbeautyand,infact,expressesitselfinandas thetotalityofallexperience.

Thustheknowledge‘Iam’isGod’ssignatureinthemind.Itistheportalthrough whichawarenesslocalisesitselfasthemindandthesameportalthroughwhichthe mind passes in the opposite direction as it investigates its essential nature. The knowledge‘Iam’,ortheknowledgeofourownexistence–awareness’sknowingof its own being – is our primary knowledge, upon which all other knowledge and experiencedepend.Untilthenatureofourselfisknown,itisnotpossibletohave correctknowledgeaboutanyotherthing.Thus,thereisnohigherknowledgethanto knowthenatureofoneself,thenatureof‘I’.

WemaynotknowexactlywhatIam,butweknowthat I am. Before we know anythingaboutourself,suchasourage,name,gender,nationality,height,weightand qualifications,eachofusknowsthat‘Iam’.Thatis,beforeawarenessknowsany objectiveknowledgeorexperience,itknowsitsownbeing.Intheexperiences‘Iam young’,‘Iamold’,‘Iamsick’,‘Iamwell’,‘Iamaman’,‘Iamawoman’,‘Iamsad’, ‘Iamhappy’,andsoon,thesimpleknowledgeofourbeing–theknowledge‘Iam’– remainsconsistentlypresent,althoughitmayseemtobetemporarilycolouredby experience.

Our essential, self-aware being doesn’t appear or disappear. However, the mind confusesalltemporaryqualities,conditions,ideas,imagesandfeelingswiththebasic feelingofbeingandthusimaginesthatouressentialbeingsharestheirlimitationsand destiny,andis,assuch,temporaryandfinite.Theknowledge‘Iam’neverchanges, althoughitsometimesseemstobeobscured,veiledorcolouredbyexperience.The statesofwaking,dreamingandsleepingandthequalities,conditions,ideas,images andfeelingsthataccompanythemaretemporarilyaddedtoourbasicbeingbutnever essentiallydefineormodifyit.

Unlikeallotherknowledgeandexperiencethatisknownby‘I’,theknowledge‘Iam’

isknownbyitself.ItisIthatknowsthatIam,or,asGodsaidtoMosesintheOld

Testament,‘IamthatIam.’Theknowledge‘Iam’isatraceinthemindofthevast

oceanofawarenessthatliesbeyondandpriortothemind,andindeedinwhichthe

mindappears.Inthesameway,apatchofblueskythatatfirstseemstoappearwithin

thecloudsisitselfahintofthevastskythatliesbeyondandpriortothem,andindeed

inwhichtheyarelocated.

The knowledge ‘I am’ is the only knowledge that remains the same under all circumstances,atalltimesandforallpeople,andisthusahintinthefinitemindasto itsessential,irreduciblereality.Nootherknowledgesatisfiestheserequirements,and thereforenoknowledgeotherthanawareness’sknowingofitsowninfinitebeingcan

54

besaidtobeabsolute.ThisknowledgeisknowninreligioustermsastheAbsoluteor

God’sinfinitebeing.Theknowledge‘Iam’isthefirstformofGodinthefinitemind.

‘Iam’isthussaidtobeGod’sholyname.GodHimselfhasnoname,butinthemind

Heshinesasthename‘I’or‘Iam’.

***

Atthisstage,themindmaylegitimatelyaskhowitcanturnthelightofitsknowing

awayfromtheobjectsthatitseemstoknowandtowardsitsownessence.Thisturning

aroundofthemindisnotanactivitythatthemindcanundertake,butratherthe

cessationofanactivityofwhichitwaspreviouslyunaware.However,asaconcession

tothemind’sbeliefthatthisturningaroundissomethingitcando,theteachingmay

nowelaborateaprocessinwhichtheattentionthatthemindnormallygivestoobjects

thatareconceivedasotherthanitselfisinsteadturnedaroundandfocuseduponitself,

thesubjectorknower.

Allobjectsofknowledgeandexperienceareknownfromtheperspectiveofthefinite mind,theapparentlyseparatesubjectofexperience,andeverythingthemindknowsor experiencesisareflectionofandappearsinaccordancewithitsownlimitations. Therefore,inordertoknowwhatanythingtrulyis,themindmustfirstturnthelightof itsknowinguponitself.Thatis,beforeattendingtoobjectssoastoknowwhatthey trulyare,itmustfirstattendtoitselftoknowwhatittrulyis.Themindmustshinethe lightofitsknowingawayfromtheobjectsitseemstoknow,towardsitself,towards the very knowing with which it knows its knowledge. Attention must attend to attentionitself.

Thenatureoftheknowingorawarenesswithwhichthemindknowsitsknowledgeis simplytobeandtoknow.Itisforthisreasonthatitiscalledpureknowingorpure awareness,inthesensethatitsknowingisnotmixedwithanythingotherthanitself;it islikethecolourlesslightinallcolour.Therefore,inknowingitselftheminddoesnot acquire any new knowledge, in the way that it might discover a new species, mathematical equation or recipe. The realisation of the nature of the knowing or awarenesswithwhichthemindknowsitsknowledgeisnotanewformofobjective knowledge.Rather,itistheremembering,recognisingorknowingagainofthepure knowingthatisseeminglyveiled,forgottenoroverlookedasaresultofthemind’s focusingonobjectiveexperience.

Thus,toknowitselfasitis,themindneedonlyrelaxthefocusofitsattentionfromthe

objectsthatitseemstoknowandallowitsknowingtofallorflowbackintoitself.In

fact,itisnotsomuchthatthemindfocusesonthingsthatare‘otherthanitself’,but

ratherthatitbecomesmixedwithorlostinitsknowledgeofthings,inthesameway

thatascreenseemstogetmixedwithorlostinthemovie.

Themind’sknowledgeandexperienceareneverseparatefromitself.Themindnever

knowsanythingatadistancefromitself,justasthemovienevertakesplaceata

distancefromthescreen.Theself-awarescreendoesnotneedtoseparateitselffrom

theobjectsorcharactersinthemovietorealiseitdoesn’tsharetheirlimitationsor

55

destiny. Indeed, it cannot separate itself from them, because they are only a modulationofitsownbeing.Allthatisnecessaryisforthescreentosimply‘see’that itsessentialnatureisnotinherentlylimitedbytheformsthatitassumes.

Likewise,theminddoesnotneedtoseparateitselffromorrejectanyexperience.It need only understand that the knowing with which it knows its knowledge and experience is already and always inherently free of anything that it knows or experiences.

Whentheknowingorpureawarenesswithwhichallknowledgeandexperienceare

knowngivesitsattentiontoitselfratherthantoobjectiveexperience,itsessential,

irreduciblenature,whichpreviouslyseemedtobeobscuredorveiledbyobjective

experience,seemssuddenlytoshineasitis.Infact,itwasalwaysshiningasitis,but

itwaspreviouslymixedwithandthuscolouredbyobjectiveexperienceand,asa

result,seemedtobemissingorobscured.

***

Whatisdescribedastheturningaroundoftheminduponitselfisnotsomucha

‘turningaround’ofthemindasasinking,fallingbackorrelaxingintoitself.The

phrase‘turningaround’isusedonlyincontrastandasaconcessiontotheprevious,

object-facingdirectionofthemind.Toamindthatisfacingoutwardstoknowobjects,

thenon-dualteachingsuggeststurningitselfaroundtowardsitssourceoressencein

ordertoknowitself.

However,anyonewhohasevertriedtoturntheirattentionaroundinthiswayknows

thatitcannotbedone.Themindcannot‘turnaround’towardstheobjectlesssourceof

itsownknowing,foritcanonlyknoworbedirectedtowardsanobject.Anythingthe

mindturnstowards,evenifitturnsintheoppositedirectionoftheobjectsorthoughts

thatitnormallyknows,wouldnecessarilybeinthedirectionofanotherobject.Thus,

inthesamewaythatonecannotstandupandtakeasteptowardsoneself,sothemind

cannotturnaroundanddirectitselftowardsitsownsource.

Thesuggestiontoturnthemindarounduponitssourceisaconcessiontotheseparate,

mind-madeself–thetemporary,limitedandultimatelyillusoryformofawareness

thatknowsitselfineachoneofusasthebeliefandfeeling‘Iamthebody’–andtoits

beliefthatitisarealentitythatisincontrolofitsowndestiny.

Thisturningofthemindarounduponitssourceissometimesknownasself-enquiry, whichisatranslationoftheSanskrittermatmavichara.However,self-enquiryisa uniquekindofinvestigationwhichdoesnotinvolveanexplorationofanykindof objectiveknowledgebutratherinvestigatesthesubjectiveknowerofallobjective knowledge and experience. As such, the term ‘self-enquiry’ is, again, at best a concessiontothemindthatinitiallyimaginesitcanexploreitsownnatureinthesame waythatitexploresobjects.

Tosuchamindtheteachingsuggestsenquiringintoitsownnature,aninvestigation

thatmaybeinitiatedbyathoughtsuchas,‘Whatisitthatknowsorisawareofmy

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experience?’, ‘What is the nature of the knowing with which all knowledge and experienceareknown?’or‘WhoamI?’However,thisinvestigationdoesnotrequire themindtodirectitselftowardsanykindofobjectiveknowledgeorexperience.Itis ratherafalling,sinkingorrelaxingbackoftheattention,orthefocusofthemind’s knowing,intoitssource.

The meaning of the word ‘attention’ gives us a hint as to the nature of this investigation into our true nature. The word ‘attention’ comes from the Latin attendere,acompoundofad-,meaning‘to’or‘towards’,andtendere,meaning‘to stretch’.Thus,attentionisastretchingoftheknowingthatistheessenceofthemind towardsathoughtorobject.

Whenweknowathought,theknowingwithwhichthatthoughtisknownproceeds from its source towards that object. When we know a sound, the same light of knowingproceedsfromthesamesourcetowardsthesound.Whenweattendtoany object–whetheritseemstobesomethingwithinourself,suchasathoughtorfeeling, orsomethingoutsideourself,suchasasightorsound–thelightofknowingproceeds fromourself,thesubject,towardsthatobject.

Thisexperienceofbeingasubjectthatknowsorattendstoanobjectisexpressedin

ourlanguageinconventionaldualistictermssuchas,‘Iknowathought’.Thatis,‘I’,

thesubjectofexperience,shinesitslightofknowingtowardstheobjectthatitknows.

Ourattentionorlightofknowingisstretchedfromitssource,thesubject‘I’,towards

itsobject.Butwhathappenstoattentionwhenitnolongerhasanythingtostretch

itselftowards?Whathappenswhenapieceofelasticthatisstretchedbetweentwo

pointsisreleasedfromoneofthosepoints?Havingnothingelsetoattachitselfto,it

springsbacktoitsoriginal,unstretchedposition.

Inmostpeopleattentionmovesperpetuallyfromoneobjectorexperiencetoanother,

withonlybriefperiodsofrespiteintheintervalbetweentwothoughtsorperceptions,

inmomentsofpeaceorhappiness,andduringdeepsleep,whenthemindisatrestin

itssource.Butwhen,throughinterestinitsownessentialnature,themindceasesto

directitselftowardsobjectiveexperience,itbeginstosinkorrelaxbackintothe

sourcefromwhichithasarisen.Thissourceispureknowingorawareness,beforeit

knowsorbecomesmixedwithanyobjectiveknowledge.

Thisfallingbackoftheattentionintoitssourceisthemeansbywhichthemindcomes toknowitsoriginalnature.Infact,thisisnotanactivityofthemind,althoughitmay seemassuchtobeginwith,butratherthecessationofapreviousactivity–theactivity of overlooking the knowing of its own objectless, self-aware being in favour of objectiveknowledgeandexperience.

