Hello, Mr. Lucille: My question refers to the self- conscious or unconscious nature of the Unmanifest, our True Nature, and if this Awareness needs “form” (for example a human body) to be aware of itself: While Ramana and others (I think Jean Klein too) considered that Self -Consciousness is one of the charachteristics of the Absolute, with or without relying on manifest material form, Nisargadatta, on the other hand, says Awareness and Consciousness are not the same concept. He teaches Awareness is That which is aware of Consciousness, and Consciousness is That which allows Awareness to be self-conscious. In this equation, Consciousness would be like a light which illuminates Awareness, but that Consciousness needs a form to exist (a human body would be the most perfect example) , that is, Awareness needs a form to be aware of That which allows Awareness itself to be Self -Conscious .In the words of a spanish master, the feeling of being is like the bitter taste that reveals the existence of a sense of taste. That bitter taste is not the sense of taste, and this sense is not touched by the bitter taste, but it needs that bitter taste(which depends on form) to know Its existence. But, would it not lead us to the conclusion that the Eternal Formless Awareness =eternal stupor and Pure Being= Pure Oblivion?. So, resuming: 1. Is Consciousness conscious of itself prior to the birth of the body and after its death? 2. Does Awareness need a form in order to be conscious of itself? Thank you very much in advance
Before answering your two questions, I would like to make sure that you understand clearly my use of the words consciousness and awareness: what I mean by consciousness is that, whatever that is, which is really conscious of these words right now, and awareness is that which is really aware of these words right now. It should be pretty obvious that in that case these two words are synonyms. Whatever use other teachers or their translators, other sages or ignorants, have made of these words is not our problem here. And whatever I say in my answer doesn’t refer to what other teachers, including mine, other friends of mine or even myself may have said in the past about those matters, but solely to my experience. Let’s now consider your two questions:
There is only consciousness, so whatever consciouness is conscious of can only be itself. However consciousness can be aware of itself in two modes: 1. as itself and 2. as other than itself. Mode 1 is knowledge (jnana), mode 2 is ignorance (avidya or ajnana). Mode 2 requires the projection of some object that can impersonate an “other than itself”, therefore mode 2 requires at least a mind, or a body-mind, since the body experiences are a subset of the mind experiences (this follows from the fact that every experience of the body is made of perceptions (mind), but not every experience of the mind is made of bodily perceptions -for instance thoughts).
Therefore, if the meaning of your question is: Is consciousness conscious of itself prior to the birth of the body and after its death? The answer is yes, consciousness is always conscious of itself. But if the meaning of your question is: Is Consciousness conscious of itself as itself prior to the birth of the body and after its death? the answer is: the presence of the body makes ignorance possible, but not necessary, and the absence of the body (before and after death) leaves ignorance possible, but not necessary. The total absence of perceptions, including the perception of the absence of perceptions, makes ignorance impossible, and is therefore the experience of awareness aware of itself as itself in the absence of objects (nirvikalpa samadhi). There is still one possibility left, which is awareness aware of itself as itself both in the presence and in the absence of objects (sahaja samadhi).
The answer to this question is pretty straightforward following the previous remarks.
If the question is: does awareness need a form in order to be conscious of itself?, the answer is: no, because consciousness is always aware of itself (there is nothing that is not awareness, whatever it is we are aware of is therefore always awareness).
If the question is: does awareness need a form to be conscious of itsel as itself?, the answer is no, because awareness always knows itself as itself in the absence of forms.
The experience of awareness being aware of itself as itself is the experience we refer to as happiness, stillness, peace, love, beauty, intelligence, God, eternity, and the experience of awareness being aware of itself as other than itself is the one we refer to as misery, fear, desire, sense of lack, of incompleteness, psychological suffering.
The core of my experience, consistent with the accounts of awareness by some of the teachers you are referring to and others (Jean Klein, Ramana Maharshi, Atmananda Krishna Menon, Robert Adams, Ma Ananda Mai, Gaudapada, Shankara, Buddha, Rumi, Meister Eckhart, Parmenides, Huang Po, Lao Tse, etc), is precisely that the (seemingly) ordinary Presence which is aware of these words right now is universal, immortal and divine. And we are not talking here about oblivion or eternal stupor, but truly about eternal awareness. It seems that accounts of awareness by some are not consistent with this experience, which would indicate that they are not sharing it, and visualize the absence of perceptions as a “nothingness”. This core of my experience is precisely the “good news”, the centrality of the teaching. If there is no such a good news to be shared, the teaching becomes much ado about “nothing”.