Q: I can see that whatever is seen cannot possibly be me, the seer, the perceiver. The perceiver cannot be perceived because it is perceiving. That seems really obvious and clear (usually, not always, don’t need to claim any more than is really the truth at present.)
Whatever practices, meditations I’ve ever done always end up at the same place: I come back to I/me, the perceiver. Whatever experiences of bliss, ecstasy, I’ve had always end up going away. I come back to: I, the perceiver. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t care whether some bliss state occurs because I know it won’t last, and, ha, it took many years of going through the same thing over and over again. I’d have that bliss state, or whatever we might want to call it, try to hold on to it, be disappointed when it went away and then “work”
to get it back again!!! Seems absurd now…
…the question is: I guess I continue to understand that I can’t be what I perceive, whether outwardly, in the world, or inwardly, persona maybe….just continue to come back to “I” perceiving all this? There is no particular joy in this or happiness, in the sense that I know all these experiences don’t last. But there seems to be some bed-rock perceiver which doesn’t go away except in deep, dreamless sleep…As I’m writing this I think again that I really need a teacher, but don’t see that happening anytime soon. In the mean time….books, being the perceiver and not the perceived…I guess!!! Thanks.
Dennis: Not sure what your actual question is here; can you state simply?
Q: Sorry I wasn’t clear. I don’t know whether I should continue as I’m doing, keep coming back to the understanding that I, the perceiver, can’t be perceived or is there something to do, some attitude other than this or beyond this, the “next rung on the ladder” so to speak…..still don’t know if I’m being clear. Is it sufficient to understand that I’m not thoughts, etc., that nothing seen can be the seer? Is it sufficient to stay with that and let that deepen, maybe, or is there some practice or attitude beyond “the perceiver cannot be perceived?”….maybe still not clear but I don’t think
I can make it clearer at the moment….sorry for the uncertainty here! The question is hard to ask and I can’t quite seem to get to it other than the above. I’ll understand if you don’t have an answer to this poorly stated question!
A (Sitara): Your understanding that you are the perceiver and not the perceived is extremely valuable. But, as you yourself have come to feel, it is not the end of the road. Still it is the beginning of the end.
There are three things I would like to point out:
1. Practices and meditations are provisional. They prepare the ground but they cannot lead you all the way. You say that there is a perceiver who you are, which does go away in deep dreamless sleep. If you really mean that it goes away then whatever you think the perceiver is, cannot be you because you never go away. So you need to find that which never goes away. This you will not find by practice or meditation but by understanding. In Advaita Vedanta it is the analysis of the deep sleep state you refer to (as well as the waking and the dream states) that will help you with this understanding. (I am sure other bloggers will explain this in their replies.) Although you know that you are the perceiver and not the perceived, you still are caught up in a subject-object relationship, i.e. duality. If the perceiver you have found is the ‘bed-rock’ – this means it cannot be objectified, as for example, the perceiving senses. Although the senses do perceive objects and thus are subjects, they themselves are objects of another kind of subject, the mind. The mind again that is the perceiving subject in relation to the perceived senses itself is an object, as it is perceived too. By what is the mind perceived? This is what you may have discovered, the perceiver which itself is not perceived by anything.
2. Having said this, I would like to point out something practical: Advaita Vedanta call the perceiver the witnessing consciousness, which is the ultimate subject. But a subject, even though special by being ultimate, is still in a subject-object relationship: witnessing – witnessed. The reason why I pointed out the immense value of your realization to begin with, is that if you can drop the I that witnesses, pure consciousness will remain. To drop this I that witnesses directly is impossible though; but you can drop giving attention to what is happening – the witnessed – and fall back into what you know to be yourself. This is not a doing at all. In fact doing is being focused on what is going on in the mind. Letting go of the focusing and relaxing into what remains, is effortless.
3. If you really understand who you are, this second recommendation will help stabilize this understanding by overcoming habitual patterns in the mind that do not reflect your understanding. In this case the second recommendation is called nidhidyasana, meditation without an object – a meditation that can only be done by somebody whose understanding is basically complete.
