In last session 30, the student doubted Vedanta's means of knowledge to remove ignorance. Student claimed only experience can provide knowledge of self (Awareness).
Basis of doubt was, “You need to taste the sugar to know it's sweetness. Therefore no amount of scriptural words can give taste of Truth. You have to experience the Truth through meditation, practices, etc”.
Teacher countered the objection in three ways (although there are more ways):
First, teacher said, you are never not experiencing self. Meaning, you are only ever experiencing self alone — which is the essence of the entire universe.
Meaning self (Supreme Truth) is not a new experience to gain — like experience of tasting an ice-cream. Now it's not here. Now it's here!
In fact, is there ever a time when an experience (of any nature) is taking place — without your presence? No.
(Deep sleep? To even mention it obviously means you RELATE to deep sleep. And how else can one relate to an experience unless they've gone through it. For example, if group of astronauts speak about zero-gravity at a dinner table, you'll feel like an outsider with little to say, not being outside the earth's atmosphere. But the moment they speak of sleeping, we immediately relate).
Even if you imagine yourself 5 years from now, does that negate you in the present? No.
In other words, all experience depends on “I AM” presence, whose essence is not different from Supreme Truth we were speaking of in last session.
Secondly, there is knowledge of every experience.
No experience, however divine or holy, can take place without knowledge of it, owning to your presence which comes FIRST.
Who gives knowledge to any experience? You do.
Before going further, we must clarify the word “knowledge“.
Traditional English definition of “knowledge” is factual information. Like a book-library of knowledge.
However in Vedanta it can ALSO refer to the witnessing principle. The aware-ing presence in whose presence the entire life of changes is known.
(There is knowledge of) false knowledge.
(There is knowledge of) helpful knowledge.
(There is knowledge of) confused knowledge.
The “There is knowledge of” refers to the witness, “I”.
In this way, it is the “I” existence that innocently and helplessly shines onto any memory, thought, epiphany, sight, sound, smell, feeling, intuition… occurring in the mind.
Third, no amount of divine experiences are ever going to be satisfactory or fully grasped until it's nature is understood.
Within our scriptures, seeker is able to categorize or directly discern which experience is fleeting (like “falling in love” which feels eternal at the time) — and which one is the “I AM”, being the foundation of all time-bound experiences.
Without categorization of our experience of reality, our minds harbor silent doubts in the background, which causes us to continue the search.
And that's the state of one of our students from last conversation which emphasized that self (Supreme Truth) can't be objectified by the mind.
After much convincing, a new doubt arose…
Student's objection began, “The self has to be known and understood as an object of the mind. Yet the very self that you declared is ever the subject, and never the object. If it is to be known, it is limited. Where is the question of limitlessness?“
” Understanding does not mean understanding the self as an object of my mind or senses.
It is mental process without objectification. What does this mean?
As we said before, understanding the self means, “removing ignorance about what is already true”.
Understanding does NOT create, but reveals the underlying knowledge.
Let's demonstrate with an analysis of our experience…
When we observe an object, assuming the senses are working, what happens?
Photons of light waves are entering the eyes, converging in the mind.
Sound waves of varying frequencies are vibrating tiny hairs in the ear canal, being converted to electrical impulses, converging in the mind.
Air particles of fragrance is entering the nose, converging in the mind.
All the information is processed in the mind. This includes memory being accessed to compare present object to past similar objects.
The final experience is what we call “cognition of an object.”
The mind then, as though, transforms and corresponds to the object in question — through form, feeling or both.
Since I am (the knower) always illumining this very mind — “I” identifies with the object in question. The mental frame and I are now (seemingly) one.
And so we say “It's a chair“. “It's a table“.
This is true of any object, person, situation or emotion.
There is I (the subject knower) — and the form which the mind has assumed (the known object).
What does this analysis mean so far?
In every cognition, duality exists.
Knower and known. Seer and seen.
The known/seen is within time and space. It has a form and figure. It's distinct and concrete.
Whereas when it comes to I (knower/seer/consciousness/self) — there are no differences.
You don't experience two of you.
So again, we experience many known objects. But only one subject, I.
In fact, I am self-evident to myself with or without objects in my presence. Meaning consciousness requires no external means to reveal it's presence. Thus “I am” the very same consciousness.
Consciousness is the self-revealing light and the bases of our existence, imbuing our individual mind with it's inherent nature — making the person (jīva) a self-conscious being, a fact self-evident to all humans.
Concluding our analysis, let's get back to definition of “understanding”…
Understanding the self means removal of self-ignorance, revealing the true nature of I, the self.
If we are committed to the pursuit of truth, we need to be reminded of some basic guidelines…
A disciplined life is a must. Opposite to disciplined is life full of variety. Every day, something new. This implies no reliability, no stability, no consistency.
A life of study and contemplation. Opposite is living a mechanical life, which implies growth has stopped.
Attempt to be alert and mindful of every thought and action. Opposite is reacting to everything on auto-pilot, as though faced by deadly cobra.
These principles prepare our mind to absorb self-knowledge and convert it to actuality.
Only through a prepared mind can words “You are that” (tat tvam asi) be fully comprehended.
Through means of Vedantic scriptures employed through guru's subtle logic, figures of speech, metaphors, implied sentences, words in apposition, implied negatives.
Then the mind gradually (despite absence of something tangible to transform and correspond) — lights up and understands the meaning of words, “Limitless Existence Consciousness” (sat-cit-ānanda).
As comprehension dawns, growing clearer every moment, we no longer mix up the reality by superimposing the known onto the knower.
And recognize the essence of both the knower and the know is the one Consciousness (Supreme Truth).
Despite seeming duality, it's assimilated they all resolve into the one content, self (atman).
Again, how do we understand the Supreme Truth?
Not as an object of our mind and senses.
Not as an academic postulate separate from ourselves.
But that the One and I are not different.
We are the same Limitless Consciousness, the cause of the universe. ”