Thefallingorsinkingbackofthemindintoitssourceistheessenceofmeditationand prayerandcanbefound,inoneformoranother,inallthegreatreligiousandspiritual traditions.RamanaMaharshireferredtoitasthesinkingofthemindintotheheartof awareness.NisargadattaMaharajreferredtoitasfocusingontheexperience‘Iam’. TheRussianphilosopherP.D.Ouspenskyreferredtoitasself-remembering.Thepoet Tennysonsuggestedseekingtheultimatenatureofthemindasonewouldfollowa ‘sinkingstar,beyondtheutmostreachofhumanthought’. *

57

Referringtothesamenon-practice,St.Matthewtellsus,‘Whenthouprayest,enter intothycloset,andwhenthouhastshutthydoor,praytothyFatherwhichisinsecret; andthyFatherwhichseethinsecretshallrewardtheeopenly.’TheKashmirShaivite mystic Lalla referred to this turning around of the mind when she said, ‘I have travelledalongwayseekingGod,butwhenIfinallygaveupandturnedback,there Hewas,withinme.’

***

Tobetterunderstandthereturnofthemindtoitssourceofpureawareness,letustake

anewmetaphor.ImagineanactorcalledJohnSmithwholeadsafulfilledandhappy

life.OnedayJohnSmithisassignedtheroleofKingLear,whichinvolveslearninga

setoflinesandputtingonacostume.Onthefirstnightoftheperformance,John

Smithleaveshomeandgoestothetheatre.HedressesupinKingLear’sclothesand

assumeshisthoughtsandfeelings.JohnSmithisanexcellentactor,sohecompletely

forgetshisownthoughtsandfeelingsand,asitwere,becomesKingLear.

TheperformancebeginsandJohnSmithnowthinks,feels,acts,perceivesandrelates

asKingLear.Astheplaydevelops,JohnSmithbecomesmoreandmoreunhappy,

thinkingthateveryoneandeverythingisagainsthim.Infact,socompletelydoesJohn

Smithforgethisownnaturethatwhentheperformanceends,heforgetstotakeoff

KingLear’swordsandclotheswhenhereturnstohisdressingroom.

Severalfriendscomeintohisdressingroomtocongratulatehimonhisperformance

and,findinghimutterlymiserable,trytopersuadehimthathehasforgottenwhohe

trulyis,buttonoavail.Afterafewminutesafriendlystrangercomesinandsits

besidehim,andtheystartconversing.Thefriendlystrangeraskshimtotellhimabout

himself,andKingLearstartstodescribehimself:‘IamKingofEngland.Iameighty

yearsold.Iamthefatherofthreedaughters.’

KingLeargoesontodescribetheproblemofdividinghiskingdombetweenhisthree

daughters,andabouttheconflictsinwhichheisembroiled.Thefriendlystrangerasks

himtokeepgoing.KingLearbeginstodescribehisthoughtsandfeelings:‘Iam

intelligent,kind,confused,lonely,restless,anxious…’Thestrangeraskshimagainto

keepgoing.KingLearbeginstofalterashetriestofindwordstodescribethesubtler

qualitiesofhimself.PausesbegintoappearinhisdescriptionasKingLearreflects

backthroughdeeperanddeeperlayersofhimself.

Withoutrealisingit,KingLearhasceasedgivingattentiontothethoughts,feelings andcircumstanceswithwhichheisusuallyoccupiedandisinsteadgivingattentionto that part of himself that lies below them, a nameless, formless well of barely discerniblefeelings.‘Thereisadissatisfactioninme,butIamnotsureexactlywhatI amdissatisfiedwith.Thereisalonginginme,butIamnotsurewhatIamlonging for.’

The friendly stranger remains silent, which King Lear takes as an invitation to continue.Hekeepsgoingdeeperintohimselfuntilhecangonofurther.Thereisa

58

longsilence.‘Iam…Iam…’Nothingfollows.Hewaits.Fromtimetotimeamemory

ofhisdaughtersdisturbshim,butsointerestedhashebecomeindiscoveringwhohe

essentiallyisthathegivesthememorynoattention,andinduecourseitleaves.

‘Iamwhat?’thestrangerasks,tohelpKingLearfurtherfocustheessentialfeelingof

beinginhismind.

‘Iam…Iam…Thereis…’Alongsilencefollows.

King Lear is experiencing the most essential, irreducible element of himself – unqualified being – before it is mixed with any thoughts or feelings. He cannot describeitbecausenoneofthewordsheisaccustomedtousinginrelationtothoughts, feelings,sensationsandperceptionsareapplicable.Theyallseemtoocrudeforthe purpose.

He remains in silence for some time without the need or ability to describe his experience.Whenathoughtarises,itisonlytocommentontheunusualandyet,atthe sametime,strangelyfamiliarpeacethathenowfeels.Itisapeacethathasnoobvious causeinhisexternalcircumstances.Itispriortoandindependentofanythingthathe previouslybelievedhimselftobe.Heremainssilent,andhehasnoideahowlonghe remainsatrestinthisway,forthoughtisnolongeractiveandthereforehecannottake accountoftime.

AtsomepointitoccurstoKingLearthatthepeacehenowfeelshasnotbeenaddedto himasaresultofanythingthatisorisnottakingplaceinhislife.Thefriendly strangerdidnotgiveittohim,norcanhetakeitawayfromhim.Itseemstocome fromwithinhimself.Herealisesthatthepeacehenowfeelsis,infact,alwayspresent inthedepthsofhisbeing.Herecognisesthathisowninherentlypeacefulbeingis alwaysavailable,lyingjustbehindorunderneaththeturbulentflowofhisthoughts and feelings, and is independent of the drama of his life and the conflicts in his relationships.

KingLearhearsavoiceinsidehimselfsay,‘TurntowardsmeandIwilltakeyouinto

myself.’Herealisesthatitishisowndeepestintelligencethatisspeakingtohimself.

HerecallsthewordsofIsaiahintheOldTestament,‘Thouwiltkeephiminperfect

peacewhosemindisstayedonThee.’

Hesitsinsilenceagain,allowingthefullimplicationsofthisrecognitiontounfoldin hismind.‘IfthispeaceisinherentinwhatIessentiallyam,thenImusttakeitwithme whereverIgo.Thispeacecannotbedisturbedbymychangingthoughtsandfeelings orthetroublingcircumstancesinwhichIfindmyself.’Aninnersmilelightsupinside himandanimmensejoy–anancientjoythatheknewasachildandyetisnow experiencingasifforthefirsttime–floodshisbeing.Itisthejoyofrecognisinghis essential, unassailable being, its freedom, its availability, its imperturbability, its unconditionednature.

AtthatmomentheremembersheisJohnSmith.Thisrememberingofhimselfisnota

memoryofsomethingthatheonceknewinthepastandsubsequentlyforgot,buta

memoryofsomethingthatliesever-presentwithinhimandthatwassimplyobscured

orignoredduetohisfascinationwithandabsorptioninthelifeofKingLear.Helooks

59

aroundandrealisesthatthefriendlystrangerhasdisappeared.

***

JohnSmithpondersKingLearandthefriendlystrangerwhocametohim:‘Inorderto

becomeKingLearIhadtoforgetmyself,andthisforgettingcausedmepainand

anguish.Thispaininitiatedagreatsearchforpeaceandhappiness,andsuchwasthe

intensityofthesearchthatthelatentintelligenceofmyownmindappearedinthe

formofthefriendlystrangerwhoaskedmeabouttheessentialnatureofmyself.’

JohnSmithrealisesthatKingLearwassimplyaself-assumedlimitationofhisown

being.Thisself-forgettingenabledJohnSmithtoassumethecharacterofKingLear.

KingLearandJohnSmiththink,feel,act,perceiveandrelateindifferentways,and

yettheyareessentiallythesameperson.The‘I’ofeachofthemisthesame‘I’.The

essentialselfinKingLearisthesameastheselfofJohnSmith.KingLeardoesnot

havehisownself.The‘I’iscommontothemboth.The‘I’ofKingLearisthe‘I’of

JohnSmith,withanimaginary,self-assumedlimitattachedtoit.AllKingLearhadto

dowastoquestionthenatureofthis‘I’.

WhenJohnSmithrecognisesorremembersheisJohnSmith,hewakesupasiffroma

dream.ButKingLeardidnotsuddenlybecomeJohnSmithwhenhewokeup.King

LearwasneverKingLear.HewasalwaysonlyJohnSmithwithaself-assumedlimit.

JohnSmithsimplyceasedimaginingthathewasKingLear.JohnSmithrealisesthat

heisalwaysonlyJohnSmithbutthathisessential,irreduciblebeinghadbecomeso

mixedupwiththethoughtsandfeelingsofKingLearastomakeitseemasifhehad

forgottenwhohewas.Andwiththeforgettingoroverlookingofhisownbeing,its

innatequalitiesofpeace,fulfilmentandlovewereeclipsed.However,JohnSmithdid

notceasebeingJohnSmithandbecomeKingLear,andKingLeardidnotceasebeing

KingLearandbecomeJohnSmith.KingLearwassimplyanimaginary,self-assumed

limitationonthetrueandonlyselfofJohnSmith.

OnlyfromKingLear’sillusorypointofviewwasheKingLear.Believinghimselfto beKingLear,hefoundhimselfmiserable,andhavingfailedtosecurethepeaceand happinessforwhichhelongedinhiscircumstancesandrelationships,heturnedwithin at the suggestion of a friendly stranger. Without realising it King Lear was spontaneously engaging in what would later be formalised as a practice of self- rememberingorself-enquiry:asinkingorrelaxingofhisattentionthroughdeeperand deeperlayersofhimselfuntilhecouldgonofurther,thatis,untilhearrivedathisown unqualifiedandinherentlypeacefulbeing.

ThereisanotherlongpauseasJohnSmithpondershisexperience:‘IfKingLear’s

mindwasalimitationofmyownmind,coulditbethatmyownmindisaself-

assumedlimitationofagreater,unlimitedmind,whichis,atthesametime,whoI essentially am?’ John Smith begins to contemplate the nature of his own mind. Withoutrealisingit,hetooisnowspontaneouslypracticingself-enquiry.

JohnSmithsitsquietlyinhischairaftereveryoneelsehasgonehome.Halfanhour

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passesbywithouthisnoticing,duringwhichtimehismindsinksmoreandmore

deeplyintoitself,andthen,suddenly,quietly,herealisesthatevenJohnSmithisa

self-assumedlimitationonhisessentialbeing.Asiffromnowhere,hefeelsafloodof

peaceandjoy.Heopenshiseyesandnoticesthattheroomtooissaturatedwithpeace.

Hesmilestohimself,remembershisfamilywithgreatlove,andwalkshome.

*Alfred,LordTennyson,‘Ulysses’(1833).

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CHAPTER7

THEEXPERIENCEOFBEINGAWARE

Imagine asking an English, Chinese, Ghanaian or Aboriginal person, a homeless, wealthy or sick person, none of whom had ever heard of non-duality, ‘Are you aware?’Aslongastheyallunderstoodthequestion,theywouldallanswer‘Yes’.If anyofthesevenbillionhumanbeingsweretohearthequestion‘Areyouaware?’, theywouldallrefertothesameexperience–theexperienceofsimplybeingaware– andwould,asaresult,allanswer,‘Yes’.

Awareness, or the experience of simply being aware, doesn’t have an English, Chinese,Ghanaian,Aboriginal,homeless,wealthyorsickflavour.Itdoesn’tmatter whatournationality,age,health,gender,wealth,education,intelligence,andsoon, maybe;theexperienceofsimplybeingawareisthesameineverycase.Indeed,ifa dog,chicken,fishorantwereabletounderstandthequestion‘Areyouaware?’it wouldrefertoexactlythesameexperiencethateachofusrefersto.

Notonlydoallbeingssharethesameexperienceofbeingaware,buteachperson referstothesameexperienceatvarioustimesintheirlife.Whenwearefiveyearsold, tenyearsold,twenty,forty,sixtyyearsold,theactualexperienceofbeingawareis always the same. The experience of being aware, or awareness itself, is not conditionedorcolouredbyage.Moreover,foreachperson,theexperienceofbeing aware remains the same irrespective of what thoughts, feelings, sensations or perceptionsarepresent.

