Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Changeless Consciousness



74. ......but I have doubts about the changeless nature which, you say, pertains to me.
Teacher: What doubts?
Disciple: Sound etc., do not exist independently as they are non-conscious. But they come into existence when there arise in the mind modifications resembling sound and so on. It is impossible that these modifications should have an independent existence as they are exclusive of one another as regards their special characteristics (of resembling sound etc.,) and appear to be blue, yellow, etc. (So sound etc., are not the same as mental modifications). It is therefore inferred that these modifications are caused by external objects. So it is proved that modifications resemble sound etc., objects existing externally. Similarly, these different modifications of the mind also are combinations and therefore non-conscious. So, not existing for their own sake they, like sound etc., exist only when known by one different from them. Though the Self is not a combination, It consists of Consciousness and exists for Its own sake; It is the knower of the mental modifications appearing to be blue, yellow and so on. It must, therefore, be of a changeful nature. Hence is the doubt about the changeless nature of the Self.

75. The teacher said to him, Your doubt is not justifiable. For you, the Self, are proved to be free from change and therefore perpetually the same on the ground that all the modifications of the mind without a single exception are (simultaneously) known by you. You regard this knowledge of all the modifications which is the reason for the above inference as that for your doubt. If you were changeful like the mind or the senses (which pervade their objects one after another), you would not simultaneously know all the mental modifications, the objects of your knowledge. Nor are you aware of a portion only of the objects of your knowledge (at a time). You are, therefore, absolutely changeless.
(from Upadesa Sahasri Chap.II: The Knowledge of the Changeless)

The core idea is this: all the mental modifications (vritti) come along in waves and are distinguished from each other by their relation to each sense modality. Note that the disciple proffers a representational account of cerebral events. These events become knowledge successively and in a self-luminous way. The self of this series of conscious states must then be changeful. This view has a Buddhist cast.

The teacher rejects this mental compartmentalisation of consciousness i.e. each sense modality serving the cause of knowledge successively. He asserts that the totality of consciousness takes in all that is present to the person. It is immediate and global though he would not deny that attention can switch as we navigate through our situation. Otherwise the practice of ekgratha (one pointedness) as a useful mental discipline would be pointless. Possibly it is this input switching which gives the feeling that consciousness is moving along with our attention. In reality events are moving through the screen of consciousness. As the Zen teacher said: The bridge flows, the river stands still.

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