Q.399 – Self-evident Atma

Q: I want to ask about the following quotation from your series on upadesha sAhasrI – part 19 (upadesha sAhasrI compiled by R. B. Athreya from the lectures of Swami Paramarthananda):

Atma, though a knower of everything, is not a known object, because, if Atma were to be a known object it will need another Atma to know, leading to what is known as infinite regress (anavasta dosham)Atma cannot be known by itself, because, to be known by itself, it has to become both the subject and the object, which is not possible as one and the same entity cannot function as subject and object simultaneously.

We cannot also say that one part of Atma can be known by another part, as Atma is by definition partless.  Thus, Atma is ever the knower but not known by others or by itself. 

As Atma is self-evident, its existence needs no proof.  That I am conscious is evident to me.  The very search for proof is possible because of my being conscious.  Thus, Atma is revealed as self-evident Witness Consciousness which illumines everything and which cannot be objectified by anything.  This Atma is my real nature.  All the known attributes belong to the known objects and cannot belong to the knower, Atma (consciousness).” Continue reading

Q.396 – Atman cannot be known

Q: Swami Paramarthananda makes the following comments in his talks on upadeSha sAhasrI:

Atma, though a knower of everything, is not a known object, because, if Atma were to be a known object it will need another Atma to know, leading to what is known as infinite regress (anavasta dosham).  Atma cannot be known by itself, because, to be known by itself, it has to become both the subject and the object, which is not possible as one and the same entity cannot function as subject and object simultaneously.

We cannot also say that one part of Atma can be known by another part, as Atma is by definition partless.  Thus, Atma is ever the knower but not known by others or by itself. 

No Proof Needed

As Atma is self-evident, its existence needs no proof.  That I am conscious is evident to me.  The very search for proof is possible because of my being conscious.  Thus, Atma is revealed as self-evident Witness Consciousness which illumines everything and which cannot be objectified by anything.  This Atma is my real nature.  All the known attributes belong to the known objects and cannot belong to the knower, Atma (consciousness). Continue reading

Realizing Transparency

An essay by Michael Damian

Self-realization is a matter of clarifying the relationship between experience and truth, which in our habitual, conventional view is entirely clouded. In this existence we can speak of three modes of perception or experience. Each of them has a different relationship to the ultimate truth. Let’s begin with the mode where most of humanity lives:

  1. Somethingness. The first mode is of finite, materialistic perception and identity—remembering that how we perceive determines our identity, and our identity conditions perception. In this mode, “God” or truth is basically seen as Nature, or Life in all its earthly wonder, its pain and pleasure, failure and triumph. In this mode everything and everyone is a “something,” a limited and known entity. A good example of perception in this mode is how children, and even some adults, will personify inanimate objects and project feelings or a soul into them. We might see everything as precious and special, but most importantly, things are regarded in their multiplicity. We see God as a great Something under which we are each another unique something, as in “all God’s children.”Love is therefore perceived as a special connection between separate entities. In egoic, finite consciousness we believe we have to fight and struggle so that “Love can win,” or that good can overcome evil. Hence, the tendency in this mode is to identify and split up into factions and parties, where we imagine we are on the side of good. Here we find all the divisive negative qualities of our limited view of somethingness. Everyone and everything gets sorted into identities and categories. There is no understanding of the unity beyond that, even though one may talk about or seek a limited unity of some kind. One does not understand precisely where and how that unity already exists; it is imagined as something—you see, another “something”—that we have to create.

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Awareness of Self

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs you know, it is difficult to assess what another person ‘experiences’. It is also difficult to equate various words that might or might not mean the same thing to one person or everyone. Not sure if this is possible. Probably not. So, the following is not the gospel. I could be mad, mistaken, and a fool. Being foolish is not the worst thing. Feel free to call me names like Martin does.

For me, the word awareness has to constitute both subject and object. Someone or thing is aware. It is a function of the human being. We all have it and it is functioning right now. For me, all awareness functions within the context of self and consciousness, self and consciousness being virtually the same thing. I am talking about what constitutes self, not about self’s true nature. Self’s true nature has to be devoid of self completely and therefore out of the realm of all consciousness. Thus, it is also devoid of awareness as this is a function of our human nature, not our true nature. Normal death erases all experience and awareness but not our true nature.

Our human efforts can only concern itself with our human nature and that lasts maybe 70-90 years. To know thyself is a human endeavor that involves using observation. How else can we understand anything? Mind is involved to be sure. Everything we know is reflected in the mind. But this doesn’t seem to be the case with our true nature. Our true nature is not a reflection of our human life. No human faculty can know its true nature, only the human nature can be known. The only way we can ‘know’ our true nature is through the ending of this separate self that we call ‘me’, ‘I’, etc. And, it is not possible for our human nature to bring an end to itself. From what I have read of the sages, conversations I have had with sages (of course, the ones I think are sages!), it happens in a blink of an eye. You are simply swept away. It is a revelation, not an attainment. It is not a result. There are no levels of attainment, only levels of self. No true self. The body may remain, but no person inhabits it. True nature and human nature are not compatible. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too, as the saying goes.  To know the self is to forget the self. But forgetting the self is not erasing it from memory. It’s erased from your whole being.

As others have said our own existence is common to us all. By observing this sense of existence, me, self, being it, breathing it, living it, you by-pass all the mental analysis and duality that most are involved with. The sense of problem is relieved and a kind of centeredness that focuses this observation can be felt and deepened. This centeredness is a  gateway that our true nature reveals itself through and brings an end to all forms of self.

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Action – Agency

An action should have an actor (kartA). That means there should be someone to claim: “I am doing this”. Only humankind has this sense of agency, though all living beings naturally are active. Man is born as part of nature and lives as part of nature. But he does not realize his being an integral part of nature, and therefore is oblivious of the fact that his ability to know, ability of volition, and ability to do works are merely part of the creative function of nature. Because of this obliviousness he thinks he is the doer of all these actions. Such a man is called vimUDhAtmA (the stupefied one or the stupid). Only such stupid ones have the sense of agency and they alone have karma.

From Karma and Reincarnation, Swami Muni Naryanana Prasad, D.K. Printworld (P) Ltd., 1993, ISBN 81-246-0022-8. Buy from Amazon US, Buy from Amazon UK

Q.351 – Attributes of Brahman

Q: Advaita says that ‘sarvam khalvidam brahma – all this (including all objects, which have form) is brahman’. Therefore, how can we say that brahman is without any attributes at all (including form)? Surely brahman must be both with and without form? Isn’t this what neti, neti means (not this, not that)?

Answers are provided by: Ramesam, Ted, Martin and Dennis.

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