Whenanyone,regardlessofthestateoftheirmindortheconditionoftheirbody,hears

thequestion‘Areyouaware?’,theypause.Inthatpauseeveryonerefersdirectlytothe

identicalexperienceofbeingaware.Awareness’sawarenessisredirectedawayfrom

theobjectonwhichitwaspreviouslyfocusedandreorientedtowardsitself,thatis,

towardstheexperienceofsimplybeingaware.Andindoingso,everyonerefersto

exactlythesameexperience.

Itisimportantheretomakethedistinctionbetween‘similar’and‘same’.Inreferring totheexperienceofsimplybeingaware,itistemptingatfirsttobelievethatweall refertoasimilar experience. Such a view would suggest that there are multiple, similarawarenesses,oneforeachpersonoranimal.However,ifthereweremorethan one awareness, each awareness would have to have some objective quality that distinguisheditfromalltheothers.Butnosuchobjectivequalityisfoundinouractual experience.

Thoughtbelievesthatawarenesshaslimitingqualities,butthosequalitiesarenever

actuallyfoundinexperience.Thatis,inawareness’sownexperienceofitself,thereare

neveranylimitationsorboundaries,justas,ifspacewereabletolookatitself,it

62

wouldfindnolimitorboundarywithinitself.

Whenallsevenbillionofusrefertotheexperienceofbeingaware,werefertothe

sameexperience.Thisisdifficulttoimagineifwebelievethatawarenessislocated

insidethebrain.However,wehavealreadyseenthattheexperienceofbeingawareis

notqualifiedbyanyofthelimitationsthatbelongtothemindorbody.Thus,inits

ownexperienceofitself,itisunlimitedorinfinite,andbeinginfiniteitcannotbe

foundintimeorspace.Infact,insimplyknowingtheexperienceofbeingaware,

withoutrealisingitwestepoutofthemindandbody,andthereforewestepoutof

timeandspace.

Whenanyonedirectstheirattentiontotheexperienceofsimplybeingawareand,asa result,actuallyexperiencestheexperienceofbeingaware,they‘goto’or‘touch’that element of experience that everyone shares or has in common. At that timeless moment–timelessbecauseitisnotfoundinthemind–theystandasoneattheheart ofhumanity.Theexperienceofloveispreciselythatexperience,theexperienceofour sharedbeing.

***

Everyoneisawareoftheirexperience.Wemaynotknowexactlywhoorwhatitis thatisaware,norindeedwhatexperienceactuallyconsistsof.Nevertheless,wecan say for certain that we are aware of a flow of thoughts, images, ideas, feelings, sensations,sights,sounds,andsoon.

If someone were to ask us, ‘Are you aware of your thoughts?’ we would take a momenttocheckourexperience,directingourattentiontowardsthecurrentthought, andwouldrespond,‘Yes,Iamawareofmythoughts.’Ifsomeoneweretoask,‘Are youawareofthetinglingsensationatthesolesofyourfeet?’wewoulddirectour attentiontowardsthesolesofourfeet,experiencethesensationandreply,‘Yes,Iam awareofthatsensation.’Andifsomeoneweretoask,‘Areyouawareofwhatever soundsarecurrentlypresent?’againwewoulddirectourattentiontowardsthecurrent soundandrespond,‘Yes,Iamawareofthatperception.’

In each case, in between the question as to whether we are aware of a thought, sensationorperceptionandourresponse,somethingtakesplacethatenablesusto respond affirmatively. What is that something? It is the actual experience of the thought,sensationorperception.

Nowif,insteadofaskingwhetherornotweareawareofathought,sensationor

perception,someoneweretoasksimply,‘Areyouaware?’wewouldpausefora

momentandthenrespond,‘Yes’.Thequestion‘Areyouaware?’isathought.The

answer‘Yes’isanotherthought.Inbetweenthesetwothoughtssomethingtakesplace

whichisnotitselfathought.Itisasaresultofthis‘something’thatweareableto

answer‘Yes’tothequestion‘Areyouaware?’

Inordertoanswer‘Yes’tothequestion‘Areyouawareofthoughts,sensationsand

perceptions?’wehavetoexperiencethethought,sensationorperceptiontowhichthe

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questionrefers.Itisasaresultofthatexperiencethatweareabletoaffirmthatweare

awareofeachofthem.Towhatexperiencedowereferinordertoanswer‘Yes’tothe

question‘Areyouaware?’

Theexperiencetowhichwerefertotakesplaceinthegapbetweentwothoughts:‘Are

youaware?’and‘Yes’.Whatisitthattakesplaceinthepausebetweenthesetwo

thoughts?Theexperienceofbeingaware.Inthatpausewebecomeawareofbeing

aware.Whilsteveryoneisawarebynature,noteveryoneisawarethattheyareaware.

Theexperienceof‘beingawareofbeingaware’istriggeredbythequestion‘Areyou

aware?’Ifwedidnotexperience‘beingaware’wewouldnotbeabletolegitimately

answer‘Yes’tothequestion.

Askyourselfthequestion,‘AmIaware?’butdon’tanswerthequestionwiththe thought‘Yes’.Justaskthequestion‘AmIaware?’andallowyourattentiontobe drawn to the experience that will subsequently inform the answer ‘Yes’. The experiencethattakesplaceinbetweenthetwothoughts,‘AmIaware?’and‘Yes’,is notanactivityofmind.Ittakesplacebetweentwoactivitiesofthemind.

Staywiththepausebetweenthesetwothoughts.Whenweremaininthispausebefore

theanswerformulatesitself,whattakesplace‘there’isthemostvaluableand,atthe

sametime,themostunderratedoroverlookedexperiencethatonecanhave.

***

The experience of being aware is unique amongst all experiences. All other experiences–allthoughts,feelings,sensationsandperceptions–havesomeformor objective quality to them. But the experience of simply being aware, whilst an undeniableexperience,hasnoobjectivequalities.Itisanon-objectiveexperience. Beingwithoutform,ornon-objective,theexperienceofbeingaware,orawareness itself, seems like nothing from the point of view of mind, which can only know objective experience, that is, thoughts, feelings, sensations and perceptions. It is thereforeusuallyoverlookedorignored.

Theexperienceofbeingawareofbeingawaremaybetriggeredbythethought‘AmI

aware?’butitisrevealedbetweenthisthoughtandtheresponse‘Yes’,thatis,in

betweentwoappearancesofmind.Justasthecolourlessscreenisallthatispresent

betweentwoframesofamovie,sotheexperienceofbeingawareorawarenessitselfis

allthatispresentbetweentwoappearancesofmind.However,justasthetransparent

screen–thebackgroundandrealityofthemovie–doesnotitselfappearasanobject

inthemovie,sotheexperienceofbeingawarecanneverbeexperiencedbyorappear

inthemind,eventhoughitisthebackgroundandrealityoftheminditself.

Likewise,justasthescreenisrevealedbrieflybetweentwoframesinthemoviebut

alsoremainspresentthroughoutthemovie,althoughitseemstobeobscuredbyit,so

thenon-objectiveexperienceofbeingawareisnotjustpresentbetweentwothoughts

orperceptionsbutremainspresentduringtheirexistenceastheirbackgroundand

reality,althoughitisusuallyobscuredbythem.

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Beingaware,orawarenessitself,istheever-present,self-awarebackgroundupon whichallexperienceappears.Beingawareistoexperienceasaself-awarescreenisto amovie.Awarenessistheessential,irreduciblenatureofmindwhenallobjective form or content has been removed from it, just as the screen is the essential, irreduciblenatureofthemoviewhenallimageshavedisappeared.

Allexperienceisaplayofmind,andmind–thatis,thinking,feeling,sensingand

perceiving–isaself-colouringofawareness,justasthemovieisacolouringofthe

screen.Experienceisthemodulationoractivityofawareness,justasamoviecouldbe

saidtobethemodulationoractivityofthescreen.Whenthemindceases,anentity

doesn’tcometoanend;awarenessonlyceasestocolouritselfwithitsownactivity

andremainsinitsessential,uncolouredcondition.Likewise,whentheactivityofmind

begins,nothingstartsorcomesintoexistence.

Mindisnotanentitythatisdistinctfromawareness;ithasnostatusorexistenceofits own.Infact,thereisnosuchthingas‘amind’,justasthereisnosuchthingas‘a movie’ with its own existence independent of the screen. Mind is the movement, activityorfunctioningofawareness.Awarenessitself,orthenon-objectiveexperience ofbeingaware,istheessential,irreducibleessenceofmind,justasthescreencouldbe saidtobetheessential,permanentelementofthemovie.Infact,awarenessisnotjust thebackgroundofthemind;itisallthereistomind.Mindisatemporarylimitationof unlimitedawareness,whichisitselfallthatisevertrulypresent.

Thequestion‘AmIaware?’andtheresponse‘Yes’arethoughts.Assuch,theyare mind,oraself-colouringofawareness.Inbetweenthesetwothoughtsawarenessdoes notceasetoexist,anymorethanthescreen,relativelyspeaking,ceasestoexistin betweentwoframesofamovie.Itsoriginal,essential,irreducibleessenceissimply revealed.Itceasestoveilitselfwiththeactivityofmindandstandsnaked,simply knowing its own unconditioned and essential nature of pure, indivisible, infinite, awarebeing–pure,indivisibleandinfinitebecausethereisnothinginitselfotherthan itselfwithwhichitcouldcolour,divideorlimititself.Beingindivisible,thereisonly onelightofawareness.

Intheformofmind,awarenesscannotknowitsownessential,uncolouredcondition,

justasitisnotpossibletoseeawhitepagethroughacolouredlens.However,inthe

pausebetweentwothoughts,awareness‘becomes’awareofitself.Itrecognisesitself,

orknowsagainsomethingthatithasalwaysknown–orrathereternallyknows–but

seemedtoforgetwhenitcoloureditselfintheformofobjectiveexperience.

Awarenessneverceasesbeingitsownessential,irreducible‘self’.Itonlyseemsto

becomesomethingelse–afinitemind–whenitcoloursitselfwiththeactivityof

thinking,sensingandperceiving,therebyobscuringitsessential,unconditionednature

fromitself.Allthereisbetweentwothoughtsorperceptionsistheexperienceofbeing

aware,orawarenessitself.Therefore,itisawarenessthatrecognisesitselforknows

itselfagaininthattimelesspause.Thereisnootherentitypresent.Awareness’snature

istobeaware,andjustbybeingawareitisawareofitself.Itisinherentlyself-aware.

ThisiswhyBalyanisaid,‘IknewmyLordthroughmyLord.’TosuggestthatGod’s

infinitebeingisknownbyanythingotherthanitselfistheultimateblasphemy.Itisto

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positasecondentity,aself,apartfromGod’sinfinitebeing,afiniteconsciousness

apartfrominfiniteconsciousness.AsBalyanisaid,‘NoonebutHeknowsHim.’

***

Awareness’sprimaryandfundamentalknowledgeistheknowingofitsownbeing,the consciousnessofitsownexistence.Itknowsitselfbeforeitknowsanyotherthing.In fact, awareness cannot not be aware of itself, although its awareness of itself is sometimesobscuredwhenitcoloursitselfintheformofmindand,assuch,seemsto knowsomethingotherthanitsownbeing.Allmindsariseinandareaself-colouring ofthesameeternal,infinitelightofpureknowing.The‘I’ineachofusisthesame‘I’, modulatingitselfinandasallapparentlyseparatemindsbutessentiallythesame indivisible,self-awarebeing.

Theknowledge‘Iam’thatshinesineachofourmindsandthatremainspresent throughoutallexperienceisthesamelightofpureknowing,refractedintoanapparent multiplicityanddiversityofminds.Justasthespaceinallbuildingsisthesame unlimited space, seemingly divided into a multiplicity and diversity of spaces of differentshapesandsizes,sotheknowingthatshinesineachofourmindsisthesame knowing,onlyseeminglydividedintoamultiplicityanddiversityofmindsbyits reflectioninnumerousbodies.

