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Roles of Knowledge, Philosophy
April 17, 2009
New Visitors: It is recommended you read from the beginning of the web archive, as previous
lessons are prerequisite to this one. The first lesson is, "Why
We would all like to know the truth of our existence on this earth.
Throughout our life we may seek it by asking questions like,
"Who am I?"
I doing here?"
"Who or what is God?"
"What is the real nature of things?"
"Is what I am experiencing right now really true?"
And so on...
If we ask our questions with feeling and persistence,
if we continue to inquire, the answers will come to us sooner or later. How
we go about it will determine our rate of progress, and the degree of ease
or difficulty we may experience on the road to knowledge. Therefore, a
methodology with predictable results can bring some important benefits. We
will attempt to deliver a reliable approach to the field of self-inquiry in
these lessons. Please bear with it for a few more lessons, and it will begin
to come together.
Achieving a measure of "reliability" in the field of self-inquiry is a novel
idea, because the traditional approaches to self-inquiry are often
accompanied by much uncertainty, for reasons that will become clear as we
move along. Is such uncertainty necessary? Not really. It is only a matter
of gaining some education and understanding of the dynamics of human
spiritual transformation. With some practical perspective, the journey can
be made without pulling the hinges off the divine doorway of our nervous
system, or getting stuck in endless do-loops of mental machination.
It is a paradox that formal structured approaches to self-inquiry can lead
to uncertainty and limited results.
If finding the truth were simply a matter of developing an intellectual
understanding of the nature of reality, it would be easy as easy as taking a
high school class in physics, including an introduction to the principles of
quantum mechanics. With that, we will know that all we see and do in life is
playing out in a vast realm of absolute emptiness, with innumerable bits of
interacting energy creating the appearance and substance of everything we
consider to be our real world. How real is this world we perceive through
our senses if all we are seeing, hearing and touching is nothing but energy
interacting with itself in vast emptiness? This is a question that cannot be
avoided when considering the ultimate implications of quantum mechanics, or
of our life in this world. Why is there an apparent inconsistency between
what physics tells us and the physical world we perceive around us? And how
does this inconsistency affect the quality of our life? Can knowing the
truth about this alleviate our suffering, as wise people both ancient and
modern have promised?
can find out for ourselves through direct experience. It is a matter of
perception. To experience and know more, our perception must be refined.
While we cannot perceive radio waves with our normal senses, we have
developed the technology to perceive them, and use them for great benefit.
Modern science has opened many doors for us in this way. Interestingly, the
ancient science of yoga goes quite a lot further than modern science has so
far in dealing with the unseen realm of absolute emptiness we are purported
to be made of and living in. While modern science relies on devices enabling
us to perceive and utilize principles in nature that we cannot see, the
field of yoga relies on the human nervous system to do the same thing, and
with remarkable results.
our own nervous system as the primary instrument for discerning and applying
the ultimate truth of life may seem like a new idea, there have been small
groups of people doing it for thousands of years. The great religions of the
world have spun off and grown from these spiritual innovators. Now we find
ourselves in the information age, where knowledge can be more easily
distilled, preserved and shared among many. Modern information technology
has come to lend a hand to the ancient science of spirit.
Due to the rapid rise of knowledge, we have arrived at a turning point,
a point where many people around the world can deepen their inquiry about
the nature of things, shifting the perspective from being outside ourselves
to include a more penetrating inquiry from the point of view of what is
inside us our radiant inner Self. This has been made possible by the rise of
knowledge about integrated spiritual practices in the modern world, with the
principles and methods of practical self-inquiry being part of that.
Self-inquiry is not new. It has been part of yoga and other systems of
spiritual practice for centuries. It has been called jnana yoga, meaning
"union through knowledge." That is, union of the inner and outer aspects of
life. Self-inquiry has also been called the path of discrimination, and the
path of the intellect. Knowledge of what? Discrimination of what?
Intellectual knowledge of what? These are fair questions. Jnana also means
wisdom, which points to a deeper level of knowing, a spiritual knowing,
where the questions and answers become merged as One, which is the end game
of self-inquiry, and all of yoga.
In upcoming lessons we will delve
into the particulars of self-inquiry, and additional yoga practices upon
which its success depends. But first, let's look at the relationship of
philosophy and experience, which can help form a framework and basis for a
practical approach to self-inquiry. It is a starting point.
begin to think about the true nature of things, it is helpful to have a
foundation in the form of an idea or structure. Or, better yet, an ideal.
