We investigate the nature of experience primarily for two reasons – we’re curious, or we’ve encountered an acute form of confusion or suffering that resulted in the collapse of our current model of reality. In both circumstances, we can conclude that a thirst to dig deeper into the nature of experience is an immense blessing since it has the potential to transform the quality of your overall life experience. Imagine a king that goes out into the market in the disguise of a beggar in the hope of understanding what it feels like to experience life on the lower rungs of society’s ladder. Eventually, this king becomes blind to his original identity and is totally convinced that he is a beggar and lives out his days begging in the market. Whether this king turned beggar realizes his true identity or not, it never alters the fact that he is the ruler of the entire kingdom. However, in ignorance, suffering becomes the everyday reality for the king and he finds himself battling through these self-imposed limitations believing that they have been imposed by external circumstances. The key word over here is “belief”.
Almost the entire culture of the human kingdom is built on the foundation of strong chains of beliefs, most of which have little or absolutely no evidence at all. Several of these beliefs have been accepted as immutable scientific truths. This is due to the fact that the fundamental bases of some of these scientific theories are arbitrary beliefs upon which heaps and heaps of logic and mathematics have been laid to cover up the fact that the foundations of these theories are nothing but beliefs in ideas. One such theory that the entire human kingdom accepts as immutable is the theory of the material universe. Completely fortified, glorified, and given immortal status, it is considered as the most fundamental truth in all scientific endeavors and has been left unquestioned ever since its conception. However, let us dig our fingers deeper into the very foundations of this truth and see for ourselves if it is indeed an immutable and irrevocable fact that governs the universe or if it is as few remarkable beings throughout human history have discovered, an assumption with absolutely no experiential evidence at all.
If you are to follow what I am saying, we must proceed like true scientists who rely on nothing but direct experience to make our conclusions. If our observation is adulterated with concepts or theories gathered from outside, we will betray our own experience and hence arrive at adulterated conclusions. I am not asking you to believe in anything I say or to seek some tangible form of reason in my words that your mind can latch onto and say is agreeable or not. I am asking you to investigate your own experience in the most honest and scientific way possible. Do not let your mind get lost in a frantic search for little hints of logical coherence. Instead, stay true to your direct experience as a being that is aware of all the movements in its field of awareness. Imagine you are the first human being who has just awoken and is walking the surface of the Earth. Imagine nothing has been discovered and you are here, an explorer setting out on an exciting journey to understand the nature of your own life experience.
Let us conduct a simple thought experiment. In your own experience, rewind to the time when you had your first experience of the senses. As a newborn child you first became aware of light, sound, taste, smell, and touch and all these sensations took place within the field of your awareness. Since every sensory experience is perceived by a body and mind, we can retune this observation and say that the arising of these sensations in your field of awareness was actually you becoming aware of a human body and mind. It was your first experience of this body and mind which can also be rephrased as “your body and mind arising in awareness.” Every experience that you have, ever had, and ever will have is either a perception or a thought. Irrespective of the objects that you observe, the feelings that you have, or the images and symbols that appear in your mind, all experiences are either thoughts or perceptions arising and descending in awareness. According to the matter model, a material universe exists outside and independent of awareness and within which a human body is born. Within this body, a mind is formed and within this system there is a spark of consciousness that appears through some random miracle which is regarded as either a questionable idea or an unexplained truth. This human body-mind system exists in a universe that is made of material objects and as it ages it will perish just like all other objects do. Therefore, we say that when this body mind system perishes, we die, since the spark of consciousness that exists within the system is dependent on the system itself. When we investigate our experience deeper, we come to see that this entire model is just what it is, a model! It is an idea, a belief, and a system of thought that has no experiential evidence. Let us forget that this idea was ever conceived and look at our actual experience.
The common name that we give to awareness is “I”. When a perception or thought arises in awareness, we have an experience of a world that seems to be outside of us. However, the perception or thought exists because it is known. If there is no consciousness to experience the perception or thought, to whom will it arise? You might say, the universe exists whether we are there to experience it or not. Now this idea is also a thought that arises in awareness and it is allowed to exist because you are there to be aware of it. Everything that you know, that you have ever known, and that you ever will know derives its existence from the fact that it happens in the field of awareness. If you conceive of the existence of an invisible dimension beyond the field of awareness, even such a conception arises in awareness and exists because the light of awareness shines on it. Awareness is primary. This is not an idea. It is an immutable fact that is revealed by our own direct experience. Once we have seen this, perhaps the next question you might ask is what is awareness? This question stems from the mind’s habit to objectify its experience. The mind deals with objects and imposes its laws of space and time on everything that is experienced by it. However, awareness is not an object and hence it cannot be experienced by the mind similar to how a chair, or a cloud, or a table is experienced. This is perhaps the single most powerful source of confusion that is prevalent among human beings which veils awareness.