Oncewehaveoverlookedourunlimitedbeingand,asresult,believedandfeltourself

tobeatemporary,finiteawareness,thenlove,theknowledgeofouronenesswithall

beings,isveiled.Itisforthisreasonthatallapparentlyseparateselveslong,aboveall

else,forlove.Ourlongingforlovecomesfromtheintuitionofoursharedbeing.Itis

thelongingthatresidesintheheartsofallapparentlyseparateselvestobedivestedof

theirseparatenessandreturnedtotheiroriginalwholenessoroneness.Loveisthe

experienceofthatonenessofbeing.Assuch,loveisGod’spresenceintheheart.That

iswhymostpeoplerecognisethatloveislife’sconsummatemeaningandpurpose.

Eachofourmindshasaccesstoitsowninfiniterealitythroughthesimpleexperience of being aware or the knowledge ‘I am’. The experience of being aware or the knowledge‘Iam’isGod’ssignatureinthemind.Beingawareofbeingawareisthus theportal,themeansand,atthesametime,thegoalofthemind’squestforabsolute truth.

Theexperienceofbeingaware–theessenceofthemind–orthefeeling‘Iam’– God’s presence in our heart – is thus not only the foundation of happiness or fulfilmentinindividuals,buttheultimatesourceofpeaceamongstcommunitiesand nations.Thus,intheDirectPaththetwowaysofknowledgeanddevotionfindtheir ultimateresolution:theymergeandbecomeindistinguishable.

***

Awareness’sknowingofitsownbeingisthesimplest,mostobvious,intimateand

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ordinaryexperience,whichallpeoplehaveincommon.Infact,itisnotanexperience that a person has. Awareness is the experiencing element in all experience. It is awarenessthathastheexperienceofbeingaware,thatis,itisawarenessthatknows itselfineachoneofus.Thesimpleknowingofourownbeing–itsknowingofitself inus–shinesinthemindastheknowledge‘Iam’or‘Iamaware’,andinourfeelings astheexperienceofpeace,happinessorlove.

However,becausethisknowingofourownbeinghasnoobjectivequalities,itcannot

beregisteredbytheobject-knowingmind.Infact,thepresenceofthemindseemsto

obscureitorpreventitfrombeingknown,soitisusuallyoverlookedorignored.

Tosaythatthemindseemstoobscureorpreventtheknowingofourownessential, irreduciblebeingisnotmeanttosuggestthatmindisanentityinitsownrightthathas anobscuringpower.Themindistoawarenesswhatanimageistoascreen:simplya modulationofit.Itisthescreenitselfthattakestheshapeoftheimagewithwhichit seems to be veiled. Likewise, it is awareness itself that, vibrating within itself, assumestheformofthefinitemind,fromwhosepointofviewitsubsequentlyseems tobeveiledormissing.Inotherwords,awarenessseemstoobscureitselffromitself with its own creativity. Awareness seems to lose itself in the very forms that it assumes.

Inourcultureweprimarilyvalueobjects,statesofmind,ideas,beliefs,opinions, feelings and relationships. We give our attention to objective knowledge so exclusivelythatourprimaryexperience–thesubjectiveknowledgeof‘I’,awareness’s knowledgeofitself,ortheexperienceofsimplybeingaware–is,inmostcases, overlookedorignored.

Howisexperienceknown?Withwhatdoweknowourexperience?Howdoweknow thatweexist?Isitnotextraordinarythat,inspiteofthefactthatallthatisorcould everbeknownistheknowingofexperience,thatknowingitself,theexperienceof being aware, is almost completely ignored by our culture and its nature rarely investigated?Inordertoanswersuchquestionsfromexperience,wehaveto‘goto’ theknowingwithwhichallexperienceisknown;wehaveto‘goto’thatwhichis awareofourexperience.Wehavetobecomeawareoftheexperienceofbeingaware. Awarenesshastobecomeawareofitself.

Infact,awarenessdoesn’tbecomeawareofitself;rather,itceasesassumingtheform

ofthefinitemindinwhichitdirectsthelightofitsknowingorattentiontowardsan

objectorstate.Asaresult,it‘returnstoitself’andrecognisesitsownever-present

being.Infact,awarenessisalwaysawareofitsownbeing,butthisknowledgeis

temporarilyveiled,forgottenorobscuredwhenawarenessassumestheformofmind

and,assuch,directsthefocusofitsattentiontowardsobjects.

Whenawarenessrelaxesthefocusofitsattentionfromobjects,itcannotandneednot redirectitsattentiontowardsitself,forawarenessitselfisthesource of attention. Awarenessneedonlyriseintheformofmindorattentioninordertoknowsomething thatisotherthanitself.Toknowitself,awarenessdoesnotneedtoassumetheformof thefinitemindorattentionand,assuch,directitselftowardsitself,justasthesundoes notneedtodirectitslightinanyparticulardirectioninordertoilluminateitself.

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Whenawarenesswithdrawsthefocusofitsattentionfromobjectiveexperience,its

knowingbeginstosinkbackintoitself,andindoingsoitisprogressivelyrelievedof

thelimitationsitacquireswhenassumingtheformofthefinitemind.Whenawareness

ceasestoriseintheformofmindorattention,itis,asitwere,unveiledandsimply

knowsorrecognisesitsownbeingalone.Awarenessrisesintheformofthemindto

knowthebodyandtheworld,buttoknowitselfitneedonlyrestinandasitself;it

needonlybeitselfalone.

***

Priortoanymanifestation,awarenessremainsmotionlessandalone,knowingonlyits

owneternal,infinitebeing.Awarenessdoesnotknowitselfasanobjectinthewaythe

mindseemstoknowobjects,andthusawareness’sknowingofitsowneternal,infinite

beingissaidtobe‘empty’or‘void’.

However,thatisonlytruefromthepointofviewofthemind,whichbelievesobjects

toberealthingsintheirownright,madeoutofstuffcalled‘matter’.Fromsucha

pointofviewawarenessisempty,void,not-a-thingornothing.Fromitsownpointof

view–whichistheonlyrealpointofview,andisitselfnota‘point’ofview–

awarenessisnotnothing,norisitsomething.‘Nothing’and‘something’bothbelong

tomind,forbothderivetheirmeaningfromtheassumptionofindependentlyexisting

‘things’.

Thefinitemindcanonlyknowalimitedobject–somethingwithlimited,objective qualities,suchasathought,feeling,sensationorperception–eventhoughitisitself made out of unlimited awareness. The mind cannot even think of awareness, for awareness has no objectives qualities and the mind can only think of something objective.Ifthemindtriestothinkofawareness,itwilleitherimagineablank,empty objectorstateor,facedwiththeimpossibilityofthetask,cometoanend.

Infact,theminddoesn’tcometoanend,forthemindisnotanentityinitsownright thatbeginsandends.Whenitissaidthatthemindcomestoanend,itismeantthat awareness ceases vibrating within itself and returns to its original, objectless, ‘motionless’condition.Allthatcomestoanendwhenthemindsupposedlycomesto anendistheactivityofawareness,whichawarenessitselffreelyassumesinorderto taketheformofthefinitemindand,assuch,appeartoitselfastheworld.

Wecannotevenlegitimatelysaythatawareness‘returns’toitsoriginalcondition,any

morethanwecansaythatthescreenreturnstoitsoriginalconditionwhenthemovie

ends.Awarenessisalwaysinitsoriginalcondition.Itisonlyfromthepointofviewof

thefinitemind–theactivitythatawarenessassumesinordertomanifestitsinfinite

potentialintheformofobjectiveexperience–thatawarenessseemstoceasebeingin

itsoriginalconditionandtobecomeanobject,otherorworld.Fromitsownpointof

view,itneverbecomesanythingotherthanitselforceasestobeitselfalone.

Inrelationtothematerialistbeliefthatthebodyandworldaremadeoutofsomething

solid,materialand‘full’,itislegitimatetosaythatawarenessisnotmaterial,thatitis

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‘empty’ofthesolidsubstanceoutofwhichobjectsaresupposedlymade.However, thatstatementstartswiththeideaofmatterandworksitswayuptoawareness,instead ofstartingwithawarenessandstayingwithawarenessalone.Awarenessistheonly legitimate place to start, because awareness is the primary and, in fact, the only elementpresentinexperience.

Inreality,awarenessisneitherfullnorempty.Theideathatawarenessisemptyisa thornthatisusedtoremoveanotherthorn:theideathatitisaby-productandshares thelimitsanddestinyofmatter.Awarenessisbeyondorpriortobothfullnessand emptiness, and cannot be conceptualised by the mind. We are, however, using languagethathasbeendesignedtodescribedualisticexperience–thatis,theapparent subject–objectrelationshipinwhichaninsideselfmadeofmindsupposedlyknows an outside object, other or world made of matter – and so we have to make a concession and use such language as skilfully as possible to point towards an experiencethatultimatelycannotbedescribed.

Theironyisthatthemindthattriestodescriberealityispresentlycreatingthevery

dualityfromwhichitissimultaneouslytryingtoemerge.Themindcanneverfind,let

alonedescribe,therealitythatitseeks,foritisitselftheveryactivitythatseemsto

dividethatrealityintoamultiplicityanddiversityofobjectsandselves,eachwithits

ownnameandformthatcanbedescribedinlanguage.

Onemightthenquestionthelegitimacyofabooksuchasthis,orindeedanyattempt toapproachanddescribetherealityofexperience,andfromanabsolutepointofview such an objection is reasonable. In fact, all the skilful means prescribed by the religiousandspiritualtraditionsarecompassionateconcessionstothemindthatseeks its own reality, whether that search is felt as the desire for knowledge and understanding,thelongingforpeace,happinessorlove,ordevotiontoGod’sinfinite being.

Themindthatexploresthesemattersislikeamoththatseeksaflame.Themothis

attractedbythelightoftheflame,justasthemindisattractedbythegravitationalpull

ofitssourceandessence.However,asthemothapproaches,theflamebecomeshotter

andhotterandthemothbeginstodancearoundit,atonceattractedandrepulsedby

theheat,inwhichitintuitsitwillsimultaneouslydieanddiscoveritsheart’sdesire.

Suchistheplayofloveandresistancewithwhichtheseparateselfseeksandresistsits

truenature,intuitingthateverythingforwhichittrulylongsistobefoundthereand

knowingatthesametimethatinordertoexperienceit,itmustdieintoit.AstheSufi

mysticandpoetRumisaid,‘Intheexistenceofyourlove,Ibecomenon-existent.’

Likewise is the value of all spiritual discourse and practice that draws the mind inexorablyinwardstowardsitssourceandreality,untilatsomepointthemindloses itslimitationsandstandsrevealedastheveryrealityforwhichitwasinsearch.

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CHAPTER8

THEESSENCEOFMEDITATION

Meditationisnotanactivitythatisundertakenbymind.Itistheveryoppositeof

mind’sactivity.Awarenessneedstoariseinorassumetheformofmindinorderto

knowobjectiveexperience,buttoknowitsownbeingitdoesnotneedtoassumethe

formofmind.Indeed,itcannotknowitsownbeingintheformofmind.

Toknowitsownbeingasitis,awarenessneedonlyrestinandasitself.Thatis,it

needonlybeitself.Butawarenessisalreadyitself;itdoesn’tneedtogoanywhereor

doanythingspecialtobeandthereforeknowitself,justasthesundoesn’thavetogo

anywhereordoanythingtoilluminateitself.

Meditationisnotanactivityofmindbutratherarelaxing,dissolvingorsinkingof

mindintoitsoriginal,unconditioned,unbornessence.However,mindisnotanentity

thatcanrelax,dissolveorsinkintoitsessencelikethesunsinksintothewesternsky.

Mindistheactivitythatawarenessitselffreelyassumesinordertomanifestandknow

itsinfinitepotential.Thus,theonlyentity–ifwecancallitanentity–presentinmind

isawarenessitself.

