L: If my body speaks the words “I am infinite and eternal conscious awareness”…that is actually NOT true.
V: Actually, it is true because at its essence, the body is nothing other than consciousness. So if the body says, “I am consciousness” it’s right. But if I may personify consciousness for a moment, what would be untrue is if consciousness said, “I am the body.”
Let’s use water as a metaphor for consciousness and a wave as a metaphor for the body. If a wave says, “I am water” it’s a true statement because the wave is nothing other than water. But if the water says, “I am a wave” it’s an untrue statement because there’s really no such thing as a wave because “wave” is simply an insubstantial name given to an insubstantial appearance that has no existence whatsoever apart from water. The wave is water but water is not a wave. It’s always just water.
Similarly, the body is consciousness but consciousness is not the body. “Body” is just a name given to an insubstantial appearance of consciousness that is mistakenly thought to be a real, standalone entity when in fact it is nothing other than consciousness.
L: The mind that formulates those words, and the physical body, lungs and vocal cords and so on, that project out those words, are observable objects that, themselves, are not Atma.
V: Yes, but only conditionally. I’m sorry if I’m stating what you already know about Vedanta but the fundamental premise is that reality is non-dual, meaning there is absolutely nothing other than atma. This means there can’t actually be a “not-atma.” “Not-atma” is only temporarily posited to break identification with the unreal appearance of the body and mind that we normally take to be real and identify ourselves with.
So initially in the beginning of the teaching, an artificial duality is assumed: atma (you) and ‘not-atma’ (not-you). This draws attention to the transient nature of the body, mind and world and shows that they are unreal because they are impermanent. Further, it shows that they can’t be you because what is known to you can’t be you.
But in the end the conclusion is the same as the water/wave scenario from above. Just like the wave to the water, ‘not-atma’ is merely an appearance that does not affect the fundamental nature of the atma but it is nonetheless only atma. The artificial duality of atma/’not-atma’ is a necessary first step, but once it has done its job, it is discarded and the faux duality is healed.
L: This seems like an easy problem to resolve, but it extends insidiously to all of the study of Vedanta, and it is tripping me up. In this communication of ours, right now, there isn’t boundless conscious awareness communing perfectly with boundless conscious awareness, there are just two flesh creatures typing questions and answers into keyboards.
V: In a sense there is because as I’ve pointed out, the two flesh creatures are nothing but consciousness. The only problem is if the two flesh creatures don’t know that and they move through their lives thinking they are actually flesh creatures. But if the two unreal flesh creatures know that they are actually nothing but consciousness, then they can type and answer all they want and there is absolutely no problem. They are consciousness either way.
So there is only a cognitive shift, not a circumstantial one. You can’t get rid of the world, only understand that it’s an unreal appearance of you, the one real consciousness. When you know that, you can leave the world as it is. So type away flesh creature! But understand that you are really just consciousness and all is well.
L: Similarly, in meditation, the knowledge that “I” am infinite and eternal consciousness awareness, pulls me away from simply *being* Atma, because the thought “I am infinite consciousness” comes from the mind, which is, itself, NOT infinite consciousness.
Maybe a simpler way to say all of this is that thinking about this is sidetracking me from *being* it. This seems like a problem with Vedanta. Reading and thinking and discussing are all activities of the mind, but focusing in the mind further enmeshes the illusion that the mind is one’s true self.
V: I see that you’re using the word “being” conditionally, which is good because being consciousness is not something that requires effort or even thought. It’s what you are regardless of what you think or do.
Reading, thinking and meditating are a necessary first step because reading gives you the information and then thinking and meditating on what you read gets it clear in your mind. That’s all we’re trying to do here. You need to know that you are consciousness instead of the body and mind and further, that the body and mind are unreal appearances that never have and never will affect you. Once that’s truly clear, no reading, thinking or meditating is required. And no matter what you think or read, or how much you meditate, it never changes the fact that you are consciousness.
For instance, let’s say you have amnesia and don’t know who you are. Someone comes to you and says, “You are Lee.” They proceed to produce other people who tell you about yourself, they show you some pictures, videos, your birth certificate etc. After thinking about it, your doubt about your identity is removed and you know, “I AM Lee!” At that point do you need to keep reminding yourself who you are? No. You just know.
On the other hand, if you keep telling yourself, “I’m Lee” and thinking about it, would it enmesh you in your former ignorance and somehow make you someone other than Lee? Not at all.
So you need to study, think and meditate until it becomes clear what you truly are. After that, no studying, thinking or meditating are required BUT you will know that if those things go on they do not affect your true nature in any way.
All my best, Vishnudeva
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