Truth is non-dual and not only a matter of intellectual understanding. While intellectual understanding also helps, the final liberation is in the Heart. The Heart is the Witness, free from the subject-objection relationship. Witnessing happens in the light of “impersonal” awareness (I AM), where the mind is just one object amongst many others.
Sushi: What are these identifications, and why do they exist? Who or what is the character? Is it the ego mind and its drama? If our thoughts lessen, will we learn what the Buddha meant by “events happen, but there is no doer”?
Jagjot: Identifications come from the “I-thought,” which is the ego. They, in themselves, are not the problem. The problem is the grasping of identifications – the degree to which we bind to them, both consciously and subconsciously.
You may identify as a female belonging to a specific country, community, or religion. That’s fine. As the “I-thought” stretches horizontally, it creates stories and identifies with them. I am “so and so.” I do “this and that.” I am the “best/worst.” I should be like this and not like that.
For example, someone too attached to their profession or religion may forget that it is the role they are playing. The player is a character identified as the “I-thought.”
So they begin to derive their identity from their profession, work, community, or religion. And when they see contradictions in what is being said and done, they feel cognitive dissonance, which is painful.
Make no mistake. This “I-thought” is a deliberate design by the source to facilitate inter-human interactions. It is the ego or the identified aspect of consciousness. Separation is by design or cosmic will.
However, the suffering happens when the “I-thought” expands horizontally and attaches itself to ego-structures like “I want this,” “I do not want that,” “I love this,” “I hate that,” and so on.
Ramana Maharshi said that this “I-thought” lives by creating horizontal movement through attachment to ideas, beliefs, concepts, and other things. By itself, it cannot sustain itself.
When it is the will of the source, this “I-thought” goes back into the awareness from where it came. That is what is called ego-dissolution or spiritual awakening. It is not the killing or destruction of the ego.
Even after the spiritual awakening, the I-thought comes up again (because it is needed to function in duality). But now, it is colored by pure awareness and remains like that forever.
The awareness once “seen” cannot be unseen. It is then that the direct perception or witnessing begins happening. Witnessing further refines the understanding by breaking the illusory images created by the mind.
Note that the witnessing is impersonal or what Ramesh called a verticle thought. That means there is no individual witness witnessing anything. Everything shines in the impersonal aspect of being or “I AM.”
Before the spiritual awakening, the “I-thought” is in the forefront (that’s what the limited consciousness thinks). Believing itself to be the “doer,” it looks for expansion.
In my spiritual awakening, the way I experienced it was that my ego surrendered like a child. It was a total surrender because I had no tricks up my sleeve anymore. My mind was blank. The intellect had given up.
There was a switch in perception. The “I-thought,” which was in the foreground, operating as “me,” went into the background, and awareness came into the foreground.
As the awareness, I saw the mind-body entity called Jagjot as a character or an object, among other objects in consciousness. There was no locus or boundary to this awareness.
Naturally, the things that concerned me earlier, like family issues, career, spiritual seeking, health, etc., were pushed into the background, and in the foreground was pure awareness. And it remains so to this day.
A sense of desirelessness for worldly things intrinsically came about as the illusion of “I-thought” was revealed.
Desirelessness does not mean that we become renunciates and meditate in the Himalayas. It does not mean we don’t enjoy the small pleasures of life.
Enjoy your hot showers and morning coffee without guilt. Enjoy listening to music, reading books, and traveling. Enjoy sexual pleasure. It is all in the moment, so it’s not a problem.
The problem is repeatedly craving pleasant experiences to satisfy our compulsions when we think we are incomplete without the above pleasures. When identified with an image, we chase pleasures to shun the pain.
Desirelessness means there’s no chasing or running after pleasures for personal fulfillment. It is not indifference or denial because there has to be “someone” to be indifferent or to deny something.
With the shift in perception, the “I-thought” and its movement is witnessed in the impersonal awareness.
No matter how hard I try, I cannot describe this awareness. It is pure – attributeless and boundless. It is “no state” and “no mind.” In this all-encompassing awareness, the character persists with likes, dislikes, preferences, and other quirks.
The awareness is the witness of the character and its story. It is not concerned with what happens to the character (the person) in the movie of life.
Neither is it concerned with the person’s nature, whether compassionate or psychopath narcissist. As I mentioned, awareness does not discriminate.
So even after awakening, some identifications continue, but the grasping of the ego, which creates suffering, is reduced. The objective is not to break the identifications. It is to “see” them for what they are.
When you call a Sage by name, he/she responds. So even in the case of a Sage, the identification with name and form persists.
It’s not that the awakening happens when the thoughts subside. Thoughts are helpful in daily living. Thoughts stretched horizontally into thinking is the cause of our suffering.
The mind continues even in awakened people. Thoughtlessness may take us into a deep blissful state of Samadhi. But it will be impermanent.
When you’re totally attentive to your thoughts, you’ll notice that you are not the thoughts. And hence, there is no involvement with the content of consciousness. Then, you enjoy life, just as you enjoy watching a movie, without worrying about the end.
You may sometimes feel drawn to situations, but the awareness will cut off the involvement, and you’ll realize it’s just a movie. Whatever happens to the character (decay, disease, and death), nothing can touch you.
It is not that we become indifferent to the character. We take care of the body and mind (avatar). When there is pain (physical or psychological), we attend to it. In fact, I will say that when the ego realizes it’s not the doer, great compassion arises for oneself.
All the years of blame, shame, guilt, remorse, malice, hatred, resentfulness, etc., disappear into nothingness. The first transformation takes place at the personal level and then follows in relationships with others.
You are correct in saying it’s all the ego and its drama. The ego loves creating stories. Sometimes they are grandiose. Other times, they are about the poor me, how much I suffered and endured. Repeating the same stories strengthens the sense of personal identification.
Awareness never discriminates. Only the mind discriminates based on past conditioning. The ego creates its own ideas of good and bad, right and wrong, pure and impure, and that’s where all the suffering comes from.
The character strongly identified with ideas and beliefs swings like a pendulum between pain and pleasure. When things happen my way, I am happy. When they don’t (mostly the case), I’m unhappy.
The severity of my suffering depends on the psychological depths to which my identifications run.
To conclude, there’s no point in keeping regret or guilt for what happened in the past because none of it was our doing. Neither was anyone responsible for what happened. This moment or now is the only reality.
In this moment, the “I-thought” stands alone without any horizontal movement. That is why the present moment is so blissful.
"You do not consist of the elements - earth, water, fire, air, or even ether. To be liberated, know yourself as the consciousness, the witness of these." ― Ashtavakra Gita (Chapter 1, Verse 3)