Sowhenitissaidthatmeditationisarelaxingofmindintoitsessence,whatismeant isthatinmeditationtheactivityofawareness,namelymind,graduallydiminishes. Mindisawarenessinmotion;awarenessismindatrest.Inthisrelaxation,mindis gradually, in most cases, but occasionally suddenly, divested of its accumulated conditioning,leavingitsessentialnatureofpureawarenessexposed,simplyknowing itsownunlimitedbeing.

Awarenessistheexperienceofsimplybeingaware,orawarebeing.Itisouressential, irreducible, indivisible nature. All objective experience can be removed from awareness,butawarenesscanneverberemovedfromitself.Thisdoesnotmeanthat thoughts,feelings,sensationsandperceptionscanberemovedfromawarenessinthe waythatphysicalobjectscan,relativelyspeaking,beremovedfromthespaceofa room,althoughintheearlystagesofthisexplorationitisreasonabletosayso.That formulationisvalidforestablishingthepresenceandprimacyofawareness,butonce thishasbeendone,likeallformulationsitmustbeabandoned.

We never, in fact, know or experience discrete objects called thoughts, feelings, sensationsandperceptionsthathavetheirownexistenceindependentofawarenessor knowing;weonlyknowthinking,feeling,sensingandperceiving.Thatis,weonly knowexperiencing,andallexperiencingisamodulationoftheknowingwithwhichit isknownandoutofwhichitismade.Itisnotthatthoughts,feelings,sensationsand

perceptionsappearanddisappearinawareness,likecloudsinthesky.Theyareself-

modulationsofawareness,justasanimageisamodulationofthescreenbutnever

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existsor‘standsoutfrom’thescreenwithitsownindependentandseparateidentity.

Mind is the activity in whose form awareness manifests and knows objective experience.Meditationisarelaxingofthatactivity,leavingawareness,itsessential reality,standingaloneinitsoriginal,naked,uncoloured,unmodulatedcondition– pure,luminous,emptyknowing.Meditationistobeknowinglythatluminous,open, empty,space-likepresenceofawareness,knowingitsownawarebeing.

***

Awarenessisself-aware.Itknowsitselfsimplybybeingitself.Therefore,nospecial

activityisrequiredbyawarenessforittobeawareofitselfasitis.Infact,acessation

ofthemind’sactivityisrequired,becausethemind’sactivityistheforminwhich

awarenessappearstoitselfassomethingotherthanitself,thatis,objectiveexperience.

Themindthattriestoundertakeaspecialactivitycalled‘meditation’inorderto recognise its essential nature, such as focusing its attention on a subtle object or controllingthebreath,islikeacharacterinamoviethattravelstheworldinsearchof thescreen.Thescreenneverappearsasanobjectinthemovie,althoughallobjectsare madeonlyofthescreen.

However,asaconcessiontothecharacterinthemovieinsearchofthescreen,wemay

drawherattentiontoasubtleobjectsuchasthephysicalspaceallaroundher.The

emptyspacethatthecharacterexperiencesisahintinherthree-dimensionalworldof

therealityofherexperience,thetwo-dimensionalscreen.

Wecouldsaythattheemptyspaceinwhichthecharacter’sexperienceseemsto

appearisthefirstformofthescreeninherworld.Thetwo-dimensionalscreenappears

asthree-dimensionalspaceinherworldduetothelimitsofhermind,andthusempty

physicalspaceislikeaplace-holderforthepresenceofthescreen.Itisstillanobject

inherworld,butitisanemptyobjectthatmimicsthepresenceofthescreen.Ifthe

charactergivesherattentiontothisemptyspace,herfixationonobjectswillrelaxand

hermindwillbeopenandreceptivetoanintuitionofthescreen.

Thecharacterinthemoviecanneverrealisesheisthescreen,becauseitisheridentity

asalimitedcharacterthatisitselftheveilingofthescreen.Inordertorecogniseher

identityasthescreen,theverymindwhichsheisdirectingtowardstheemptyspace

mustdissolve.Inotherwords,shemustceasebeingtheseparatecharacter.

Inthesameway,pureawarenessneverappearsasanexperienceinorofthemind,

althoughthefeelingofbeingortheknowledge‘Iam’isahintinthemindofits

presence.Asthemindgivesitsattentiontothefeelingofbeingortheknowledge‘I

am’,itsfixationonobjectiveexperienceisrelaxedanditbeginstodissolveintoits

sourceandessence.

Thefeelingofbeingortheknowledge‘Iam’isthelastfrontierofthemindasitseeks its source and the first frontier through which awareness passes as it manifests objectiveexperience.ThisiswhyJidduKrishnamurtireferredtoitas‘thefirstandlast

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freedom’.Awarenesslosesitslastfreedomasitpassesthroughtheportal‘Iam’and assumestheformofthefinitemind,andthefinitemindgainsitsfirstfreedomwhenit passes through the same portal in the opposite direction on its return to infinite awareness.Thus,inordertorecogniseitsessentialreality,mindmustceasebeing mind.Mindcannotknowawareness,eventhoughitismadeofit.Onlyawarenesscan knowawareness.

***

Theknowledge‘Iam’isthemind’saccesstotheabsoluteknowledgewhichlies

behind,andistheultimaterealityof,allofitsrelativeknowledgeandexperience.Itis

tothisquestthatTennysonreferswhenhespeaksof‘yearningindesiretofollow

knowledgelikeasinkingstar,beyondtheutmostboundofhumanthought’.

Theturningofthemindtowardsitssourceofpureawarenessmaybeeffectedby

askingaquestionsuchas,‘AmIaware?’or‘WhoamI?’Inordertofindtheanswerto

thesequestions,themindmustlookfortheexperienceofsimplybeingaware.As

such,thequestion‘AmIaware?’or‘WhoamI?’invitesthemind–‘likeasinking

star’–awayfromitscustomaryobjectsofknowledgeandexperience–‘theboundsof

humanthought’–anddrawsitinwardstowardsitssubjectivesource,thetransparent,

luminous,non-objectiveexperienceofbeingawareorpureawarenessitself.

However,theminddoesnothavetogosomewhereorindeeddoanythingtoeffectthis

dissolutionofitself.Thereisnodistancebetweenmindandawareness,justasthereis

nodistancebetweenthecharacterinthemovieandthescreen.Thecharacterinthe

movieisonlyanentityinherownrightfromherownlimitedandultimatelyillusory

perspective.Fromtheperspectiveoftheself-awarescreen,theonlyentityinexistence

isitself.Likewise,mindisonlyanindependentlyexistingentityfromitsownlimited

pointofview.

Inreality,thereisnosuchthingas‘amind’.Whatisnormallyconsideredthemindis atemporary,self-assumedlimitationandlocalisationoftheindivisiblefieldofinfinite awareness itself. From the perspective of awareness, there is only itself and its modificationsintheformofmind,butnevertheabsenceofitself,northepresenceof anyother,independentlyexistingentity.Itisforthisreasonthatinthetruenon-dual teaching,emphasisisplacedonrecognisingthenatureofrealityratherthanondealing withortryingtogetridofaseparateselfanditsattendantsuffering.

So the suggestion to turn around or investigate one’s true nature is made as a concessiontothemindwhichfeelsthatitisatadistancefromandotherthanits sourceofpureawareness.Foramindaccustomedtodirectingthelightofitsknowing towardsobjects,thesuggestiontoturnitsknowinguponitselfwillinitiallyseemto requireaneffort,justasonewhoisaccustomedtoclenchingtheirfistforsometime willseemtohavetomakeanefforttoopenit.Onlylaterwillitbecomeapparentthat theopeningofthefistwasnotaneweffort,butrathertherelaxationofaprevious effortthathadbecomesohabitualthatitwasnolongernoticedassuch.Inthesame way,onlylaterwillitbenoticedthattobeknowinglythepresenceofawarenessisour

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natural condition – that is, it is awareness’s natural condition – and we cannot thereforemakeanyefforttobeit.Alleffortwouldtakeusaway.Infact,allactivities ofmindrequireamoreorlesssubtleeffort,anactivityofthoughtorperception.The limitedawarenessknownasmind,andtheapparentseparateselforegouponwhomit ispredicated,isanactivityratherthananentity.Meditationiswhatweare,notwedo; theseparateselfiswhatwedo,notwhatweare.

Inalmostallcasestheminddoesnotdissolveinitssourceimmediately;itisagradual

processinwhichminddirectsitselftowardstheknowingwithwhichitknowsits

knowledgeandexperienceand,indoingso,sinksmoreandmoredeeplyintothe

experienceofsimplybeingawareorawarenessitself.AsRumisaid,‘Flowdownand

downanddown,inever-wideningringsofbeing.’

Asthemindflowsdownanddown,sinkingprogressivelydeeperintoitsownessence

–theexperienceofsimplybeingawareorawarenessitself–itisgraduallydivestedof

itscolouringorconditioningand,indoingso,becomesincreasinglytransparentand

luminous.Pureawarenessitselfiscompletelytransparent;ithasnoform,colouror

objectivequalitiesandis,assuch,withoutlimitation.Pureawareness–theessential,

irreduciblenatureofmind–is,initsownexperienceofitself,thuseternalandinfinite.

Asthefinitemindsinksintoitsinfiniteessenceitgraduallylosesitscolouringor

conditioning,likeanimagefadingonascreen,andasitdoessoitlosesitslimitations.

Inthenon-processofmeditation,themind,asRumisuggests,becomesprogressively

‘wider’untilitisdivestedofallitslimitsandstandsrevealedasluminous,empty

awarenessitself,theoriginal,naked,unborn,irreducibleandessentialconditionofthe

mind,or,inreligiouslanguage,God’sinfinitebeing.

Themoreinterestedthemindbecomesinitsownessentialnatureofpure,objectless

awareness,themoredeeplyitisdrawnintoit,andintimethisinterestgrowsintoan

intenselove.Nothingcouldbemoreinterestingorlovablethantoknowthenatureof

thatthroughwhichallthingsareknown.Infact,themindcannotknowwhatanything

trulyisuntilitknowsthenatureoftheknowingwithwhichitknowsitsknowledge

andexperience,thatis,untilitknowsthenatureofitself.

***

Thequestion‘AmIaware?’–oranysimilarquestion,suchas,‘WhoorwhatamI?’, ‘Whatisitthatknowsorisawareofmyexperience?’,‘Fromwheredothoughts, feelings,sensationsandperceptionsarise?’or‘Whatelementofmyexperiencenever disappears?’–isauniquequestion,becauseunlikequestionsthattakethemindona journey of objective or ‘outward’ exploration, it takes the mind on an objectless journey in which the knowing with which the mind usually knows objective experienceisdrawn‘inwards’or‘selfwards’towardsitsownessential,uncoloured reality.

Asthemindtravelsinwards,itsessentialqualityofpureknowinggradually,inmost

cases,losesitscolouring.Justastheslowlyfadingimageseemstorevealthescreen,

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which was in fact always in plain view, so the mind’s essential nature ceases to obscureitselfintheformofobjectiveexperienceandisrevealedtoitselfaspure, objectless,infiniteawareness.Themindrecognisesitsownnature:originalmind,pure consciousness,infiniteawareness.

Thequestion‘AmIaware?’or‘WhoamI?’initiatesaccesstothehighestintelligence ofwhichthemindiscapable.Itistheultimatethought.Themindcangonofurther thanthat;itisthefarthestshoreofknowledge.ItisforthisreasonthatShantananda Saraswati,theformerShankaracharyaofthenorthofIndia,said,‘Realthinkersdon’t think.’ That is, a mind which pursues absolute truth or a heart that longs for unconditionallovewilleventuallybringitselftoitsownend.