Quantum physics was mentioned for this reason, offering the modern
scientific model of emptiness underlying our physical universe. The ancient
philosophical traditions of the East concur with this view, with an
additional component added the presence of consciousness in absolute
emptiness and emerging from it. While it may not be possible to verify that
the emptiness underlying everything is conscious, we can certainly verify
that what manifests from emptiness is conscious, because we are conscious.
Ancient eastern philosophy, and some western philosophies also, hold
emptiness to be the Great Self of all, and that all individual selves are
but rays emanating from the One Great Self, much the way waves dance upon
the surface of the ocean, only to dissolve and reappear on the surface of
the ocean again and again. The waves are ever-changing expressions of the
great ocean they dance upon.
Whether the great ocean of emptiness beyond the manifested universe is
conscious can be debated. But there can be little debate about whether human
beings are conscious. It is this singular fact that underlies the entire
field of self-inquiry. There is a vast theoretical body of knowledge, which
can be found in the amply documented philosophies of both the East and the
West, plus the experiential component of consciousness which can be found in
every human being. Put these two together, and you have the beginnings of
really quite simple. If we can come to know that we are, in fact, the ocean
before, during and after we are the wave, then the inquiry is done.
Enlightenment is ours. Philosophically, that is called the end of knowledge.
In the East, it is called Vedanta the end of the Veda, or the end of
But, experientially, it is not so simple. Something more
is needed, which is often overlooked by those who hold an uncompromising
view of human enlightenment. If our own experience does not fulfill the
philosophy, or even what another may claim as their experience, then the
inquiry is not complete. While purists may hold that emptiness permeates
everything and that we are living in a "non-dual" existence rather than the
apparent "dual" one, then it is up to each of us to verify the truth of this
for ourselves. Then we will know. Until then, we should take no ones word
for it. It is for this that the methods of self-inquiry are given.
But it turns out that self-inquiry by itself is a moving target, varying
greatly in result depending on the person who is doing it. Just as certain
ideas will resonate with some people and not others, the methods of
self-inquiry may resonate with some practitioners and not with others. The
reason for this variation is due to the inner condition of each individual
nervous system. The nature and degree of inner purification and opening deep
inside us has a direct bearing on the degree of consciousness that is
available for gaining direct experiential knowledge of the nature of
The key factor in this is the presence of what we call
"inner silence," also called pure bliss consciousness, the Self, or the
witness. It is called the witness because stillness in our awareness is our
ground state and, once established, is capable of experiencing all thoughts,
emotions and perceptions of our external world as objects outside its own
The presence of the witness changes the
complexion and effectiveness of all self-inquiry methods dramatically, and
our perception of every day living also. Then, the self-inquiry that had
been a moving target becomes steady, and the very knowledge we have been
seeking is what we become. We were That all along, and the witness is That.
There is the old saying that, what we are seeking is what is doing the
seeking. Our inner awareness in the form of the witness is both the goal and
the means for attaining it.
The witness can be cultivated in human beings by engaging in
self-inquiry. However, this is very difficult to do it using self-inquiry as
the sole means. Ask anyone who has tried without using any other supporting
A much more effective way to cultivate the witness is with
daily deep meditation (see Lesson
13). Once this kind of cultivation is occurring on an ongoing basis,
then self-inquiry will have the ability to gain some real traction in our
lives, and add far-reaching additional benefits that could not be realized
with either deep meditation or self-inquiry alone. When we say "traction,"
we mean the formation of an intimate relationship between our native
consciousness and the objects of this world, including our thoughts,
feelings and perceptions of the external environment. Our abiding inner
witness, combined with self-inquiry, can lead us steadily toward a condition
of Oneness, beyond the ups and downs of life, even as we are fully engaged
and going about our business each day. In this condition, there is no
grasping or hanging on.
So, if we are looking for real self-inquiry, we should look beyond the
dictums of rigid philosophical systems to the inner workings of our own
nervous system. If we do that, we will go beyond ideas to the experience
itself. Then the wave will know itself to be the ocean, even as it continues
as a wave.
therefore not an end, but a beginning, a stepping stone to the greatest
knowledge, which is the ongoing direct experience of our true nature our
eternal Self, divine radiance, unbounded awareness, bliss consciousness,
emptiness, void, Tao, or whatever you would like to call it. Once you become
it, you can give it any name you like. Some have called it Pure Joy.
The guru is in you.
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