50. Self-awareness is the Witness
Questioner: You told me that I can be considered under three aspects: the personal (vyakti), the super-personal (vyakta) and the impersonal (avyakta). The Avyakta is the universal and real pure ‘I’; the Vyakta is its reflection in consciousness as ‘I am’; the Vyakti is the totality of physical and vital processes. Within the narrow confines of the present moment, the super-personal is aware of the person, both in space and time; not only one person, but the long series of persons strung together on the thread of karma. It is essentially the witness as well as the residue of the accumulated experiences, the seat of memory, the connecting link (sutratma). It is man’s character which life builds and shapes from birth to birth. The universal is beyond all name and shape, beyond consciousness and character, pure un-selfconscious being. Did I put down your views rightly?
Maharaj: On the level of the mind — yes. Beyond the mental level not a word applies.
Q: I can understand that the person is a mental construct, a collective noun for a set of memories and habits. But, he to whom the person happens, the witnessing centre, is it mental too?
M: The personal needs a base, a body to identify oneself with, just as a colour needs a surface to appear on. The seeing of the colour is independent of the colour — it is the same whatever the colour. One needs an eye to see a colour. The colours are many, the eye is single. The personal is like the light in the colour and also in the eye, yet simple, single, indivisible and unperceivable, except in its manifestations. Not unknowable, but unperceivable, un-objectival, inseparable. Neither material nor mental, neither objective nor subjective, it is the root of matter and the source of consciousness. Beyond mere living and dying, it is the all-inclusive, all-exclusive Life, in which birth is death and death is birth.
Q: The Absolute or Life you talk about, is it real, or a mere theory to cover up our ignorance?
M: Both. To the mind, a theory; in itself — a reality. It is reality in its spontaneous and total rejection of the false. Just as light destroys darkness by its very presence, so does the absolute destroy imagination. To see that all knowledge is a form of ignorance is itself a movement of reality. The witness is not a person. The person comes into being when there is a basis for it, an organism, a body. In it the absolute is reflected as awareness. Pure awareness becomes self-awareness. When there is a self, self-awareness is the witness. When there is no self to witness, there is no witnessing either. It is all very simple; it is the presence of the person that complicates. See that there is no such thing as a permanently separate person and all becomes clear. Awareness — mind — matter — they are one reality in its two aspects as immovable and movable, and the three attributes of inertia, energy and harmony.
Q: What comes first: consciousness or awareness?
M: Awareness becomes consciousness when it has an object. The object changes all the time. In consciousness there is movement; awareness by itself is motionless and timeless, here and now.
Q: There is suffering and bloodshed in East Pakistan at the present moment. How do you look at it? How does it appear to you, how do you react to it?
M: In pure consciousness nothing ever happens.
Q: Please come down from these metaphysical heights! Of what use is it to a suffering man to be told that nobody is aware of his suffering but himself? To relegate everything to illusion is insult added to injury. The Bengali of East Pakistan is a fact and his suffering is a fact. Please, do not analyse them out of existence! You are reading newspapers, you hear people talking about it. You cannot plead ignorance. Now, what is your attitude to what is happening?
M: No attitude. Nothing is happening.
Q: Any day there may be a riot right in front of you, perhaps people killing each other. Surely you cannot say: nothing is happening and remain aloof.
M: I never talked of remaining aloof. You could as well see me jumping into the fray to save somebody and getting killed. Yet to me nothing happened.
Imagine a big building collapsing. Some rooms are in ruins, some are intact. But can you speak of the space as ruined or intact? It is only the structure that suffered and the people who happened to live in it. Nothing happened to space itself. Similarly, nothing happens to life when forms break down and names are wiped out. The goldsmith melts down old ornaments to make new. Sometimes a good piece goes with the bad. He takes it in his stride, for he knows that no gold is lost.
Q: It is not death that I rebel against. It is the manner of dying.
M: Death is natural, the manner of dying is man-made. Separateness causes fear and aggression, which again cause violence. Do away with man-made separations and all this horror of people killing each other will surely end. But in reality there is no killing and no dying. The real does not die, the unreal never lived. Set your mind right and all will be right. When you know that the world is one, that humanity is one, you will act accordingly. But first of all you must attend to the way you feel, think and live. Unless there is order in yourself, there can be no order in the world.
In reality nothing happens. Onto the screen of the mind destiny forever projects its pictures, memories of former projections and thus illusion constantly renews itself. The pictures come and go — light intercepted by ignorance. See the light and disregard the picture.
Q: What a callous way of looking at things! People are killing and getting killed and here you talk of pictures.
M: By all means go and get killed yourself — if that is what you think you should do. Or even go and kill, if you take it to be your duty. But that is not the way to end the evil. Evil is the stench of a mind that is diseased. Heal your mind and it will cease to project distorted, ugly pictures.
Q: What you say I understand, but emotionally I cannot accept it. This merely idealistic view of life repels me deeply. I just cannot think myself to be permanently in a state of dream.
M: How can anybody be permanently in a state caused by an impermanent body? The misunderstanding is based on your idea that you are the body. Examine the idea, see its inherent contradictions, realise that your present existence is like a shower of sparks, each spark lasting a second and the shower itself — a minute or two. Surely a thing of which the beginning is the end, can have no middle. Respect your terms. Reality cannot be momentary. It is timeless, but timelessness is not duration.
Q: I admit that the world in which I live is not the real world. But there is a real world, of which I see a distorted picture. The distortion may be due to some blemish in my body or mind. But when you say there is no real world, only a dream world in my mind, I just cannot take it. I wish I could believe that all horrors of existence are due to my having a body. Suicide would be the way out.
M: As long as you pay attention to ideas, your own or of others, you will be in trouble. But if you disregard all teachings, all books, anything out into words and dive deeply within yourself and find yourself, this alone will solve all your problems and leave you in full mastery of every situation, because you will not be dominated by your ideas about the situation. Take an example. You are in the company of an attractive woman. You get ideas about her and this creates a sexual situation. A problem is created and you start looking for books on continence, or enjoyment. Were you a baby, both of you could be naked and together without any problem arising. Just stop thinking you are the bodies and the problems of love and sex will lose their meaning. With all sense of limitation gone, fear, pain and the search for pleasure — all cease. Only awareness remains.