John: The question I have relates to Ramesh Balsekar’s book. What does he mean by noumenon, unicity, and phenomenal duality? Is unicity the absolute or impersonal-I, subject, or I AM, and phenomenal duality is my phenomenal mind-body object in time and space?
Jagjot: Yes, John. Ramesh Balsekar used those words (noumenon or unicity) as a pointer to the absolute-I or the impersonal subject or potential energy.
The impersonal subject is the oneness that pervades everything. It is what Ramana Maharishi called the SELF. It is what the traditional non-dual scriptures call the Brahman or Atman or the ultimate reality.
Although it is extremely difficult, I’ll try to explain this with a rudimentary example. Let’s take a simple object such as the clay pot. What is the reality of the clay pot? Is it the pot? Or is the clay? You see, only the mind creates this duality. In reality, the clay and pot are one. It is all clay. If they were two, you could keep the pot, and I could keep the clay.
But in order to use the pot for practical purposes, you have to think of it like a clay pot. It is a concept that enables you to interact with the object. And while you do that for obvious purposes, deep within, you know that it’s all clay.
Similarly, the world of phenomenality manifests as a subject-object relationship. There’s a subject (you) that sees the world of objects. The mind creates this appearance. In this mind shines the I-thought or relative-I that comes into existence only when it comes in contact with an object of experience, which may be a physical object (like a phone) or a subtle object (like thoughts).
As we continually interact with objects, we get an impression that we are this relative-I. But it is not the truth. How do we know? Because it is not a consistent experience? In a deep sleep (dreamless), there’s no object of experience, and hence, there’s no relative-I. Reality can never be a discontinuous experience.
Therefore, the absolute-I or pure awareness is the final truth. Your experience of existence is proof of that. You can deny every other fact, except that you exist. You exist in all states of consciousness: waking, dreaming, and deep sleep. When the mind is silent or with minimal movement, we get a glimpse into the nature of the absolute.
Just like the clay is not separate from the pot, the mind is not separate from the absolute reality. The mind is a projection of the absolute, which the traditional teachings call the illusion or Maya. This illusion of the individual self as the mind-body organism is not evil or undesirable because it forms the basis for interhuman interaction.
But at the same, there’s a higher realization that the mind-body organism is not the final truth. The source of the absolute is all there is. Think of the absolute as the potential energy that activates itself to create the world of names and forms.
Why does it do that? Because it is potential. It’s the nature of the potential to activate itself. Ramesh used to say that as the potential creates the Ego in some mind-body organisms, it simultaneously dissolves the Ego in others.
Please note that use of the words potential energy is only to explain the concept of the ultimate reality. Don’t take it literally to be energy, because energy is also a form. And what we’re talking about is something formless. It cannot be conceptualized. If you to know more, you read my essay on the essence of Advaita (non-duality).
John: You have written the following: “experience requires an act like watching, thinking … It requires a subject that experiences an object, for e. g., when you see your thought, your mind becomes the seer (the subject) the thought becomes seen (the object) and seeing is the experience. Hence, it is dual. There cannot be an experience without the subject and the object.”
My question is that isn’t the above from the position of the Ego, “Me,” or the personal-I, or False-I? In short, the phenomenal duality position? Truth, conversely, states the real Subject or Seer is the Absolute Impersonal or noumenal I “seeing” my thoughts or appearances in my mind or phenomenal object ( seen)? Isn’t that correct, Jagjot?
Jagjot: Yes, absolutely. You’re correct again here. Except that from the perspective of absolute awareness, there’s no personal “seeing.”
Seeing (or witnessing) is just an impersonal happening, so there are no “my” thoughts or appearances in “my” mind.
I believe that the article you referred to is about the witness. Witnessing is the impersonal aspect of consciousness, whereas the mind is the identified aspect of consciousness.
When the mind is still, witnessing happens on its own. The mind is characterized by a subject (me) observing an object where it judges the experience as good, bad, neutral, beautiful, ugly, and so on, from the perspective of the limited “me.”
While in witnessing, there’s no involvement of the “me.” Seeing is happening, but there’s no seer. It creates a sense of detachment with the object of experience, and things are simply seen for what they are rather than what they should be.
The ending of the thinking mind is the ultimate peace or bliss. Witnessing happens when the involvement from the thinking mind is cut-off. As the spiritual understanding deepens, the involvement begins to cut off sooner.
What remains is the pure impersonal awareness that is non-judgmental, non-analytical, and non-reactive. It is what Buddha called Nirvana – the end of suffering. It is what the Vedanta philosophy calls the ultimate reality.