If the idea of the self as consciousness doesn’t help you, don’t use it


Jenny: It is clear we are not different from the totality of existence but it is not clear that all of existence is consciousness.  I can see how my personal ‘world’ (my experience) is only consciousness but the entire universe being consciousness can only be speculation.  I’m not relating to the idea of the world being consciousness.


Vishnudeva: That’s okay.  I could launch into a long winded justification for the idea that the universe is consciousness but truly, if you don’t relate to the idea of the universe being consciousness then set it aside and focus on the existence aspect instead.  This is just fine because Vedanta is not trying to prove that the universe is consciousness (or even existence).  Rather, it simply employs those concepts to point to the fact that the true nature of the universe is non-dual and not limited by the appearance of objects.  And further, that the true nature of the universe is identical with your true nature, that YOU are non-dual and unaffected by the appearance of objects.  Getting to that understanding is what is important, not how you get there.     

So always keep in mind that the teaching method of Vedanta is to temporarily superimpose concepts onto reality that point to the truth.  The superimposed concepts are not the truth they point to, which means they are relative and subject to later negation*Once the concept has served its purpose, you disregard it in the same way that you disregard a finger after it has pointed to a star you were searching for in the sky.  This means the concepts themselves are not what is important so you can use whichever ones make the most sense to you.  I once had a teacher who said (I’m paraphrasing) that you don’t need all of Vedanta’s many teachings to understand who you really are.  You just need the ones that address your particular doubts.  If the consciousness teaching isn’t helping you see that your nature is non-dual and ever-free then don’t worry about it right now and focus on the existence teaching.  You may never need the consciousness teaching or perhaps it will help you later.  For me, the consciousness teaching helped me at the initial stages but the existence teaching is the one that ‘sealed the deal.’  And in the end I gave up both teachings because my true nature is beyond all concepts, “that from which words and the mind turn back, unable to reach.” (Taittiriya Upanishad 2:4:1)   

All my best- Vishnudeva     

*The teaching method I’ve described is called adhyaropa apavada, superimposition and negation.  In his commentary on Bhagavad Gita 13:12, Shankara references it as the method of teaching known to those versed in the tradition.