Whatitisthattriggersthissacredquestionineachofourmindsvariesfromindividual toindividual,butsoonerorlaterthequestforknowledgeorlovemustleadtothis question.‘AmIaware?’,‘WhoamI?’,‘Whatisthenatureoftheknowingwithwhich experienceisknown?’,‘Fromwhatdoesthemindarise?’,‘HowdoIknowthatIam aware?’–anysuchquestionturnstheminduponitself.Theseareallvariationsofthe same sacred question, and it is in the form of this question that the divergent disciplinesofscienceandreligionareunited.Thedesireforknowledgeandtheloveof Godarerealisedtobethesamequest.

Thissacredquestiontriggersaprocessinthemindwhoseresolutionisthefoundation

ofalltrueknowledgeandlove.Itisthusatoncetheultimatescience,theessenceof

meditationandthemostsacredprayer.ItisforthisreasonthatRumisaid,‘Isearched

formyselfandfoundonlyGod;IsearchedforGodandfoundonlymyself.’

Anyknowledgethatisnotfoundeduponthemind’srecognitionofitsownessenceof infinite, indivisible awareness will inevitably share the conditioning and thus the limitationsofthefinitemindwithwhichitisknown,andwillthereforealwaysbe subject to change and doubt. As such, it will be, at best, only relatively true. Awareness’sknowingofitsowneternal,infinitebeingistheonlyabsoluteknowledge, foritistheonlyknowledgethatisnotrelativetoandlimitedbytheconditioningof thefinitemind.Itistheonlyknowledgethatisabsolutelytrueatalltimes,inall places,forallpeopleandunderallcircumstances.

A truly civilised culture is one in which all branches of knowledge – politics, psychology,medicine,science,sociology,economics,philosophy,theartsandreligion –arefoundedupontherecognitionoftheeternal,infinitenatureofawareness,the ultimaterealityofallexperiencethatknowsitselfalikeineachoneofusas‘I’or‘I am’,irrespectiveofnationality,age,gender,race,creed,education,healthorwealth. Insuchacultureeachbranchofknowledgewouldtailortheabsolutetruthtothe various fields in which it operated, bringing to humanity its creative, healing intelligenceandlove.

Iftherewereevertobeaphilosophy,religionorsciencethatcouldtrulyunifythe human race and bring lasting peace, justice and equality to individuals, families, communitiesandnations,itwouldhavetobebasedontheoneexperiencethatall beingsshareinequalmeasureandtowhichallbeingshaveequalandunlimitedaccess atalltimes:theknowingofourowninfinitebeing,whichshinesineachofourminds

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astheknowledge‘Iam’.Thefactthatallpeoplerefertothemselvesbythesamename

–‘I’–isahintincommonparlanceoftheunderstandingthatweallsharethesame

being.

The experience of being aware is the most fundamental, ordinary, familiar and intimateexperience.Itshinesinallmindsastheknowledge‘I’.Assuch,the‘I’ofthe finitemindisGod’sinfinite‘I’,theonly‘I’thereis;theindivisible,awarebeingfrom whomallfinitemindsderivetheiressentialidentity;thesinglerealitythateachmind modulatesinauniqueway,partiallyrevealingthesplendourandbeautythatlieatits source.Tobethatknowinglyistheessenceofmeditationandtheartoflife.

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CHAPTER9

THEOUTWARD-FACINGPATH:COLLAPSINGTHEDISTINCTIONBETWEENCONSCIOUSNESS

ANDOBJECTS

The spiritual path could be divided into three steps. The first step involves the investigationintotheessentialnatureoftheegoorseparateselfthroughthenetineti process,inwhichthewitnessingsubjectofexperienceisextricatedfromallobjective contentandstandsaloneaspureconsciousness,theprimaryandfundamentalelement ofallexperience.

Inthesecondstep,consciousnessreleasesitsattentionfromtheobjectivecontentof

experience, from which it separated itself in the first step, and begins to flow

backwardsorinwardsintoitself,eventuallycomingtorestinitself.Itisinthisself-

restingorself-abidingthatconsciousnessisgradually,inmostcases,divestedofits

self-assumedlimitationsandrecognisesitsownever-presentandunlimitedbeing.This

self-restingorself-abidingistheessenceofmeditationandprayer.

Onceconsciousnesshasrecogniseditsownever-presentandunlimitednature–the recognition that is traditionally referred to as enlightenment or awakening – the purposeofdistinguishingconsciousnessfromobjectshasbeenaccomplishedanditis nownecessarytodissolvethisdistinction.Thus,thethirdsteponthespiritualpath involvesanexplorationofobjectiveexperienceinthelightofournewunderstanding inordertocollapsetheapparentdistinctionbetweenconsciousnessanditsobjects.

In this exploration, we discover that consciousness is not simply the witnessing presencetowhichallexperienceappearsbutthespaceorfieldinwhichallexperience appears.Trytofindanexperiencethattakesplaceoutsideconsciousness.Allthatis knownoftheapparentlyoutsideworldisperception–sights,sounds,tastes,textures andsmells–andallperceptiontakesplaceinconsciousness.

Evenifweperceivesomethingthatseemstobeatavastdistancefromourself,suchas

themoon,allthatcouldeverbeknownofitisathought,imageorperception,andall

thoughts,imagesandperceptionsappearinconsciousness.Likewise,allthatisor

couldeverbeknownofthebodyaresensationsandperceptions,andallsensationsand

perceptionsappearinconsciousness.Thus,ifwestayclosetothefactsofexperience,

theworldandthebodyareappearancesinconsciousness.Consciousnesscannever

knoworcomeincontactwithanythingoutsideofitself.

Trynowwithyourattentiontoleavethefieldofconsciousnessinwhichallexperience

appears,inthesamewaythatachildmightlieinbedwonderinghowfarspacegoes

andwhat,ifanything,mightliebeyondit.Seethatattentionneverleavesthefieldof

consciousness.Allexperiencetakesplaceinandisknownbyconsciousness,andas

experienceisallthatisorcouldeverbeknown,wecannotlegitimatelyclaimthe

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existenceofanythingoutsideofconsciousness.Todosowouldrequirealeapoffaith.

Thus, consciousness itself could be likened to an open, empty field or space-like presenceinwhichallobjectiveexperienceappears,likecloudsappearinginanempty sky.Consciousnessisnot,infact,aspace;itisdimensionless.However,itisnot possibletothinkoforvisualisesomethingwithoutdimensions,soasaconcessionto themindthatwishestothinkandspeakofthenatureofreality,itislegitimatetoadda space-likequalitytoconsciousnessandtodescribeitasanopen,empty,space-like fieldorpresence.

***

Noticethat,justasnocloudisatadistancefromtheskyinwhichitappears,no

experienceisatadistancefromtheconsciousnessinwhichitarises.Thisrecognition

collapses,atleasttoadegree,theapparentdistancebetweenconsciousnessandits

objects,althoughadistinctionstillremains,justasthereisadistinctionbetweenthe

skyandtheclouds.

Doesacloudeverhaveitsownexistenceindependentofthesky?Canacloudbe

removedfromtheskyandstillmaintainitsexistence?Isnotthetemporaryexistence

ofthecloudborrowedfromthepermanentreality,relativelyspeaking,ofthesky?Isit

possibletohaveanexperiencethatisindependentofconsciousness?

What is the relationship between the known object and the knowing field of consciousness in which it appears and with which it is known? Is there indeed anythingtotheknownotherthantheknowingofit?Investigateyourexperience– yourcurrent,rememberedorimaginedexperience–andaskyourselfifyoueverfind orcomeincontactwithanythingotherthantheknowingofit.

Allthereistoexperienceisthinking,imagining,feeling,sensingandperceiving,and

allthinking,imagining,feeling,sensingandperceivingareintimatelyonewiththe

consciousnesswithwhichtheyareknownandinwhichtheyappear.Thatis,allthere

istothinking,imagining,feeling,sensingandperceivingistheknowingofthem.

Thereisnotonethingcalled‘thinking’,‘imagining’,‘feeling’,andsoon,andanother

called‘theknowingofit’.

Thinkingisonlytheknowingofit.Feelingisonlytheknowingofit.Perceivingis

onlytheknowingofit.Allthereistoexperienceistheknowingofit.Infact,wenever

comeincontactwiththe‘it’.The‘it’,theobjectofexperience,isneverfoundtoexist

independently,justasacloudisneverfoundtoexistindependentlyofthesky.

Whilstthisisalegitimatestageofunderstanding,andthemetaphorofcloudsinthe

skyservestoevoketheprovisionalrelationshipbetweenconsciousnessanditsobjects,

itisstillapositionofduality;wecouldcallitenlightenedduality.Noobjectorthing

ever‘ex-ists’orstandsoutfromconsciousnessinthewaythatacloudseemstostand

outfromtheskyasanindependentobjectinitsownright.Sowemustnowabandon

thismetaphorandreplaceitwithonethatmoreaccuratelyreflectsourexperience.

Thus,consciousnessistoexperience,notasobjectsaretoawitness,norevenas

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cloudsaretothesky,butratherasaself-awarescreenistothemoviethatisplaying

uponit.

Eventhismetaphorsuggeststhatthereissomethingcalled‘amovie’,albeitdependent foritsexistenceuponthescreen,butthatisnottrue.Wedonotevenfindanobject calledamoviethatisdependentonthescreen,letaloneindependentofit!Allthereis to a so-called movie is the reality, relatively speaking, of the screen. The movie doesn’texistorstandoutfromthescreen.Thereisnosuchthingas‘amovie’asan objectinitsownright.Allthatiseverfoundisthescreen,modulatingitselfinthe formofthemoviebutneverceasingtobethescreenandneverbecominganything otherthanitself.

Likewise,weneverknoworcomeincontactwithanobjectofexperience,bethat

objectathought,feeling,sensationorperception.Weonlyknowknowing.Knowingis

allthatisorcouldeverbeknown.Andwhatisitthatknowsthisknowing?Onlythat

whichknowscouldknowknowing.Onlyknowingcouldknowknowing.Theknowing

ofexperience,ortheconsciousnessofexperience,isallthereistoexperience,anditis

knowingthatknowsthisknowing:knowing,knowingonlyknowing.

Inthefinalstageofthisexplorationthedistinctionbetweenconsciousnessandits

objectscollapsescompletely.Experienceisnotjustknownbyconsciousness;itdoes

notjustappearinconsciousness;consciousnessisallthereistoexperience.Thereis

onlyconsciousness.AstheVedantinssay,‘ThereisonlytheSelf’,andastheSufis

say,‘EverythingisGod’sface’.

***

Thereisnopartofexperiencethatisnotmadeofknowing,andthusallthatispresent in experience is knowing or consciousness itself. Indeed, there are no parts to experience,period.Allthereistoexperienceisknowingorconsciousness,andthereis nothinginconsciousnessotherthanconsciousnessitselfwhichcoulddivideitselfinto a multiplicity and diversity of objects, parts or selves. Experience is a single, indivisiblewhole.

Inconsciousness’sexperience–andconsciousnessistheonly‘one’thathasorknows

experience–thereisonlyitself,eitheratrestknowingitsowninfinite,inherently

peacefulandunconditionallyfulfilledbeing,orinactivityknowingitself,intheform

ofmind,astheworld.Assuch,allexperienceisinfinite,indivisibleconsciousness

assumingtheactivityofmindandappearingtoitselfasamultiplicityanddiversityof

objectsandselves,butneveractuallybeing,becomingorknowinganythingotherthan

itselfalone.ThereisonlyGod’sinfinitebeing.

Consciousnessistheself-awarescreenthatismodulatingitselfinandsimultaneously knowingitselfasallformsofexperience.Whenconsciousnessismodulatingitselfin theformofexperience,itisknownasmind;whenitisnotmodulatingitselfitis known as pure, unconditioned and, therefore, unlimited consciousness. When the screenismodulatingitselfitisknownasamovie,andwhenitisnotdoingsoit

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remainsthe‘pure’,uncolouredscreen.

Thefinitemind,separateselforegoistheagencythroughandaswhichconsciousness simultaneouslyassumestheformofandknowsmanifestation,justasamoviecouldbe said to be the activity through and as which a screen appears in the form of a landscape.However,justasthescreenmodulatesitselfintheformofthemoviebut neverceasestobethescreen,soconsciousnessneveractuallybecomesthefinite mind,separateselforego.

