Shining World

The Lightning Rod of Experience-Less Experience

Thank you for your wonderful reply, I wanted to send this just to let you know I’ve received and am taking it in. I began reading one of the books you mentioned here as well as was listed on the previous document you provided. I’ll refrain from asking more questions or describing my experiences or thoughts and just let the teaching speak. 

I appreciate the direct and clear teaching, I’m tired of confusing and misinterpreted messages going all over the place, as beautiful as they may sound at times.

I’d like to speak on something I’ve noticed that draws my attention recently.

The past few months I’ve been sitting outside whenever it rains, occasionally or sometimes frequently catching the flash to lightning. I noticed something during these moments but just today something became clear. 

As I sit and take in whatever experience happens to be, the flash of lightning comes in (lightning works well because it’s so quick and unexpected but this is apparent with any sudden unexpected experience) and in this moment I see a clear ‘gap’ if you will.

This gap shows me pure raw perception or experience happening, before any thoughts have arisen to name the experience, the lightning is purely known. Then slowly the mind arises with thoughts of labeling the experience as whatever it is, in this case lightning as well as thoughts of who the person sitting in the chair is, my name, memories associated with the continuity of having been sitting in a chair for 40 minutes, etc. It all arises after. It’s like a small window, seeing pure awareness of perception and seeing concepts arise afterwards, as well as knowing that the knowing of experience was there prior to the perception. The awareness doesn’t go anywhere, it just becomes aware of the thoughts and sensations usually associated with the ego game that arise again.

But yeah those moments are really interesting, not because of the experience necessarily but because of the pureness of it. Is this pure raw experience still a subtle object? This subtle experience is still known so it’s not me, however I find it interesting and wonder why.

Sundari: Yes, the perception itself is a subtle object, but the knower, the subject or Self, is not. The subject never becomes the object, and the object can never know the subject. The example you give of experiencing lightning is a good analogy of how the Self appearing as a jiva perceives. It simply records. It is the ever-present non-experiencing witness of the experiencing entity. All objects require Consciousness to be known. Human objects require Consciousness to know anything. The question is: is it the jiva, the small-self perceiver, or the Self perceiving? Who or what makes perception possible? The short answer here is that I think you already have that worked out. See below.

As for the long answer: as long as the body is alive and awake, it is perceiving and experiencing something. Perception cannot take place without Consciousness – it comes and goes because the body comes and goes— either in sleep, coma or death. But Consciousness does not. Consciousness is always present and unchanging, the knower of the appearance and disappearance of all perception/objects. This is why Vedanta says you are unborn and never die. The mind, which includes the intellect, is a vehicle for the Self to have knowledge of objects, although it knows itself whether or not objects are present to be known. 

Perception is governed by the way the mind is conditioned by its vasanas but Consciousness is not conditioned by anything. The vasanas will be what colour the jiva’s perception of the world it sees. Most people confuse their personal perception – the subjective way they see – with Consciousness as the perceiver or knower. The small-self perceiver is the self under the spell of ignorance, also called the experiencing entity or jiva, seeing objects through the screen of the vasanas. The true perceiver (Consciousness) is the non-experiencing witness and that which makes perception possible, the knower of the experiencing witness, the person, and the knower of all that he/she perceives through the senses.

How Perception Works

When we look at an object, in this case a burst of light from a bolt of lightning, the subtle body sends out a thought, a ray of Consciousness. Consciousness shines on the Subtle body and illumines the mind and senses, which in turn, illumine the object. However, the thought or ray of Consciousness sent from the intellect to the object is inert, meaning, is not itself conscious. You know this to be true because your thoughts do not know you, and the bolt of lightning does not know you.

Whether you are aware of it or not (and you are), you as the Self witness/record the lightning bolt prior to any thought about it for a split second, and then the one experiencing it. That is the ‘gap’ you correctly attuned to, before the subjective mind took over. You, the Self, know your thoughts. Consciousness is delivered to objects through the mechanical process of reflected consciousness shining or bouncing off a conscious, sentient object – a jiva or Subtle body. Thus, experience takes place. 

