Separating Awareness From What It Perceives

The preliminary practices of meditation ideally put us into a state where we are not thinking. Then there is no need to control the mind; we just remain summa. We need to change perspectives and retrain our minds to be as detached from what's going on inside, in the same way that we do not identify ourselves with what we perceive on the outside. If we're detached enough from our emotions, able to observe where where awareness has ended up, we can consider pulling ourselves out of unhappy experiences in a short period of time which is the goal.

Unedited Transcript:

Guru Brahma, Guru Vishnu, Guru Devo Mahesvara, Guru Sakshat, Parabrahma, Tasmai Sri Gurave Namaha.

Good morning everyone.

Continuing on with a few more verses from Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. Starting with a review.

Those of you who were here, remember we chose Verse 2: "Yoga is the restraint of mental activity." Remember that? "Yoga is the restraint of mental activity" and then we ask the question: What kind of restraint?

Is it similar to holding an aggressive dog back with a leash? Struggling to quiet your thoughts? Is it quieting thoughts down one at a time? We have fifty thoughts going around so we're down to 49, we're down to 48, you know, we're stilling them one at a time. That's one of the translations. He uses the word "still." Yoga is to still the patterning of consciousness.

Or the third one which is the one we chose: "Moving out of the area of mental activity." Moving above the area of mental activity or having a higher vibration than mental activity. Therefore, there is no mental activity. It's just gone because our consciousness is more dynamic than the area of the mind that thinks. And it's also balanced. Ida and pingala are balanced.

So the quotes we used, one was from Yogaswami. "Now we don't control the mind. We remain summa (which means quiet) with a controlled mind. So that's the idea. No need to control the mind we just, remaining summa.

And Gurudeva: "When I meditate it is a very unusual occasion when awareness enters the thought area of the mind at all." That's pretty straight forward, right?

So that's the goal of the beginning practices: Asana: Sitting up straight, relaxed. Pranayama: Regulating the breath. Pratyahara: Going within.

All of that is the preliminary practices which ideally put us into a state where we're not thinking. That's what those practices are for.

Okay, Verse 3, Moving forward. "Then awareness abides in its essential form."

And Verse 4: "At other times awareness takes on the form of the mental activity."

So Patanjali's using the word drashta, to, which we're translating as awareness.

In Patanjali's Yoga Sutras awareness is known as drashta and drik. Patanjali has a number of verses about the practice of discrimination between awareness and what it is aware of. The seer and the seen. Drashta drishya. Don't make Sanskrit words easy to pronounce do they for the English speaking person.

There's a nice comment by Swami Harshananda. He's the author of the "Concise Hindu Encyclopedia" which is a great reference book, it's only three volumes.

"The process of discrimination between the drik or drashta, the seer, the witness or the subject and the drishya, the seen, the object, will help in ultimately isolating the Atman from the body, the senses and the mind."

So here, Atman means the same thing as awareness.

To Gurudeva's perspective on this: "Consciousness and awareness are the same when awareness is totally identified with and attached to that which it is aware of." (Sound familiar? So the seer becomes the seen.) To separate the two is the artful practice of yoga. Naturally, the Shum-Tyeif language is needed to accomplish this. When awareness is detached from that which it is aware of, it flows freely in consciousness. A tree has consciousness. Awareness can flow into the tree and become aware of the consciousness of the tree."

Anyone tried that? No? I remember, Gurudeva once, in the early years, he was working with someone in Nigeria. And so, when you work with someone closely your awareness can end up in that country. Well, he was saying that he saw himself in Africa flowing through these huge leaves. He was in the consciousness, his awareness had ended up in the consciousness of the African leaves. Interesting story.

"A tree has consciousness. Awareness can flow into the tree and become aware of the consciousness of the tree. Consciousness and mind are totally equated as a one thing when awareness and consciousness are a one thing to the individual. But when awareness is detached from that which of, it can flow freely through all five states of mind and all areas of consciousness, such as plants and the Earth itself, elements and various other aspects of matter. Here we find awareness separate from consciousness and consciousness separate from the five states of mind attributed to the human being... Consciousness, mind, matter and awareness experience a oneness in being for those who think that they are their physical body, who are convinced that when the body ends, they end and are no more."

You've hear my example on that. Best example I know of so I'll repeat it again.

I hold this up and I say: I see the paper. That makes sense, right? I see the paper. If I say: I am the paper. How many of you think that? No one, we don't think. So, we're trained that we're not physical objects. We perceive them. We see the paper; we smell the incense. I hear the water moving. That's the way we think. But then we say: I am happy. We're the happiness but we're not the paper. So the idea is to distinguish what is mental in the same way we distinguish what is physical. We don't want to say: I am happy. We want to say: I, as awareness, perceive there's an emotion called happiness in there. But, I am the perceiver of happiness. My emotions are currently in a state of being happy. But I am perceiving that. That isn't who I am. Just like I'm not the paper.

We have to change our perspective on what's going on inside of us to be as detached from it as we are from what's outside of us. We just have to retrain because we've been trained to have a perspective that I am what's going on inside but I'm not what's going on outside. But you're not either. That's what Gurudeva's pointing out.

"Consciousness, mind, matter and awareness experience a oneness in being for those who think that they are their physical body, who are convinced that when the body ends, they end and are no more."

Then we get the second quote:

"The average person who is not a mystic lives two-thirds in the external area of the mind and one-third within himself. The within of himself can be, and sometimes is, very foreboding. He doesn't understand it. He is a little afraid of it and prefers to involve himself with external things. Possibly he's had some inner experiences, some emotional unhappinesses, and he shuns anything that is inner. The mystic lives, and is taught to live, two-thirds within himself and only one-third in the external. In learning how to do this, the mystic is taught to become consciously conscious, or aware that he is aware. He learns to separate awareness from that which he is aware of. The person who is not a mystic, living two-thirds in the external mind, says, 'I am happy,' meaning, 'I am aware of a state of mind called happiness, I am in that state or that is me. Or, 'I am unhappy. Unhappiness is me' The mystic living two-thirds within says to himself, 'I am flowing through the area of the mind that's always unhappy.' He doesn't change; he is a pure state of awareness."

One of the advantages of that perspective: "I am flowing through the area of the mind that's always unhappy," is, easier to conceive of moving into another area of the mind. Because, you just happen to be there but you aren't unhappy. I, as awareness, am in this area of emotion called unhappiness. Do I want to stay there? Do I want to complain all day and make other people unhappy too? That's the great tendency of mankind is we upset other people because they're happy and we're unhappy and that's not fair, right? If they're, if I'm unhappy and they're happy I have to make them unhappy too.

But, what, we can do it the other way too. You can make yourself happy. So that's the idea here. If we're detached enough, meaning we look at it just as we look at the paper. We're detached enough from our emotions to see where awareness has ended up because of what's happened. Usually it's a reaction. Like bouncing off something; we end up somewhere. If we look at it like that then we can consider the possibility of pulling ourselves out of that and experiencing another area in a short period of time which is the goal.

It's not that we're never unhappy but someone who holds this perspective doesn't stay there as long. Say: This is no fun. I don't even feel like getting out of bed, you know. So, we move ourselves out of it because we're detached from it.

So, back to Patanjali to tie it all together.

"Yoga is the restraint of mental activity. Then awareness abides in its essential form. At other times awareness takes on the form of the mental activity. "

So, have a great day.

Photo of  Gurudeva
Goodness and mercy, compassion and caring are the intrinsic, inherent or indwelling nature of the soul. Wisdom and pure knowledge, happiness and joy are the intrinsic nature of the soul.