Conversation with H (Knower, Witness)

H. ‘… as regards the somewhat artificial distinction (ontologically speaking) that I make between awareness and consciousness, then this is something I do of my own choosing, accepting that there is an objectless state of mind that cannot correctly be termed ‘consciousness’ as it is not ‘with knowledge’ of any kind. In its stricter, more formal sense, then in the language of Pali this would be one of the Arūpajhāna, as you may well know – i.e. neither perception nor non-perception. I often find myself in dispute with phenomenologists over whether an objectless awareness is possible. Although the (8th) Arūpajhāna itself is of course a very rarified state, the very fact that it is a state gives me – I hope – the liberty to introduce the idea of a Tabula Rasa of mind, and which, again due to the ubiquity of the term, I call ‘awareness’ for the purposes of creating a template for learning only. I do not consider it to be its own ontological category.


(From another dialogue in Quora – being an interlude in the above conversation)

‘In Advaita, how is it that the witness is the same for everyone?’ (Q. in Quora)

M. ’Witness’ is just an epithet, and it can be used interchangeably with other epithets, such as ‘pure consciousness’, ‘supreme intelligence’, ‘Atman’, ‘Paramatman’, ‘Anubhava’, etc. It is not other than the Knower behind the (‘individual’) knower, the Light behind the (reflected) light, the Mind behind the mind – when the second of each pair is taken as an individual – each one being a projection of, or vehicle for, the first.

Ultimately, there is only one Observer, one Light, one Knower, etc., with the clarification that It is changeless, immutable, not affected by the ‘changing scene’, as it were. The image of a clean mirror is often used here.

One of the main tenets of Advaita Vedanta is that multiplicity is an illusion (Plotinus, Ibn al’Arabi, Rumi, and many other sages, had the same intuition). The light reflected in many ponds is only one light – that of the sun. The space contained in a multiplicity of pots is only one space.


(Original conversation to be retaken next)


About amartingarcia

General surgeon (retired). Studied Western philosophy at U of Toronto. Afterwards interest turned to advaita vedanta and non-duality for past 20 yrs, plus a long interlude in Sufism coinciding with that period. Now contributing in ’Advaita Vision’ with regular posts and discussions.
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