You define consciousness as the ‘phenomenon of experience.’ Is it possible that there is some “experiencer” behind the experience?
There is no “experiencer” behind the experience. The experience is simply the arising and ceasing of consciousness in extreme rapidity. If we feel that we are tasting the mango, then we are actually creating the “I” - the ego. This feeling of “I-ness” occurs because of not knowing that the experiencing of taste is simply a “taste-consciousness.”
When the feeling of “I-ness” occurs many times over, it becomes a volitional formation, a mental pattern, a deep mental impression, a memory, a karma, which, in turn, conditions the consciousness unwholesomely and unprofitably. Therefore, all genuine spiritual practices should primarily focus on the removal of the “I-ness” or ego. This removal process is the process of purification which ultimately leads to the understanding and experiencing of SOUL.
Is it possible that consciousness itself is the universal being which experiences or knows everything?
Consciousness is not a being or an entity which performs the act of knowing. It is not some universal mighty intelligence or some almighty figure in the conventional sense. It is simply a “phenomenon” of cognition; experience; awareness. Always understand consciousness as a phenomenon, as a flow, like the flow of a river, and, not as a fixed entity.
You are saying that there are 121 types of consciousness. Is there such a thing as good or bad consciousness?
Consciousness is first and foremost “the phenomenon of experience.” However, depending upon the uniqueness, the utility, the manifestation, and the immediate cause of the experience, we can say that there are many kinds of consciousness. For example, we used the term ‘eye-consciousness” for “the experience of seeing” because, this experience is uniquely functional and manifested as vision due to the proximity of our embodiment to the objects of vision. Similarly, we can say that there are many types of consciousness (such as good or bad) depending upon the nature of the mind that arises with it. For example, if the nature of your mind is hateful, then the consciousness that arises in you would be unwholesome-consciousness, or, you can say bad-consciousness. If the nature of your mind is compassionate, then the consciousness that arises in you would be wholesome-consciousness, or, you can say good-consciousness. So, depending upon the ethical quality of the mind which arises with consciousness, we can have many different types of consciousness.
I guess you are basically trying to convey that there is nothing apart from the dance of consciousness. You are saying, “There is no self; no person; no being; no fixed entity; no personal creator that exists in this world.” Am I right?
Then, why do you use the word “I” so many times?
The word ‘I’ is simply a designation for the assembly of body-mind-consciousness. It is used merely as an expression for the bundle of ‘materiality-mentality.’ It is just a word, a linguistic mean to communicate. It is similar to using the word ‘house’ for the assembly of walls, windows, doors, and roof which encloses the space. The house structure is similar to ‘materiality’ and space is ‘similar’ to mentality.
If we were to search for the ‘house’ in the house by breaking it, we would not find it. We might remove every single part of the house and thoroughly examine it for the presence of something called ‘house.’ But we would still not find it anywhere. Instead, we would realize that, as soon as we start breaking apart the structure of the house, the house would start dissolving and only the parts and the space would remain. We would then realize that it was the particular structure and shape, the assembly of all those parts that created the illusion of an entity called ‘house.’
Similarly, if we were to dissect the body, what we would find is a bundle of bones, muscles, tissues, tendons, blood, etc, shaped in the form of various parts such as head, neck, hands, abdomen, feet, etc. If these parts were cut into pieces and scattered randomly, then what we would see is just the organic matter. There would be no ‘body’ left even though same amount of organic matter would be present. Thus, ‘body’ ‘hand’ foot,’ etc were just words for denoting a particular form. They were really just the words for denoting illusions created by the form. If we were to continue this investigation further by penetrating deeper and deeper, we would realize that, ultimately, there are only Earth, Water, Fire, and Air elements, and nothing else. Beyond these elements, there is no further penetration possible. So, these elements are the ultimate material realities and body is just a name, a designation used for their particular manifestation. Same is true for a tree, a table, or a tissue paper. Everything in the material world is ultimately a bundle of four elements.
If we were to conceptually and contemplatively dissect the mind, what we would find is a bundle of mental elements (intrinsic mental phenomena) such as Feeling, Perception, Volition, Attention, Mental-life, etc. A common word for all these phenomena is ‘mind’ which itself does not exist besides being just a name.
Similarly, the word ‘I’ is just a common word in our linguistic usage for the bundle of body-mind-consciousness. Ultimately, what really exists is only the SOUL.
OK. ‘I’ is just a word. But, as you said, it is consciousness itself that thinks it is the ‘self.’ So, is it consciousness or is it ignorance that is responsible for the creation of ‘I’?
