Role of Awareness


Are worldly phenomena only possible if we are playing the role of the observer? Or asked in a different way is the material world only there because we observe it through our distorted perception?

The objects in this world cannot be real because otherwise they would be static and not subject to change. That is impossible. Although materialistic science produced some dogmatism around this it is impossible to break down worldly phenomena in smallest elements that are unchangeable. What is true is that the worldly phenomena actually can be broken down in other phenomena or objects that on their turn also have to be seen as some kind of collections of other objects.

So we rather have to deal with countless elements that are in constant change and only become an object in the strict sense when they are perceived by somebody. It is more or less the observer who triggers the perception of something as an object and that way determines also the way and in which form the object is perceived.

Like this it is said that perception of something is only possible if there is awareness. In that theory awareness as a matter of fact is seen as the split of subject (observer) and object (worldly phenomena).

If we observe our own nature then we know that our human nature knows three states of being: the condition of being awake, the condition of dreaming during sleep and dreamless sleep. During those first two states there is awareness in the form a subject-object split, in the state of dreamless sleep there is not such a split and consequently at that time there is no perception of a phenomenal world. But obviously proved by our dreamless state of sleep reality or matter, the phenomenal world, does not seem to be a requisition for life, or better said pure being. For life as an perceived individual yes it still is, but obviously not for life energy, say pure being, itself.

This life can be seen as our consciousness. Only our consciousness seems to have two different modus: on in which it creates or at least perceives phenomena (being awake and dreaming in sleep) and one in which is does not.

So you can really wonder why most of the time consciousness has the activity of projecting perceived reality in form of a subject-object split since consciousness as a matter of fact is only pure subject.

The theory that consciousness which is passive of nature becomes awareness which is actually active and delusive of nature is explained by saying that the world is perceived through the senses of the body with which consciousness somehow unified raises a new dilemma.

If we consider the worldly phenomena being a result of the combination of consciousness and matter in form of our senses it means that awareness has to be seen as a result of this union of consciousness and matter. But right now actually we are saying that awareness is a result of a union of consciousness and matter; matter which as a matter of fact is end product and required ingredient at the same time then.

So maybe after all we can question whether the bodily senses are a requirement or not for awareness. Since after all as discussed in earlier posts even during dreamless sleep there has to be some kind of awareness of the consciousness. Otherwise at the time of waking up we would not know that we were in deep sleep the past hours but we would have a complete blank mind like a newborn child. So the question whether during dreamless sleep our senses are – be it at total low level – active is indeed very crucial…

What actually is it that triggers the effect of producing this subject-object split of consciousness which from nature actually is only subject? How is self-reference (awareness) and on that self-reference dependent co-arising at the same time possible?



Filed under Thoughts

6 responses to “Role of Awareness

  1. Yes, there is only one subject: consciousness or awareness (same thing) which, at the same time, is the only reality. Consciousness, thus, does not become awareness; it is unchangeable, attributeless. The body senses are not required for consciousness; it is the other way around… ‘The worldly phenomena being a result of the combination of consciousness and matter’. This cannot hold; besides, the ‘projection’ of phenomena is internal, as it were (cf. Brahmasutra), since there is nothing external to brahman. It is not consciousness or awareness which creates the subject-object split, but an apparent subject (jiva), due to unexplainable, beginningless ignorance (avidya). Deep sleep is objectless consciousness, because mind is absent.
    You have mentioned ‘pure consciousness’. One should distinguish between the use of either ‘consciousness’ or ‘awareness’ – of an object, and pure consciousness; a conceptual distinction.

    These are my observations to your very interesting post.

    • Thanks for sharing your observations!
      ‘The worldly phenomena being a result of combination of consciousness and matter’: with that I actually meant consciousness (say atman) in a human body with senses (=matter) is an essential factor leading to the perception of worldly phenomena.
      What is ‘projected’ of course must also be beginningless, it only becomes object when being observed.

      • Hi. I just replied, but doubt whether it went through. I agree with your last comments. I was saying that ‘the world of plurality’ is illusory, due to avidya, as you know, and a double superimposition (adhyasa), according to Shankara; both working in tandem and, as you say, also beginningless.

      • Thanks once more for contributing to this post with your informative comments.
        That’s true. There is no plurality. The problem rather is that we identify with the subject of the subject-object split created by delusion (maya).
        I think this has been for long time a problem in the thinking of the western world: religion one side, science on the other side. Each one trying to defend their own dogmas and creating duality and their own artificial authority that way.
        Still it is a mystery how exactly this delusive energy (maya) works. Even Shankara does not give clear views on this. But is something interesting to contemplate about. Maybe in another post.

      • I just responded, with a recent post (yesterday) in ‘Advaita Vision’. I think I made a mistake, calling that blog ‘Advaita…don’t remember what else.

        One has to recognize that maya (potential for manifestation in Brahman) is unreal; its root is avidya, and the way it works is adhyasa. This last is well defined by Shankara, and can be perfectly understood. Regards.

  2. I just posted this in ‘Advaita Vision’, a venue that I would recommend to you, with many other contributors and discussions from different angles.

    1) If Atman is perfect, how can it ever be deluded by mAyA?
    2) What is the source of avidyA? If there is only brahman, how and why does avidyA exist?

    A. 1) Atman cannot be deluded by maya, simply because maya is unreal. According to Shankara maya is the illusory causal seed of the world, due to avidya. The operative mode of avidya is adhyasa (a double superimposition: sat – Brahman – on a-sat – the adjuvant body-mind, and a-sat on sat), also following Shankara. This gives rise to the apparent multiplicity of phenomena, that is, to the apparent world. The world is identical in essence with, and has no independent existence from, atman-brahman. It is not the effect of a cause (brahman), since the effect is not other than, not different from, the cause.
    2) From the Absolute perspective (paramarthika) there is no avidya. Its ‘existence’ is only apparent and ultimately unexplainable, the same as with maya. It is said to be indeterminate, meaning that it is not totally unreal, as everyone can attest to from the viewpoint of this empirical world of phenomena, including of course ‘individual’ subjects. As to the source of avidya it can only be said that it, and its modus operandi, adhyasa, are coeval, congenital to the apparent individual. Thus, to ask why avidya exists is logically pointless; besides, who asks the question? To add to the mystery, Shankara avowed that trying to find the locus of avidya is ‘a wild goose chase’.

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