As I perceive the world, my mind steps in to identify and label objects. This process of discrimination by the mind is based on its conditioning. In the mind are stored memories and impressions from the past that attribute to its character and nature of its thoughts. Any interpretation of reality by the mind is therefore highly subjective.

Even the most accurate scientific observations merely provide fragmented information about the observable universe. Due to limitations of the instrument and the imperfect senses of the observer, there is a degree of error in any observation. The assimilation and abstraction of this information then into knowledge by a fabricated mind is therefore imperfect. This is the reason why scientists sometimes derive different conclusions from the same data, or why scientific theories keeps diverging, why some artists observe patterns that others overlook, why cultures and beliefs of people vary across regions. All in all, no two individuals see the same reality.

At a fundamental level, an experience is just that. Pure perception is devoid of objects, names or forms. In order to truly understand reality, the discriminatory aspects of the mind have to be transcended and Naama: names and Roopa: forms melt away.

The student inquires : Who makes my mind think ? Who fills my body with vitality ? Who causes my tongue to speak ? Who is that Invisible one who sees through my eyes ? And hears through my ears ?
The teacher replies : The Self is in the ear of the ear, the eye of the eye, the mind of the mind, the word of words, and the life of life… We do not know, we cannot understand, because He is different from the known and the unknown.

– Kena Upanishad (Who Moves the World, 68)


So who am I, the Seer ? Let me begin with a process of elimination and find out what I am not.

I am not my name because it was arbitrarily assigned to me by my parents. I am not my ego because that is merely who I think I am – a projection of my mind that keeps changing in the context of situations and people.

Am I my body ? I can feel it, touch it and see it age, grow or bruise. The body regenerates in time – new cells are born to replace the old ones. Furthermore, at the fundamental level, my body is made of trillions of particles – molecules, compounds, atoms, electrons and quarks. Which one of those am I ? My body is an object of my senses whereas I, the Witness, am the subject. Therefore, I am not my body.

Am I my sense organs ? They can’t all be me; not all five of them ! A blind man is not his eyes; a deaf person not his ears. Sense organs are my interface to the external world – they gather information and feed it to my mind. I do not need them to dream or think – so they are not me either.

Am I my mind ? My mind is my intelligence, my knowledge .. my thoughts. But I can observe my own thoughts. And in awareness, I can command my mind to stop the thinking or think a different thought. I am not only aware of my knowledge but also my ignorance i.e. I know the bounds of my knowledge. My mind therefore becomes an object of my perception and not the subject.

I am looking for the Witness, the Observer, the I. Who I am I can can know, but not explain. The Self is beyond proof or definition and the very attempt to label it takes away from its essence. But I know that I am aware, that I am conscious, that I AM.

All experience then becomes an acknowledgement of Sat: Being or Existence. And I experience because of Chit: Consciousness.

So what about the objects that I perceive ? They exist in space-time. What is space ? There is nothing else like space. Where is space ? It is nowhere, yet everywhere. What is time ? There is nothing else like time. It is relative. A  lifetime can flash by in a moment and sometimes a moment feels like forever. An observer traveling at the speed of light or near the edge of a black-hole observes no movement of time. Time and space are dependent on the observer. Hence they are in the consciousness of the observer.

The object I perceived to be external before is not out there somewhere but a projection of my own awareness. The subject-object split, a phenomenon of the mind, gradually ceases to exist and converges into a state of Ananda: absolute understanding or Bliss. In Sanatana Dharma, Pure Consciousness is Brahman which then assumes all the forms we see around us – the web of life, the plants, the stars and the entire cosmos.{youtube}SLAN44MRcNo{/youtube}

This wisdom comes from the tradition of Advaita Vedanta a Non-dualistic school of Indian philosophy. It was codified in the early Upanishads (around 800 BC). Adi Shankaracharya of Kanchipuram is credited with simplifying and popularizing Vedanta in the 9th century CE. His slokas have helped transform logical arguments into poetry and philosophy into music. The closest modern science has approached the question of consciousness, is the famous double-slit experiment followed by the advent of Quantum Physics. The experiment demonstrates how matter, in particular electrons change behavior in the presence of an observer. This has raised fundamental questions about the validity of Aristotelian-Newtonian thought and commonly held beliefs about the material nature of the universe.