Subtle objects like thoughts and feelings are known in the mind in the same way, by Consciousness shining on the mind. If you cannot see a material object, no thought can reach it, so no experience of it is possible. If you were blind, you would not be able to see/experience the lightning bolt. We can all imagine a bolt of lightning, but it is not the same experience as actually seeing one.

Gross objects require Consciousness to be known but human objects require Consciousness, a functioning intellect and sense organs to know anything, which are the means of knowledge for objects only. The mind is also called the 11th sense instrument because it rules the five knowledge-gathering gross sense instruments in the body (ears, eyes, skin, nose, and tongue) and the five subtle sense organs (hearing, seeing, feeling, tasting and touching). The sense organs give rise to the experience of things in the body.

No sense organ perceives an existent object. We only infer the properties of an object (shape, weight, texture, smell, color, sound, taste) based on perception. This is because we cannot know the actual substance of all objects (Consciousness) with the senses. Consciousness is the Existence aspect of all objects, not the name and form because Consciousness is beyond name and form. It gives rise to all names and forms. All names and forms depend on Consciousness to exist, but Consciousness depends on nothing.

All perception and inference (which includes hearing, seeing, tasting, touching, smelling) happens in the mind because all experience takes place there. Consciousness is not an object of perception so cannot be known by these means. It can only be known through Self-knowledge, by analyzing the relationship between the name and form of an object and Consciousness, which is what self-inquiry is fundamentally all about, as you know.

When a tree falls in a forest, or a bolt of lightning streaks across the sky, unless there is an ear or an eye present to hear or see it, there is no sound and no flash of light. Although the falling tree will disturb atoms and cause vibration, acoustic vibration alone is insufficient to produce sound. Sensors are needed, such as functioning ears to convert acoustic vibration into recorded electrical impulses.  A processor (the central nervous system in a functioning brain behind the ear/eyes) processes the impulses—and the intellect makes sense of the sensory information. All sound is a result of perception.

Sight is the same. Light is one form of electromagnetic energy. The light spectrum splits into visible light. We do not “see” light but waves of energy. These electromagnetic waves reach our sensors (the eyes) in little packets of energy called photons, which get absorbed by special cells that line the retina of the eye. This produces corresponding electro-chemical signals that are sent to the visual cortex where the information is interpreted and then processed as sight. Without an observer with the proper sensory equipment operating in the right portion of the light spectrum, which has the ability to convert the electromagnetic waves to perception, there is no light. Therefore, no bolt of lightning.

Everything in the apparent reality is based on perception and inference. It is the same with all the other senses and with every other object. There is no “real” world “out there” or “in here”. Without an observer, there is no perception. Without Consciousness, there are no objects to perceive.

I spoke of this in my last email to you – your question implies the question: Does the Self actually see anything? Direct knowledge of yourself as the Self is ‘What I perceive is there because I see it’. In other words, the world would not be there without me, Consciousness. I shine and the world shines after me. The lightning is there because I see it. The Self is a seer that never begins or ceases and is the all-seeing eye or “I” that sees only itself because there are no objects for it to see. It is self-effulgent as there is nothing but itself.  It would be more appropriate to say that the Self, seeing only itself, is that which knows the seer with reference to the seen, only when Maya is operating.  The Self-aware Self appears as a seer; but it never actually is a seer, unless seeing refers to its own Self. 

Whereas, indirect knowledge of yourself as the Self is: ‘I perceive what I see because it is there’. In other words, I am identified with my body-mind and take the world to be real and separate from me. When ignorance (duality) is operating the jiva thinks that the seer is different from the seen, the subject and object are different.  Isvara is also known as the seer/knower because it operates Maya (the gunas), but unlike the jiva, it is never deluded by them.  When tamas and rajas appear, then Awareness apparently becomes a jiva and is deluded by Maya.

I think you understand the very subtle but all-important difference.

Much love


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