Three Forms of Reality

If you are a student of Vedanta, you are taught that SatChitAnanada or Brahman is the only Reality. It is explained that SatChitAnanda is our innermost core and the Brahman is the underlying reality of the universe. With the powerful Mahavakya (Major Sentence) ‘Tat Tvam Asi – That You Are’, Vedanta makes a connection between our inner core SatChitAnandaand Brahman. That (Brahman) You (SatChitAnanada) Are. This way Vedanta explains that Brahman and SatChitAnanada are the same, there exists no dichotomy between the two and they are identical. Your innermost core and the underlying reality of the universe is the same. There is only One Reality.

As explained in my article ‘SatChitAnanda vs Self Awareness’, that both SatChitAnanada and Self-Awareness are identical. I always find Awareness is a much easier way to understand our inner core and if we get to know the tone and nature of contemplation then this awareness becomes much easier to reach our inner core.

Vedanta teaches us that SatChitAnanada is the only Reality. Since SatChitAnanada and Awareness are identical, it is correct to conclude that Awareness is also the only Reality. Awareness and SatChitAnanda are synonyms. Awareness is our inner most core and Awareness is also the underlying Reality of the universe. Does that mean that Awareness of the inner core is different from the Awareness of the universe out there? No, they are identical, but they are different forms of the same Awareness. Awareness is One, but there are different Forms. Can there be different forms of the same single Reality?

Yes, the best example is H2O. H2O is one, but it comes in 3 different forms – liquid, vapor and solid. In liquid form it is called water, in vapor form it is called steam and solid form it is called ice. H2O remains the same in all the three different forms. In the same way, Awareness is the only Reality, but it comes in following 3 different forms:

  1. Self-Awareness
  2. Reflected Awareness
  3. Refracted Awareness

The Bible touches upon these 3 forms by the famous Trinity quote ‘Father, Son and the Holy Spirit’. These are 3 forms of the same reality. An equivalent statement from Vedanta could be ‘Brahman, Ishvara and the Guru’. Not any type of Guru, but a pure self-realized Guru. These 3 types can be co-related with the 3 forms mentioned. SatChitAnanda is the same as Self Awareness. Ishvara is another name for Reflected Awareness and Guru and Refracted Awareness are identical.

The focus of this article is to explain these connections and the 3 forms of Reality in more detail.

Self-Awareness and SatChitAnanda

It is very important to understand what Awareness is. A simple question – are you aware of reading this article? Are you aware of your surroundings? Are you aware of any background noise? If your answer is not yes, then you will not experience anything. You will not know you are reading this article; you will not be aware of your surroundings; you will not be aware of the background noise. In fact, without Awareness, you will not be aware of anything of the external universe out there

When this Awareness interacts with this article, you have the experience of reading this article. Awareness has intelligence and the power of reading within itself. When Awareness interacts with the background noise, you have the experience of hearing the background noise. That is because the power of hearing is part of Awareness. Without awareness, we would not know any objects which are perceived by all the five sense organs – eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin. These objects from the sensory organs must encounter Awareness, and then only we can experience the object in its concrete and viable form.

For an analogy, let us think of the sun. If there is no light emanating from the sun, the entire world will be dark; anything and everything become visible only when there is light. In the same way, when any form encounters the light of Awareness, we become aware of the object. If there is no light of Awareness, you will perceive nothing, not even the sun. 

Awareness is the most powerful force in the universe. It has the intelligence to connect with a form present in the mind and fill up the object with Awareness. If you analyze Awareness, you will conclude that Awareness is made up of a Subject, Intelligence, and it also has an Object with the following functions:

  1. There must be a Subject, who is Aware of the experience. This subject is the ‘knower’ of the Awareness
  2. There must be an Object, which must be experienced. This object is the ‘known’ part of the Awareness
  3. 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 they only make up Awareness. Wherever there is awareness, the Subject, Intelligence and Object must be present with all the three powers.

