Thursday, 6 October 2016

God is not actually the witness of anything but the real substance underlying and supporting the illusory appearance of the witness and of everything witnessed by it

A friend wrote to me recently and asked me whether ‘the witnessing or observing consciousness within’ is the same as the ultimate ‘I’, referring in particular to the clause ‘he [God] exists within us as the witness of all our thoughts’ in the following passage of one of my earlier articles, Dhyāna-p-Paṭṭu: The Song on Meditation:
In accordance with this important teaching of Sri Ramana in verse 8 of Upadēśa Undiyār, in this song Sri Sadhu Om gently weans the minds of those who may consider God to be other than what they experience as ‘I’ away from that idea, firstly by emphasising that his real form is suddha-mauna-cit or ‘pure silent consciousness’ (verse 3); secondly by implying that he is the ‘one blissful substance’ that exists within our heart and that we can experience by seeking it with love (verse 4); thirdly by saying that only after we experience him within ourself will we be able to experience that everything that exists is him (verse 5); and fourthly by saying that he exists within us as the witness of all our thoughts, and that he will appear clearly within us only where and when all our thoughts subside (verse 6).
The following is what I wrote in reply to her question:

The idea that God is the witness of all our thoughts is a preliminary teaching intended to turn the mind of devotees inwards to seek him within themselves, but it is not the actual truth, because what God really is is only our own actual self, which is never aware of anything other than itself, because nothing other than itself actually exists. Everything else is just a false appearance, which seems to exist only in the view of ourself as this ego and not in the view of ourself as we actually are, but the one substance that underlies and supports this false appearance is only our actual self (ourself as we actually are).

What witnesses or is aware of all our thoughts is only our ego, but if we turn our attention back to this ego, it will subside back into its source, which is our actual self, and what will then remain shining is only our actual self. That is, since our ego rises, stands and flourishes only by attending to other things (as Bhagavan says in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu), if it turns its attention back on itself and thereby ceases to be aware of anything else, it will subside and disappear, because it does not actually exist, and what will then remain is only our actual self, which alone is what really exists and which is consequently the real nature of God.

Therefore God is the one real substance that underlies the illusory appearance of everything else, but this illusory appearance will persist so long as we mistake ourself to be this ego, which is what you call ‘the witnessing or observing consciousness within’. Therefore if we look keenly at this ‘witnessing consciousness within’, we will see that it does not actually exist as such, but is only the one infinite self-awareness, which is what is commonly called ‘God’ and what you refer to as ‘the ultimate I’.

As Bhagavan often explained, we (this ‘I’) are one and we are always clearly aware of ourself, but we currently seem to be not clearly aware of ourself as we actually are, because we are now aware of ourself as this witnessing ego. Therefore this ego is what we seem to be, whereas infinite self-awareness is what we actually are, so infinite self-awareness (God) is what now seems to be this ego, just as a rope is what seems to be a snake.

Just as we can see that what seems to be a snake is actually just a rope only by looking at it very carefully, if we look very carefully at ourself, who now seem to be this ego, we will see that what seemed to be this witnessing ego is actually just infinite self-awareness, which never witnesses or is aware of anything other than itself.

27 comments:

brush aside the unreal said...

Michael,
why should God as the real substance underlie and support the illusory appearance of the witnessing ego ? Why should God do us such a disservice although God is never aware of anything other than itself, because nothing other than itself actually exists ? That statement seems to transcend at least any logic and/or my ego-bound view.

para-bhakti tattva said...

Michael,
God as supporter of the false appearance of this ego !!!
Is that not the height of impertinence ?
If that is true, then God is our greatest enemy. Enough of that !
Or should we follow the biblical saying and love our enemy ?
But if we see that this 'witnessing consciousness within' not actually exist we would thereby overcome God's unkind and disastrous effect.
Would you please elaborate some clarification about that issue ?

Michael James said...

‘Brush aside the unreal’, if you see a rope as a snake, who is to blame for your error? The rope is not deluded, and it does not chose to be seen by you as a snake. It is not doing any disservice, because it is just minding its own business and being as it is.

