Q: How can the mind perceive something which is outside of time, when the mind itself is caught in time like a prisoner? Perception in itself is a movement in time so how can mind even claim to perceive the concept of Brahman and say that Brahman is eternal?
A: The mind cannot perceive anything ‘outside of time’. As you say, perception occurs within time (and space). And, more to the point, that which you perceive is also within time and space. Thus, you can never perceive Brahman. But conceptions are not quite the same. The concept itself is in the mind, which is also limited. But what is conceived is not limited. You can conceive of a unicorn with no problem at all, even though you also know that they do not really exist. Scientists also conceived of black holes, long before any proof was found for their existence – and still no one has ‘really’ perceived such a thing.
But perhaps the simplest way of thinking about it is to consider deeply who you actually are. It is possible to eliminate body, sense organs, mind, and anything else that you can think of as ‘not I’. But it is not possible to eliminate the one who is doing this. There has to be an ‘ultimate subject’ after everything else has been eliminated. That is who you really are and that is Brahman.
Q: Thanks for your wonderful answer, it took me a few days to meditate on it but I see your point. However I have two more doubts regarding the mind and I’m hoping you will be able to answer them as well.
1) Is the sākṣhī consciousness a construct of the brain like the mind? How does it become all-pervasive and separate from the brain/mind?
2) How and why is the mind considered as jaḍa or inert ?
It is easy for me to understand that the body is jaḍa but how can I apply logical reasoning with regards to the sūkṣma śarīra?
A: The ‘witness’ is a difficult concept to grasp because it does not have the dualistic connotations of the word as normally used; i.e. it is not seeing and mentally reporting on events or things. It is not a thinking or perceiving entity. It is the word we give to the Consciousness ‘behind’ the mind. Thus, it is still active in deep sleep, when the mind is inactive, and is why we can say with certainty that ‘I know that I did not know anything in deep sleep’. It is ‘who I really am’ but only ‘functions’ through a mind (and hence we do not know what someone else is thinking!). It is that which ‘gives life to’ the mind and body, which are otherwise inert.
I’ve written around 5000 words on ‘witness’ in my forthcoming book ‘Confusions in Advaita Vedanta: Knowledge, Experience and Enlightenment’ or you can read all about it in ‘A-U-M: Awakening to Reality’, where it is equated to turīya of the Māṇḍūkya Upaniṣad.