To learn about Awareness, you need to first understand and analyze the experiences you have. All our perceptions, feelings, thoughts and current thinking are nothing but the experiences we have. When we are awake, there is hardly any moment when we do not have some sort of experience. We have experiences on a continuous basis, sometimes it is structured and willful, while at other times it is random, jumping from one thought to another.
Experience can only happen in the mind and nowhere else. The world is out there, but we experience it only in our minds. Science also states the same thing. Light is reflected from an external object, and this light travels to the retina in our eye. The retina converts the incoming light into an optical signal. This optical signal is transmitted to the visual cortex in the human brain. Science still doesn’t tell us how the optical signal is converted to an actual image, but somehow the visual image is created and we experience this visual image in the mind. This is true for all the five senses – sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell. Even the internal thoughts and emotions which we experience happen only in the mind.
- Everyone has a unique and private experience. Even if two people are seeing the same object, the experience each of them will have will be different. I am color blind, when I see the external world, I have a different experience of the world compared to other people.
- If you think about it, experience is the only connection we have with the external world. There is no other way to learn and understand the universe. If we do not experience a thing, then the question can be asked does that thing even exist. Experience is the only way to validate the existence of the universe. We understand and learn from experience, there is no other way to get to know the external world.
As experience only happens in the mind and we want to learn about the building blocks of the mind, the only way forward is to analyze our own experiences.
Experiences Decoded: The following simple equation is a perfect analysis of an Experience
Experience = Awareness + Form
We are always aware of our experience. We can never say we had an experience, but we are not aware of it. This is simply not possible because awareness is a critical pre-requisite and ingredient of an experience. You are having an experience because you are aware of it. If there is no Awareness, there can be no Experience. We are aware that we have a non-stop and a continuous flow of experience. Usually no two experiences are the same, the form part of the experience is always different and keeps changing. Sometimes it is visual, sometimes it is auditory, and sometimes it is based on past memories. The Forms keeps changing, the Experience keeps changing but does the underlying Awareness also keep changing? Our experience confirms that Awareness will always remain the same. It would seem that Form part is superimposed on the unchanging Awareness to complete the Experience.
If you expand this logic and apply to the entire human race, each and every person will have their own experience in their own mind. This Experience equation is valid for everyone. Everyone has different Forms superimposed on Awareness to complete the Experience. Everyone will have their own unique Form to create their own unique Experience.
The common factor in everyone’s experience is Awareness. This Awareness seems to be present in everyone’s mind. Can there be so many different Awareness’s? Is the same Awareness present in everyone’s mind? Is your Awareness different from mine and everyone else? These questions will answer themselves once we get a better understanding what we really mean by Awareness.
Awareness is the most powerful force in the universe and it is the underlying reality of this universe. It has the power to connect with a form present in the mind and create an experience which you are aware of. For an analogy, think of the sun. When there is no light from the sun, you cannot see anything, but in the presence of the light everything becomes visible. In the same way when any form which comes in the presence of the light of Awareness, the experience bulb lights up in your mind and you are aware of the form. If you think about it, even the light of the sun is a form in the presence of the light of Awareness.
If you carefully study Awareness, you will conclude that the Awareness is made up of a Subject and Object with the following functions
- There must be a Subject, who is Aware of the experience. This subject is the knower of the Awareness
- There must be an Object, which must be experienced. This object is the known part of the Awareness
- There must be Intelligence by which the subject gets to know the object. This is the knowing part of the Awareness
Knower, Known and Knowing are the 3 powers of Awareness. It must be clear that
- Awareness = Subject + Object + Intelligence
- Power of Awareness = Power of Knower + Power of Knowing + Power of Known
Awareness is made of Subject, Object and Intelligence and it has three different powers – Knower, Knowing and Known. It must be understood that the Subject and Object and the three powers are not something outside in the world, but they are within Awareness and make up Awareness. If any one of them is missing, the awareness will not work, and will be incomplete.
- If there is an object to be observed, but there is no subject, there will be no awareness, as there is no one to see the object.
- If there is a subject, but no object to see, there will no awareness as the subject has no objects to observe
- If there is an object, but the subject has no way of knowing what this object is, no awareness will take place. This knowing must have intelligence.
Wherever there is awareness, the Subject, Object and Intelligence must be present with all the three powers. Let us try and understand this in little more detail.
- Power of Knowing or Intelligence
The knowing or intelligence component of Awareness is extremely powerful, in fact language and words may not be enough to describe its awesome power. Here are some examples that indicates its strength and power.
Example 1: I am seeing a tree. A more Vedantic way to put it will be ‘I am the seer seeing a tree’
This is a simple experience we have every moment, but it shows the extraordinary power of Awareness. Let us breakup this experience into the different components of Awareness
Ego = I am
Subject = Seer
Object = Tree
Intelligence = Seeing is the power of Awareness, which makes it possible for ‘I’ to know the tree. Without the power of Seeing, none of us will see any object. Someone may argue that the eye provides this power. The eye does nothing other than converting the image into an optical signal and bringing the signal to the mind. What is the ability that decodes this optical signal into the understanding that this object is a tree? It is power of the Seeing which is within Awareness which allows us to know that there is a tree. This intelligence in Awareness knows that the optical signal is a tree.
Awareness = Seer + Seeing + Seen
Example 2: You are reading a book or ‘You are the reader reading a book’
This power of intelligence is within Awareness and is available to each and every one. Let us decode the experience of reading.
