Monday, September 14, 2009

The Personal, Impersonal and the Absolute

What is the nature of Enlightenment, Awakening, Consciousness, and so forth? Many people seek some 'other' state, a 'higher' state or anything other than what is here. But as far as knowing what that is, many don't have much of a clue. We will try to describe in a fairly simple and straight-forward way, the nature of our Existence.

In the diagram below, you see three categories - A. B. and C. in what is our version of the classical Ocean-Wave analagy:

C. is represented as the All, the Absolute, the Ocean of Infinite Godhead, etc.
B. is the Water of the Individuating and individuated wave
A. is the form, the surface of that individuated wave.

Everything, without exception, is part of, a manifestation of, an arising of the infinite ocean, C.

Arising from the waters of the ocean, though never different from it, nor ever totally separated from it, is the wave, B.

The 'form' and/or surface of that wave is the 'personalized' aspect or A.

A. + B. is the Personal and the Impersonal aspects of the Individuated Wave - i.e. a "person"

The nature of C. is always Conscious Presence, Awareness. It is aware of itself, even as an A-B individuated entity. However, it appears to focus on and become identified as that individuated A+B, and even more so, totally identify as its surface/shape of A.

So, how does this look in "real" life? Most people are totally identified with their body and mind - A. Their thoughts, concepts and beliefs, their hopes and fears, - all of these are parts of the A. or Personal individual. John or Sally identifies as being John or Sally, with this body, that age, these beliefs, these ideas of what is right or wong, spiritual or unspiritual, good and bad, and so on endlessly. All of these ideas and the body are "Observed" by the Impersonal Self - B. When you simply close your eyes and ask, 'Who am I?' letting go of all of these concepts and identifications, you come to simply "I AM" or I am the Witness (Seer, watcher, Awareness etc.)

For the most part, this B. "I AM" is NOT a thing, but is simply the Presence. "I AM" is not 'I am this or that' other than simply "I AM-ness". When Ramana Maharshi or Nisargadatta Maharaj speak of resting in the "I AM", this is what they are referring to. Where most people get stuck, however, is this is as far as they go.

First, many people have difficulty enough just trying to recognize this B-ness - in other words, to dislocate themselves enough from their addiction and identification to their personal form self (A.) to recognize they are the Seer. However, having done this, they may think, "Oh, I've made it. This is the end." No, it is simply the beginning.

A+B make up what I call the individuated person. Like the far bubble on the right, it can almost entirely disconnected from the All (C.) Through meditation, self inquiry and so forth, they recognize that they are this impersonal nature, and even though it feels somewhat unlimited, they are still identified somewhat as B. experiencing A. experiencing B. (Yeah, I know - a little confusing.) Resting as B-ness is not so much something that is experienced as simply something that you ARE. Mind and reflective thought are all products of the individuated Form self or A. So, when you are thinking about B, that is not B. That is A thinking about B. You may be experiencing B, but A. is thinking about it. The more you rest in B, the more it becomes natural. You are simply changing the balance of the scale, so to speak, to focus on Awareness itself, rather than the objects of Awareness (i.e. body, mind, thoughts, ideas, etc.)

When you inquire into the nature of the Self, it is very much like peeling an onion as you let go of all concepts and beliefs. Ultimately, when you peel an onion all the way, you are left with nothing, as it is all skins. So you have left over a Not-Onion, or rather a semi-conceptualized idea of impersonality where the onion USED TO BE. You are now identified as this Not-Onion or Nothingness. However, this still has some sense of separation between the Not-Onion or A+B Individuated Personal/Impersonal entity, and the Everything Absolute of C.

As both Nisargadatta and/or Ramana would tell you, by "abiding" in and as that I-AM ness, gradually the expansion into C. takes place. In other words, you are identified as the personal self (A.) - you recognize you are also the impersonal self (B.) and through resting as that constantly and consistently, with as little interruption as possible, you gradually dis-identify all together to come into the Absolute All (C.).

Okay. New analogy. You live in the U.S. and decide to go to India. That is a very big jump and you have to go through a lot of hoops just to do that. So eventually, after a lot of planning, saving money, booking flights, getting a passport and visa, you finally get on the plane and ultimately end up in the Chennai airport. Wow, you've made it. (A lot of effort to get from A. to B.) Now, you can immediately get back on the airplane and return home. "Been there - Done that!" which is what a lot of people do. "Oh yes, I know I am the seer." "Oh yes, I've been to India."

Others, a little more dedicated, will recognize, "I don't want to go back to the U.S." and will stay there in the Chennai airport, gradually becoming more adapted to it, and being able to express much more of what India is about. BUT ITS STILL JUST THE AIRPORT. It is still simply the 'water' of the individuated wave (B.) and has many limitations, even though it is VERY different from A. (the U.S.)

Finally, if you live long enough in the airport, you recognize, "Oh My GOD! There's a door that goes somewhere else." (It's not really 'somewhere else' as it is still part of the world and part of India, but it is letting go of more concepts of limitation.) There is now the entirety of India (C) to explore.

While moving from the Personal self (A.) to the Impersonal self (B.) is itself a huge endeavor which very few bother to do, even fewer stay there in B. and even fewer still recognize that it is still a tiny aspect of the Infinite Absoluteness or Godhead (C.). B. is something like ground-zero, or the zero-point. It is the initial big step away from total illusion of identifying with A. to recognizing your impersonal or transcendent self as B. And a large percentage of spiritual teachers, particularly in the West, will tell you that's it. In other words, they don't want to (or are unable to) recognize and acknowledge that which is beyond even their limited impersonal self.

While I recognize that this is not a totally thorough explanation and still leaves a number of questions to be answered, I hope that it can help some go deeper into Awakening. For instance, if you already have some sense of I-AM ness, inquire, "What is the Source of this I-AM?" You may find it is more than "Turtles all the way down."