Location: Toronto, Canada
Dear Francis, I have been a keen follower of your teachings or the last several months and I would like to express my gratitude to you because your teachings have cleared up many of my misunderstandings about practice and enlightenment. In your answer to the question “Is there evidence of a limited consciousness?”, you said there are two types of experiments: the experience through which we perceive an object (type 1) and the experience through which we directly experience consciousness (type 2). If I understand your teachings correctly, we know that we are conscious (knowing) and we know that consciousness exists (being). That is, being and knowing always co-exist. However we cannot point to consciousness because it is not an object (i.e. consciousness cannot be objectified). Further, we know that consciousness is unlimited because no matter what we experience, it is there. We cannot separate consciousness from experiencing. From our own direct experience, we know that consciousness has no boundary and we know that nothing can exist independent of consciousness. In fact, our own experiences tell us that there is no subject-object, there is only experiencing (which is consciousness). We are fooled by thoughts because the mind misappropiates the experience and claims that there is an “I”, an entity, that experiences an object. We believe that consciousness is limited to this body-mind because we identify this body-mind as “I” while everything else is “non-I” when such division is purely conceptual and does not exist. Is this what you regard as type 2 experiment? If it is not, could you please explain what a type 2 experiment is? Is the direct experience of deep sleep a type 2 experiment? Much appreciated. Theresa.
You are right in your conclusions up until you say “Further, we know that consciousness is unlimited because no matter what we experience, it is there.” Well, it is always there in our experience, but it could still be limited to our individual body-mind. Then you say “We cannot separate consciousness from experiencing.” which is true. Then “From our own direct experience, we know that consciousness has no boundary and we know that nothing can exist independent of consciousness.” Well, it depends on the kind of experience you are referring to. Our ordinary experience cannot give us the knowledge that consciousness is unlimited. Only enlightenment, satori, nirvikalpa samadhi, in other words a total glimpse of our true reality can reveal this knowledge.
A type 2 experience (I don’t like much this terminology I created for a specific answer) would be a partial or total glimpse of Awareness (or Intelligence, or Love, or Beauty). A partial glimpse reveals an element of Truth, whereas a total glimpse reveals Truth itself. If we use the traditional Advaitic analogy of the rope and the snake, a partial glimpse would reveal something true about the rope, for instance its length, or its color, or the fact that it is not a cobra, without however revealing its true nature. A total glimpse reveals that the object initially thought to be a snake was in fact a rope.
The experience of deep sleep is not a type 2 experience. More over, although enlightenment is a type 2 experience, most type 2 experiences are not enlightenment, which is the direct recognition that awareness is the eternal reality of all minds and of the world. A false enlightenment would be the misunderstanding that our mind is the reality of the world, whereas in fact it is only the apparent reality of our perception of the world. This mistake is quite common in Western Advaita.