The Theosophical Forum – January 1949

AWARENESS — J. Croiset van Uchelen

The doctrine of Maya, is one of the most profound of all the doctrines of the ancient wisdom, and the least understood. To say that the Sanskrit word, derived from the root Ma, "to measure out" means illusion, does not help unless we comprehend the meaning of illusion itself. That we behold but the appearance of things has been set forth by the most ancient philosophers, and we find this repeated in the idealism of Kant, Hegel and especially Schopenhauer. Theosophy presents an objective idealism allowing for objective relationships as long as they last, but not enduring. And modern science has confirmed the illusory aspect of what we call matter. Nevertheless, to understand the nature of illusion in a philosophic sense a complete reorientation contrary to inherited habit-thought is necessary.

The first question we must ask ourselves is: how are we cognizant of anything? And the answer is that all we know, is known in mind; that there is nothing, either objective or subjective so-called, of which we can be aware, except in consciousness.

Descartes said "I think, therefore I am." We might paraphrase this and say: I am aware, therefore I am awareness itself; for as is pointed out in The Secret Doctrine, "the cognizer itself is but part of the reflection." The thinker and the thought, the perceiver and the perceived, are not two, but one. All our "experiences" are like a stringing together in mind of ungraspable moments, complete in themselves, as are the stills on the motion picture reel to which the illusion of motion, in space and time, is lent. The reason why this seems so difficult to grasp is because we are caught in the self-limitations of sense-illusion. We think we see, we feel, we touch. Yet, these so-called sense perceptions, too, are only realized after, not before they are a mind perception! The image caught on the curved flat surface of the retina, reversed, one six hundredth size, certainly is not what we think we see in space and time. It is a concept in dimensionless mind. And what is time? Past and future are but dreams and the present is past, the moment we pronounce it.

The whole phenomenal world is made of such stuff as dreams are made of! And this applies equally to such objects as one's own and other bodies; beings as well as things. At first these ideas may be somewhat bewildering. It may be helpful therefore to consider dreams. In dreams too, we see and feel (apparent perception by sense) move in space and time amidst other "separate" entities with whom we converse, etc. There need not be any difference in the appearances met with in the waking-, or the dream-world, at the time we are involved in either one or the other state of consciousness. Upon awakening, we have no difficulty in realizing that the whole of the dream-world is within mind. Is it so difficult then to fathom that there may be another state of consciousness where the waking-world is realized as illusive, just as the dream-world is seen in the waking state?

. . . the root of all nature, objective and subjective, and everything else in the universe, visible and invisible, is, was, and ever will be one absolute essence. . . . This is Aryan philosophy, fully represented only by the Vedanta and the Buddhist system. — H. P. B., The Key to Theosophy

These ideas are clearly and beautifully set forth in the Lankavatara and Surangama Scriptures and in the profound Commentary upon the Mahayana Shradhotpadda Shastra.

Perhaps we may approach the idea in yet another way. In Absolute Infinitude there is ever as much in front as behind as to the sides so named, for there cannot be less than infinitude. Therefore "we" are always at the center of a sphere; the symbolical circle of the Kabalists whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere. This obviously makes evolution as impossible as retrogression, and plurality as little Real as all else in the Mayavic worlds.

It is when "the sense perceptions are losing their individual differences, as they become merged into the pure essence of mind that with this merging the habitual illusions lose their existence also," says the Surangama Sutra. And further:

When the intuitive and Essential Mind becomes free . . . it derives its discriminations and ideas, not by means of contact with objects . . . nor in the order and limited manner of the senses, but while it continues the use of the sense-organs for its purposes, henceforth the sense-conceptions become universalized.

This form of mentalism does not deny the world. It comprehends its Illusion. Illusion is not synonymous with non-existence. For Illusion to be it must exist — but is not real. All we have done so far is to point out, very briefly, that Maya instead of being something hypothetical, can be realized for what it is.

Nothing of this is new, but for the Western materialist it is hard to realize that besides the intellectual quality, there is a heart quality, which must equally be developed; that both must fuse in unison before a next step can be conceived, let alone accomplished. Intellectualism is not intelligence, less wisdom. The great Teachers of the human race came not to aid material achievement, but self-realization, enlightenment of the selfless Self.

Correct the disseminating mind, for it is the mind that is "the Slayer of the Real." The clinging to ideas and definitions can only be "cleared away" and be entirely "discarded after attaining a great heart of compassion." Only as one "gets rid of all arbitrary conceptions of phenomena and passes from outward morality to inner Wisdom" . . . can "transcendental mental freedom" be awakened, "where there is no further thought of self or not-self, of self and otherness," but perfect equanimity. This is what the Commentary upon the Mahayana Shradhotpadda Shastra teaches. Intellectualism may serve man, it cannot save him.

Because the mind does not realize the perfect purity of the all-embracing wholeness it falls into the habit of imagining differences where there are no differences, and thus the mind, being inharmonious with itself, becomes the puppet of Ignorance. — (Ibid.) p. 373

It has been said: Learning is good, unlearning is better. However the latter cannot be achieved before the former is completed. We cannot discard what we do not possess. Ignoring the intellect has retarded progress in the East. Exclusive concentration on intellectual achievement in the West ultimately reveals the intellect as its own barrier.