For a more detailed explanation of Awareness, please read my post ‘Analyzing Awareness

What is Self-Awareness? Our inner core is full, complete and it is stand alone. For Awareness to be full and complete, it must be Self-Aware. Self-Awareness means that ‘Awareness is aware of Awareness’. Another way to put this is that ‘Self is aware of the Self’. It is like saying ‘I am aware of the tree’. Here ‘I am’ can be referred as the subject and the tree is the object. In Self-Awareness, the subject is Awareness and the object is Awareness. Awareness plays the role of subject and object. In other words, both the subject and object are the same. There is one entity only which is non-dual. This complete, self-standing Self Awareness is our inner core. There is no separation between the subject and object. Even the power of Knower (subject/witness) is the same as Power of Known (Object making ability). Self-Awareness is one non-dual and homogenous. It is Self-Shining.

This Self-shining Awareness is like Bulb of Awareness and it is our inner core. It is not dependent upon anything else and it generates its own light of Awareness. And it is the Bulb of Awareness.  

Self-Awareness is non-dual, homogenous and it has many inherent characteristics.

  • It is Formless
  • It is Unchanging
  • It is Unborn
  • It has the 3 powers of Awareness – the power of knower, knowing and known

SatChitAnanda is the name given to this inner core of Self-Awareness. This inner core is present in every living being. So, it is present within you, me and within everyone. This Self-Awareness just shines like of bulb of Awareness, and it does not do anything, except radiating Awareness. Nothing affects Self-Awareness and is independent of everything. It is always at peace. Peace is its inherent nature. Because Self-Awareness does not anything, all the characteristics mentioned are lying dormant within Self-Awareness.

Reflected Awareness and Ishvara

If our nature and inner core is Self-Awareness, why don’t we know it, why don’t we feel it? The simple answer is that we are ignorant of our inner core. Ignorance has the power to cover Self-Awareness. When we forget, who we really are, ignorance pops up and covers our inner core. Ignorance is like a veil covering Awareness.

Self-Awareness does not do anything; it just keeps shining. When this Self-Awareness is covered by ignorance, this Self-Awareness gets reflected in the ignorance. Ignorance is like a mirror in which reflection takes place. What you get then is Reflected Awareness. When the sun is reflected in a mirror, you still have the sun and you also have a reflected sun. This is exactly what happens here.  You have SatChitAnanda, the non-dual Self-Awareness and the Reflected Awareness. This Reflected Awareness is called Ishvara.

  • It is quite strange to know that our ignorance is the cause of Ishvara, which is Reflected Awareness. If there was no ignorance, there would be no reflected Awareness, and then there would be no Ishvara also. If there was no ignorance, the only thing present would be Brahman, the self-shining Self-Awareness. So, our ignorance is the cause of Ishvara.
  • Even if there is Reflected Awareness, nothing happens to the non-dual Self Awareness or SatChitAnanda. It will continue to shine, irrespective if there is ignorance or there is no ignorance. This is like the sun which will shine even if it is cloudy, or it is the night. Nothing can stop the sun from shining. Similarly, Self-Awareness will continue to shine if there is ignorance or ignorance.
  • It must be understood that in the presence of ignorance, there is no effect on Reflected Awareness. Reflected Awareness remains pure and unaffected. This does seem counterintuitive.  It would be reasonable to assume that ignorance will rub off some of its ignorance on the reflected Awareness or Ishvara. Then again, we know Ishvara is pure, limitless and just cannot have any ignorance.  How to understand this? The classic example that can be narrated here is, suppose you pour water in a red-colored bottle. The water will appear to be red. It seems the redness of the bottle has affected the water. Our ignorance can lead to this conclusion. If you have proper knowledge you will know that the water in the bottle is always colorless and the red color of the bottle has no effect on the water. It is with this logic; we can understand that Ignorance has no effect on the Reflected Awareness, or, Ishvara is pure and limitless.
  • Ignorance has two sides, an input and output side. The Reflected Awareness appears on the input side of ignorance. We will discuss the output side of ignorance in the next section.

We have seen that Self-Awareness is nondual, in which ‘Self’ is both the subject and object. Unfortunately, because of our ignorance, we have forgotten that our inner core is nondual, and we are both the subject and the object. Since we no longer know that we are both the subject and the object, it simply means that there is a separation of the subject being ‘in here’ and the object being ‘out there’. Ignorance converts the non-duality into the duality of the subject in here and the object out there. Ignorance has that power.

