Shining World

The Three States Teaching in Brief

Question: I am producing below a question and answer which I found in Quora

If I understand it correctly, Awakening has to happen on its own. Please guide me.


If the mind and ego are just illusions, then who is the one who strives for enlightenment?

No one.

A separate ‘entity’ striving for enlightenment, liberation or freedom only exists in the illusory “me’s” dream of separateness. When the “me” thinks it is separate – from the world, from others, from Being – it thinks things are actually happening and striving for anything – wealth, love, peace, enlightenment – is actually taking place. Nothing is actually happening. But, identified as a separate “me,” you cannot get that, and you will insist things are really happening.

Last night in your dream there was another “me,” a dream-you, that appeared to be doing things. In some dreams, that dream-you was striving for enlightenment. It may even have ‘attained’ what it thought was enlightenment in one of those dreams.

Nothing the dream-you can do can cause you to wake up from the dream, but you do awaken. Once you do, where is the ‘one’ who was striving for enlightenment? He doesn’t exist. He never did.” Unquote

Sundari: To reply to you fully, it would help to know a little bit about your sadhana.  Have you read our contact page the advice we give to inquirers regarding self-inquiry? I can help you better if you supply some information about this.

The quote you sent is essentially correct, but it supplies no context and no independent teaching to support the statement. What does it mean that the dreamer does not exist and never did? What is the dream, who is the dreamer, what does enlightenment or existence mean? There is no mention of nonduality or duality, or how to discriminate between them. It supplies a part of the truth with the most important parts missing, which can only leave you confused.

In some ways, you are correct that enlightenment happens on its own in that nothing the ego does can remove ignorance of your true nature as the Self.  The problem is not the ego but the doer itself. To be free of suffering means we must understand and negate the idea of doership. Only Self-knowledge can negate the ego. But, here again, what does it mean to negate the ego?  There are basically only two principles in reality, and the latter dissolves into the former upon investigation. The first principle is that this is a non-dual reality, which means that everything is Consciousness, the Self.  The second principle is duality, which is negated as only apparently real when we understand what Consciousness is.

The nondual Self, Consciousness, is that which is always present and unchanging.  The ‘part’ of you that never ages, is always the same and always knows what you are thinking and feeling. It is your true nature, also called satya, the knower of the dream and the dreamer. Duality, or Maya, defined as that which is not always present and always changing or mithya, is everything else,i.e., the dream and the dreamer. Maya is the power in Consciousness that makes the changeless appear to be changing and creates the apparent reality, the dream.

The hypnosis of duality creates the false identification with the ego/mind/world/dream, what is called mithya. However, what makes this so subtle and tricky to understand is that while the dream world is not real (always changing and not always present), it does exist, because you can experience it. So, to understand the ego does not mean to destroy it but only to understand what it is, how it is programmed by Maya, duality or ignorance.  Ignorance does not mean stupid, it means the identification with the body/mind (ego) as your identity instead of the knower of the body mind, the Self.

Moksa, freedom from limitation and suffering caused by Maya, requires the ability to discriminate between the Self, satya, and the objects that appear in it, meaning all objects, mithya. An object is anything other than you, the Self.  Vedanta defines the Self as whole and complete, unchanging, ever-present ORDINARY Consciousness. If something is known to you, it cannot be you, simple logic. So, you cannot be the jiva (ego//mind/dreamer) because it is known to you, which means that you are the Self, the knower of the ego/dreamer. It’s the only option, no matter what is or is not going on in the mind, whether it is awake, dreaming or in deep sleep. 

So, taking this into account, you are not correct that enlightenment ‘happens’ on its own, unless you are highly qualified. To remove ignorance requires qualifications, which simply means the mind is sufficiently prepared and purified to conduct self-inquiry. The qualifications are explained in detail in many of our publications and satsangs on Shiningworld website. Furthermore, self-inquiry must be guided by a qualified teacher or you will interpret the nondual teachings of Vedanta according to your conditioning or ignorance. Vedanta is the science of Consciousness, an independent and valid means of knowledge for the Self.  It is not something you can study because it is who you are. It must be taught properly, according to a specific methodology because ignorance is tenacious and hardwired. Hence the instructions we give inquirers on how to conduct self-inquiry on our website.

As I do not know if you are committed to proper self-inquiry, or what your sadhana consists of, I am going to briefly explain the three states teaching. But it may be too much for you to assimilate if you have not covered the foundations of self-inquiry. If you truly want to clarify the meaning of your question, it is important is that you understand the full methodology of Vedanta, which is a progressive teaching for a very good reason: ignorance is very subtle and highly tenacious.

