Do Appearances Veil or Reveal Consciousness?On page 57 of your book you refer to the traditional Vedic teachings as sometimes emphasizing the veiling power of appearances that obscure the background of consciousness, and that in the Tantric approach the very same appearances are understood to reveal and express the background itself. Is there any light you can shed on this?
Just a note to express appreciation for the light that you have brought to the topics presented, and also for your book which I am also reading. I have just participated in a satsang retreat in NYC with Mooji who you may be familiar with. Your approaches in addressing the essential question of Who am I? dovetail beautifully, with both arising from such authentic seeing.
I do have one question: On page 57 of your page you refer to the traditional Vedic teachings as sometimes emphasizing the veiling power of appearances that obscure the background of consciousness, and that in the Tantric approach the very same appearances are understood to reveal and express the background itself. When I read this I was reminded of a sentiment expressed in a Philosophy School I attended years back for about 20 years (School of Practical Philosophy in US and known as the School of Economic Science in England. It was that at first nature conspired to keep one from obtaining understanding, sort of the idea maybe that ignorance was necessary to keep the world going, but that at some point it turns around and supports one’s quest for liberation. Is there any light you can shed on this?
In deep appreciation;
I attended regular meetings at the sister organisation to the School of Economic Science in London for over twenty years, so have some experience of what you are referring to.
1) Does ‘nature conspire to keep one from obtaining understanding?’ No, this idea itself is based on a misunderstanding. From the point of view of ignorance, nature produces the brain and the brain produces the mind. From the point of view of understanding, Consciousness ‘produces’ the mind and the mind ‘produces’ the brain. From either perspective nature and the mind are inseparable. Thus the question could be reformulated as, ‘Does the mind conspire to keep one from obtaining understanding?’
No! It is not the mind (that is, thinking, sensing and perceiving) that ‘conspires to keep one from obtaining understanding,’ but rather one single belief, which appears from time to time amongst innumerable other thoughts, sensations and perceptions. The belief in question is the unfounded belief that the Consciousness that we intimately and directly know ourselves to be is bound to, limited by and shares the characteristics of, a body/mind.
It is this belief alone which appears to keep one from understanding. However, this idea, along with all other thoughts, sensations and perceptions, is an expression of the absolute freedom of Consciousness. Without Consciousness’ seal of approval, as it were, nothing can appear. Therefore there is no conspiracy. Consciousness ‘gives itself’ utterly and absolutely to every appearance. Nothing binds or compels Consciousness other than its own willingness or volition (if I may be permitted to use an anthropomorphic term) to appear bound or compelled.
What is there or what could there be, out of which such a compulsion or binding could be made? There is, in reality, nothing other than Consciousness and Consciousness obviously cannot really veil itself from itself or bind itself, although it may appear to do so from a limited perspective, that is from the perspective of mind.
In other words, there is only one Reality that can be seen from two different points of view. When viewed through the lens of apparent ignorance, that one Reality appears as multiplicity and diversity. When viewed without any filter, it is seen aright, that is, it is known to be made of Consciousness alone.
Or we could say, from the point of view of apparent ignorance, nature or mind seems to veil Consciousness and once this apparent veiling has taken place, everything that appears in nature or mind seems to confirm and substantiate this view. However, from the point of view of understanding, the very same nature or mind indicates, confirms and expresses that fact that Consciousness is the sole Reality of all appearances. In other words, the world appears in accordance with our beliefs (rather than the other way round).
Maya is the Sanskrit word that is given to this veiling/revealing power. In other words it is not Maya (as some schools of traditional advaita believe) but rather ignorance that seems to bind Consciousness.
In other words, as William Blake said, “As a man is, so he sees.” That is, it is the way we see that determines whether we experience nature or mind as a veiling power or a revealing power. It is not nature or mind that determines the way we see.
This belief that mind (in this case, thinking) is the enemy of truth, enlightenment or understanding, is a popular and simplistic misconception found in many expressions of contemporary, as well as traditional, advaita. It results from a lack of clarity between what could be described as two different sorts of reasoning.
The reasoning that is used in this expression of the teaching is derived directly from the non-objective experience of our true nature. These lines of reasoning compare or measure all the conventional beliefs we have about ourselves and about the nature of experience, with this direct, intimate, non-objective experience. Atmananda Krishnamenon described this type of reasoning as Higher Reasoning to distinguish it from what is normally considered to be reasoning (conventional reasoning).
Conventional reasoning makes implicit reference to a number of fundamental beliefs that are considered to be so obviously and absolutely true as to be beyond the realm of doubt or question. Such beliefs are the belief that Consciousness is limited and local, that it is a by-product of the brain, that it appears in time and space etc, etc….
Higher Reasoning subjects these beliefs to the reality of our experience. In other words Higher Reasoning is not really something that is done by the mind. It is a subjection of the mind to the Reality of our experience. Another way of saying this would be to say that Higher Reason is a revealing power in the service of truth and that Conventional Reason is a concealing power in the service of apparent ignorance.
2) You say: “....maybe ignorance is needed to keep the world going…” It depends on what is meant by ‘keep the world going.’ If we mean to keep the physical planet and all forms of live in existence then, from that relative level, one could argue that it is precisely the opposite, ie. that it is ignorance itself that is at the root of all the conflicts and crises that threaten the stability of the world.
However, if by ‘ ignorance is needed to keep the world going’ we mean that ignorance is responsible for the idea that there is a world ‘out there’ and that when this ignorance is dissolved so is the apparent world that is its own illusory creation, then the statement is correct.
3) You say: “....at some point it (nature) turns around and supports one’s quest for liberation….” Yes, as soon as the quest for liberation has been born in one’s heart, everything that seemed previously to be an obstruction in one’s life, turns around and supports that quest. In fact even before the quest becomes manifest, it is still the case, because it was precisely those moments when nature seemed most to frustrate or thwart us (a failed relationship, the loss of a job, an illness etc.) that were in fact the catalyst, at the level of the mind, for the birth of the quest.