In reality, awareness cannot be veiled. But the experience of the body-mind system appears to veil awareness since awareness identifies itself as this body-mind system and believes that it is a limited person living in a world of objects. Through this identification, it believes that it is limited to the body-mind system and everything that is not the body-mind system is different from it. This is an illusion created by the multi-dimensional instrument of the human mind that projects the dream in which there is an independent person living in an indifferent universe. Awareness believes it is a limited person living in a community of other limited persons. This illusion gives rise to a series of countless other illusions that seem to create our reality. However, if we see that all experiences exist because they are known, does that not imply that the world is not separate from awareness? As a matter of fact, this implies that everything is awareness! An experience of a perception or a thought arises simultaneously with the knowing or awareness of that perception or thought. It is just that the knowing element is veiled since it is not an object and exists outside of spacetime. In fact, space and time also exist within this knowing. We can go deeper into this exploration by investigating the three states of experience – the waking state, the dream state, and deep sleep.
Instead of the waking state, consider the state of deep sleep to be our state of reference. Now in deep sleep, thoughts and images begin to arise and create the experience of the dream state. The experience of the individual person is usually very weak in this state and awareness seems to be stimulated more by the movement of images which often are incoherent with no tangible linearity. Finally, a body appears in the field of awareness. This is what we term the waking state. There is much more linearity in the waking state compared to the dream state due to the seeming existence of a body. The body brings with it the experience of the five senses which are much more intense compared to the experience of fleeting images in the dream state. Furthermore, the experience of mind seems to be much more concrete in the waking state compared to the dream state. This is because through the mind, awareness now identifies itself with a body and looks out into a world which it believes to be different from itself. This arrangement is necessary for awareness to experience the dream since a dreamer is required for the dream to be experienced. Therefore, awareness arises as a character within the waking state that is a body-mind system and begins to experience everything that is not the system as different from itself. Space, time, objectivity, duration, choice, birth, death, good, evil, truth, falsity, and every other imaginable concept are all ideas that are propelled by the emergence of this separate body-mind system. None of these concepts have any absolute existence separate from the arrangement of awareness identified with a body-mind system. When you go to sleep every night, the body-mind system is withdrawn and the dream state is set off again. Finally, the dream state is withdrawn into deep sleep. From a relative standpoint, deep sleep can also be considered as an experience that arises in awareness. However, there is a fourth state, the stateless state, in which all other states disappear and awareness remains as itself. This is the natural state that exists before birth of the body-mind system, will exist after the death of the system, and continues to exist now. The mind cannot experience this state and hence when we try to think of it, the closest representation we can make of it is a “void”. However, it is primary to everything. All other states happen within it. It cannot be experienced objectively by the body-mind system but it can be known! In fact, it is always known. It is known now, as you read these words. Awareness is present throughout your experience.
As the objects and images of the waking and dream states appear and disappear, they have no effect on awareness. But you can have no experience without awareness. Both experience and non-experience exist within it. Being and non-being exist within it. It is neither an idea nor a belief. It is the fundamental space which is infinite and eternal. The main question here is, who are you? Why you’re awareness, of course! Who am I? I am awareness, of course! When we use the word “I” in each of our conversations, we are referring to this infinite eternal awareness. However, “I” has been limited through the body-mind system which is our confusion. This confusion leads to every conceivable form of suffering. It our departure from this natural state that gives rise to our fear of death and our struggle for survival. Every animal, creature, and human being is the exact same awareness playing different roles. Each role is a modulation of infinite awareness that seems to limit it. A few features of the human modulation are space, time, and choice. Space and time are not absolute features of the universe but rather characteristics of the human mind that offer a modulated experience of a universe governed by spacetime to awareness. For a different creature, existence will be an entirely different experience! It is not possible for the human mind to conceive how or why awareness creates these modulations. This is the great illusion, the cosmic play, or Maya, as it was termed in old Sanskrit. It is the great drama that awareness weaves for its own enjoyment.
This understanding needs to be experiential and serves no purpose if it is digested intellectually. Awareness needs to find itself by itself since the mirage of the body-mind system is revealed not by the acceptance of outer knowledge but by the turning around of awareness toward itself. You can begin this enquiry now by simply looking at your own experience. Instead of the object of knowing, turn your attention to knowing itself. Do not seek an object of fulfilment or some state of enlightenment. Instead, just look at your own experience honestly. There is no material universe that is independent of the consciousness/knowing/awareness of it. When you see this you will notice that nothing exists in reality except consciousness. However, human attention in general rests in the realm of objects and, therefore, very few people are even aware of these things. Imagine what it would be like when you discover that you are the very fundamental fabric of all existence? There is nothing separate from you. Everything is you! This is not a state, this is not something that you attain or achieve, it is your very nature and it is available to you now.
In this enquiry, there is no right or wrong. You can choose to continue your identification with the body-mind system and continue the experience of the objective universe or you can choose to turn around and discover your true nature and allow it to permeate all experience. Either ways, it does not change the fact that You’re IT! You’ve always been IT! And You’ll always be IT! You already are the very thing that you seek. This is your own glorious arrangement of illusion. There is not a single experience in the entire grand cosmic multiverse that happens outside you. This understanding is the source of love, peace, and happiness. When Jesus came to this understanding, he proclaimed, “I and the Father are One.” When Siddhartha saw it, he said, “The Way is not in the sky, the Way is in the Heart.” Ramana Maharshi said, “Your own Self-Realization is the greatest service you can render the world.”
For no one’s sake, or for your own sake, wake up, darling!
If you would like to read more, I recommend these two books:
The Transparency of Things – Rupert Spira
The Perfume of Silence – Francis Lucille