Briefly, the three states teaching in Vedanta, also called the avastha-traya prakriya, (a prakriya is a proof or method of inquiry employed by the scriptures to remove ignorance of the Self) is an analysis of the only three states of experience available to everyone, meaning waking, dreaming and deep sleep. The main aim of this teaching is to establish the true nature of the Self by revealing through a logical process of inquiry into the relationship between the jiva (the individual/ego), Isvara (the creative power) and Consciousness, the non-dual Self.  By removing all the inconstant variables, or incidental attributes of the jiva and the three states, we are left with the unassailable truth that the Self, Consciousness, is free of all attributes and states. 

Consciousness can never be negated but everything else can be. It is ever present and unchanging, the non-experiencing witness of all the objects that appear in it, such as the jiva and the three states it exists in.  We use the three states teaching to show that the jiva is not real, it is mithya, because it is not always present, and it is always changing.  As the waker, the jiva disappears and becomes a dreamer. The dreamer disappears and becomes a deep sleeper. The deep sleeper disappears and becomes a dreamer or a waker, etc.  The only constant is the knower of all three states, Consciousness.

Here is the brief teaching on the three states:

Jiva manifests as three ‘little’ jivas according to the state that it experiences:

1) As viswa, the waking state entity.  In this state its mind is totally extroverted.  It is hypnotized by duality.  It chases and consumes experiences.  Viswa appears in two forms: (a) free of identification with objects (a jivanmukta) or (b) as a doer (karta) or “person” identified with objects (a samsari)).  Both a jivanmukta, a liberated person, and a samsari, a bound person, have a common identity as Consciousness, but the jivanmukta is free of mithya while the samsari is bound by it.

2) As taijasa, the ‘shining one,’ Consciousness with a Subtle Body, illumining the dream state.  In the dream state the Subtle Body is turned inward facing the Causal Body, the vasanas.  A vasana is a binding tendency. The experiences the dreamer has are just experiences of the vasanas in the dream state, though the ego is not present in the dream state in the same way that it is present in the waking state.  Under the spell of Maya, duality, in the waking state the Jiva identifies with the doer (ego) so the doer is not seen as an object.  It is thought to be the subject.  In the dream state the ego is known to be unreal, though there is also identification. The ego appears as an object illumined by taijasa, Consciousness reflected on the Subtle Body. 

For instance, in the dream you can see the ego going about its business, walking, talking, eating, etc.  The doer/ego is a dream doer/ego similar in some respects to viswa but with unique powers.  These powers are inherent in the dream state and do not belong to taijasa although in normal dreams it identifies with them.   The doer-ego and the events appearing in the dream are just waking state events that have become vasanas that out picture as dream events. 

The dream state has two aspects: waking dream and sleep dream.   It is called the pratibasika state, the subjective state of reality.  It is jiva’s creation (sristi).  It is an individual jiva’s interpretation of reality.  In the dream state (whether the jiva is awake or asleep) vasanas influence how reality is interpreted by the jiva.  Isvara provides the raw material for the interpretation, but not the interpretation itself.  Ultimately it is all Isvara, but to get to that understanding (which is tantamount to moksa) the jiva must understand its oneness with Isvara and its difference from Isvara so that it can be free of both itself and Isvara.

3)  In the deep sleep state, the sleeper, is called prajna, which means ‘almost enlightened’.  It is almost enlightened because it experiences the limitlessness and bliss of Consciousness but lacks knowledge of what it is experiencing because the intellect is not present in deep sleep. It is subsumed into the Causal body, Isvara. That is why the deep sleep state is so blissful. Prajna refers to Consciousness experiencing its own nature or bliss, i.e., the absence of objects, because all vasanas are dormant in deep sleep. There is no mental activity.  The only objects present in deep sleep are ignorance and no objects, or ‘nothing’, which are experienced and known through inference when the deep sleeper wakes up.

Dreamless sleep is known as the bliss sheath: Ananda-Maya-kosha. In moments where there seems to be no doer/experiencer, there must have been a witness who knows the joy/bliss. If not, how would the jiva or deep sleeper know joy/bliss was there in the first place? How can the jiva say that it did not know anything while it was asleep unless Consciousness was there to witness the absence of knowledge? Therefore, the deep sleeper cannot be the lack of knowledge or ignorance, the experiencing entity. Deep sleep is called experiential bliss because it ends, like all experiences do.  The bliss one is after if one is seeking moksha is the bliss of Self-knowledge, which never ends (anantum) because it is one’s true nature.



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