Non-duality is not an immunization against feeling. In fact, it is the opposite: it is unconditional openness, sensitivity, vulnerability and possibility.

When there is a need for food, how can we say that consciousness has freedom?


Dear Rupert,

As thoughts slow down and one gets into a ‘nowness’ of consciousness, one is not specifically conscious of the external world. But in this position, the breath is audible and feels to be existing close to you. Thoughts also seem to give a feeling of carrying your ID card and address. Now the thoughts and breath remind you of ‘your’ body’s presence! One, of course, cannot be breathless, which feels so close.

Consciousness requires a living body to manifest. So breath is the first dependence for consciousness to manifest. This brings out the issue of another dependence of the body organism: food. The need for food (for every creature) involves ineluctable violence, predator–prey struggle on one hand and destruction on the other hand, and hence inescapable misery to the prey. When there is dependency on food, how can one describe consciousness as having freedom?

Talking of freedom, here is another ‘lack’ of freedom. Rupert is writing a book and talking ‘as consciousness’. Why doesn’t that Rupert-consciousness shining through the node of sensations which can be called Rupert-body enjoy the freedom to enter Ramesam-body and know Ramesam-mind? If the question is too confusing or cryptic, I can elaborate.

Thanks and regards,
Rames
am

 

Dear Ramesam,

Thank you for your email, and it is neither confusing nor cryptic.

Ramesan:As thoughts slow down and one gets into a ‘nowness’ of consciousness, one is not specifically conscious of the external world.

Rupert: I’m sure you understand this, but just for clarity, there is no separate entity present that gets into the ‘nowness’ of consciousness. Consciousness is always ‘now’, that is, it is ever-present. So ‘now’ is not a moment in time nor even a present moment. There is no present moment. There is the ‘nowness’, the timeless, ever-presence of consciousness, in whichthe idea of time appears ‘from time to time’.

In the absence of thoughts, there may still be sensations and perceptions. That is, when there are no thoughts, there may well be the appearance of the body and/or the world.

But in this position, the breath is audible and feels to be existing close to you. Thoughts also seem to give a feeling of carrying your ID card and address. Now the thoughts and breath remind you of ‘your’ body’s presence! One, of course, cannot be breathless, which feels so close.

Our apparently objective experience consists of thoughts and images (mind), sensations (body) and perceptions (world). Normally we think that thoughts and sensations, that is, the mind and the body, are close and made out of ‘me’, and that perceptions are distant and made out of a substance that is ‘not me’. This substance we call ‘matter’.

However, if we look directly and simply at our experience, we find first of all that every appearance of the mind, body and world takes place at the same distance from consciousness, and that distance is no distance at all. 

Then, when we look further and try to find if there is a substance to the mind, body and world other than the substance of the consciousness that knows them, we find nothing. We come to see therefore that consciousness is simultaneously the witness and the substance of allappearances of the body, mind and world, not just some of them (the body-mind). In other words, instead of believing, ‘I am something’ (the body) it knows ‘I am everything’.

Take time to explore your experience in this way. Take a thought, for instance, a memory of childhood or the question of what to have for dinner tonight. Then take an image, say, the face of a friend; then a bodily sensation, such as the tingling of the hands or the sensation of the breath; and finally a perception of the world, such as the sound of passing traffic or the sight of the moon. 

See that although the mind conceptualises all these different experiences as taking place at varying distances from consciousness, that is, from that which knows them, and also as being made out of a variety of different substances, in fact they all appear in the same ‘place’ and are made out of the same ‘stuff’.

Another approach is to take each of the experiences referred to above and ask yourself how far each appearance is from ‘experiencing’. See that everything is one with experiencing. Now ask yourself how far experiencing is from yourself. Is it at a distance? No! All experiencing takes place ‘here’, in this placeless place, and is all made out of ‘myself’.

In other words, reduce the known to knowing, and then further reduce knowing to yourself. It is only the mind that superimposes objectivity onto the intimacy of our experience and thereby creates apparent objects, others and entities out of the seamlessness of ‘experiencing’.

