Objectification (Q. 310)

Q. I’ve been thinking about two things.

 To determine that awareness is my true self and that my true self is not my ‘I’ concept, I’ve been looking into the ‘I’ concept. It is not my mind, because I can say ‘my mind’. It is not my body, because I can say ‘my body’, but could it be the mind body complex? Most would say no, because the mind and body are plural and the self cannot be plural. However, I’m confused because I don’t see it this way. I see the mind and body as acting as one, which means that the ‘I’ could possibly be it. It is difficult to determine where the mind begins and the body ends, and vice versa, so I see them as one, like the Yin Yang symbol. How do I know that the true self is not the ‘I’ concept that arises within me? Is it because I can make the ‘I’ concept the object of awareness, thus it cannot be the subject?

 My other concern is Maya. It seems that Maya is the only ‘thing’ that stands in the way of us and higher Brahman. Higher Brahman is attributeless and without cause and effect. Lower Brahman, where we experience a personal God, is where we experience cause and effect as a consequence of Maya – am I right so far? The point I want to get to is that surely if there was no Maya, we would be living a life in the higher Brahman? So, essentially, this life that I am experiencing, where one moment seems separate from another, *is* the higher Brahman, but would seem otherwise because of Maya? Is that right? If not, would you please correct my thinking?

 A: I don’t follow your logic in the first part. Why can’t you say ‘my’ body-mind? And how could the true self be any concept? A concept by definition is an idea which occurs within the mind. Basically, anything that I can perceive or conceptualize cannot be ‘me’ because I am doing the perceiving or conceptualizing and am therefore greater than that.

 In the second part, mAyA is a way of explaining how it is that there appears to be duality. But the world itself is mithyA, including mAyA and Ishvara. ‘Living life in higher Brahman’ has no meaning. There is only Brahman – there is no ‘you’ separate from Brahman to live a life anywhere. So, yes, you are effectively right in saying that the life you are experiencing *is* the ‘higher’ Brahman. It doesn’t seem so because of your avidyA – your ‘personal’ Self-ignorance if you like. Even those who are enlightened still perceive duality (because mAyA applies at the macrocosmic level), but they know that it is really brahman only (because their ‘personal’ ignorance has been eliminated).

 Q: I think it might just be a problem with language. Think about it like this. When I have, for example, an apple, I say ‘my apple’. The word ‘my’ refers to me, the I, the apparent self. The statement makes clear that the apple belongs to me, hence it is ‘my apple’. When I say ‘my body’, this implies that the body is separate or different from the self that it belongs to the ‘my’. It’s the same with ‘my mind’, which seems to say that the mind belongs to this ‘my’, making it separate from the apparent self. So my question was, what can be seen as the self when we say ‘my mind-body’. It might actually be a Buddhist way of examining the self, which is different from the Advaita examination using subject and object.

 To another point, what would existence be if I could turn off all my senses, so I didn’t see the world, hear the world, touch the world etc? I suppose we would just be aware of mind?

 I’m confused about something: it’s said that anything you can objectify is not the self, but yet there are some sources, like the upanishads, that say everything is the self. Would you explain this? How can this PC be the self if I can objectify it?

 Last week I spent quite a long time looking through your question and answer page feeling quite overwhelmed by the amount of questions there were, wondering whether there was any way out of it all. To an extent, questions help, but they go on and on. What if I choose to stop asking questions? The paradox is that I don’t need to keep asking questions, but I do at the same time because it gets me to a point where I give up asking questions?? I guess there is no point even in saying ‘how can I keep my mind clear’, since there is no ‘I’ that possesses a will, volition, to keep the mind clear. That my mind is full of questions is not something under my control, right, since there is no person to have control…is any of that correct?

 A: Yes, I think you are right – it is a language problem. Basically, I think that use of the term body-mind is simply an indication that one has been thinking about these things and considering the possibility that maybe ‘I’ *am* different from that/those. (Of course, one might also have realized that this is, in fact, the case.)

 Regarding ‘turning off the senses’, there have been quite a few scientific studies on sensory deprivation that look at this. But you could regard deep-sleep as ‘maximum’ turning off and the Self is still there, in and through all states of Consciousness.

 The position regarding ‘objectification’ is that duality of experience is intrinsic to vyavahAra. Traditional teaching begins with this, since it is our fundamental experience, and ‘negates’ the world: ‘I am not that – neti, neti’. As our understanding progresses, we come to realize that we are not the perceiving body-mind either and that everything ‘arises’ within the Consciousness that I am. Ultimately, it is realized that every seeming separate thing is only name and form of that same Consciousness. Thus the final understanding is that everything is Brahman and I am Brahman.

 Regarding asking questions, you find that yes, to begin with these seem to go on forever. You hear a little more and immediately some new questions come. It seems as though this might be an exponential process. But it isn’t. As time goes on and your understanding grows, questions arise with ever-decreasing frequency until there comes a time when  there are no more. But it is a natural process. Read about shravaNa, manana, nididhyAsana and it should become clear – don’t stop asking questions!

(Aug 2010)