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Who is the Perceiver? (Audio)
AYP Plus Additions:
357.1 - "Why Am I?" (Audio)
August 19, 2009
New Visitors: It is recommended you read from the beginning of the archive, as previous
lessons are prerequisite to this one. The first lesson is, "Why
Q: After some time of meditating nearly every day, I find that I am separate
from the things that are going on in my life, viewing them from someplace
that is beyond. I am able to interact OK, but I am solitary in observing
what I am doing and what others are doing. So now I am interested in
starting self-inquiry, mainly because I want to know what this witnessing
thing is about. Can you advise me on where to begin? Is this sense of
separation I am having something that will evolve into a more unified
A: It sounds like you have already naturally begun self-inquiry. The rise of
the abiding witness will inspire this to happen automatically, and we can
build on that.
What is "this witnessing thing" about?
You are in an ideal position to inquire and move forward according to your
inclinations. All you need is a few pointers, and you will be on your way.
The sense of separation you are feeling is temporary. It is an interim stage
that occurs as our sense of self shifts from being in our perception of the
world to being outside our perception of the world. As our perception
continues to refine within the infinite expanse of our witness, we find that
the world is within us. It is a 180 degree shift. That is fullness with no
more separation unity. It is the journey from abiding inner silence (stage
1), into the refinement of perception (stage 2), and then an introversion
into unity (stage 3).
We know the first stage is dependent primarily on deep meditation. The
second stage involves our ecstatic awakening and introversion of sensory
perception, which is addressed through pranayama, asanas, mudras, bandhas,
and tantric techniques. The third stage is the province of samyama and
self-inquiry, as we have been discussing in recent lessons. Our bhakti plays
a key role throughout all stages.
Once the witness is present, we may initially be inclined to apply it in
practical ways to improve the quality of our life. Our ability to release
undesirable thoughts and emotions will be one of the first things we notice.
It is natural. When our thoughts and feelings are seen to be the objects
that they are, and not extensions of our self, it becomes easy to release
them, and move on to a more fulfilling mode of thinking and feeling, without
the "hang-ups" we have experienced in the past. You have more choice about
that now than you ever did before. That is the power of the witness, and the
beginning of self-inquiry.
Depending on your inclinations, you may wish to go more directly into the
nature of just who or what it is behind "this witnessing thing." For that,
you will find yourself beginning to make distinctions between the observer
(your sense of self), the mechanics of perception (your neurobiological
processes), and the objects of perception that are projected on your
Everything we perceive is a projection on our awareness, either coming
through our senses, or from impressions and memories stored in our
neurobiology. Everything! All
of our thoughts and feelings are derived from these limited sources. It is
not the actual world we are seeing, or the actual anything. Everything we
perceive is a construct occurring in our neurobiology. This is why the
jnanis and advaitans say that the world we are seeing is not real does not
exist. What we are seeing is manufactured in our
neurobiology, and projected
on the screen of our awareness, like a movie.
Our mind is a conglomeration of thoughts
arising due to all
this inner activity, and our ego-self is an identification of our awareness
with what we call the body/mind. Our ego-self is an idea, a projection in
the mind that takes ownership of all the other projections. It is the root
of personal identity. More rightly, it is the
our awareness with the movie show going on in our neurobiology. And
we call it "I." It is the I-thought. But what is it really?
Once the witness arrives on the scene, we begin to see all of this in a new
light. As you have indicated, now your self is somehow outside the field of
activity. You still have the I-thought, so the question naturally arises,
"What is going on?"
There are two
of inquiry you can take from here. You can go both routes at once if you are
inclined. You can begin to peel off (drop/negate) the projections of objects
in your awareness as they occur one by one, knowing them to be projections
and not reality. This is an endless process, since the number of objects
projected is endless. But it can be fulfilling (joyful even) for one who has
the abiding witness,
and drudgery for one who does not.
It can be "not this, not this" all day long. Still, we have to continue to
function in the world. And we can, as you have noted, as long as we don't
over do it by turning our inquiry in stillness into a mental obsession.
You can also inquire as to "who" is perceiving whatever is happening. The
answer will always be the same. It is "I." And then the question arises,
"Who or what am I?"
Assuming we have the witness present, and some accompanying refinement of
perception (ecstatic conductivity), this kind of inquiry can shortcut
objects of perception being projected on the screen of our awareness. It is
remarkable how the question "Who is perceiving this?" can dissolve an object
before it can fully occupy
screen of our awareness. We can divert immediately from the perception of an
object to the perceiver, just like that. It is a useful habit to develop.
Now we come to the question of the perceiver. Can the perceiver be the
I-thought? It cant, because the I-thought is only a thought, an object
projected by the machinery of the mind on our awareness. An object cannot be
the perceiver. The
perceived cannot be the perceiver.
It can only pretend to be the perceiver. As soon as we ask "Who is that
I-thought?" it will melt away into stillness like any other thought
So then, who is the perceiver? It is that which is not a thought, not an
object. It is the observer behind the machinery of perception. It is the
screen upon which everything is projected. It is our native awareness, the
witness that is experiencing this right now. It is your Self.
Ultimately, this realization is
not a logical process in
It cannot stand without the presence of the witness. It is direct
experiential knowledge we consciously "become" as our sense of self shifts
from that which is a projection to that which is behind all projections. We
are That. Eternal
The guru is in you.
Self-Inquiry Related Lessons Topic Path
Witnessing Related Lessons Topic Path
Discuss this Lesson in the AYP Plus Support Forum
detailed discussion on the practical
utilization of self-inquiry, and on how to avoid ineffective uses of
self-inquiry, see the
and the Liberation book,
and AYP Plus.