But if your understanding is not quite complete you will need a teacher to help you with its completion. Why? Because then the second point would be another practice, and you cannot possibly cause enlightenment by a practice. Why would it be a mere practice? Because when your understanding is not quite complete, you simply will be unable to relax into who you really are because you will keep on objectifying.
Further reading recommended.
A (Peter): You ask whether after discovering yourself as the perceiver there is anywhere else to go.
Reading your question I get the impression that you rely mainly on practices, especially meditation. And you are underwhelmed with how far this can take you. This should not come as a surprise because whatever you arrive at in terms of ‘practices’ will always be an experience. And an experience mixes two components: the thought that takes the form of what is being experienced and the consciousness without which the thought cannot exist. Of the two, the thought being dependent on consciousness, cannot exist if consciousness is withdrawn. The consciousness, on the other hand, is who you truly are, but needs the manifesting medium of thought to be known. What you are searching for, the consciousness, is thus not available without a thought but, with the thought, it is mixed. So whilst you may well have an experience of Self, it’s hard to distinguish it from the stuff of the experience.
Added to your practices is your keen mind, capable of applying logic to what you observe.
Logic is what gets you to the point of appreciating that the observer cannot be what is observed. This analysis, too, can take you only as far as something called ‘I’: there is an ‘I’-thought. In the traditional teaching of advaita vedanta, this is known as the seer-seen methodology. To go further with the search, you then need to switch methodologies to the analysis of the deep sleep experience when even this ‘I’-thought no longer surfaces. Without ‘I am’ there cannot be ‘this is’. So there is no experience but we still know, on waking, that there was a witness of the absence. Who is there as myself when even the ‘I’ thought is not there?
Here is how what’s going on is explained (from a recent session with my teacher):
“The understanding (of this) is important but difficult to grasp: ‘I’ alone, the consciousness, is satyam. I alone, the consciousness, am satyam. Nothing other than me has substantiality; everything else is mithyā (‘as though’). This creation is nothing but ‘I’, the consciousness, plus the name and form ‘universe’.
“If you analyze this, in the waking state ‘the universe is’ because ‘I am’. In dream ‘the dream world is’ because ‘I am’. In the deep sleep state I am seemingly not and the universe is not there too. In fact, I am but the universe is not. So, what is this creation? It is ‘I’, the consciousness, plus the name and form ‘universe’.
“If any doubt at all arises with regard to this, we have to analyze our own dream experience. The entire dream is nothing but ‘I’, the consciousness, with various thought modifications (vṛttis). I dream a lion and the dream lion is nothing but a ‘lion’-thought. The lion in the form of thought in dream becomes the source of fear in the dream. The same ‘lion’-thought does not cause fear in me in the waking state. The ‘lion’ thought enjoys substantiality of its own, growling, frightening, causing disturbance only in the dream. The whole dream is nothing but the disturbance of stillness of the mind in the form of thought.
“The disturbance in thought form in dream can appear as though there is a real world of experience; so too the waking world experience is nothing but a disturbance in me. This disturbance in Me, the consciousness, appears as this solid, gross, waking world of experience. But I, the consciousness, am undisturbed, untouched, unaffected by the rising and resolving disturbance in the form of experience.
“Only at this level of understanding that ‘I’, the consciousness, alone am Brahma the Absolute Reality, and the universe is nothing but mere names and forms superimposed on Brahman, is the vision of non-duality, mokṣa, accomplished. Here ends the teaching.”
It is very understandable on hearing this that one concludes: Thought + Consciousness = Experience of Objects; therefore minus thoughts = Pure Consciousness. That is the promise meditation practices hold out. But arriving at a state where all thought has been silenced is effectively little different from deep sleep or swoon – nothing will be known. As this is unacceptable to a keen, inquisitive mind, there tends to be that last bit that doesn’t let go. And even if it did let go, you might lose that ‘bed rock perceiver’ which as you have said ‘doesn’t go away except in deep, dreamless sleep’. If it did go away, as in deep sleep, you might ‘wake’ from the meditation rested, but none the wiser.
