Awakening and the subject-object dynamic

What happens when all of your thoughts fall silent? When thinking, finding, judging, evaluating, reacting, wondering, worrying, expecting, defending, rejecting, accepting and so on, simply stops?  What remains? Does it mean perception goes blank and everything and the whole world disappears in a black hole?

No.

Awareness, or consciousness, or being or whatever you call it, doesn’t end. The apparent “things” that were arising, ended. We may call them objects. When we see, sense or think something and have thoughts or feelings about it, that is an object.  It may be another person, a material thing, a thought, a belief, whatever. Whenever attention is put on an object simultaneously the sense of “me” arises, the apparent subject!

The constant activity of the subject-object play seems to suggest that there really are objects (that are known) and that there really is a subject, who knows them. If this subject-object play falls away (temporarily) all that remains is pure awareness or being, without subject, without object. That is what one could call the beginning of awakening.

Most people are so busy in their minds however, so full of thinking, reacting, judging, evaluating, etc. etc., that the sense or illusion of “me” is constantly being generated. Therefore the stillness and boundlessness of being is overlooked. There is too much noise!

Awakening is what “happens” when the subject-object play subsides or dissolves. What becomes obvious then is that BEING itself does not need subject and object. Being is already the case. Everything is already the case. No difference. Duality ends. It is in that subject-object-less being that “Liberation” or “Freedom” or “Wholeness” is realized, but not by any-one. Not by the imagined “me”.

Recognize that?

208 COMMENTS

  1. Love your feel, you have a nice flow to your words.

    It feels unwieldy to me to say “awareness happens” because awareness is quite apparently untouched by the arising of the subject/object relationship; it doesn’t come or go or get altered in any way by the arising of phenomena.

    It sounds like you are sometimes using the word “being” interchangeably with “awareness,” but sometimes not. Using them interchangeably seems fine to me, I suppose it just depends what aspects you’re most trying to point to in the listener.

    I don’t agree that the falling away of the subject/object relationship is the beginning of awakening. Many people have that occur spontaneously and with no insight into their nature; indeed, for many who go through it without guidance, it generates a tremendous amount of suffering as they attempt to reclaim something which never existed.

    A lot of the folks I know in nondual circles who experienced a shift instead experienced it as simply a clear seeing of the subject/object relationship, and realizing that its arising or non-arising is equally unobstructing to awareness. Yes, then quite often the mind experiences a nice sorta peace where the illusion of separation doesn’t arise for minutes or hours or days or weeks or years, but even that peace is completely irrelevant to the recognition that awareness is unobscured, has never been obscured, etc. It would be pretty odd to call the peace awakening; it’s just the mind, body, perceptions etc echoing the “flavor” of the freedom and intimacy of awareness.

    How does what I wrote strike you?

  2. Hi Nagaraksita,

    Thanks for your kind response. Agree that awareness does not happen, which is why the word was put in “”. It’s just a manner of expression. Indeed, awareness is always already present and subject/object appears in it.

    Regarding the use of the word “being”: because of the dualistic nature of language, even while words are understood to be only pointers to something which is not even a “thing” (awareness), it can help to use more than one word. For some ppl the word awareness implies that there must be a subject who is aware. Same for the word consciousness. The word “being” is an attempt to use language without any reference to a person or subject.

    Beginning of awakening: hmmm. Isn’t part of awakening the beginning of a deep/constant realization (recognition) that the self is not real? When one is completely and constantly identified with the play of subject/object, the “me” seems completely real, all important and all experience is “shaped” by this activity. When the sense of that falls away (temporarily), experience falls away and awareness itself remains, aware of itself so to say. If not awakening, which word would then be suitable to describe this?

    (Agree btw that it can be very confusing for ppl when this seems to “happen” and they start seeking for this to “happen” again)

    Perhaps the paradox in the word “awakening” is that it seems to imply that there is “someone” who awakens, isn’t it? From the subject point of view, this may initially seem so.

    Do you see what I’m trying to say?

  3. Yeah, when you were using “being” and “awareness” interchangeably, I loved that for exactly that reason — if someone isn’t noticing that their understanding of “awareness” is actually perpetuating a sense of self, you’re exactly right: “being” is a really prudent antidote.

    The part of what you first wrote which didn’t resonate regarding what you said about awakening was the conditional nature of it: “If this subject-object play falls away…” My point was that while, absolutely, the shining of pure awareness in that moment can be the beginning of awakening, it also doesn’t have to be. I’ve met many people who watched subject and object dissolve, stood wakefully as awareness, failed to see that awareness is present even when the illusion of subject and object resumed, and then began chasing after the falling away of the subject/object illusion, as though unconditioned awareness was an experience to be had, rather than the medium itself in which all things appear and out of which they’re made.

    That’s a super interesting question. Is it awakening if the insight doesn’t arise? Yeah, you’re probably right that it is, and perhaps it’s unfair for me to say it isn’t awakening in those cases where people still chase after the experience, or (to bring up the case of folks who have no context whatsoever when subject and object don’t appear) actively resist it. Perhaps that’s my bias in coming from a Buddhist background, where we tend to use the word “awakening” to point to the end of suffering or the end of the cycle of chasing experiences.

    Thanks a lot! You helped me tease out some nice things here.

  4. Thanks Nagaraksita. Awareness or being indeed is not an experience, it does not have a beginning neither an end, nor is it an experience in the sense that a “self/me” has the experience of awareness. Awareness does not need to be sought, in fact seeking, however subtle it might be, seems to cover awareness over with a sense of “lack”, or “need” so that awareness/being is (completely) overlooked.

    What you said is very clear, my only question to you would be what you mean by the word “insight” in “Is it awakening if the insight doesn’t arise?”

    Insight is a tricky word, it could mean lots of things, am just wondering… 🙂

    Erwin

  5. Truth-Unchanging,Permanent,Screen,Awareness, Light, knowledge
    Illusion- Changing, temporary, film, known, darkness, ignorance
    Changing and Unchanging meet at a point of awareness, whatever u experience is not you, It is u who experiences, like film played on screen untouched.
    Everything happens in your awareness. u remain stand still, as nothing ever happened.
    Waking, dreaming, sleeping happens in awareness.
    Being aware or being abide in Awareness (unchanging truth) is realization, to be Awareness is Enlightenment or enlightened one (whether or not subject-object play arise or subside)

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