Shining World

No Need to Embody Consciousness

Dear Ben,

It seems to me that the aim or goal of Vedanta is for us to realize that we are ultimately Consciousness/Awareness. I can accept this concept OK although I have yet to embody it.  However, it also seems to me that it is not right and it is confusing to take a commonly used word, “Real”, and restrict its definition to “that which never changes”.

There are many common objects (e.g. vase, chair, stone, water) that are “real” in the commonly accepted usage. It is hard to meaningfully call these “unreal” or “seems real”, although I realize Vedanta is trying to wean us off being attached to these objects.

There are also other objects (such as atoms, electrons, protons, neutrons, even elements) that as far as we know never change, although the substances formed by the combinations of these do change.

Maybe we should stick with the Sanskrit word “Satyam” or whatever is appropriate, and try to embody this deeply. “Surreal” could perhaps be used, but like “God”, it has other connotations.

Ben:  This is an example of the limitation of language, especially a language that is not backed by the concept of non-duality.  English words are used because most in the West are newly exposed to these ideas and do not know Sanskrit.  We have to use words that have some context and relevance to tour current experience and understanding. Thus, for most, the word ‘Satyam’ would be vague, even if it is explained. So too other words like Mithya, Asat, Jiva, Ishvara, Brahman, Atma. Which word should be used in translation is open to endless debate.

Satyam is translated by the phrase … that which is always present and never changes. The closest single word in English is ‘real’. Satyam indicates the fact that Consciousness, the Self, is always present,   ‘Always present’ means Consciousness is eternal. ‘Never changes’ means there is no modification at all, no change in nature or structure or function or movement. There are six modifications applicable to all forms, animate and inanimate, visible and invisible. They are: gestation or period of possibility, birth or coming into overt form, growth, maturity, decay, destruction or death.

By contrast, what word can we use to indicate what is not always present and which gets modified, in fact, is always modifying? T he simplest and probably meaningful for most is ‘unreal’ or ‘seemingly real’. The Macquarie Dictionary defines ‘surreal’ as ‘pertaining to the dreamlike experiences’, i.e, they can be experienced but are like dream. A dream is experienceable but is not substantial, not ‘real’.

Yes, it is true that commonly accepted usage considers dreams them to be ‘real’, in the sense that they are present and can be experienced. This is because of a limited understanding of the nature of objects. If you combine the following: present + can be experienced + not always present + do change, we get “seemingly real” or Mithya.

It is true that discussing these ideas is not easy. That is because we have made certain assumptions or conclusions about our previous life experiences and have become fixed in them. We take them to be ‘real’, relevant and meaningful in the current context. They become convictions and we apply commonly used words to indicate the convictions. But there are problems with convictions, especially when they are challenged by contradictory experiences, like birth and death. The clash leads to confusion and suffering.

Vedanta offers a perspective which can be uncomfortable to begin with because it challenges the common conviction that things that change are real too.  The subject matter of Vedanta is not difficult to realise: “I, Consciousness alone am real. Everything other than Me, Consciousness, seems real, is Mithya”.  But…

Why Would a Person Want to Realize that he or She is Consciousness? 

Because depending on changing things for happiness is futile since that kind of happiness never lasts, whereas depending on one’s Self, which is always present and whose nature is bliss aka happiness, lasts. When this fact is clear, there is no longer a choice.  Furthermore, if you think you are a person endowed with choice, you aren’t real either because you aren’t always present; think deep sleep. 

Anything with a Form becomes Deformed

All objects that one experiences can be reduced to their constituent elements, hence they are not always permanent.  In fact all objects, from the big to the very small deteriorate. Subatomic particles can change from particle form to energy form, ie. they undergo change. Energy moves, has frequency and amplitude, ie. changes. Anything with a form will become de-formed.  

So when these simple facts are known will any reasonable person not seek to know his or herself as Consciousness? 

You Already are Embodied Consciousness

You say that you can accept this concept but that you have yet to embody it,  but we do not have to embody it at a future date because we already are embodied Consciousness, here and now.

What is the proof that we already are embodied Consciousness? We are conscious and alive, here and now. We are even able to ask questions, even doubt and have contrary or incorrect ideas!! That is the proof of the presence of Consciousness. For example, if the fan is rotating, that is proof that electricity is present. Moonlight is the sign of the presence of sunlight reflected off the moon. Being conscious and showing movement are the sign and symptom of the presence of Consciousness, of life itself. Life is the expression of Consciousness. Am I alive? Yes? Then Consciousness is present.

We Don’t Create Consciousness

We also know that we don’t create the consciousness that we enjoy so we must either be borrowing it from Consciousness or we must be Consciousness itself, as Vedanta states.

The problem is our ignorance of this fact. We just have to eliminate our ignorance that we are not Consciousness embodied.  We need to change the way we think about ourselves which happens if we consistently expose our minds to the teachings of Vedanta.  Then we need to reinforce, assimilate and integrate the recognition so that it is firm and unshakeable. It is the recognition that takes time and needs to be strengthened, not the embodiment. We already are embodied Consciousness living normal everyday lives.

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