Thought divides knowing into a knower and the known, loving into a lover and the beloved, and perceiving into a perceiver and the perceived. As such, it is thought alone that abstracts a subject and an object from the seamless, unnamable intimacy of pure Knowing or Experiencing.

Understanding Is Not An Event In The Mind (0ASG 67)

The release of the sense of a centre is not so much of an event as a release of any hope or expectation or need for such an event taking place.


The release of the sense of a centre is not so much of an event (e.g. “an understanding took place”) as a release of any hope or expectation or need for such an event taking place.

Best wishes,



Dear Dan,

The implication in the statement above is that ‘understanding’ is an event in the mind, that is, that it has objective qualities. This view is common in many traditional and contemporary expressions of Advaita. This view dismisses ‘understanding’ on the basis that it is ‘of the mind.’ In this view, it is realised (and quite rightly so) that the mind cannot apprehend Reality and for this reason any attempt to explore or express the nature of Reality with the mind is dismissed. And because ‘understanding’ is considered to be ‘of the mind,’ it too is dismissed along with the mind. If it were true that understanding were ‘of the mind’ this approach would be valid.

However, ‘understanding’ is not ‘of the mind.’ It is rather the opposite. Understanding is the experience of the dissolution of the mind into its source and substance.

Take again the thought, ‘What is two plus two?’ This thought is, as it were, the screen taking the shape of the ‘two plus two’ image. It is the form that Presence is taking in that moment.

When the question or thought, ‘What is two plus two?’ comes to an end, Presence remains as it always is, simply being itself or knowing its own Being, just as the screen remains present when the image disappears.

The next thought to appear is the thought, ‘Four.’ This in turn is the form that Presence is taking in that moment. It is the form in which the image on the screen appears.

The thought ‘four’ is sometimes mistaken for the understanding. However, it is not the understanding. It is an expression of the understanding, perfectly tailored to the form of the question. Understanding took place between the end of the question (‘What is two plus two?’) and the beginning of the answer (‘Four’). The mind was not present there and hence it is a timeless and non-objective experience. What else could account for the transformation of the mind between one appearance and another, between the question and its answer?

This non-objective, timeless experience is only construed as an ‘event’ by the mind when it returns. When the mind returns it creates a pseudo ‘I’ that is deemed (by the mind) to have been present ‘there’ (between the two thoughts) as the creator and witness of the understanding. But the mind was not present ‘there.’ The mind understands nothing!

Hence understanding is not an ‘event’ in the mind or of the mind and therefore has no objective qualities. Understanding only knows itself. It is simply the non-objective experience of Knowing our own being in the absence of mind. It is synonymous with Love, Happiness, Peace or Beauty.

We never understand an idea. An idea dissolves in understanding. Similarly, we never love a person. All that constitutes the ‘person’ dissolves in love.

So to return now to your statement: “The release of the sense of a centre… not so much of an event… a release of any hope or expectation or need for such an event taking place.”

It is true that the ‘release of the sense of a centre’ is not an ‘event’ of understanding. However, it is much more than simply a ‘release of any hope or expectation or need for such an event taking place.’

It is the timeless, non-event of Presence knowing its own Being - which is sometimes referred to as ‘understanding.’

It is this ‘understanding’ that gives rise to the ‘release of any hope or expectation or need for such an event taking place,’ not the other way round.

The ‘sense of a centre’ is not simply the ‘hope or expectation…for such an event taking place.’ This should be clear from the fact that the ‘sense of a centre’ is often still very much in place after the ‘hope or expectation’ referred to above has vanished. For instance it is still present in the feeling that ‘I,’ this separate self centre, is present here behind the eyes seeing these words, or in the head hearing, or remembering the past, or choosing a particular activity or whatever… many ways that the sense of a separate self is perpetuated.

It is simplistic (and very common) to think that awakening is simply the abandonment of the search for enlightenment. Rather, it is the direct seeing that what we are is not a limited and located entity, but is nevertheless present and knowing, that truly liberates us from the belief and feeling of being a person, resident in the body.

It is this clear seeing or understanding that leads, amongst other things, to the abandonment of the search, not the other way round!

Dan:  If you and I are in agreement so far, then it would seem that we can’t really hypothesize a “Presence” that does things, such as taking shapes.  
Maybe this is a subtle point…..
Rupert: Yes, it is a subtle but important point. Lyn, in a recent question, raised a similar and very legitimate point, which I hope I have clarified in my response (no. OASG 66) to her.

In brief, and in case my response to Lyn was not clear, I acknowledge that in reality, Awareness does nothing. When the mind, say, asks a question, Awareness cannot be said to be asking a question,  just as the screen does not do anything when the tiger runs across it.

When I say ‘Awareness pretends to limit itself,’ or ‘Awareness takes the shape of…’ or ‘Awareness chooses…’ I mean that the mind ‘limits…,’ ‘takes the shape of…’ or ‘chooses…’ However, Awareness is the entire substance of that mind. Hence a kind a shorthand when I say, ‘Awareness does such and such.’ It would be very tedious to say every time, ‘Awareness is the entire substance of the mind which itself ‘limits,’ ‘takes the shape of’....‘chooses’....etc.

I tend to give detailed and therefore lengthy responses and to include numerous ‘as it were’s,’ ‘seems to be’s, ‘appear to’s,’ ‘could be said’s,’ ‘another way of saying’s,’ etc. etc. so as to be clear and to remind us all frequently that these are simply attempts to point towards something that does not readily lend itself to the language of words. In this way I also hope not to fall foul of the advaita police who are very much in evidence these days, but there is a limit above which this kind of advaitically correct language becomes tedious.  

I recently wrote to a friend to ask him how he was and to send my love and I got a response back asking me who exactly I was referring to, who was sending love, how could love be sent etc…..for God’s sake!

So, I rely on a certain understanding and therefore tolerance of the inherent limitations of language when discussing these matters. It is of course legitimate to scrutinise the fine print (as you do) and to demand clarity and consistency (I welcome that) and at the same time to accommodate a liberal use of analogy and metaphor.

With love,