Dear Francis, … recently my philosophical mind has left me vexing over two quandaries related to the nondual nature of reality.
If our true nature is pure impersonal Awareness merely watching the drama of the mind, and our mistake in this life is our awareness identifying too closely with the mind-body organism, then it should stand to reason that during sleep, pure awareness remains while the brain, with all its thoughts and emotions and sensory perceptions, takes a vacation. But that’s not what we observe. We lose consciousness during sleep, exactly what mainstream science would predict if our consciousness was nothing but a byproduct of neurons and a sophisticated soup of brain chemical reactions. My question is, why does awareness, which is our endless nature, cease during the brain’s sleep (apart from dreaming)? Why do we not remember a state of pure, relaxed awareness upon waking in the morning to the dull grind of the Illusionary world? Why the “gap” in awareness?
If our origin is the pure, unmanifest ocean of consciousness, then how did this pure consciousness ever “decide” to create the physical world, the “world of the relative?” Pure awareness just Is, It doesn’t think or feel—only the physical brain does that (which is what we are NOT). But this Awareness must have had the thought, the idea, to divide itself, to create the world of the relative from the world of the absolute. How is it possible that it had an “idea” or a “thought?” Second of all, Consciousness is complete and perfectly loving in and of itself. Any idea to create something different implies a want, and want implies a lack of something. This, too, doesn’t make sense. Sure, one could argue that Awareness wanted to view itself through the eyes of duality so it could experience some concept of itself as more than One, but how did this thought take shape without a brain?
Thank you for your time and God bless. Nate
You say “If our true nature is pure impersonal Awareness …, then it should stand to reason that during sleep, pure awareness remains while the brain,…., takes a vacation.” Yes, absolutely. Then you add: “But that’s not what we observe.” What do you mean? Do you mean that the brain doesn’t take a vacation and that you keep observing brain activity? Or do you mean that awareness doesn’t remain and that you observe the absence of awareness? In both cases awareness remains, observing mind activity in the former case, and the absence of awareness in the latter. It is impossible to “observe” the absence of awareness during deep sleep, since this “observation” would require the presence of awareness. Therefore, that which we observe is either residual perceptions that don’t leave traces in memory, or the absence of perceptions, which is itself a perception, or awareness itself. Bottom line, when you say that awareness ceases, it is not true since awareness is your ceaseless experience. That which ceases is awareness of objects, not because awareness ceases, but because the objects come and go.
We don’t remember a state of pure, relaxed awareness upon waking up in the morning because we can memorize only objects - thoughts, body sensations and sense perceptions. Awareness cannot be memorized. If we look for its memory within the realm of perceptions, we don’t find it because we are seeking it in the wrong direction. However if, upon waking up, instead of getting immediately hypnotized by the objects of the waking state that seem all of sudden to assault you from all sides, you welcome them with benevolent indifference, you will notice that a residue of the peace that prevailed during deep sleep is still there, in and as the background of your perceptions.
It follows that the gap in awareness you speak of exists only in your imagination, that is in your awareness, not in your experience. And since you are the only one who could experience it, it simply doesn’t exist.
My definition of awareness is: that which is aware. You say: “Pure awareness just is, it doesn’t think or feel—only the physical brain does that (which is what we are NOT)” In my case, I am that awareness which is aware of my thoughts, feelings and perceptions. If you are implying that the awareness you talk about is not that which is aware of your thoughts and perceptions, then you and I are using this word with two different meanings, and I have no idea of what you mean by awareness, or of the experience you have of it. My experience is comprised of thoughts, sensations, sense perceptions, and the awareness I talk about. Period. Nothing more, nothing less. To which of those four categories does the awareness you talk about belong?
When you say that the brain thinks and feels, what do you mean? Is that your experience? Or is that the experience of some scientist who correlates electrical signals in the brain (of the brain “braining” ) with concomitant thoughts and feelings (of the mind thinking) reported by the patients subjected to that experiment? The fact that there is a correlation between braining and thinking doesn’t imply that the brain thinks anymore that it implies that the mind “brains”. The “braining” and the thinking could have a common cause, which would explain the correlations we observe between brain and mind. Even if we make the claim that the brain thinks, to regard the brain as a local, isolated physical system is a hypothesis which doesn’t have four legs to stand on from the vantage point of Physics. We are led to the conclusion that it is the whole universe, or at least the entire solar system that thinks, since the weather for instance has an influence on our thoughts.
You ask: “How is it possible for awareness to have an idea or thought?” Well, this question itself is a thought of awareness which proves that it has the ability to think by simply thinking.
You say: “any idea to create implies a lack of something”.
What about creative celebration? You are happy, and as a result you want to sing or play music. Celebratory artistic creation doesn’t come from a sense of lack, but of fulness. It is overflowing joy.