So what you suspect is correct: from here on you need a proper guide, one who has been there, who knows the roadmap, who knows the traps, who is clear about the final destination. All this guide will do is hold up a mirror in the form of the teaching of Vedanta and will keep polishing the mirror and polishing it and polishing it till you see clearly that the reflection that you face, shining out clearly in the meaning of those words, is the very you. Knowledge, not practice, is the only way. It starts with soaking the mind in the teaching from traditional sources of advaita, of clearing doubts till the knowledge thus acquired is stable, and ends with deep contemplation of what’s known in order to overcome habitual error that covers it.
I now accept the Upanishadic advice that only a traditional teacher can help here, so one needs to approach such a one with due respect. I thank my lucky stars that I found one after 25 years of stumbling around with half-baked teaching and meditation practices. You are lucky to be born in a time when communication technologies are overcoming the limits of geography. Second best to sitting in front of a living teacher could be communicating via real-time online video. (My teacher, for example, conducts sessions via Skype) I know it works for others. Good luck in finding a teacher that will take you on from where you are: your dissatisfaction with the status quo indicated that you’re ripe for this step.
A (Ramesam): Dear Friend, It is okay to experience a sort of ‘uncertainty’ or ‘cluelessness’ midway while pursuing Non-duality. Something apparently seems to be vaguely in our grasp but still slipping.
Before we go into it, a couple of quick points I would like to mention in order to make certain things explicit. You may be already aware, but let me state these for the sake of clarity.
You say, “.. there seems to be some bed-rock perceiver which doesn’t go away except in deep, dreamless sleep.”
No, the bedrock Perceiver is the “I” and “I” does not go away even in deep sleep. “I” is eternal and does not go anywhere any time! It is the mind that folds up during deep sleep in a sense. Because the mind is absent functionally, you do not perceive any ‘objects’ in deep sleep and you do not carry any memory of an experience of deep sleep.
Any statement about deep sleep that you make later on is only a current ‘thought’ in awake state about what you think was the deep sleep. You describe it as deep (no sense of space and time), dark (unknowing) and refreshing (happy). You are in effect describing “I” which alone is present during deep sleep. It is “I” that is deep (dimensionless), dark (It knows Itself) and happy (It is Happiness Itself). [For a more detailed explanation, please see here ( https://www.advaita-vision.org/anesthesia-deep-sleep-death-and-consciousness-part-23/ ).]
You also said, “I think again that I really need a teacher, but don’t see that happening anytime soon.”
No, it is happening all the time! The very urge that is pushing you to find out is the teacher and that teacher is already in you. The teacher shows up by itself externally in the form that is most apt at that time – a book, a talk, a mail, a human being etc. This is so because you, as the limited entity with a name and a bio, have no role in the whole game. It is that inner Guru who propels you and also finds the appropriate way of dissolving your “personality” which you happen to falsely assume to be ‘you.’
So the ‘person’ that thinks he/she is limited and separate should give up the search and truly surrender. “Surrender” implies giving up its sense of being a separate person who has to act and also giving up the claim of agency for action (‘doership’) for whatever that happens – both internally and externally.
In fact, the separate limited person you think you are is not an entity. As Rupert would put it, the person is an activity — action in search of happiness. It is actually the ‘preoccupation with doing something’ that is making you miss what is present right here and now. The person is the denial of what is Present, the Now. So it is your action, your persona, which is preventing you from staying in the Now.
Let me explain a bit. When you take an action, you are looking forward to a result in the future. So you become inattentive to what “Is” in the now. The future being only an imagination, it is never real, it does not exist in the present. What is real is what is in the now – the immediate experience right in this present moment.
Though you have understood that you (the subject) are not what is perceived (the object), you are still considering yourself to be different from the act of perceiving. It is like saying: “I perceive.” So “I” and ‘perceiving’ (two things) are still present for you. It is not Non-duality (no – Twoness). In truth, it is only perceiving that exists – only one thing, just plain experiencing. That is Non-duality.
This brings us now to your question, “Is it sufficient to understand that I’m not thoughts, etc., that nothing seen can be the seer? ……. Is it sufficient to stay with that and let that deepen, maybe, or is there some practice or attitude beyond ‘the perceiver cannot be perceived?’….maybe still not clear but I don’t think.”
