Monday, April 24, 2017

You are the knower

Being a blog for philosophy, let us get into another philosophical consideration which is closely allied to what was written in the previous post. 

On account of the immense interest that the notion of non-duality has received in our times, it is worth examining it for what it is. A popular notion is that in non-dual experience, there is no experience of subject or object. Even some intelligent people claim that when they look deeply, they cannot find the subject of the experience. 

Science teaches that any experience however profound and convincing has to be investigated for truth. For example, the sight of a mirage does not mean that water existed once and then disappeared when one came closer. We understand why it appears so by analyzing the characteristics of light and the nature of hot surface. 

Likewise, let us go into these claims of non-duality and analyze them for truth. Is it true that in non-dual experience, the subject and object vanish? Does the highest state of contentless knowledge become realized as the ground of all reality?

The second question can be taken up first as it is the easier and more obvious of the two. For knowledge without attributes to be the basis of all reality and the only true real, it is necessary to show that knowledge without attributes or content is even possible. 

However, it is immediately obvious that there can exist no knowledge that is without content. If the purest form of knowledge were utterly unqualified, an enlightened person would keep bumping into objects unable to discern the space between objects - space without objects and space with objects are distinctly qualified but they will not be apparent in contentless perception. Knowledge always reveals rich information and it is up to the mind to interpret, name or use that information. While the part of the mind is necessary for practical life (vyāvahārika state), it is clear that the mind is not inventing anything but only using the rich information available to knowledge. The absence of activity of the mind only removes conceptual grasping but not the vividness and diversity of the experience itself. Knowledge is always of something, whether we choose to grasp it or not. A knowledge that reveals nothing cannot be knowledge at all. Knowledge always has content, even for the enlightened. Likewise, it is clear that an object of knowledge exists, namely whatever is revealed by it.

The only missing piece now is the subject. Does the subject of experience exist? It does. Even the non-dual experience is available to only one locality of consciousness and not to another. If this were not the case, there would be no teachers and no disciples. The existence of a teacher whose state of consciousness is different from that of the disciple proves that there are two localities of  consciousness existing in different states. The subject is simply the locality to which the experience occurs. The subject is the knower of knowledge. This serves logic too: if knowledge reveals something, it has to reveal it to someone. The one to whom it reveals is the knower or jñātā. We must be careful that the knower must not be equated with the state of mind-level identification.

The Vedāntā clearly affirms that even the enlightened person is a knower of knowledge. We find passages like: tam-evaṃ vidvān amṛta iha bhavati, evaṃ viditvā atimṛtyumeti, brahmavid-āpnoti param which explain that the enlightened soul is a knower of the Brahman. Only if this is the case, the stage can be set for the soul to practice some discipline in order to become enlightened regarding the Brahman. It is clear that the experience of subject dissolving is not correctly reported. The false subject created by the imposition of the knowership of the soul with the mind (called ego) falls away upon meditation. This leads to the manifestation of true knowership (jñātṛtva) of the soul that stands beyond the concepts created by the mind. This is a simpler way of understanding the experience of meditation instead of making confusing statements such as the self is an illusion without defining what 'self' means accurately.

Telling the mind that the subject and object dissolve only confuse and frustrate it. How strange that the teachers of extreme non-duality who regard that the subject and object are illusions want their disciples to know this truth/knowledge! It is not sufficient to say that this knowledge belongs to the practical realm. That is the easy answer. The difficulty arises in motivation. If the teacher is truly realized in his version of non-duality, he must transcend the idea that the disciple is ignorant of something. He must also abandon the futile action of teaching which belongs to the relative world and depends on perception of difference. Otherwise, one would be creating habituation to difference and never get liberated. In fact, the extreme view of non-duality provides absolutely no motivation to undertake any act. The performance of any action would rely on some appreciation of difference and as long as any difference is cognized, the non-dual awareness bereft of all difference can never be realized.

An appeal to Karma Yoga also would not justify the action of teaching or other relative actions. In truth, Karma Yoga does not teach us to act without any motive whatsoever, but only to act without worldly motives. The motive for Karma Yoga is obviously self-realization for which it is taught; it is defined as action through which the Supreme Self is worshipped. If Karma Yoga did not provide this motive, there would be no reason to practice it. Spirituality is not a prescription for acting without purpose but for acting with an inner spiritual purpose.

What is revealed in the state of meditation is that the witnessing part of the soul 'dharmī jñāna observes the modifications of its own attributive consciousness 'dharma-bhūta-jñāna' by the mind. The soul is the jñātā or knower, who undergoes even the so-called non-dual experience and speaks about it later to others. If there were no jñātā, there would be no one to claim and teach that the knowledge of enlightenment exists. And for an enlightened person, there would be no other jñātā to whom the knowledge can be imparted. 

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