Ego = You
Subject = Reader
Object = Book
Intelligence = Reading is a power within Awareness which allows the Subject or Reader to connect with the contents of the book. It is within Awareness because you are aware that you are reading – first, to know the words and sentences, and then to know what is being read. We are so used to reading that we do not think of this ability as anything special. If there was no power of reading within Awareness, there would be no way you could read anything. With this power of “reading” we are aware we are reading and this awareness completes the reading experience.
Awareness = Reader + Reading + Read
Example 3: You are visiting a friend or ‘You are the visitor visiting a friend’
Subject = Visitor
Object = Friend
Intelligence = You are aware that you are visiting a friend. This power of knowing that you are visiting is part of the Intelligence within Awareness and also knowing that this person is a friend. If you did not have this power within you, you will never know this person is your friend and you have specifically made an effort to visit him.
Awareness = Visitor + Visiting + Visited
We can continue to give any number of examples to highlight the power of Awareness. We can take any verb in the English language and add the ‘ing’ to this verb. This word when connected with a Subject and Object will have the power of creating an awareful experience within the mind. Some more examples:
Awareness = Eater + Eating + Eaten Awareness = Sleeper + Sleeping + Slept Awareness = Fighter + Fighting + Fought (an Object) Awareness = Player + Playing + Played (an Object) Awareness = Learner + Learning + Learned
The intelligence within Awareness has an unlimited range of power, it is impossible to comprehend. We can comprehend only what experiences our mind can handle. We will be discussing shortly, our minds are limited and therefore can handle only a limited range of experiences.
Awareness is not limited by the capacity of our mind. It is much more and has an infinite amount of intelligence, it has the infinite amount of knowledge about everything that is possible. What is amazing, this unlimited intelligence, this pure intelligence, this Awareness is available within everyone’s mind.
- Power of Knower or Subject
In the earlier section, we saw the power of knowing, the intelligence of knowing. There must be a Knower to actually see an object and perceive what it looks like. This is done by the Subject within Awareness. The Subject is the Knower of the experience. This Subject is not only the Knower of seeing, but is also the knower of hearing, the knower of reading, knower of sleeping, etc.
- When it is the knower of seeing, the Subject is a Seer
- When it is the knower of hearing, the Subject is a Hearer
- When it is the knower of reading, the Subject is a Reader
- When it is the knower of running, the Subject is a Runner
There is only one Subject, and it is the Knower of so many things. In fact it is the Knower of everything. All this is within Awareness. We shall see later on this Subject with the Power of Knowing is available within the mind of each one of us and it is the only way we can know, what our experiences are.
Our minds are limited and therefore the power and range of the Knower is limited. Awareness is beyond the mind and this Subject within Awareness is Knower of everything that is possible. There is nothing that Awareness does not know.
Conclusion: Where ever there is Awareness, there must be a Subject. This Subject is the Knower and has the power of knowing everything that is possible. We should never confuse this Subject with Ego. This Subject is part of Awareness and this Subject does NOT have an ego. If I say ‘I am the Knower’ or ‘I am the Subject’, the ‘I am’ is the Ego. Knower and Subject is not part of the Ego, it is part of Awareness. In Awareness there is no attachment and no ego, it is simply aware.
3.Power of Known or Objects
The Object component of Awareness is also extremely powerful and it has the ability to take any form that we experience in the mind.
If you see a round circle, then awareness cannot take shape of a square. If it does, you will never experience the round circle. Awareness must also be a round circle with the same exact dimensions. If you see a tree, then awareness must also take the shape of the tree. This tree must be filled up with the Awareness. If the tree is half filled with awareness or the awareness does not have the same shape as the tree, you will not be aware of the tree.
If you want to observe any object with form,
- The form must be filled in with Awareness and nothing but Awareness. If the form does not have Awareness, then observer or subject will not be able to experience the object with that form.
- The Awareness must take the exact shape of the form.
Awareness by itself is formless, but it has the potential to take any form. If you look into a powerful microscope, awareness can take the shape of a molecule or if you look at the universe through a telescope, awareness can take shape of the stars and galaxies. Big or small, awareness can take the shape of anything. Awareness has the potential to take any form.
What is the difference between Awareness and Form?
Pot/Clay Metaphor: Vedanta uses the example of pot/clay to explain this concept. If you have clay, this clay has the potential to take the shape of any type of pot – small, large, round or square. Once these pots of different shapes and sizes are ready, the question can be asked, what part is the pot and what part is the clay? The answer to this question is as follows
Pot = Form Clay = Content
The content is only clay; the pot form is superimposed on the clay. There can be no misunderstanding and confusion about this. In the same way everything we experience in our mind is only made up of Awareness and different Forms are superimposed upon this Awareness.
Next time you see a tree, or listen to music or feel the cold water, you must be clear that the tree, music or water is made up only by Awareness and nothing but Awareness.
Awareness is this powerful force in our mind, which has the ability to take up any shape or form. Another way to put it: all possible ‘potential forms’ are available within Awareness. They are inherently present in Awareness and they take a required form when you experience that form in your mind. How many different ‘potential forms’ are present in Awareness? Countless, infinite!!
Awareness and Maya Shakti Vedanta teaches us that Maya Shakti is the creative power, and this creative power is available within Awareness. From our earlier discussion we saw Awareness has the following 3 powers:
- Power of Knowing/Intelligence
- Power of Knower
- Power of Known/Objects
Maya Shakti is sum total of these 3 powers.
Maya Shakti = Power of Knowing + Power of Knower + Power of Known
This unlimited and amazing power is called Maya Shakti and it is resident within Awareness.