The Awareness Teaching: A Brief Overview

The Awareness Teaching

1. There are, perhaps, 2 main versions of the perennial nondual teaching when it comes to the path of knowledge: the first is the awareness teaching, the second the emptiness teaching. (One brief comparison by the sharp Greg Goode.) I believe that the awareness teaching makes the most sense for most of those stepping foot onto this path (again, the path of knowledge).

2. The awareness teaching states very simply: “There is only Pure Awareness.” That’s it! That’s all that truly exists (= sat)!

3. Often, various “levels”–as teaching tools–are introduced in order to (so to speak) bring one from misidentification with the bodymind to proper understanding of Oneself as Pure Awareness. In the end, these “rafts” are let go of as one comes to “the other shore.” More precisely, one realizes that one has never left Pure Awareness and thus that one simply had to apperceive This.

4. Among other tools are these: witnessing awareness and samskaric investigations. The latter intends to show us very vividly what we are not. In this respect, it is part of what some have termed “purification.” The former offers up “a bridge” to Pure Awareness.

Introduction: Direct Experience

1. We can, thanks to Advaita Vedanta, introduce one new term that will prove to be exceptionally helpful. That term is direct experience. It’s meant to allow us to answer the question: “What temporarily exists?” 

2. The answer to that question is: direct experience. By “direct experience,” I mean whatever it is that can arise. For now, let’s say that these include:

  • Physical sensation (physically sensing)
  • Touching
  • Tasting
  • Smelling
  • Hearing
  • Seeing
  • Thinking
  • Feeling
  • Desiring

3. The other reason we introduce direct experience is that it helps to dispel two myths. That first myth is the myth of “naive realism“: the view according to which the senses provide us with direct access to what already, objectively exists (i.e., exists independent of sense perception). The second myth: that physicalism (the view according to which only the physical exists) is true. Instead, we opt for an idealist position: there is only Pure Awareness, and therefore everything is Pure Awareness.

4. A step back: why does this matter? Because in the Eastern teaching what is brought out is that a sense of separation (= ignorance) is the cause of suffering. So, to truly understand that there is only sense of separation in Reality, only a single Substance that is Pure Awareness is indeed the end of suffering. 

Direct Experience, Inquiry, & Awareness

1. We’re in a position to set forth the basic “instruments” we’ll use to undertake our inquiry into (a) who we aren’t (see ND #1-3) and into (b) who we really are.

2. These include direct experience, inquiry, and Awareness.

3. Direct experience, as already implied, is the “primary datum.” It provides us with our starting point. I mean you can’t spit without “hitting” experience. The act of spitting is experiencing, the act of breathing is experiencing, the act of seeing the spit is experiencing, hearing the spit splat is experiencing, etc. In other words, we’re not swimming in anything but experiencing. At least that’s how we begin (until we see that there is only Pure Awareness).

4. Next, inquiry is the modus operandi. We test, explore, and verify through questioning. Just one version to illustrate: (a) “Can I find in my direct experience of hearing any evidence of egoity?” I “look” (so to say) and realize that I cannot. (b) Well then: “Can I find behind my direct experience of thinking any evidence of egoity?” No. 

5. And then (variously) awareness, witnessing awareness, or the witnessing state fills out the rest of what we need, at least for now. The Higher Reasoning goes like this:

Case 1:

  • X is either direct experience, or X is witnessing awareness.
  • In this case, X is a direct experience.
  • Then, X is a direct experience (e.g., feeling).

That is to say, tautologically so, that there is in X nothing but X (for now).

Case 2:

  • X is either direct experience, or X is witnessing awareness.
  • In this case, X is not a direct experience.
  • Then, X is witnessing awareness.

We end up through inquiry reducing everything, then, to experiences and witnessing awareness.

6. Moreover, through inquiry, we see–usually logically, i.e., one after the other–the following:

  • 1: Direct experience X arises TO witnessing awareness.
  • 2: Direct experience X arises IN witnessing awareness.
  • 3: Direct experience X arises AS Awareness. (I.e., every experience–that is to say, everything–is nothing but Awareness.)

Test: Ego

1. Therefore, one line of inquiry involves looking for an ego (of various sorts). Take but one example:

  • Anger arises. This is the direct experience of feeling.
  • Turn inside the body and see that anger is just sensation-energy.
  • Ask Q #1: “Is there any evidence of ego in this sensation-energy?” (No.)
  • Ask Q #2: “Is there any evidence of ego outside of this sensation-energy?” (No.)

Notice that Q #1 and Q #2 cover all the logical cases–all but one. Perhaps this is true: ego is not an object/experience that can be found because ego is the subject of experience. OK, then. Ask: “What is the background of all experiencing right now?” The answer turns out to be witnessing awareness. But then the latter must be the subject of all experience. Therefore, since ego is not an object/experience and also since ego is not the subject, there is “no place” for ego to be. Therefore, ego does not exist.

Many other inquiries are helpful in that each one, little by little, loosens the grip on the illusion that the ego exists. 

2. But why does, e.g., looking for ego matter? In order to show that it doesn’t exist (no sat). But why does its inexistence matter? Because ego is the illusion of delimitation and localization. No ego, no localization. But without localization, there’s only Global Awareness. QED.

In Brief

Awareness is awaring in the modes of hearing, seeing, touching, thinking, and so forth. In this, there is only the vibrating of the single Substance of Awareness. Awareness, untouched, pristine, appears to vibrant forth, to “experience out” or “expand out” (in the words of Kashmir Shaivism) into manifestations before it “returns” to Itself as Itself. 

You are That. 


Know this!