The experience of awareness is challenging to conceptualize and present. It’s like Explaining the taste of sugar to someone who’s never consumed it. No matter how much I tell you about its sweetness or pleasantness, you’ll know only when you experience it for yourself.
I can’t even say that awareness is an experience. As Nisargadatta Maharaj in his book, I AM THAT, told that all experiences happen against a changeless background.
This background does not have a dimension perceivable by the senses or thought of by the mind. You can explain something that exists relative to the absolute. But how do you explain the absolute that exists as the only reality without a second?
A question that usually comes up is, “is there any other reality beyond the mind, or is the mind just making up stories?” And trust me when I tell you that I have no way to prove this experience to you.
Any experience that I talk about is a product of my mind. Yet, this experience or realization is the timeless now. Every time the awareness reveals (it is not a constant state), I’m left with tears in my eyes, and my heart is filled with love.
The intensity of this love is so high that it seems like my heart will explode. I find myself no more living this life as an individual but as the pure awareness in which the whole universe appears. It breaks down all the egoic structures like l, me, mine, this, that, etc.
For the past six months, I have been experiencing debilitating lower back pain. I’m better now, but in the past months, the pain was so acute that I could not sit or stand for long durations of time.
According to my doctor, it was the result of sitting and working long hours on the laptop with the hunched back posture; as you probably know, before mindfulness happened, I was a software developer.
But believe me when I tell you that I’ve never been more joyful in my entire life. I feel the pain, and sometimes I groan in discomfort, but there’s no psychological suffering because the sense of individual doership is gone.
There’re no questions like, “why did it happen to me” “why wasn’t I more careful with my posture,” “what bad karma have I done to deserve this suffering,” and so on.
These questions arise in the thinking mind that the ego strongly identifies with. It is what I call the involvement in time. Ego loves involvement. It either throws you in the past to suffer or in the future fantasies. Even this fantasy is suffering because it strengthens the mind’s identifications.
Q. What about identification with this awareness? Isn’t it also a state of mind?
Of course, it is a state of mind, but the identification with awareness is impossible since it does not have form and cannot be conceptualized by the mind in any way. What you truly experience is a reflection of this pure awareness as consciousness in which the “I-sense” illuminates.
Then how do we know that it exists? As I mentioned earlier, I have no way to prove it. It is my aliveness. It is my being or direct knowing. Or, as Nisargadatta Maharaj said, “it is my natural state.”
You see, who wants the proof? It is the ego, the intellect. How would you do it if I ask you to prove the intensity of love you feel for your loved ones? You can, at the most, express in words, but can that recreate the same feeling in me? No, it can’t.
Q. I understand what you’re saying intellectually, but how do I experience this bliss as my mind is restless?
Mind is not interested in knowing the truth. It simply bifurcates concepts, as useful or useless, to create duality. Therefore, the mind will always remain skeptical. The restlessness is to keep you engaged in the involvement. When you’re involved, you’re unaware, detached from your natural state.
While the intellectual understanding of any concept is essential, the actual understanding happens when the intellect gives up the resistance, and the heart opens. The love is felt in the heart.
And when this happens, you don’t need any proof because it is your direct experience. It happens spontaneously. In this experience, the individual disappears, and all that is left is pure-unchanging-empty-awareness or pure love. So the nondual bliss (impersonal) is experienced in the dissolution of the ego.
While I see the world of diversity in appearances, there’s unity or oneness in my heart. Behind the facade of duality, we are all one timeless awareness without a second. Some of you will accept my awareness concept, and some will discard it as absurd and nonsense. And that’s okay.
The Cycle of Pain and Pleasure
Pain and pleasure are related to thoughts, and thought happens in time. The awareness, on the other hand, is timeless. It is in the present moment or now.
The thinking mind alternates between pain and pleasure-mostly pain. It is strongly identified with the personal self that we know as the “I-Sense.”
This I-sense creates structures for worldly interactions, but in the process, makes strong identifications. The personas that we create consciously and subconsciously are all tied with the I-sense.
For example, we may have strong identifications with our profession, religion, desires, or role in the family and society. We may think of ourselves as good-natured, humble, and virtuous.
But all of these are identifications. We experience pleasure when society validates these roles and strengthens the corresponding identifications, and we experience pain when someone challenges them.
We feel anger and hatred when someone or something comes in between our desires, which in turn, leads to suffering. So is it wrong to create identifications? No. There’s no right or wrong here.
The suffering happens not because of identifications but the grasping of them. The desire to hold them and make them permanent. Let’s understand this with another example.
Say you’re a working-class income earner, and you have a decent amount of bank balance. Now, if you have a firm grasp of fear or insecurity of losing all your money, you are likely to become too identified with bank balance.
The moment unforeseen expenses arise, and the bank balance goes down, you’ll experience frustration and anger. The problem is not the fear of losing money but the attachment to the fear, a deeply ingrained thought.
It is okay to be a little cautious about your spending habits, and there will be some concern when the bank balance goes down. If you’re aware in that moment, rather than reacting emotionally, you will immediately accept the situation and take the corrective measure or whatever is possible in the given case.
But when you invoke the thinking mind (ego), all you hear is, why me, why am I so unlucky, etc., etc. – the never-ending rant of the ego – “me and my story.”
In the eternal light of awareness, the small I disappears, and the big I or the absolute awareness becomes a reality. The small I completely accept the cycle of pain and pleasure, and the ego realizes that it was never the doer of any of its actions.
All problems dissolve, and all questions disappear. It is not ego death. If the ego dies, the body will not sustain itself. Instead, the ego is restored to functional aspects of dualistic living, like taking care of the body and mind.
The ego does not create pride because it knows that it is not the doer. And at the same time, the ego will not create hatred because it knows that even the others are not the doer of their actions. Hence, the awareness lights the inextinguishable flame of love in the heart.
Please note that the realization of awareness does not make us into perfect human beings. Perfection is the projection of ego. Even after realization, we remain with our flaws, except that there’s complete awareness of them, and hence, they lose their ability to affect us emotionally.
In my concept, this is called understanding the self. It is not a personal event in time. It is our true nature as the infinite consciousness or the timeless awareness.
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