First let me say that what you expressed is quite clear and that you articulated the problem well.
Secondly, let it be clear that Non-dual understanding is not an outcome of ‘doing’ some action. The Non-dual understanding comes from dropping the self-erected ‘veil’ that is obstructing the clear vision. The ‘veil’ is a misidentification of who you truly are. Therefore, only “Knowledge” of who you truly are can clarify the matters.
In any perception or experience, there are three things called the triad. These are (i) the subject; (ii) the object; and (iii) the action. A simple experience of seeing, say, a flower comprises the perceiver, the flower and the act of seeing. If there is no object, automatically there is no subject. Only the act of ‘seeing’ remains. The moment you say ‘a flower’ or you ‘think’ you see a flower, the thought processes of memory in identifying and labeling the object are coming into play. That means the ‘subject’ (‘I’) has already innocuously arisen. Let merely the seeing remain unknowingly – just as a raw experience — without identifying, naming etc.
Now coming to your problem under consideration, carefully examine the exact experience that prompted you to pose the question to Dennis. The actual experience noticed by you is a feeling, “I am missing something.” Look to the raw experience at the level of the sensation without labels, without descriptions. It is a sense of an inexpressible “lack.”
Non-dualist teacher Peter Dziuban explained well “the sense of lack” when I posed him the following question:
Though we seem to understand intellectually the non-dualism, how is it that a sense of ‘lack’ continues to haunt us?
What Peter said, in brief was:
[For more information see here (http://beyond-advaita.blogspot.in/2009/12/conversations-with-living-gaudapada.html).]
1. Notice that “something” has cognised that sense of ‘lack’.
2. Be that very “Cogniser” rather than being a claimant of ownership for that sense of ‘lack’.
3. The sense of ‘lack’ has its origin in an ‘assumed add-on s’ i.e. some unspelt ‘expectations’ of a person in ‘me’ looking for ‘object-oriented experience’.
4. The sense or gut feeling of ‘lack’ is time dependent (hence transitory) and therefore, sure to ‘dissolve’.
So do not try to escape that feeling of experiencing the ‘lack’, running in search of some imagined ‘happiness.’ Once you stay as ‘lack’, please appreciate that at that precise moment, the true ‘You’ chose to appear (arise) as the “lack.” You are the lack. The “lack” is you in the now! There is no separate ‘you’ here possessing a ‘lack’ as experience. Just stay with and be that “lack.”
From moment to moment, the experience keeps changing. Just stay in the Now with each new experience. Experiencing alone exists from moment to moment and nothing else is present.
Understand this fully without an iota of doubt and abide in that understanding. Leave the rest to the inner Teacher. The implosion happens in its own time.
A (Dhanya): Dear Friend, The perceiver cannot be perceived as an object, yet the perceiver is known, isn’t it? The perceiver is known because the nature of the perceiver itself is knowing, or knowledge. The perceiver in Sanskrit is called the Atma.
My advice to you would be to stick with this perceiver and ask yourself some questions about it. Is it limited? Does it have boundaries? Does it have color, shape, size or dimension? Does it change? Or is it always exactly the same?
And what is this perceiver? Is it you, or not?
It is you, the bottom line reality of who you are.
My sense is that because you have had many bliss experiences in the past which have come and gone, you may be missing the subtle beauty and importance of That to which you refer as ‘the perceiver.’
There are some questions you might ask yourself such as, how do I feel about this perceiver? What is its nature? I will give you a hint. The nature of the perceiver is love.
If you let your mind rest in that love, which doesn’t come and go, and is not subject to modification of any type, I think that you will find there is a quiet peace and joy in that resting, and a smile may spontaneously come to your lips.
So I would advise you to rest with that. This is called nididhyAsana. It’s a kind of getting to know yourself (or your Self). You’ve always been this Self. Consider, when has this Self not been there? Has there ever been a time when you were not? I feel it is indeed important to take time as you suggested and rest with That, to do nididhyAsana.
