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Advanced Yoga Practices
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Lesson 357 - Who is the Perceiver? (Audio)
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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 This Discussion?"
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 awareness.
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 "identification" of 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 basic routes 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 the 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 projection.
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 the mind. 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 radiant joy!
The guru is in you.
Self-Inquiry Related Lessons Topic Path
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Note: For detailed discussion on the practical utilization of self-inquiry, and on how to avoid ineffective uses of self-inquiry, see the Self-Inquiry book and the Liberation book, and AYP Plus.
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