Itisforthisreasonthatinthenon-dualtraditionsingeneral,andintheAdvaita

Vedantatraditioninparticular,thefinitemind,separateselforegoissaidtobean

illusion.Thisdoesnotmeanthatwhatisconventionallyconsideredtobethefinite

mindissimplynotthere,asisbelievedinmanycontemporary,so-callednon-dual

teachings,butratherthatwhatisthereisnotwhatitseemstobe.Anillusionalways

hasarealitytoit.Amirageinadesertisanillusionaswater,butlight,relatively

speaking,isitsreality.Likewise,thefinitemindisanillusionasaseparatelyexisting

entity,butinfiniteconsciousnessisitsreality.Theapparent‘I’oftheseparateselfis

thetrueandonly‘I’ofeternal,infiniteconsciousness.

Itisonlyfromthelimitedandultimatelyillusoryperspectiveoftheseparatesubjectof

experiencethatthereareamultiplicityanddiversityofseparateobjects.Assuch,the

apparentsubjectandobjectofexperiencearetwosidesofthesamecoin,theinfinite,

indivisiblerealityofconsciousness.Thus,wecoulddefineconsciousnessasthatwith

whichallexperienceisknown,inwhichallexperienceappearsandoutofwhichall

experienceismade.

As that to which all experience appears, consciousness is the separate witness of experience.Asthatinwhichallexperienceappears,consciousnessisanopen,empty, space-likepresenceinwhichobjectsappearlikecloudsinanemptysky.Asthatoutof which experience is made, consciousness is the dimensionless, self-aware screen whichisitselfsimultaneouslyassumingtheformofexperienceandknowingit.

From this perspective, perception is creation. The act of perception itself brings creationoutofpotentialininfiniteconsciousnessandintoexistence.Butevenwhenin existence,thereisnothingtrulypresentincreationotherthaninfiniteconsciousness itself.

Thusthefinalstagesofthespiritualprocessinvolveareturntoobjectiveexperience andthedissolutionofanyapparentdistinctionbetweenconsciousnessanditsobjects. Thisrecognitionbringsenlightenedunderstandingintotherealmofouractivitiesand relationships.Itisthefruitofenlightenment,inwhichthepeace,happiness,freedom and love that are inherent in consciousness’s knowing of its own infinite being graduallyinfiltrate,permeateandsaturateallrealmsofobjectiveexperience,thereby progressivelycolonisingandoutshiningitinthelightofpureknowing.

***

Theconsciousnessofexperienceisallthatweareeverconsciousof,andthe‘we’that

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isconsciousofitisconsciousnessitself.Inotherwords,consciousnessistheonly substancepresentinexperience.Ifexperienceisallthatisorcouldeverbeknown,the only statement that we can make with absolute certainty is that there is only consciousness,andthatconsciousness,beingthetotality,iseternalandinfinite,for thereisnothinginitself,otherthanitself,withwhichitcouldbelimited.Inother words,theknowledgethatonlyGod’sinfinite,self-awarebeingisalltheretrulyisis notsimplyareligiousbelief;itistheultimateknowledge,theonlyabsoluteknowledge thereis.

Eventhatisnotquiteright,fortoassertthatconsciousnessisinfinite,thatis,not finite,istoimplythattherearefinitethingsthatconsciousnessisnot.Itistodefine whatisintermsofwhatisnot.Infact,allwordsdescribeobjectiveexperience,and oncewehavediscoveredthattherearenoobjects,eitherdependentorindependent,it becomesclearthatallwordsdescribewhatisnot.Thusitisnotpossibletosayatrue word about what is or what is real. It is not possible to say a true word about consciousness,ourselforGod’sbeing.

Eventoname‘thatwhichis’asconsciousness,being,Godorselfistosaytoomuch,

foreachofthesewordsderivesitsmeaningbycomparisonwithitsopposite.Itisfor

thisreasonthattheancientsages,intheirwisdomandhumility,preferredonlytosay

whatrealityisnot,ratherthanmakinganypositiveassertionsaboutit.Eventosaythat

realityisonewouldbetomaketoopositiveanassertion,andhencetheysaidthatitis

simply‘nottwo’,inSanskritad-vaita.However,thisshouldnotbeconfused–asit

oftenisinNewAgenon-dualityandNeo-Advaitacircles–withthepost-modern

beliefthatintheabsenceofanyabsolutetruth,everythingisrelative.

Somesagessimplyremainsilent,preferringnottorestrictabsoluterealitywithinthe confines of the mind, whilst others use the mind as best they can to evoke this recognition, using such terms as infinite, immortal, impeccable, indestructible, imperturbable,irreducible,unconditioned,uncreated,unborn,undefiled,unharmable, unaffectedanduntouched.Althoughtheseseemtobeadjectivesthatdescribewhat consciousnessorrealityis,theyareall,infact,negativestatementsindicatingwhatit isnot.

Whenwehavedeniedtoconsciousnessorrealityallthequalitiesthatareusually ascribedtoobjects,itstandsrevealed,shininginandasitself,andallexperienceis seen to be only that. The beautiful and deceptively simple statement in the Upanishads,‘IamThat’,whenproperlyunderstoodconveysthisinsightandis,as such,acondensedexpressionofthehighestunderstanding,whichhasthepowerto awakenasensitiveandreceptivemindtoitsessentialreality.

***

Thesestagesofdevelopment,fromtheconventionalpositionoftheego,throughthe

enlightenedunderstandingofoureternal,infinitenatureofpureconsciousness,tothe

establishmentofthisunderstandinginallrealmsofourlives,aredetailedinallthe

greatspiritualandreligioustraditions.Fromtheconventionalperspectiveofa‘mature’

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adultoregototherecognitionofouressentialselfaspureconsciousnessisapath

fromthebelief‘Iamsomething’–abody-mind–totheunderstanding‘Iamnothing’,

notathing.Thepathfrom‘Iamnotathing;Iampureconsciousnessalone’tothe

recognitionofGod’sinfinitebeing,orinfiniteconsciousnessitself,astheultimate

realityofallthingsisapathfrom‘Iamnothing’to‘Iameverything’.

TheZentraditiondescribesthesethreestagesinthisway:‘Firsttheriversarerivers and the mountains are mountains. Then the rivers are no longer rivers and the mountainsarenolongermountains.Thentheriversareriversandthemountainsare mountainsagain.’Justasthepre-egoicexperienceofananimalorinfantlookssimilar to and shares some of the qualities of the post-egoic recognition, so rivers and mountainslooksimilarfromboththepre-egoicandpost-egoicperspectives,onlyin theformertheyaremadeoutofsomethingotherthanourself,namelymatter,andin thelattertheirfundamentalessenceisrecognisedtobeidenticaltoourself,namely consciousness.

Thefirstpath,from‘Iamsomething’to‘Iamnothing’,isaninward-orselfward-

facing path of discrimination, which is most clearly elaborated in the Vedantic

tradition.Thepathfrom‘Iamnothing’to‘Iameverything’isanoutward-orobject-

facingpathwhichismoreclearlyelaboratedintheTantrictraditions,especiallythatof

KashmirShaivism.IftheVedantictraditionisoneofexclusionordiscrimination,in

whichtheultimaterealityisextricatedfromtheobscuringveilofobjectiveexperience,

theTantrictraditionisoneofinclusion,inwhichtheapparentdistinctionorseparation

betweenconsciousnessandallobjectsandothersisdissolved.Thisdissolutionof

separationisknownatthehumanlevelasloveinrelationtoothersandbeautyin

relationtoobjects.

RamanaMaharshidescribedthesamestagesofdevelopment:‘Theworldisunreal; onlyconsciousnessisreal;consciousnessistheworld’,thatis,consciousnessmerged in experience; consciousness extricated from experience; experience merged in consciousness.Alltheinfantknowsisexperience;allthesageorthemysticknowsis consciousness;andallobjects,othersandtheworldareonlythat.

WilliamBlakewastryingtoexplainthistooneofhismaterialistfriends,whoasked him,‘Whenthesunrises,doyounotseearounddiscoffiresomewhatlikeaguinea?’ Blakereplied,‘Ono,no,Iseeaninnumerablecompanyoftheheavenlyhostcrying, “Holy,Holy,HolyistheLordGodAlmighty!”’ *

The same understanding expressed in the Upanishads as ‘I am That’ is, in the Christiantradition,‘IandmyFatherareone’.Thatis,whatIessentiallyam–pure consciousness–andwhattheultimaterealityoftheuniversereallyis,areoneandthe same.The‘amness’thatallbeingsfeelatthecoreofthemselvesandthe‘isness’or

existencethatissharedbyallobjectsaremodulationsofthesameindivisible,self-

aware being. Being indivisible, it is whole, complete, needing nothing, desiring nothing,fearingnothinganddisturbedbynothing,forthereisnothinginitselfother thanitselfwithwhichitcouldbeenhanced,diminishedordisturbed.Thus,itispeace andfulfilmentitself.

The great equation of the Vedantic tradition states simply, ‘sat (being) chit

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(consciousness)ananda(happiness)’,indicatingthatwhenthebeingorexistencethat

iscommontoallobjectsisrevealedtobeidenticaltotheconsciousnesswithwhichall

experienceisknown,thedistinctionorseparationbetweenpeople,animalsandthe

worlddissolves,andtheexperienceofpeace,happiness,loveandbeautyshines.

Thereisonlyinfinite,indivisibleconsciousnessmodulatingitselfinandasthetotality

ofexperiencebutneverbeing,becomingorknowinganythingotherthanitselfand,

therefore,freeofanyimpulsetofulfilorprotectitself.Itis,assuch,unconditional

happinessitself.

Thisrecognitionissaidtobeabsolutebecauseitisnotderivedfromordependent uponanythingotherthanitself.Itneverchanges;itdoesn’tcomeandgo;itisnot relativetothefinitemind;anditisknownbyitselfalone.Thisunderstandingisthe essential recognition that lies at the heart of all the great religious and spiritual traditions.Thedifferenceslieonlyintheformsinwhichitisexpressedandthemeans bywhichitmayberecognised.Itisforthisreasonthat,whilstthetruthcannever dividepeople,religionalmostalwaysdoes.

Infact,thisrecognitionistheonlyunderstandingthatcantrulyunitepeople,becauseit issharedbyallpeopleequally,irrespectiveofrace,creed,religion,healthorwealth.It remainsthesamethroughoutallstatesandcircumstances,andthroughoutallages.It canneverbethepropertyofanysingleperson,northeprovenanceofanysinglenation orreligion.Itisequallyavailabletoallpeopleandnoonehasprivilegedaccesstoit.It does not have to be earned because it is already and always our essential, unconditionednature.Itcannotbepossessedormanipulated.Itshinesineachofour mindsastheknowledge‘Iam’,thefeelingofbeingortheexperienceoflove.Itis, therefore,thefoundationofpeaceinindividuals,communitiesandnations.Itneed onlyberecognisedanditsimplicationslivedinallrealmsofexperience.

*From‘AVisionoftheLastJudgment’(c.1810).

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CHAPTER10

EXISTENCEISIDENTICALTOAWARENESS

Theobjectiveworldasitisknownfromtheperspectiveoftheseparateselforfinite mindisanillusion,butallillusionshavearealitytothem.InthewordsofHuangPo, ‘Peopleneglecttherealityoftheillusoryworld.’Allthatisknownoftheworldisthe finite mind; the reality of the finite mind is infinite awareness; and nothing ever happens to awareness. Thus it is said that in the ultimate analysis, nothing ever happens.

Nofiniteobjectortemporaryselfevercomesintoexistence,lastsintime,ismovedor changed,growsold,diesordisappears.Allapparentobjectsandselvesshinewith their reality of eternal, infinite awareness alone. Every moment of experience, irrespectiveofitscontent,isinfinite,indivisible,utterlyintimateawareness,ourvery ownselforbeing,appearingtoitself,initself,asitself.