In the non-dual Self Awareness, the power behind the subject is the Power of the Knower and the power behind of object is the Power of the Known. In non-duality, the subject and object are the same. Therefore, logically the power of the knower is the same as the power of known. There are homogenous with no separation. This is what happens in non-dual Self Awareness or Brahman. We have just seen that because of ignorance, the subject and object separate creating duality. With this separation, even the power of the knower and the power of known get separated. They are no longer one entity, but the power of the knower and the power of the known appear as two separate entities in Reflected Awareness. Even the 3rd power of Knowing is available in the Reflected Awareness. Each of these 3 powers of Awareness is very much active in Ishvara.

Vedanta teaches us that Maya Shakti is the power or force behind the creation and intelligence of the universe. Power of known, the power of knowing and the power of known are now available in the Reflected Awareness. These 3 powers are nothing, but the Maya Shakti as mentioned in Vedanta.

Maya Shakti = Power of Knower + Power of Knowing + Power of Known

This Maya Shakti is within the Reflected Awareness and Ishvara wields this Maya Shakti to operate and control this universe. The Maya Shakti is lying dormant within Self-Awareness, within the Self-Shining Bulb of Awareness. Due to ignorance, this Maya Shakti becomes active within the Reflected Awareness. The nature of Awareness remains the same, the Reflected Awareness or Ishvara is a different form of Awareness. In this form the Reflected Awareness wields of power of Maya Shakti to create, control and manage the universe. In Reflected Awareness, the Self-Awareness becomes Ishvara.

Refracted Awareness and Guru

In the earlier section we saw that Ishvara as the Reflected Awareness is on the input side of ignorance. In this section, we will discuss the output side of ignorance. This is the side the Guru functions. Before we do that, let us decode ignorance and get a better understanding of ignorance.

Pixel of Ignorance:

It is important to understand the process of Knowledge and the lack of knowledge (ignorance), shows that there are different degrees of ignorance. This ignorance plays a central role in our existence.

Let us start by taking an example of the knowledge of Chinese language. If someone has a complete knowledge about the Chinese language, he knows everything that is possible; this person will have 100% knowledge about the Chinese language. On the other end of the scale, there are people who are completely ignorant about the language; they are 100% ignorant about this language. Every living being in the universe will fall in between this scale of 100% knowledge to 100% ignorance. So, there is a knowledge/ignorance profile about the Chinese language. Take another subject, say Mathematics. Here again, there will be a scale of 100% knowledge to 100% ignorance. People will fall somewhere in the scale of 100% knowledge to 100% ignorance. So, there is a knowledge/ignorance profile for mathematics. In the same way, there must be a knowledge/ignorance profile for every possible topic or object in the universe. If we combine this scale of 100% knowledge to 100% ignorance for every topic, we will get a cumulative knowledge/ignorance profile for all the possible topics and objects. Within this cumulative knowledge/ignorance scale, each person will know his/her own knowledge or ignorance profile. Each living being has more knowledge on some topics and less or no knowledge of the other topics. In other words, every being will have each of their own unique knowledge/ignorance profile.

To the knowledge/ignorance profile of objects, you must also add the knowledge profile of the Self. Here again, the spectrum can be broken down into countless parts and each part has a different amount of Ignorance. An enlightened person will have 100% knowledge of the Self, while a completely ignorant person will have 0% knowledge or 100% ignorance.

In this cumulative and complicated knowledge/ignorance profile, if you can imagine there are countless number of ‘pixels of ignorance’. Each ‘pixel of ignorance’ has its own unique mix of ignorance and knowledge. Each ‘pixel of ignorance’ represents a single individual living being with his/her own ignorance/knowledge profile. There is countless number of living beings and each living being has his/her own ‘pixel of ignorance’. You have a pixel of ignorance and I have a pixel of ignorance, and in the same way every living being has its own unique pixel of ignorance.