The consciousness thinks that it itself is the ‘I’ because of ignorance (lack of wisdom) about its true nature. In other words, it is the arising of ‘delusion’ along with the consciousness which creates the ‘I-ness.’ This ignorance or delusion is conditioned by the stored-up karma and manifests as the ignorant or deluded-consciousness. So, whenever there is a sense of ‘self’ or ‘ego’ it is simply the arising of deluded-consciousness. Some spiritual traditions call this ‘unconsciousness.’ Ego is none other than this unconsciousness. Ego is an ‘unconscious- consciousness.’
We should understand ignorance and stored-up karma as the parents of ego (or unconsciousness). Both are needed for its’ birth. That is why, it is important to practice the SOUL Meditation (which burns up stored-up karma and purifies the consciousness) and SOUL Contemplation (which eradicates ignorance). Many spiritual traditions work on just concentration/meditation or on just contemplation because of which total eradication of ego does not occur. SOUL Meditation and SOUL Contemplation, on the other hand, achieve a perfect balance between concentration/meditation and contemplation practices thereby perfecting both. Please understand that concentration/meditation cannot be perfected without contemplation and vice a versa, and unless they are perfected, the ego - the unconsciousness - the ‘I’- cannot be eradicated.
It sounds convincing. However, I still have doubts about all this. I am not able to accept the fact that ‘I’ do not exist; especially knowing that I am who I am since my birth, knowing that there is this continuous sense of self which existed in the past, which exists now and will exist in the future. I still feel that there is something that transmigrates from past to present to future and provides this continuity of existence.
I guess I simply cannot let go. What should I do?
Meditate and Contemplate! See List
You are saying that ‘death-consciousness’ arises and ceases, marking the moment of death. So, are you saying that ‘death’ is a conscious phenomenon?
Yes and No. Yes; because, as I said earlier, death is primarily and secondarily a material phenomenon, and not a metal phenomenon. I mean, there is no such thing as mental death.
No; because, death-consciousness is really not a consciousness per say, but, it is a manifestation of subconsciousness. It is important to note that there is no new volitional activity during the last cognitive process which precedes death. That is why, subconsciousness arises as death consciousness. So, death is a ‘sub-’conscious phenomenon and not an entirely conscious phenomenon.
What is the implication of death being a subconscious phenomenon?
The implication is that, there is no way to make a choice about what we want to be in the next life-span. There is no way to make a ‘will’ about what we want in the next life-span. At the time of death, we cannot willfully or intentionally arise a sensual desire of becoming a handsome man or beautiful woman or rich or famous, thinking that the last desire would pass on to the next life-span. We cannot think ‘CEO’ at the moment of death and expect that you will become a CEO of some company in the next life-span.
What happens at the moment of death depends upon what we ‘did’ in our entire life and even before that. What happens after death depends upon what ‘happened’ at the moment of death and what happened in the life-spans before that.
What happens immediately after death?
Immediately after death-consciousness has passed away, subconsciousness manifests as rebirth-linking consciousness taking on the same object that was carried by the death- consciousness. It is called a linking-consciousness because it links previous life span with the new life-span by carrying the object of the last cognitive process of preceding existence.
At the moment of conception, the rebirth-linking consciousness arises in the womb of creation. It needs the support of subtle-heart matter (mind-base) for arising, which, it finds in the conception occurring in the womb. This is how the next existence begins. The moment of conception is the actual moment of rebirth or simply birth.
It is important to understand that, even though death-consciousness and rebirth-linking- consciousness are both manifestations of subconsciousness, they are distinct. They are like the two sides of the same coin or like the two sides of the same door. When we ‘exit’ from one side, we ‘enter’ the other side. One cannot occur without the other. At the same time, one is distinct from the other.
What happens immediately after birth?
The rebirth-linking consciousness only performs the function of apprehending the object of the last cognitive process of the previous existence. It is always followed by the subconsciousness of the next life-span. With the arising of subconsciousness, the first cognitive process of the new life-span begins. The subconsciousness vibrates for a few moments as it takes on the object apprehended by rebirth-linking consciousness, and then it is arrested. Subsequently, as discussed earlier (pages ), sense-enabling consciousness, sense-consciousness, receiving-consciousness, investigating-consciousness, and determining-consciousness arise and pass away leading to the first volitional/karmic stage of the first cognitive process in the new life-span. This is the stage when the ‘first’ feeling occurs resulting in clinging - craving - attachment to the new existence. Consequently, a registering consciousness may or may not arise, but the subconsciousness arises and ceases again until the next (second) cognition process begins. This way, the new existence continues uninterruptedly with subconsciousness filling the gaps between cognitive processes.
With the presence of karma, consciousness, and the support of warmth and nutrition in the womb, the process of ‘becoming’ continues inside the physical mother’s womb until a baby is born. The moment of physical birth is the moment of separation between the baby and physical mother’s womb. This moment is commonly known as the ‘time of birth,’ which, in reality, is simply the time of physical separation between the mother and the baby. This time of birth has its own significance.
