The best way to start this discussion is to understand the popular Vedanta metaphor of Pot/Clay. We know the clay pot comes in many different sizes, shapes and designs. Some are tall, some are short, some are round, some are square etc. There seems to be an unlimited possibility for shapes and sizes. If you study all the clay pots carefully you will see that each clay pot has the following two components – Content and Form. So, which part is the content and which part is the from? The answer is obvious, the clay is the content and the pot is a form on the clay. With different shapes and sizes, the form of the pot could vary, but the content of all pots will always be clay.
Clay Pot = Clay (content) + Pot (form)
In the same way, we can say the following about the gold chain and wooden chairs
- Gold chain = Gold (content) + Chain (form)
- Wooden chair = Wood (content) + Chair (form)
A simple question – in the wooden chair, what is the weight of the wood which is the content and what is weight of the chair which is a form? The answer is obvious, the wood has all the weight and chair has no weight. Another question – can you separate the chair form from the wood content? The answer it is impossible to separate the chair form from the wood content. They are inseparable. If everything in the wooden chair is wood, what is the chair form? This is not a simple question. It would seem the chair form is an idea or concept which has been superimposed on the wood. Whose ideas? The idea will normally belong to the designer of the chair. In other words, the designer’s knowledge is superimposed on the wood.
These Vedantic metaphors can help us understand the underlying components for every object in this physical universe. it would seem every object in the universe must have the following two components
There is an unlimited number of objects both living and nonliving in this universe. We have seen in the examples discussed, the substratum of the objects is always the content and form is superimposed on the content. Does this apply to every object in the universe? Logically this principle must apply to all the objects in the universe. Content is content, and it should make up the entire object. You cannot have a wooden chair, in which half the chair is made up of wood and the other half is made up of nothing. This is impossible, the entire wooden chair must be made up of wood. This logic must apply to every object in this universe. Every object has content and this content makes up the entire object. The answer which is not clear – do all the objects have the same content or different objects have different content. This is especially true because of the wide variety of objects in this universe.
Every object has a form and this form is superimposed on the content. The form is something, it is not nothing. We see the form, we feel the form, in some cases we hear or taste the form. So, what is this form? What is its source?
There are many questions about the Content and Form of all objects. In the coming sections we will discuss this further so that we get a good understanding on the construction of the objects.
What is the Content Made up off?
From our earlier discussion the content for the clay pot is clay, for gold chain it is gold and the wooden chair it is wood. This would suggest that the content for every object could be different. Is this correct? This is incorrect – firstly, the examples given where a metaphor only to explain the concept of content and form. Secondly, we know that gold, clay and wood are all made up of atoms and a full array of sub-atomic particles. They all have an inner layer of sub-atomic particles. Trying to find out the source of the content by investigating the sub-atomic particles is not very helpful and does not yield positive results.
So, what is the Content for all the objects in the universe? We need a different and novel approach. Science has not been helpful, so we must look elsewhere. But, where? The proper understanding of Vedanta can be helpful. There is so much to learn from Vedanta, the ideas, concepts and teaching from Vedanta can be solve many of the shortcoming of science.
As a starter question – how do we know an object exists? The answer is that we are aware of the object. We see it, we know it, we can touch it.
How do we know the tree is green? Because we are aware of it.
How do we know sugar is sweet? Because we are aware of it.
How do we know we have two legs and two hands? Because we are aware of it.
How do we know the weight of the chair is 20 lbs.? Because we are aware of it.
How do we know the smooth touch of silk? Because we are aware of it.
How do we know we are listening to music? Because we are aware of it.
The common thread to all these questions is Awareness. It would seem Awareness is a prerequisite to observe any object. Without awareness, we would not know any objects which are perceived by the 5 senses – eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin. These objects from the sensory organs must encounter Awareness, then only we can observe the object. 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, we become aware of the object. If there is no light of Awareness, you will perceive nothing.
So, what is Awareness and what does Awareness have to do with the content of the object? Everything. Awareness is the content of all the objects in the universe. The content of the objects from the 5 senses is Awareness only. To any newcomer, Awareness is just another English word, with a dictionary meaning ‘knowledge or perception of a situation or fact’. Awareness is much more than an English word.
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 fill up the object with Awareness. If you analyze Awareness, you will conclude that the Awareness is made up of a Subject, Intelligence 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/Intelligence 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, Intelligence and Object and it has three different powers – Knower, Knowing and Known. It must be understood that the Subject, Intelligence 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 Intelligence and Object must be present with all the three powers. To understand how the content of every object in this universe is Awareness only, we need to understand the Power of the Known
Power of Known
Power of Known is power within Awareness. It is power which deals with objects. It deals with the objects received from the 5 senses. The better way to understand Power of Known is that it is a power to become any object. This power does not create any objects but becomes the object which is superimposed by the 5 senses on this power.
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 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 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.
It is therefore correct to conclude that the content of the object must be Awareness. Awareness by itself is formless, but it has the potential to become any object. The object it will become depends up on the input received from the 5 senses. A good metaphor to explain this is that it is like a lump of playdoh which is formless, but you can manipulate the playdoh to any shape. Whatever shape you create, the content is always playdoh. In the same way, the content of all the objects in the universe is only Awareness. It can take any shape or form, but the content is always 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. It is content of every object.
What is the Form Made up off?
We now know the Content of any object is Awareness. So what is the Form of the object made off? What is the source of the Form? To understand this properly, you need to understand how the mind functions. As we have discussed in other articles, the mind is made up of mental waves or Vrittis. The ingredient of these waves is knowledge and intelligence. These waves come into the mind from the 5 input or sensory organs – eye, nose, tongue, ear and skin. These intelligent mental waves are the bases of the Form. When these intelligent waveforms come in touch with Awareness and it superimposes itself on Awareness to become the form of the objects we see in the physical world. The content is Awareness, but the form comes from the 5 senses. The waves from the ear, become the sound form we hear. The waves from the eyes becomes the form of the objects we see. The waves from the tongue becomes the taste form we feel. In the same way, smell and touch also function using the input wave from the nose and skin.
We saw in the earlier metaphors, clay is the only content in the clay pot. The pot is only a form which is superimposed on the clay. In the same way, Awareness is the only Content for all the objects and the Form comes from the 5 senses which is superimposed on Awareness.
This may be true, why don’t we feel that the content is Awareness with our daily interaction with objects? This is because our attention is always focused on the Form part of the object and in the process, we ignore the Content part. As an example, if you go to a furniture shop, our attention is always focused on the different designs of furniture. I like this design, I do not like this design. This design will look nice in the house. The focus is on the form part of the furniture and not on the content part. Our focus on Form of the object is so deep rooted that we do not know and understand that the Awareness is the only Content for all objects. If you think about it, even science has been focusing exclusively on the Form part of the object. They have been investigating the Form part of the object and they have made great strides by discovering all the different inner layers of the Form. Molecules, atoms and all the sub-atomic particles. The problem is that Science has been investigating the Form of the objects, but they want to discover the Content of the Object. They are not going to find Awareness by smashing sub-atomic particles in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). They are working at the wrong end of the object. They are working with the Form part of the object and not the Content part of the object.
Actually, you do not have to hunt for Awareness, it is hiding in plain sight. If you see an object, Awareness is already present in that object. It is right in front of you. You are already aware of the object. Next time you see an object, do not focus on the Form, but focus on the fact that you are aware of the object. If you do this regularly you will realize that Awareness is everywhere, and objects are just a skin on top of Awareness.