"Sunset in Canyon Sin Nombre", by Eric Platt, ©Copyright 2018
"Sunset in Canyon Sin Nombre", by Eric Platt, ©Copyright 2018

On Having Never Left: Being Awake to Being Awake

A reader asks:

… there is no way for us to presume that freedom from self deception or waking up however we wish to phrase it, has any similarity for different instances of consciousness. The only similarity we can vouch for is its ineffability... The various words used to express the inexpressible often seem to have meanings that we may find consistent with our preconceptions, but the idea that they reflect a common reality has no basis...Oneness may seem to imply a homogeneousness that lacks a basis of confirmation…”.

There are some fundamental issues here that are interesting – in the phrasing or in the outlook being expressed.

As I see it, the pointing of non-duality is confirmed. And, whether the flavor of the hour is Advaita or some variety of Zen Buddhism, the basis in non-duality is the same.

First off, the suggestion is:

To be open to the  possibility that there are no "different instances of consciousness", only different apparent minds.  A "mind" being what appears to appear in awareness (consciousness).

The suggestion is, be open to the  possibility that "being Awake" is our present condition, prior to anything, prior to any contents of awareness. And that while it can appear to not be available while one is feeling certain things, certain states of the bodymind, that is not a real possibility. After all, where would non-awareness be? There would have to be an awareness of non-awareness!

Thus this talk, or thought, of "non-awareness" is only an appearance as well. A passing one. In the present. Where else could it be?

There is the possibility one is awake to being non-awake. And if it were in the past, such as during deep sleep or under anesthesia, it was, or is there even if you don't remember it, since there was no content for the mind to hold on to.

There is indeed a common reality — but not in the words or concepts as you said — otherwise there would be no communication, understanding, real meaning or real love possible. While it's true we "give everything all the meaning it has", as it said in the Course in Miracles — a totally inclusive statement — this is not saying it's all just a narrative or a story. The story is only the local, apparent, ephemeral one. Will o' the Wisp kind of thing. The "we" in the sentence "we give it all the meaning it has" is what is being pointed to here. And that "we" — which is not a plural "we" but an absolutely singular one — never goes away, never changes.

How do you know that? How can I know that?

Ah, that is the question of the hour, of the ages, isn't it. How to "know God", in vernacular, dualistic, religious terms.

This all reminds me of the old debate regarding Buddhist "emptiness" versus the Advaita eternalism or essentialism. In that, the Buddhist is very scientific as it were, in their meditation only willing to acknowledge positively the experiences now, noting the play of the senses and thinking and sensations, and calling it "empty", they are reluctant to do any metaphysical speculation whatsoever, such as positing there's an eternal Self nature behind it all, behind this play of phenomena. Why? Because any image or concept is just that, and the awareness that is aware if it all cannot see itself, anymore than an eye can see itself. Make no object of the object-less "consciousness" nor concept of that which is concept-free. And, one cannot see one's own eye. Thus "you are what you are looking for".

Lest it's made into a concept, an object), whereas The Advaitan posits an essential nature to reality, the play of appearances and the absolute being one (Brahman and Atman are the same reality).

Who – or What – Wakes Up?

As far as different instances of waking up, which may be the intention of the question, that’s an interesting one. There do appear to be different instances — various teachers, sages, laymen, etc. — just as there appear to be different instances of seeing hearing tasting touching smelling. Indeed there seems to be very different hearers, etc. — different instruments, different vehicles, different brain-bodies – as if there were solid, long-lasting independent objects at the center of these experiences.

But does the variety of experiences and points of view of all the senses, thoughts, world views, etc., imply that the awareness of that content is different in each instance? Various nouns behind the verbing? Certainly the content changes, but why do we assume it’s a different awareness? It’s not a valid assumption. Nor to automatically believe it's "all one". A belief in oneness is not the same as a genuine intuition of oneness.

"But I seem to have a different point of view, a different location for what I see, sense, etc?"

Yes, we see things in space from different eyeballs. That is not in question. Let me ask you this: can you remember what you had for breakfast three days ago? If you can’t, does it imply that it was a different awareness? No. Not unless your word "awareness" points to something completely different from what I am pointing to.

Likewise, the fact that different windows in a watchtower show different views doesn’t imply there is a different space or different viewer. Nor do the television programs playing on a TV imply they are being broadcast from inside the TV. You just don’t know where the awareness is coming from, or ultimately located at. And in that not-knowing, potentially a possibility opens up...

Different Awakenings for Different Awakeners

Coming back to the question of different instances of awakening, the assumption is that there is someone or something that awakens, and that something changed — went from being not awake to being awake — This cannot be assumed either. It would imply a process in time. Certainly bodies and apparent minds go through different states – in fact are constantly changing: sleeping waking, dreaming, high, low, grumpy, happy... it never ends, seemingly.

You simply see different bodies, different behaviors appearing to you — including your own. And we may assign awakeness, or believe claims of being awakened, by that body or its voice or other voices or writings. But that’s on you, the observer, not on the behavior you’re witnessing. Your concern, your real concern is “your own” so to speak awareness. That’s all that matters. If you have some experiences around those bodyminds — a sense of presence, joy, love, warmth, a "transmission" if you're lucky — that’s all good and fine too, but it’s still your own awareness.

What To Do

What to do? As far as “confirmation”, live as if you are universal, and see what happens. Rather than assuming you're separate, try thinking, acting, feeling, perceiving as if there's one reality, one being, one consciousness, and see how it goes.  Don't screw your neighbor in business, for example, but see what's best universally. Treat that checkout clerk like you would like to be treated, have a laugh...

The true confirmation, the proof, is in the living. It proves itself. These experiences — of love, connection, meaning, selflessness, presence, and on and on — even though we have to put them in dualistic terms, form a kind of "body of evidence", such that moments of disturbance or being lost get shorter and shorter, and a different basis of life gets established.

There are also those instantaneous glimpses, that can’t be described pther than as vague images such as of "light", since they are non-dual in nature. The mind, which is phenomenal, is tied up with the experience of time and space – can’t grasp them, though they may leave a change in it. A bell gets rung.

To me this all is an interesting philosophical debate, but it doesn't bear on the "action figure" living now – it all happens regardless – such as on the fact of being called to "be of service" in the moment. It's just a different style, or a different emphasis of pointing.

In any case, it's not a bad land to be in.

Eric Platt

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