‘Why Does Consciousness Think That It Is Something Other Than Itself?’

This is word-for-word the question posed to Sri Atmananda on October 13, 1951.

His reply:

This is a question very often asked. Now, examining the question itself, we find that it is asked from the position that such an identification exists. And this question has also conceded the existence of body, senses and mind, besides that of Consciousness transcending all these.

Notes on Spiritual Discourses of Shri Atmananda: Volume I, p. 143.

Atmananda, of course, will reject this assumption: the body, senses, and mind do not exist. They do not exist in the sense that they have only a “derived existence”: their temporary existence depends upon Consciousness. Furthermore, they do not exist in that they are, in fact, nothing other than Consciousness. As a result, no such identification is possible.

Consciousness and everything other than Consciousness exist in two different planes. When we look from the plane of Consciousness, we find there is nothing other than Consciousness, and there this question cannot arise.

Ibid, p. 144.

Talk of “two different planes” is a teaching tool. It is not meant literally (just as the discrimination between the unreal and the Real is not meant literally or finally). Granting this provisional distinction, we “look from the plane of Consciousness” and here only see Consciousness. For Consciousness, there can only be Consciousness just as for a black hole there can only be a black hole (or just as for a hammer there can only be hammer-ables).

When looked at from the mind’s plane and conceding the existence of both world and Consciousness, it has been proved that Consciousness can be there only as a witness. The witness witnesses only perceptions, and not objects. It has also been proved that perception is nothing other than Consciousness itself. For this reason also, the world is an illusion and the question cannot arise.

Ibid, p. 144.

Assume that the mind–and so the mind’s plane–exists. Sadhana demonstrates that Consciousness shows up as the witness of mind and of “world.” But then further investigation reveals that, for the witness, the world is reducible to sense perceptions (seeing, touching, smelling, hearing, and tasting). Hence, what ceases to make sense is the positing of physical objects. But then perception, it can be understood through inquiry, appears to the witness, arises in the witness, has its arising made possible by the witness, and subsides into the witness. This is to say that the perception, via the “full court press” of the witness, is left with nothing else to be but Consciousness. But without any objects, there can be no witness. The witness, accordingly, sinks back into Pure Consciousness.

The world thus being shown to be an illusion, the question cannot arise.

In short:

The question cannot arise in Consciousness, since the world is not there. Nor can it arise in the mind’s plane, since you cannot drag down Consciousness to the mind’s level and make it part of the apparent world.

Ibid, p. 144.

But since these are our only two options–to wit, the plane of Consciousness and that of the mind–and since the inquiry has shown that the question cannot arise on either plane, it follows that the question cannot arise.

The question, again: “Why does Consciousness think that it is something other than itself?” It does not. The question quite simply cannot arise.

In other words, just be Consciousness and thus just be Peace.