Investigating The Fundamental Nature of Cit (Pure Awareness)

We can take very seriously satcitananda: Being-Awareness-Peace. In the last post, I only began to sketch an account of how an inquiry into the body reveals sat, or Being. Today I wish to consider how an investigation of the mind reveals cit, or Awareness/Consciousness.

Naturally The Question Arises

Naturally, the question arises, “Who am I?” Or: “What am I?” One common, pre-investigative answer is that I am the mind, so let’s start right here.

What Is The Mind?

When we accept the axiom that only direct experience can provide us with the ‘datum’ of our investigation, then this inquiry can move very quickly.

Test whether the mind is a container, definite space, or theater in which thoughts arise. There are only two basic cases to explore. One is that the mind is in the thought that has arisen. Is that true? No. There is only, well, the thought. The other is that the mind is in the interval between thought 1 and thought 2. Is that true? No. For now, we can call this emptiness or space.

The only conclusion we can reach, through force of higher reason, is that the mind is thought or, as Ramana often said, “mind is nothing apart from thought.” Whenever thought arises, mind arises. Now this does not mean that there are two experiences: mind and thought. It means, instead, that mind is numerically identical with thought.

The implication, a quite natural one, is that the mind is intermittent (anicca). That is, there is no-mind = non-thought, and there is also mind-rising = thought-arising.

Since I am that which perceives mind-rising and mind-falling, it’s immediately clear that I am not the mind.

The Witness

Remember that we’re essentially interested, here, in the question: “Who am I?” Or we could just as easily say that we’re interested in knowing what consciousness is. Undeniably, I am conscious. Undeniably, there are qualia, or phenomenal experiences.

But am I qualia? No, for I am that which is aware of phenomenal experiences–here, the experience of thinking, i.e., the experience that is itself none other than thinking.

To say that I am the witness is to say that I am the aware background (a) to which and (b) in which thoughts are arising. These appearances (thoughts) appear to me, the witness, and they also occur in the space of witnessing awareness, i.e., in me.

But this the witness fundamentally who am I?

I Amness

Nisargadatta, helpfully, points us to the simple fact: “I am.” He suggests that “I am” is the first manifestation.

When the witness involutes or bends back on itself and “wonders” what it is, then the witness is resolved into I Amness.

Abide here in and as I Amness.

Pure Awareness

However, I Amness is ultimately unsatisfactory. Why? Because it’s still manifestation. Naturally, there is a gentle, sweet, yet persistent “hunger” to know what the ground of manifestation is.

Am I naturally resolvable into I Am? No. There must be That from which I Am arose, That on account of which it (i.e., I Am) is.

But That is Pure Awareness, or cit. Knowledge of the Self must ultimately be knowledge of Itself. The inquiry cannot end until it’s clear that there is no inquirer, no inquiring, and no inquired into. There is only Self-luminous I.