Likewise God, who is not anything other than ourself, but just ourself as we really are, is not to blame for the error of the ego. He is not deluded, and he does not chose to be seen by the ego as all this multiplicity. He is not doing the ego any disservive, because he is just as he is, and by being aware of nothing other than himself he is minding his own business, interfering with no one, because there is no one other than himself for him to interfere with or delude.

As this ego we have risen as a seemingly entity, a subject who is aware of many objects, so if there is any error it is only on our part. But is there any error? Have we actually risen as this ego? So long as we attend to other things we seem to have arisen as this ego, but if we turn our attention back to ourself to see what we actually are, we will find that we never rose as any ego but were always just as we are.

Only if an error has occurred is anyone to blame for it, but in the view of God (ourself as we actually are) no error has ever occurred, and if we who now seem to be this ego look carefully enough at ourself, we will see that we are just infinite self-awareness, in whose clear view no ego or world has ever existed.

Michael James said...

‘Para-bhakti tattva’, is the rope the greatest enemy of the snake? Is the rope impertinent in any way just because you see it as a snake? God is the supporter of the false appearance of this ego only in the sense that he is what is mistaken by the ego to be this ego and all the multiplicity perceived by it, just as the rope is the supporter of the false appearance of the snake only in the sense that it is what is mistaken by an ignorant onlooker to be a snake.

God is ourself as we actually are, and he is the one real substance, because he alone actually exists, so whatever else seems to exist is actually nothing other than him. Just as gold is the substance that supports the appearance of so many gold ornaments, God is the substance that supports the appearance of the ego and all the multiplicity it is aware of. And just as all gold ornaments are actually just gold, the ego and whatever world it perceives are all actually just God. What is real is only their substance, which is pure self-awareness (aka God), and whatever else they seem to be is just a false appearance.

brush aside the unreal said...

Michael,
thank you for clarifying the intended meaning of the point that "God is ... but the real substance underlying and supporting the illusory appearance of the witness ...". These words of the above mentioned statement sounded in my ears unambiguously like God's share of the responsibility for just the illusory appearance of the witnessing ego.

para-bhakti tattva said...

Michael,
many thanks for your explanation about the real meaning of the term "supporting" in the sense touched on in that present context. Please excuse my fierce and violent way of expression.

no projection said...

what an unbelievable fortune to having met this teaching!
what a joy to melt in this unknowing of objects!
what can express this gratitude?
....just the ego rambling....

Bob - P said...

Thank you Michael this article was very helpful.
In appreciation.
Bob

Noob said...

Is everything pre-ordained by us?

Noob said...

the end is the same regardless

Noob said...

how to end the creation

Noob said...

nothing is created but we have to experience it

waveless ocean said...

Noob,
yesterday you seem to have been in a philosophical mood.
As Bhagavan said: Regulation of diet, restricting it to satvic food, taken in moderate quantity, is of all the rules of conduct the best; and it is most conducive to the development of the satvic qualitiesof the mind.

abode of bliss said...

We should not forget to uproot the chit-jada-granthi,
because true happiness of peace cannot prevail except in a heart where this knot (granthi) has been uprooted.

Sanjay Lohia said...

There are some sayings of Bhagavan which are very powerful reminders about the paramount importance of experiencing ourself as we really are. I read one such quotation today. I do not know the source of this saying:

Bhagavan: The only useful purpose of the present birth is to turn within and realize the Self. There is nothing else to do.

What Bhagavan implies here is that nothing other than our effort at self-investigation is worth our time and effort, because only our effort at self-investigation will enable us to ‘realise’ our self. All our achievements, wealth, objective knowledge etc. will be taken away from us on our body’s death. Therefore we should not be concerned about our gains or losses in this life time, because all this will become meaningless and inconsequential sooner or later.

If this world is a dream - which according to Bhagavan it is - then nothing matters in this dream world other than effort to wake up from this dream. This message needs to be frequently repeated within our mind, as only such reminders will motive us to pursuit our practice of atma-vichara with one-pointed love and interest – because, as Bhagavan said, ‘There is nothing else to do’.


jacques franck said...

