What is Awareness?
“I understand, but I am not living the Knowledge.”
“If I was Pure Awareness, I would not behave in that manner.”
“I have experienced Emptiness, but the feeling of Emptiness does not last.”
“I need to work on myself, before I can still the mind, to become Awareness.”
“Self-realisation is a deep mental inquiry into ‘Who Am I’. It is tiring. Is it even necessary?”
These are some statements I have heard from people interested in the pursuit of Awareness. A thing that is not a thing. Indescribable and unconceivable. Something beyond the conception of the mind.
Yet the mind, being the mind, conceptualises it.
“If I realised Awareness I would live like this, behave like this. To realise Awareness I have to do this, understand this or be this. The feeling of Awareness must be permanent, for it to qualify as true realisation.”
When I hear such statements I don’t know what to say. Then I remember a time when my mind would do the same thing. Generate fantasies of Enlightenment. A state of purity. Free of conflict. Unconditionally loving. Desireless. Saintly.
“What causes the mind to conceptualise something that is beyond concepts?”
Firstly, the nature of the mind is to conceptualise. The mind survives and thrives on abstraction. It creates a symbolic reality using words and images. Even if we have only heard of, never experienced a place, person or thing, the mind creates a mental representation of it. The mind anticipates how a thing will be, even if it has no first hand experience of it.
Secondly, given the spiritual literature available for consumption, the mind has enough fodder to fuel its imagination of something that is beyond imagination. Different religious and spiritual leaders, along with a plethora of books have described:
How can one attain a transcendental reality?
What one must do for it?
What happens when one gets it?
How does a realised person behave?
The more one reads and hears, the more the mind projects ideas of self-realisation.
Having exhausted my conceptualising karma, I have realised a few things.
We Are Life
One cannot do anything to be aware. One is always aware. To be aware means to be alive. To be alive means to be conscious. There is never a time when one is not alive or conscious. None of us have experience being born or dying. They are just concepts. All we have ever experienced is being alive.
Having said that we do not honour life.
We believe we are living a life. We feel we are in control of life. We think we need to make our life.
We do not realise we are life.
This realisation is not intellectual, but a matter of experience. When we pay attention to the expressions of life — breathing, sensing, tasting, smelling, hearing, touching, seeing, thinking, feeling — we become life.
Realisation is Seeing
Imagine you were passing by a dark road at night. You see an object in front. Given its coiled shape, you imagine it to be a snake. You stop in your tracks. Slowly you pull out the torch from your bag and shine it on the object. In the brightness of that light you see, what you imagined to be a snake, is actually a rope. You smile and peacefully pass by.
Self-realisation is not a state of mind that is free of thoughts. Or a mind that never experiences anger, sadness, anxiety, disturbance or confusion. It is simply a ‘realisation’ that no person is experiencing it. Sensing, perceiving, thinking, feelings, choosing, doing happens in Awareness. There is no senser, perceiver, thinker, feeler, chooser or doer.
Once one sees ‘I am not a person, all happens in awareness’ with sufficient clarity, one cannot unsee it. Just like when one sees there is no snake just a rope, nothing can make you believe it is a snake. Because you have seen it clearly. Seeing is all that was needed for Realisation.
Being. Just Being.
The eyes of the mind are concepts. The eyes of awareness is Being.
What does it mean to be?
Existing. Living. Conscious. Present. Aware. Breathing. Sensing.
Different words referring to the same thing. When we are aware of our existence, we are in touch with something tangible. When we are lost in unconscious thoughts we are living in the abstract world of concepts.
Being has no goals and aspirations. It has no past or future. It has no language. It makes no meaning. It plays no role. It simply is.
Our relative identities are the roles we play. Our primary identity is Being. Because we are, everything else is. If there was no life, there would be no life situations.
This is not an intellectual puzzle to solve. When we honour Being. Give it our attention. Acknowledge its existence. It reveals that the entire Universe is Being.
Being is the gateway to Oneness.
This Realisation does not come in the way of living a normal life. We continue to do what we do, using the language of I, me and mine. All the while realising, thought and language has only a relative function.
Unlike the conditioned mind, Being expresses itself in ways that cannot be predicted. Because the playing field of the Being is Presence. Without the burden of the past, or greed and fear of the future. It is spontaneous, effortless and natural.
Outer expressions of Being are not an indicator of Realisation. Neither is the validation of others. It requires no stamp of approval. It is an unmistakable seeing into the nature of reality. Realisation is self-evident. It is its own proof.
“The word is not the thing. The map is not the territory. And the symbol is not the thing symbolised.” says S I Hayakawa in his classic book on semantics Language in Thought and Action. Conceptualising Awareness is like taking the reflection of the Moon in water as the Moon itself.
The best use of concepts is to free ourself from concepts. The finger pointing towards the Sun is not the Sun. Similarly words pointing towards Silence are not the Silence. Yet they play a vital role. They help us to cross the ocean of concepts, by shining the torch of Awareness on all concepts.
When all the concepts of the mind are seen as concepts, including the concept ‘I am a person’ then there is nothing more to see. The false is seen as false.
In that seeing Nothing remains.