 

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Consciousness requires a living body to manifest. So breath is the first dependence for consciousness to manifest.

No, consciousness requires a mind to manifest, not a body. The mind, in the broadest sense of the word, comprises thinking, imagining, sensing and perceiving. The body (sensing and perceiving) is made out of this mind stuff. 

Look to your dreams to see the truth of this. In your dream, the body and the world appear to be as real as the body and the world that appear in the waking state. In fact, from the point of view of the dream, it is experienced as if it were a waking state. Indeed, we cannot be sure that this so-called waking state is not a dream. After all, it is made out of exactly the same stuff a dream is made of, that is, mind (thinking, sensing and perceiving). 

In other words, the body is contained the mind. The mind is not contained in the body. So this leads to the question as to what the mind is made of. Again, go to your experience of a dream. 

When we wake up from a dream we realise instantly that the individual self that we took ourself to be in the dream, plusall the other people, the buildings, the landscape, the sky, and so on, were all made out of our self alone. In fact, we mistook our self to be an individual entity in the dream, just as we do in the waking state. 

Upon waking, however, we discover that everything that appeared in the dream appeared in and was made out of ‘me’ (consciousness). ‘I’, which seemed in the dream to be just one of the entities present, turns out upon waking to have been the substance of allthe apparent entities, objects and others in the dream. Exactly the same is true of the waking state, for as we have already seen, the waking state is made out of exactly the same stuff as the dream, that is, mind.

What does consciousness do when it ‘wants’ to manifest (please excuse the anthropomorphisation)? As consciousness is the only substance present within itself out of which such a mind could be made, it makes its own self into an apparent mind. That is, it takes the shape of thinking, thereby creating the appearance (within itself and made only out of itself) of something (a body and a world) that seems to be at a distance from and made out of something other than itself.

In your culture this magical display of mind is called Maya, as you know, and Maya is not the same as ignorance. Ignorance is the belief that this display of appearances is real in itself, that it is made out of something other than consciousness. Upon awakening to the reality of our experience, ignorance disappears, but Maya does not.

 

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This brings out the issue of another dependence of the body organism: food. The need for food (for every creature) involves ineluctable violence, predator–prey struggle on one hand and destruction on the other hand, and hence inescapable misery to the prey. When there is dependency on food, how can one describe consciousness as having freedom?

First of all I would like to distinguish between physical pain, which is an inevitable and necessary adjunct of the body, and psychological suffering, which is quite unnecessary and serves no purpose in terms of the survival of the species.

Having said that, consciousness does not depend on food. It is quite happy resting in its own being, without taking the shape of the mind, the body or the world. When it ‘desires’ to manifest, it does so out of its own innate freedom. 

If there is nothing other than consciousness (and that is our own intimate experience), what could possibly bind consciousness? Consciousness appears to be bound (but in fact is not) only out of its freedom to appear as such, just as an actor willingly plays the role of Hamlet and seems as a result to be bound by Hamlet’s experience.

Talking of freedom, here is another ‘lack’ of freedom. Rupert is writing a book and talking ‘as consciousness’. Why doesn’t that Rupert-consciousness shining through the node of sensations which can be called Rupert-body enjoy the freedom to enter Ramesam-body and know Ramesam-mind? If the question is too confusing or cryptic, I can elaborate.

On the contrary, consciousness is writing the book and talking as ‘Rupert’. Rupert’s mind, like all minds, only has the capacity to take the shape of one object at a time, but that does not mean that the limitations of Rupert’s mind apply to the consciousness in which it appears. 

The presumption that consciousness shares the limitations of the mind and the body is simply a belief. It is a religion to which the vast majority of humanity unknowingly subscribes (strangely, those who profess to be of no religious persuasion usually subscribe to this religion more vehemently than all others), in spite of the fact that one simple look at our experience shows that there is no evidence for such a belief.

Consciousness is freedom itself and has the ability to appear as innumerable minds, just as innumerable documents can appear on a screen. One document cannot see another, but the screen ‘knows’ all the documents simultaneously.

With kind regards,
Rupert