It is 'Talk' 219

Talk 219 **
Ramakrishna Swami, a long-resident disciple, asked Maharshi the meaning of Twaiyarunachala Sarvam, a stanza in The Five Hymns.
Maharshi explained it in detail, saying that the universe is like a painting on a screen –
The screen being the Red Hill, Arunachala. That which rises and sinks is made up of what it rises from. The finality of the universe is the God Arunachala. Meditating on Him or on the seer, the Self, there is a mental vibration ‘I’ to which all are reduced. Tracing the source of ‘I’, the primal ‘I-I’ alone remains over, and it is inexpressible. The seat of Realisation is within and the seeker cannot find it as an object outside him. That seat is bliss and is the core of all beings. Hence it is called the Heart. The only useful purpose of the present birth is to turn within and realise it. There is nothing else to do.
D.: How is annihilation of predispositions to be accomplished?
M.: You are in that condition in realisation.
D.: Does it mean that, holding on to the Self, the tendencies should be scorched as they begin to emerge?
M.: They will themselves be scorched if only you remain as you truly are.

in quest of the self said...

Sanjay Lohia,
thank you for giving Bhagavan's reminder which is really of paramount importance.
However, Bhagavan was also conscious that we are not boundless free in this present birth but that our self-investigation will come up against limiting factors (restricted confines) set by our home-made vasanas.

Ken said...

Quote:" The only useful purpose of the present birth is to turn within and realise it. There is nothing else to do."

This is entirely true, and is also tricky and difficult.

The whole of human society is built upon the opposite premise, that the various activities and accomplishments of the human person are the most important thing.

That has two implications:

1 - That it is difficult to get beginners to accept the quote above, and so spiritual teachers who know the truth of the quote, nevertheless market spirituality as something that improves their human life and activity (rather than the other way around), in order to get them started.

2 - That many deluded spiritual teachers and aspirants, create new paths and teachings that erronaeously posit a spiritualized human existence as the goal, either on earth or in some unspecified other place ("heaven"). This comes from not being able to free oneself mentally from the weight of the existing culture's viewpoint promoting individual human existence. Of course, all the dualistic theologies fall into this group (such as Gaudiya Vaishnavism), but lately there are also mistaken misinterpretations of Advaitism by spiritual teachers desperate to justify their desires and aversions.

Sivanarul said...

To Ken's observation:

"That many deluded spiritual teachers and aspirants, create new paths and teachings that erronaeously posit a spiritualized human existence as the goal, either on earth or in some unspecified other place ("heaven"). This comes from not being able to free oneself mentally from the weight of the existing culture's viewpoint promoting individual human existence. Of course, all the dualistic theologies fall into this group (such as Gaudiya Vaishnavism), but lately there are also mistaken misinterpretations of Advaitism by spiritual teachers desperate to justify their desires and aversions."

I thought, according to Vedanta, we are all seemingly deluded by avidya. Why separate out a few spiritual teachers and aspirants :-) The existing culture's viewpoint being indicated here is materialism as the fundamental philosophy. No dualistic thealogy, that I know of within Sanatana Dharma, promotes materialism as an end state. The promotion of heaven or higher state, to the extent done, is clearly posited to be temporary and not the final state. So lumping all dualistic thelogies within the group of materialism doesn't fit.

Advaitism, has had different interpretations for a very long time, much before spiritual teachers of current times. In ancient times, these different interpretations were not done to justify their desires or aversions, but simply because that is how they interpretated the upanishads either experientially or intellectually or both.

Continued in next post...

Sivanarul said...

Continued from previous post...

Here is a definition of Advaita from within the Saiva Siddanta tradition:

