The following is taken from Beyond the Separate Self, by Colin Drake. Click here for more excerpts and how to purchase and download this book now.
Awakening is simply a matter of rousing ourselves from the dream that we are separate objects (mind/bodies) in a universe of separate objects. This is achieved by inquiring into our own nature and discovering the deeper level in which thoughts/sensations occur, are seen and dissolve. This rising, existing and subsiding of thoughts and emotions is an ongoing process and that which constitutes our moment-to-moment experience.
The body is experienced as a stream of sensations whilst the mind is experienced as a stream of thoughts (which includes mental images), which leaves the question of who, or what, is the experiencer?? We tend to think of this as the mind but this is obviously not the deepest level of experiencing, as the mind itself (the flow of thoughts) is just an experience!
Similarly with the body where sensations occur and are detected by the nervous system, and other sense organs, this too is just an experience … So what is it that ‘sees’ and ‘feels’ these experiences, this deeper level of our being, the true experiencer and enjoyer of our existence? That which we feel we have always ‘been’ and that which seems to have been the constant unchanging basis of our lives.
This is evidently not the body, for we speak of its parts as ‘mine’, my hand, my head, my stomach and so on … Therefore who is the owner of this complex organism? Similarly with the mind we speak of ‘my thoughts on the matter are …’ or ‘my preference is’ etc… So who is it that owns these thoughts or preferences? The problem here is that we tend to identify with the mind and these become ‘I think’ or ‘I prefer’, but this still leaves the question who is this ‘I’ that thinks or prefers?
The clue is that we could not survive without being aware of our thoughts and sensations (mind/body), which leads to the undeniable conclusion that it is this very awareness that is the deeper level of being … in fact who (or what) we are! For this is that in which our thoughts and sensations arise, exist, are seen, and subside. This is ever-present for whenever a thought/sensation arises there is awareness of it, and this is the witness of all our experiences, the unchanging basis of our existence.
This is pointed to by Advaita Vedanta which regards man as a physical organism through which Brahman (awareness, consciousness) senses and experiences the world. The Kena Upanishad states that it is the Self (Brahman, awareness) which is the agent and witness, through which the mind thinks and the senses experience sensations. However this Self is undetectable by the mind and senses, being the substratum in which they appear, exist and disappear. (Kena Upanishad 1v.1-9)
Moreover, due to its undetectable nature, it is very easy for man to overlook his true nature and identify with the mind and body. The Katha Upanishad likens man to a chariot, of which the atman (the Self, Brahman within each individual) is the master, the body is the chariot, the mind is the charioteer, the sense organs are the horses and the roads they travel on are the objects of sensation. The atman is the enjoyer and experiencer of the ride, which is made possible by the charioteer, chariot and horses. (Katha Upanishad 3v.3-4)
So Brahman needs the mind and senses, to enjoy and experience the physical world. However when the mind is unaware of the master’s presence, through lack of discrimination, it is unable to control the senses which run amok like wild horses (Ibid 3v.5). Brahman, pure consciousness, is hidden in every heart, being the eternal witness watching everything one does. He is said to be ‘the operator’ whilst we are his ‘innumerable instruments’. (Svetasvetara Upanishad 6v.10-12) When we are ignorant of this Self and identify with the mind (ego), our senses become attached to sense objects, which causes sorrow.
Beyond the Separate Self