Without Awareness, There Is No Experience

It’s astonishing to realize something that kept, before then, going past one’s understanding. It’s this: Without awareness, there is no (direct) experience.

That is, if awareness isn’t shining its light on experience X, then experience X cannot appear. There’s no there there.

To be clear, it’s not as if experience X is “waiting in the wings,” only for awareness to “bright it on stage.” Nor is experience X “dormant” or “latent” before it is made “active.” It’s much simpler than this–and much more shocking: the truth is that experience X arises only when and just so long as it’s lit up by the light of awareness.

If that weren’t astonishing enough, it may then dawn on you that every experience is appearing in the space of awareness. In some sense, it could be said that experience X is “floating free” in the open, welcoming space of awareness. Or it could be said that X is arising “out of” the ground or field of awareness, only to then subside back into this ground or field.

Not only is every experience an arising to awareness; it’s also an arising in awareness.

But then what is most astonishing of all is to understand–directly and intimately–that every experience is nothing other than awareness. What a surprise! It’s as if the experience were draped in or saturated by awareness. No, clearer and closer than that: it’s as if the inner heart, essence, or very vibrancy of this experience just were awareness. The very shining of this arising is the shining of awareness. The very “make” of the arising is precisely, and only, awareness.

If this sounds like Sri Atmananda, well that’s because it is. And also because it isn’t. It is in the sense that clearly his investigation leads one to the understanding above. Yet it isn’t in that the practitioner is, and can only be, the one who directly sees what is now apparent in his or her own experiential understanding.

Logical Surrender In Sri Atmananda

Atma Darshan

In Atma Darshan, Sri Atmananda argues:

[1] Objects of Consciousness can never be separated from Consciousness itself. [2] They have no independent existence. [3] They are therefore nothing other than Consciousness.

Higher Reasoning

“Objects of Consciousness can never be separated from Consciousness itself.”

  1. The physical object–the seen, for instance–reveals itself to be reducible to forms (specifically to shape and color and, upon further reduction still, to color only.) (*)
  2. But forms cannot exist apart from, e.g., the act of seeing.
  3. But then seeing cannot operate without Consciousness. That is, Consciousness is what, as it were, “lights up” the act of seeing, i.e., every act of seeing just when there is seeing, here and now.

“They have no independent existence.”

Here, out of kindness Atmananda offers us this second pointer. I say “out of kindness” because the first pointer (“Objects of Consciousness can never be separated from Consciousness itself”) actually suffices.

Test this:

  • Can any arising–like hearing or thinking–be discovered as existing apart from Awareness or, what is the same thing here, Consciousness?
  • Suppose, as Goode suggests in Standing as Awareness, you “whittle” phenomena down to (i) “arisings” or “just arising” as well as to (ii) Awareness or Consciousness. Don’t you then have to ask whether arisings could appear separately from Consciousness? If arisings (like the believed-in physical objects that have since been found to be nonexistent) can have no independent existence, then mustn’t they too be folded into Consciousness?

“They are therefore nothing other than Consciousness.”

The screws have all been tightened! There is no place for an arising to go, nothing for it to be but Consciousness! Arisings must merge into Consciousness. (More strictly put, they mustn’t have ever have been anything but Consciousness).

Any attempt–in direct experience, that is–to posit an arising, any arising, as being other than Consciousness yields something impossible to find and therefore an unintelligibility in point of fact. Again, any attempt to “hive something off” from Consciousness is defeated. Ultimately, it must be understood that Reality is only–thoroughgoingly–Consciousness.

We might call this approach not just the Direct Path to Truth, as it is commonly called, but also “logical surrender.”

* * *

(*) Greg Goode’s The Direct Path: A User’s Guide spells this out crisply, clearly, and elegantly. Also fine is his short and very accessible book Standing as Awareness. The latter, in fact, could be read before turning to the former book.

Inspired By Sri Atmananda Menon

I. If you take your stand as the body, then you take yourself to be the doer and enjoyer.

II. If you take your stand as a samskara, then you take yourself to be the feeler, the pain body.

III. If you take your stand as the mind, then you take yourself to be the thinker and knower.

IV. If you take your stand as awareness, then you ARE clarity and peace.

V. When you no longer stand as awareness, it’s because you are THAT.