http://shaivam.org/english/sen-sd-saiva-religion-and-saiva-advaita.htm

We now come to the definition of Advaita. And we may say at once, all the Saiva Siddhanta writers describe their system as 'Advaita' pure and simple, though people who hear it casually described call it Vishistadvaita and fail to note its special features. Advaita is defined by St. Meikandan as meaning Anyanasti or Ananya [M.N. Dvivedi in his 'monism or advaitism' points out also that advaita does not mean Eka or Abinna or Abhinna but Ananya and that this is the view of the Sutrakara.] or inseparable; and his disciple calls the relation 'as neither one nor two.' Advaita [Vide Srikanta's Bashya on Vedanta Sutras II i and 22] literally meaning not two, simply denies the separability or duality of God and soul and matter, but does not postulates Oneness, by denying the existence of one or other Padartha or by postulating their mutual convertibility as in causation &c. Mind (unextended) is not matter, (the extended); yet they are ever inseparable and found as one; how the unextended is present in the extended is the puzzle and the contradiction as stated by Doctor Alexander Bain. And the illustration of mind and body, and vowels and consonants [Dr. Bain complains that there is not even an analogy to illustrate this unique union of mind and body, but Saiva Siddhanta have this analogy of vowels and consonants to illustrate this union from the very beginning of their letters.] is used to denote their Advaita relation of God to the Universe of nature and of man. God is the Soul, whose body (Sarira) is the Universe of nature and man, as so well and forcibly put in the Brihadaranya Upanishad texts referred to above, beginning from Earth to Atma.

And the analogy of vowel and consonant explains this relation fully. In Tamil Grammar, the words used to denote vowels and consonants are the same as the words meaning mind and body. And we found the following text to our surprise in the Aitareya Upanishad (II.iv.1.)

'Its consonants form its body; its vowels the soul (Atma)'

The vowels are those that can be sounded by themselves but the consonant cannot be pronounced without the aid of the vowel. The consonant cannot be brought into being unless the vowel supports it; and in union the two are inseparable; and One is the word used in the oldest Tamil Grammar to denote the union of the two. A vowel short has one mantra, a consonant (pure) half a matra; and yet a vowel-consonant has only one matra, instead of 1½. But the vowel is not the consonant nor the consonant the vowel. God is not one with the soul and the Universe, and yet without God, where is the Universe?

"Thou art not aught in the universe, yet naught is there save Thou."

He is not one, nor different from the Universe, and this relation is called Ananya, Advaita. The Sutrakara brings out the nature of this relation which is neither one nor different in II.i.15 and 22. The Saiva Advaita Siddhanta accordingly postulates that God is neither Abetha with the world, nor Betha, nor Betha betha, as these terms are ordinarily understood, and yet He is one with the world, and different from the world, and Betha betha. (Sivagnanabotham Sutra 2, Sivagnanasiddhiar II.1). And St. Meikandan declares accordingly "You can indeed say God is One, without a Second, as when you say without the vowel 'A' no other letters exist."

John said...

“I am pure Awareness, always non-dual.”— Shankara

Would it be accurate to say that the mind delimits pure Awareness?

For example and by analogy, suppose pure Awareness is like the pure white light in a slide projector and the mind is like a slide that filters, blocks and delimits some of the white light projecting the appearance of separate and distinct objects out there, which leads to the dualistic thought of a separate and distinct subject in here to which those appearances appear.

Plotin said...

John,
your doubt is quite justified.
The term "Pure Awareness" used to denote our limitless nature brooks no contradiction.
Therefore consequently 'pure awareness' - seen from the viewpoint of itself - cannot be delimited by anything. But as we know our mind puts its own rules...

Noob said...

the problem is we have the moods

Noob said...

but as it was previously mentioned the only purpose is the find out

waveless ocean said...

Noob,
to see our moods as changing occurrencees is also a thought-mood.
Refuse to get overcome by them and refuse them to cooperate.
By no means allow them to disturb your inner peace though it may be difficult.
Yes, find out the residence of your inner peace and try to remain there. Look directly in its source. You are the source of this 'outfinding' self-investigating ego. There is no other way out than to find out : Who am I ?
Pray intensively to Arunachala-Siva, your inborn nature for clearing up your view.
May Ramana-Arunachala-Siva permit to you an optimistic view for the present moment.

follow the pointings said...

Noob,
You may find the following web page useful..'Internal work - eternal satisfaction'
http://mooji.org/dialogues/self-inquiry/

waveless ocean said...

Noob,
regarding the comment of 'following the pointings'.
my suggestion: do show no ob-edience to Mooji. According to my impressions in Tiruvannamalai some ten years ago Mooji seems to be only one of the many free riders or Ramana -imitators.