It is not surprising therefore that more and more scientists are turning philosopher. Millikan, Schrodinger, Langmuir, Compton, et al have come to abandon the determinism of Darwin's time. Schrodinger even denounces the inherited "custom . . . of thinking causally." Prof. W. A. Hocking does not hesitate to say that modern physics has now become so abstract that it has left the phenomenal world behind, its frontiers being accessible only to the mathematician. Biologists similarly and with every step forward are confronted with new mysteries and are left to ponder the frankly metaphysical premises of Stromberg's immaterial genii. And from there to Cosmic Consciousness the latter finds an easy step. (See The Soul of the Universe.) Others in this outstanding group are A. Cressy Morrison, author of Man Does not Stand Alone, and Lecomte du Nouy, who wrote Human Destiny. Dr. C. B. Chrisholm, a respected Canadian psychiatrist, believes that the only thing that can save man is a revolution in mind; and Hocking in his Science and the Idea of God writes "A man's religion . . . must finish what psycho-analysis begins." Striking also are the oft reported quotes from Jeans, Planck and Eddington, who intuitively brought everything back to consciousness. "Recognizing that the physical world is entirely abstract and without actuality apart from its linkage to consciousness," they restore consciousness to its fundamental position. (Nature of the Physical World — Eddington.)

Thus in the late scientific approach, every point in space becomes endowed with consciousness. In mentalistic philosophy consciousness is arbitrarily discussed as points in space. The one becomes objective, the other subjective idealism. Both are transient; they are steps, not stops. Western materialism and Eastern mentalism meet in mind, but must merge in Essence.

The self structure of Mind Essence alone is called the ever-abiding, permanent, underlying reality. — Buddhist Scriptures

Breath . . . is nothing because it is all . . . for it has become . . . Be-ness itself. — H. P. B., The Key to Theosophy

As long as we remain in structural concepts, we can go on to ever subtler forms, realms, planes, but we form concepts nevertheless, and so we remain in duality. But the Real is neither one nor the other, since there is nothing beyond itself. The mind seeking to erect a structure of comprehension ultimately discovers that it must leave the intellect behind to let direct awareness in.

Spoke the Buddha:

. . . every disciple who is seeking Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi should discard, not only conceptions of one's own selfhood, other selves, living beings and a Universal Selfhood, but should discard, also, all ideas about such conceptions and all ideas about the non-existence of such conceptions.

While the Tathagata, in his teaching, constantly makes use of conceptions and ideas about them, disciples should keep in mind the unreality of all such conceptions and ideas. They should recall that the Tathagata, in making use of them . . . always uses them in the resemblance of a raft that is of use only to cross a river. As the raft is of no further use after the river is crossed, it should
be discarded . . . as one attains enlightenment. — Diamond Sutra

Such paradoxes are less incomprehensible to the Eastern mind trained toward turning within in stillness, than to the Occidental taught to go after "things" in strife. Instead of releasing, letting go, he goes out and grasps. Living in the noise concept of the West, he knows not silence, and when looking upon the physical immobility of the Eastern Sage, he sees but inactivity, knowing not the real.

We too must learn to quiet the mind, to stand back, to release and let go. Having discovered the Illusion, we must seek the Real. This search lies not in contemplation or meditation, nor can it be willed, though all these may be means. But rather is it a selfless "submerging; a stepping through the looking-glass; action in non-action. Life is met, not held. Responsive action becomes detached, freed in momentariness.

What is this state of Awareness, of Samadhi? Mystics, poets, philosophers in vain have attempted to describe a state of Be-ness which is indescribable. G. de Purucker in Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy refers to a French mystic of the Middle Ages, Bernard of Clairvaux, who spoke of "emptying the mind" so that the temple may be cleansed to receive the light of God. Lines like the following (we cannot recall the author) carry the same idea:

If thou couldst empty all thyself of self
Like to a shell dishabited
Then would He fill it with Himself instead.
But thou art all fulfilled with very thou,
And hast such shrewd activity
That when He comes He says, "It is enow.
The place is full, there is no room for Me."

"What has been realized by myself and all other Tathagatas," spoke the Buddha, "is this Reality, the eternally abiding self-orderliness of Reality . . ."

. . . There is no more, no less, no difference . . . the state of self-realization is free from words and discriminations and has nothing to do with the dualistic way of speaking. — Lankavatara Scripture

We cannot discover the illusion of something we do not understand. That is why H. P. B. says that these ideas cannot be understood until we understand the principles of man, which must not be regarded as bodies, but, as she says, as "aspects and states of consciousness"The Key to Theosophy, p. 99

And on p. 70 of the Key she writes:

I repeat that we believe in "communion" and simultaneous action in unison with our "Father in secret"; and . . . in the mingling of our higher soul with the Universal Essence . . . — a state called during life, Samadhi, and after death, Nirvana.

Here we have reached a point where attempts at discussion are frustrated by the very words we use. And henceforth instructions, if such there be, can only be imparted in the silence.

The Theosophical Forum