The process of ‘becoming’ continues outside the physical mother’s womb. The outside is none other than mother-nature’s womb because it also provides necessary support of nutrition and warmth for the generation of matter (growth). Remember that, for the generation of organic matter (or the four essential elements of earth, water, fire, and air), four entities are always required: Consciousness, karma (mind), nutrition, and temperature.
From one birth to the next, the process of ‘becoming’ continues in accordance with the law of creation (page no. ) and the fixed order of the cognitive process (page no ). The birth begins with the arising of rebirth-linking-consciousness and death occurs with the arising of death-consciousness, which, in turn, is followed by rebirth-linking consciousness. In this way, the wheel of becoming or the round of birth and death continues for eons of time.
But, why rebirth-linking-consciousness has to arise in the first place?
According to the law of creation, the rebirth-linking-consciousness is generated because of the presence of volitional formation (karma) and latent roots of ignorance and greed. The volitional formation is none other than the object of the last cognitive process of preceding existence. If there is no volitional formation (karma or sensual desire), the rebirth-linking- consciousness does not arise. This is what happens in case of the death of an enlightened master attaining nirvana.
What are these latent roots of ignorance and greed?
That is the question I have been waiting for! That is a very important question.
Latent roots of ignorance (delusion) and greed are none other than ‘ego.’ Or, we can say that ignorance and greed are the parents of ‘ego.’ Technically, we can say that ‘ego’ is the manifestation of the phenomena of ignorance and greed.
What is the source of subconsciousness? Where does it come from and why it arises whenever there is no cognitive process such as during the moments of death and re-birth?
I just said that the rebirth-linking-consciousness is generated because of the presence of volitional formation (karma) and latent roots of ignorance and greed. In simple words, rebirth occurs because the seed of consciousness shoots out new existence in the field of karma, which is fertile because of ignorance and greed. It is just like a tree-life arising out of a seed planted in the fertile soil-field. The tree-life is like the new existence, seed is like the consciousness, soil-field is like karma/stored-up karma/accumulated karma, and fertility is like the ego (ignorance and greed).
While talking about the cognitive process, I also said that rebirth-linking-consciousness is a particular manifestation of subconsciousness. If rebirth-linking-consciousness (or consciousness) is a seed, then subconsciousness is the latent/dormant/hidden/underlying potential present in that seed. This potential is none other than the stored-up or accumulated karma which is dormant but functional, and waiting to gain the status of full consciousness. The stored-up or accumulated karma does not belong to any individual but to the entire world of creation. It has been formed and forming since the beginningless beginning and will continue forming and manifesting until endless end. Thus karma and consciousness, in general, form an endless loop without a beginning.
Subconsciousness is thus the ‘potentiality’ principle behind all creation or existence. It is also the ‘foundational’ and ‘conditional’ principal because it serves as an undercurrent of creation, and because it is a reason for creation. It is therefore always present in a dormant or ‘sub’ state and arises as full consciousness whenever there is no cognitive process taking place.
In the beginning, we should simply understand subconsciousness as a ‘gap’ between thoughts, as memory, as intuitional faculty, as a storehouse of all powers, etc. We can also understand subconsciousness as what makes the heart beat, makes the cells to grow and multiply, makes all the ‘unintentional’ mental and physical phenomena to occur.
So, you are saying that whatever happens in my body and mind without my knowledge or intention, is happening because of the subconsciousness. Are you saying that all the ‘autonomous’ physical and mental phenomena occur due to subconsciousness?
Yes. But, we should not make an entity out of it. We should not make a ‘thing’ out of it. We should not call it a person’s ‘individual soul’ or something like that. We need to remember that subconsciousness is a phenomenon because it is also constantly in flux and changing. It is really not much different from the phenomena of consciousness, karma, or mind. Subconsciousness is basically a karma-resultant state of consciousness. It is like the ‘karma-field’ we talked about earlier. So, we must not try to find some ‘origin-ness’ or ‘ultimate-ness’ in it.
I guess you are saying that subconsciousness is like a karma-field. Is it also a field of consciousness?
You can say that subconsciousness is a field of ‘dormant’ consciousness and this field is permeated by the force of karma just as the gravitational field is permeated by the gravitational force. Anything that comes in contact with the gravitational field experiences the gravitational force. Likewise, when the consciousness comes in contact with the karmic field, it experiences the karmic force. It is this karmic force which makes the dormant consciousness ‘conscious.’
There is no gravity without the gravitational field and there is no gravitational field without the gravity. They are inseparable. Similarly, there is no karma without consciousness and there is no consciousness without karma. There is no experience without the force and there is no force without the experience.
Thus, karma-field is also a field of subconsciousness (or consciousness). They are all fundamentally the same thing: The mind-stuff or immateriality. When we say karma or consciousness or subconsciousness, we are simply talking about the same thing in different ways for the purpose of thoroughly understanding the phenomenon of existence.