Allobjectsaresaidtoexist:achairexists,athoughtexists,anemotionexists.Assuch, existence is the common element, the shared essence, of all objects. However, existenceisnotapropertyofobjects,justasthescreenisnotapropertyofamovie, norwaterapropertyofawave.Objectsdonothaveexistence.Existence–theisness ofallseemingthings–belongstoawarenessalone,theonly‘one’thattrulyis.

Evenfromtheconventionalperspective,inwhichmindisconsideredtobederived

fromthebodyandthebodyfromtheworld,theessentialnatureofmindmustbe

identicaltotheessentialnatureoftheworld,justastheessentialnatureofanypart

mustbeidenticaltothewholefromwhichitisderived.Therefore,theessentialnature

ofourself–theamnessthatshinesastheknowledge‘Iam’,theexperienceofbeing

awareorthefeelingofbeing–isidenticaltotheisnessofallseemingthings,the

essentialnatureoftheworld.Existenceisidenticaltoawareness.

Thisistheradicalunderstandingthatisthenon-dualessenceofallthegreatreligious, spiritual and philosophical traditions. Existence is identical to awareness, for awarenessobviouslyis–Iam–andtheisnessofawarenessmustbethesameasthe isness of existence. If they were different they would each have to have limiting qualitiestodistinguishthemfromeachother,andifisnesshadanylimitationsitwould not be the common element in all apparent objects. It is only from the illusory perspectiveofaseparateselfthatexistenceandawarenessaredividedintoanoutside worldandaninsideself.

Noobject,thingorseparateselftrulyexists,beitmadeofmatterormind.Objectsand selves borrow their apparent existence from the sole reality of pure awareness. Awarenessaloneisallthattrulyis.Ialoneam,andeverythingandeveryoneisthat!In fact,therearenothingsorselvesforawarenesstobethetotalityof.Iam,andall

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seemingthingsandselvesarethatalone;notI,theseparatebodyormind–thereisno

separatebodyormind–butI,theonly‘I’thereis,infinite,indivisibleawareness,

God’sinfinite,self-awarebeing.Existenceisawarenessitself.

Nothing–thatis,nothing–exists!TheLatinoriginoftheword‘exist’,exsistere,

meaning‘tostandout’,impliesthatobjectsandselves‘comeintoexistence’or‘stand

outfrom’thebackgroundofpurebeingorawareness,inthesamewaythatanimage

appearstostandoutfromascreen.Butnoobjectorselfevercomesintoorgoesoutof

existence.Indeed,evenwhenawareness,vibratingwithinitself,assumestheformof

thefinitemindandseemstobecomeamultiplicityanddiversityofobjectsandothers,

knownfromtheperspectiveofaninsideself,noobjectorselfeveractually‘standsout

from’itself.Nothingevercomesintoordisappearsoutofexistence.

Existencebelongstopureawarenessalone.Infact,evenawarenessdoesnotexist;it

doesnot‘standout’fromitself.Itis.Iam.Awarenesscannot‘comeoutof’itself,

becausethereis,initsownexperienceofitself,nowhereforittogootherthanitself,

nodimensionintowhichitcouldventureorextenditself.

Existenceistheactivityofbeing;beingisexistenceatrest.Theexistencethatan

objectorselfseemstopossessisappropriatedfromawareness’sbeing,justasan

imageborrowsitsrealityfromtherelativerealityofthescreen.Allthatisrealinthe

imageistherealityofthescreen.Allthatisrealinexperienceisinfinite,indivisible

awareness.Thatmeansthattheentireuniverseisourself.

Howwoulditbetoliveallaspectsofone’slifeinawaythatisconsistentwiththis

understanding?Howwouldwetreatanimals,peopleandtheearth?Thisunderstanding

isthefoundationofallmoralityandethics.WhenSt.Augustinewasaskedhowone

shouldbehaveintheworld,heissaidtohaveresponded,‘Love,anddowhateveryou

want!’Ifweunderstandandfeelthateveryanimal,personandobjectisourveryown

self,wecannotgowrong.Thatistheexperienceoflove.Itistheonlymoralguidance

weneed.

***

Thereisonlyawareness,God’sinfinite,indivisiblebeing,whichshinesineachofour

mindsastheknowledge‘Iam’,thefeelingofbeingortheexperienceofloveor

beauty.Assuch,‘Iam’isthefirstformofknowledge.Itistheportalthroughwhich

theworldproceedsoutofpotentialinawarenessintoactualityinfiniteexistence,and

thesameportalthroughwhichtheworldpassesintheotherdirectionasitdissolves

intoitsessence.

Theexperienceofbeautyistheexperienceoftheworlddissolvingintoitsinfinite

essence.Itisarevelationofinfinity.Thatiswhywelovetowalkinnature,listento

musicandexperienceart.Indeed,itiswhywehaveartinourcultureatall.

All existence lies enfolded in potential within awareness itself. Awareness births existenceoutofitsownbeingbyfreelyassumingtheformofperception,thereby collapsingitsowninfinitepotentialintoaspecificformandexcludinginthatmoment

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allotherpossibilitieswithinitself.Perceptioniscreation!

ThisiswhatWilliamBlakemeantwhenhesaid,‘Everybirdthatcutstheairywayis animmenseworldofdelight,closedbyyoursensesfive.’ * Awarenessitselfisan immenseworldofdelight.Itispeaceandjoyitself.Itisawarenessitselfthatassumes theactivityofthefivesenseperceptions,therebyenclosingitsownjoyousimmensity informandappearingtoitselfastheworld.Theworldisamaterialisationofthatjoy.

Thatistheworldthatanartistwantsustosee.Atrueworkofartisacondensationof

beauty.Itisaninvitationtosee–no,tobe–theworld.Aworkofartcontainswithin

itthepowertoeffectthedissolutionofeverythingthatseparatesourselffromthe

object,otherorworld,andtorevealourselfastheimmensitythatiseverything.

Wemightthenask,whyisthereaworld?The‘Why?’questionthathasplagued philosophersforcenturiescanneverbeansweredonthetermsinwhichitisasked. The‘Why?’questionisaskedbythemindthatbelievesthatitsdualisticwayof perceiving reality is accurate. It is a question that can only be answered by underminingthatassumptionatitsorigin.Withouttheassumption,itcannotstand.To ask‘Whyisthereaworld?’islikeasking,‘Whyistheearthflat?’Onlybecausewe believeittobeso!Thoughtabstractstheworld!

Thequestion‘Whyisthereaworld?’shouldbereformulatedinthelightofthis

understandingas,‘Whyisthereafinitemind?’Thereisn’t!Thefinitemindisonlya

finitemindfromtheillusoryperspectiveofafinitemind.

Theapparentdivisionofawarenessintoaselfontheinsidemadeofmindandaworld ontheoutsidemadeofmatterneveractuallyhappens,justasascreenisneverdivided into parts when the movie begins. It is only from the perspective of one of the charactersinthemoviethattheapparentworldsheseesaroundherselfcomprisesa multiplicity and diversity of objects whose reality seems to differ from her own. Likewise,itisonlyfromtheperspectiveoftheegoorseparateselfaroundwhomthe finitemindrevolvesthatexperiencecomprisesamultiplicityanddiversityofobjects andminds.

Inotherwords,itisonlyfromtheillusoryperspectiveoftheegoorseparateselfthat duality–thedivisionofexperienceintomindandmatter–actuallyhappens.From awareness’s own point of view, there is always only its own eternal, infinite, indivisiblereality,shininginandasthetotalityofexperience.Thereisonlyeternal awarenessorGod’sinfinitebeing,modulatingitselfintheformofthefinitemindbut neverceasingtobeorknowitselfalone.

Whyisthereduality?Thereisn’t!Whatisthepurposeofapparentduality?Tomake

usrealisethat!

***

Unlikeasinglemind,whichcanentertainonlyonethoughtorperceptionatatime,

awarenesscanassumetheactivityofanapparentmultiplicityanddiversityofminds

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simultaneously.Imaginethesingle,indivisiblefieldofawarenessvibratingwithin

itself,andvisualiseeachofourminds,notasanentityinitsownright,butasan

openingontothatvibratingfieldofexperience.Eachofourmindsislikeanopening

throughwhichinfiniteawarenessknowsitselfintheformoftheworld.

Atnopointdoesanactualmindcomeintoexistence,letaloneamultiplicityand

diversityofminds.Inotherwords,eachofourmindsisatemporarylimitationofthe

trueandonlymindofinfiniteawareness,justasthespaceineverybuildinginthe

worldisatemporarylimitationofthesingle,indivisiblespaceoftheuniverse.

Tospeakofanindividualmind,letalonenumerousminds,isaconcessiontothought. There are no separate, discrete minds. Separate minds are only such from the provisionalandultimatelyillusorypointofviewofanapparentlyseparatemind.Each apparentlyseparatemindisavibratingfieldinandoftheonlymindtheretrulyis:

infinite,indivisibleawareness.Eachvibratingfieldisaborderlessfluxofloosely

gatheredenergiesthatisincontactwithalltheothervibratingfieldswithinthelarger

fieldof‘infinitemind’orawarenessitself.

However,asaconcessiontoourdesiretothinkaboutthesematters,wemaysaythat

awarenessvibrateswithinitselfandappearstoitselfintheformoftheworld,whichit

knowsfromtheperspectiveofeachoneofourminds.Thatis,awarenessgivesbirthto

itselfintheformoftheworldandsimultaneouslycollapsesintoafinitemindor

separateselfwithinthatworld,fromwhoseperspectiveitseemstobeseenorknown,

justasatnighttheminddreamstheworldwithinitselfandsimultaneouslycollapses

intoacharacterinthedream,fromwhoseperspectivethedreamworldisexperienced.

This subject–object relationship is the agency of manifestation through which awarenessactualisesitsinfinitepotential.Andjustasthemindfoldsthedreamed worldupwithinitselfattheendofeachdream,soawarenessfoldstheworldupwithin itselfattheendofeveryperception.Ofcourse,awarenessdoesnotdothisintime. Timeonlycomesintoapparentexistencewhenawarenessassumestheactivityof thought.Inreality,awarenessisbirthinganddissolvingtheworldwithinitselfinits owndimensionlesspresence,theeternalnow.

TheBigBangdidnottakeplaceatamomentoftime.Thereisnotimeatwhichorin whichtheBigBang,orindeedanyevent,cantakeplace.Timeistheeternalnowseen through the prism of the mind’s activity. The Big Bang takes place every time awarenesscollapsesitsowndimensionlesspresenceandassumestheformofthefinite mind.Fromthepointofviewofeachapparentmind,theworldseemstoexistoutside ofandpriortoitself,andtheBigBangisconsideredthemomentintimeatwhichthe worldcameintoexistence.However,fromthepointofviewofreality,nothingever comesinandoutofexistence.

Thereisjustawarenessitself,beingmodulatedinallformsofexperiencebutnever

ceasingtobeorundergoinganyessentialmodification.Ourdifferentexperiencesare

differentviewsofthesamereality,eachdifferencedueonlytothelimitationsofthe

mindthroughwhichitisviewed.AsitsaysintheBhagavadGita,‘Thatwhichisnever

ceasestobe;thatwhichisnotnevercomesintoexistence.’

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***

Awarenessisnotthebackgroundorknowerofexperience,althoughitislegitimateto

saysoduringtheearlystagesofourexplorationintothenatureofreality.Awareness

isallthereistoexperience,orrather,experienceisawareness.Thereisjustinfinite

awareness,beingonlyitself,knowingonlyitself,and,becauseoftheabsolutenon-

existence of any distance, separation or otherness in its own experience of itself, lovingonlyitself.

WhentheSufissayLailahaillala–‘ThereisnoGodbutGod’–theydonotmean

thattheirGod,Allah,istheonlytrueGodasopposedtoalltheotherreligions’Gods,

asiscommonlysupposed.Rather,theymeanthatnomind,person,self,objector