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Seer-Scene Discrimination


The basic tenet of awareness is categorization. Anything that we become aware of must belong to one category or the other. If it doesn't belong to a category, we are unaware of its existence. It is a part of the undifferentiated 'fuzz', or IS the fuzz, which forms the background of awareness. Right at this very moment, when we're reading this, we may look around in the room/space we're in - is there a single object around us that doesn't belong to a category?

Category is what makes it distinct from other objects. Category is also what helps group objects, so that we may conveniently process the info-load. Thus we describe a landscape - 'Clouds have gathered over the hills and the trees are sparkling with leaves'. The moment we turn our attention to the clouds only, different types of clouds arise in our awareness. Same with trees, etc. Even those which we can't name, say... some strange object we have come across, is categorized as strange/unknown. Thus its distinct from the familiar/known.

What belongs to the 'fuzz' remains in the fuzz, and doesn't become distinct. Suppose there are two objects A and B. In order to be aware of both, there must be a C. Say, if there are two people in a clinic's waiting area, a receptionist (C) must also be present all along to be conscious of both. Even as A and B arrive and leave, together or separately, C is the witness to it all. Now what is the category here that I've mentioned earlier? That, A and B are humans, or A is female and B is male, both A and B are visitors to the clinic etc. Let me reiterate... can you think of something, anything, that you're aware of right now - which doesn't belong to one category or the other? If you can find no such thing, it doesn't have a name and form that you're aware of. Therefore, by definition, it doesn't exist at this time, as far as you're concerned. What exists, if we insist on being clever, is the unknowable, or unknown (the latter being potentially knowable in the future, or that we have forgotten). That conceptual category is the only one, such things may belong to.

Now, if C is not there, then there's only A knowing B or vice-versa, in which case both cease to exist. Why is that? If A knows about B, then it must also know about itself (self-aware). Or, A knows about both A and B, which in fact makes it the third observer C! And if it doesn't know about itself, i.e. there is no A, then there's nothing to compare it to B, thus categorizing itself as being distinct from. In that case B disappears too. Therefore, can we say that anything I know about 'my' mind, let alone 'my' body and what's 'outside' of it, must not be from the point of view of this mind/body complex - but a THIRD observer? Trying to dis-cover it (which implies that its already there, just under a cover of ignorance) is the seeker's role.

Therefore, when I become aware of the mind, the mind at that instant must belong to a category of 'minds', or different states of minds. But the knower who becomes aware of this category, itself remains unknown - because otherwise it too will become an object of knowing, hence categorized... and this will go on ad-infinitum.

So, by definition, the ULTIMATE witness to it all must remain unknownable, while knowing all in their changing forms. Ancient Indian texts speak of three limitations (parichheda) of matter - Spatial, Temporal AND Objective. The first two are easy enough to understand -

1) Spatial: anything we know is limited in space (i.e. at any instant, other objects exist in the space where it doesn't).
2) Temporal : it has a beginning, before which it was non-existent, and an end. That is, every perceivable object is accompanied by its 'previous non-existence' (prag-abhava).
3) Objective: it becomes an object of my awareness. Say, a concept... there was a time when I wasn't aware of it, and there's a time it will slip from my mind e.g. during deep, dreamless sleep, or when I'm not thinking of it, or when I'm in a coma, or when I'm dead. Thus the limitation.

But, throughout all these limitations, one thing remains unchanged - that so-called receptionist C, who is aware of all such comings and goings in her/his clinic. It is even aware of the empty room! Its like the sun that continues to shine even if there's a heavy cloud-cover, we're in a submarine deep under the sea, or inside a coal mine with no light (shudder!), or when its midnight. But, Is it affected by death?

That is where Indian Rishis and latter-day neuroscientists seem to differ. Is Consciousness limited by the viability of the mind? The latter say it is, since brain waves cease to arise when a person dies.

But that scientist, monitoring the brain waves - is forgetting something.  And THAT is the 800 pound gorilla in the room that no one will acknowledge. Is the scientist measuring the dying/dead person's consciousness, or his own?  Obviously the entire object of measurement is the scientist's own consciousness, and even when the poor man hooked up with electrodes passes away, that awareness continues to live inside the scientist. This was the observing awareness (of the experiment) to begin with! The scientist can never stand apart, and measure the dying man's awareness independently. And when the scientist dies, the death of his awareness becomes an object of his friends'/relatives' consciousness, just as his life was. And therein lies the fallacy of the 'consciousness is limited by mind' argument.

Drg-Drishya-Viveka is a startlingly powerful analysis by Vidyaranya, a latter day sage from southern India, of this ancient Indian observation on the subject-object relationship. If properly followed, rather than dryly read off the page, this analysis can quickly open vistas in the seeker's mind.

Drg is the seer, as in the one who's seeing/perceiving.
Drishya is what's being seen/perceived
Viveka is discrimination between what's being seen, and the seer. That is, the seen and the seer are different.

It begins thus: What the eye sees is different from what's being seen. The potato on the table is different from the eye, because the eye can see it.

Now the eye can't see itself - looking at the eye in the mirror is just seeing a reflection, not the eye. Same with videos/selfies. But we are aware of the eye seeing the potato, so who's doing this?

Obviously this is the 'mind'. So the mind is different from the eye, because it can 'see' the eye and all its changing states - opened, closed, itchy, runny, sleep-heavy etc.

But I'm also aware of the mind seeing the eye, seeing the potato... am I not? Because if you haven't fallen asleep by now, and are continuing to read this, you're aware of looking at the monitor - but not what's right behind your chair (until now, that is!). After you read that, your mind had momentarily wavered to the scene behind your chair - although now you're back :) So something is aware of the changing states of the mind (remember C the receptionist?).

Something knows when the mind is happy, sad, angry, hopeful etc. Hence, if THAT something can 'see' the mind, it must be different from the mind. We can't go further back than that, for then it will be an endless series of knowers and knowables, drgs and drishyas. Thus we refer to the ultimate knower of all, who's not the mind, not the body, not what the body(with its physical sense-receptors) perceive. So who are we? And since the 'me' which I used to call my mind-body complex until now is not the real 'me', as I've found, how is it any different from you - the reader? or any other perceivable object/drishya? Thus the entire field of perception is on one side, including all its varieties, and the 'Drg', the ultimate witness is on the other. All the differences of that materiality can now be lumped into one, where there is no you, me, him, her, or it. There just is the awareness.


Kolkata, Apr '15

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