There is more to the teachings certainly, because the teachings tell us that this Atma is in reality brahman, the bottom line existence of every changing thing. There are certain logical arguments that can be employed to prove this. Eventually it is recognized that this is indeed the case.
When that is recognized the person’s mind now knows, in reality there is nothing here but my Self alone.
However it is my surmise, and my experience, that if one has not as yet recognized that Atma is brahman, the reality of every single changing thing, the reason is there remains some psychological work yet to be done.
So yes, I do think that having a teacher would be useful for you at this point. If you are not able to find a teacher to study with in person, there is someone whose classes you might try listening to on-line. http://www.arshakulam.org/index.html. I think listening to these classes (which are also archived on the website http://www.arshakulam.org/archives.html) would help to deepen your appreciation of the perceiver—the Atma—which in reality is brahman (the baseline of all existence), and the classes may also help you to recognize that Atma is brahman. Thus all that is here is my Self alone. Through such a recognition, the mind gains fearlessness and peace.
A (Shuka): Meditation is part of Upāsana Yoga and can only be one of the following types.
1. Relaxation – This is required for the physical and mental health. Any technique or methodology used does not matter – e.g. repeating a mantra, watching your breath or just repeating Shāntihi.
2. Concentration – This is concentration meditation where I train my mind to develop attention and attention span. Generally in our scriptures, Mānasa Pūja or mental worship of the Lord is prescribed. Also are included, Mānasa Pārāyanam referring to mentally chanting something or Mānasa Japa referring to mentally chanting one Nāmaha (name) of the Lord.
3. Expansion – Here I learn to expand my mind to visualise the totality of creation. Only then do we know our relative significance – which is nothing but zero! It is the meditation of the creation itself, stars, galaxies, sky, solar system and planet and continent and rivers and mountains, birds animals, and human beings. This is called Vishva Rūpa Dhyana, as we look up the creation as the Universal Form of God.
4. Value – This is also called Transformation meditation. Here I have to bring about a total, inner transformation by changing my thought pattern, so that my life becomes synchronized with my pursuit.
Meditation is primarily done for conditioning the mind from vāsanās (habitual tendencies) etc., and to get mind control. The purpose of meditation stops here; and this far is quite adequate.
Beyond this, what is required is jñānam (knowledge) of the true self, following which niṣṭā (steadfastness) in the knowledge is required. The only way to get this is śravaṇa (repeated and consistent listening for a period of time from a qualified teacher), mananam (discussing what is learnt until there are no more doubts) and nidhidhyāsanam (being established in the self-knowledge until the habitual tendency to think of self as something other than its true nature is removed).
I suggest that the questioner joins a vedānta class, conducted by a sampradāyavit (one who has learnt it from the tradition) soon.
A (Dennis): The practice that is needed is investigation into the nature of the Self – Atma vichAra, j~nAna yoga, shravaNa, manana and nididhyAsana. And it has to be repeated until such time as it finally ‘clicks’. If you think of a difficult subject in the ‘worldly’ realm – say quantum physics – you know that you cannot simply get a book out of the library, read it once and all will be understood. How much more difficult, then, is something like Advaita, which addresses the very nature of reality and consciousness.
You know that Shankara’s ‘statement’ of the truth of Advaita is: brahma satyam, jaganmithyA, jIvo brahmaiva nAparaH. The first element of this – that brahman is the only reality – is not something that is immediately obvious; you cannot see brahman, and even understanding what the statement means is not easy. The second – that the world is not itself real, depending for its reality on that very brahman which we have not yet realized – totally contradicts our everyday experience. We perceive the world through all our senses from the moment we awake and most of the time it is not to our liking! But the third element – that I am brahman – is the most difficult of all to swallow.
Accordingly, it should come as no surprise that we should ideally go through all of the Upanishads, Gita, Brahma Sutra and prakaraNa grantha-s with a qualified teacher, continually asking questions where we don’t follow; reading, reading, discussing, discussing – for a l-o-n-g time before it finally sinks in.
Be patient! There are no ‘rungs of a ladder’ – you are already brahman – but this needs to be realized.
 See more about this here: https://www.advaita-vision.org/under-anaesthesia-q-313/