We have seen that on the input side of ignorance, the Reflected Awareness is present with duality, with separate subject, object and the intelligence. This reflected Awareness or the Ishvara, makes the pixel conscious and sentient. When this pixel of ignorance interacts with the reflected Awareness, it breaks up the Self-Awareness into the following 4 parts. We know that Self Awareness is made up of the following 4 parts:

Self-Awareness = Self + Subject + Intelligence + Objects

It is like refraction. Place a prism in front of the light and we can see the 7 different colors on the other side. In the same ways, the ignorance of the Self within the pixel refracts the reflected Awareness into the following 4 different components. 

  • Manas – The home of the objects
  • Buddhi – The home of the inteliignece
  • Sakshi – The home of the subject
  • Ahamkara (ego) – The home of the self

These 4 components make up the mind. The creation of the mind is the output side of the pixel of ignorance. The mind is the part of the subtle body. So, the ignorance of the Self has that power to create the mind.  

Mind = Refracted Awareness + Ignorance

There are a countless number of pixels of ignorance – one for each individual living being. This refraction takes place in each pixel and thereby countless minds are created. Each mind thus created, will be different; it will depend upon the knowledge/ignorance profile for each pixel. The simple calculation is this: more the ignorance, less efficient the mind. It will have a lower intelligence level. The opposite is also true, lower is the level of ignorance, the mind finds the right passage to evolve fast.

A Sattvic mind will have no ignorance. In Sanskrit Sattvic means pure. This means a pure mind with no Ignorance. This is the mind of a true Guru. These days the term Guru is overused, and it can mean a teacher or expert. In Vedanta, the term Guru is much more specific, it means a self- realized spiritual person with no ignorance.

Guru’s Mind = Refracted Awareness (no ignorance)

The Guru’s mind with no ignorance is no different from SatChitAnanda. Guru is SatChitAnanda in human form.

The Guru’s mind has no ignorance. What does this mean? It means that the Guru knows that his innermost core is Self-Awareness. He knows that it is his inherent nature. He knows he is full and complete, displays a higher quality of mind, knowledge, reflection and free from materialistic desires. He is at peace with everything good and bad. This state is permanent; it is not a fluctuating state. His mind is always immersed in Awareness. In fact, it is correct to say that the Guru has no mind, he has only Self-Awareness. The Guru abides in the source and has no need for the mind.

Almost every living being experiences duality – the subject ‘in here’ and the object ‘out there’.  This is our daily experience. We have seen ignorance of our non-dual nature of Self Awareness, leading to duality with the separation of the subject and the object. Since the Guru does not experience duality, does that mean that the Guru does not perceive the universe ‘out there’? That is incorrect; he perceives the world out there, but experiences non-duality. The Guru’s perceives world and knows it part of the Self, which is nature.

The Guru is not ignorant; the Guru operates on the side of Refracted Awareness. He knows that his true nature is Self-Awareness. He has no confusion regarding this. Since the content of all the objects is Awareness, the Guru who is Self-Aware of sees his true nature of Awareness in all the objects of the universe.  He sees no difference between his own Self and all the objects out there. He therefore sees nonduality everywhere in the universe. He sees all the form of the objects, but he sees them as Awareness, as his own Self.

4 thoughts on “Three Forms of Reality”

  1. Hi Jayant,
    Your articles and spirituality has scientific approach. Very nice ones. Can the article be recorded and posted. This will help to reach larger group and save my efforts of reading.

  2. Hi Jayant,
    I thoroughly enjoyed the clarity of the explanation of self awareness. I am looking forward to reading all your other articles.

  3. I have a question on Ishvara; is it ‘pure and limitless’?

    You wrote
    ” ….. Ishvara is pure, limitless ….. ”
    “the Reflected Awareness or Ishvara is a different form of Awareness. In this form the Reflected Awareness wields of power of Maya Shakti to create, control and manage the universe. In Reflected Awareness, the Self-Awareness becomes Ishvara.”

    We also know Ishvara as Saguna Brahman or Brahman with qualities and attributes.

    My question is, how can Ishvara be ‘pure and limitless’ yet have qualities and attributes such as to create, design and control the Universe?

    Because, if it has the attributes and plays those roles, it must imply duality – to design and make mistake, to love and to hate, to reward and punish, to accept and decline prayers and appeals (I’m not sure if we need to worship them?)?

    Thank you.

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