getting clear on some big questions
A shortened version of Stanley Sobottka’s course in consciousness
1. What is the difference between a concept and Reality?
a. A concept is a result of conceptualization, which is the process of separating and naming.
b. Conceptualization is a process learned in early childhood. The infant does not conceptualize because its intellect is undeveloped. In contrast, the sage has a well-developed intellect and conceptualizes but sees that separation is an illusion.
c. Without conceptualization, there are no objects (e.g., in dreamless sleep, under anesthesia, or in samadhi) because, by definition, objects are always separate from each other.
d. Reality is not a concept. Rather, It is absence of separation. Therefore, It is also absence of concepts and objects.
e. Conceptualization appears to fragment Reality (which is also Wholeness) into separate objects so that Reality no longer seems to be whole. However, Reality remains unchanged by it.
2. What is meant by true and untrue concepts?
a. A belief is a concept to which the mind is strongly attached.
b. A belief that cannot be verified by direct seeing is always subject to attack by a counter-belief. Therefore, it must be constantly reinforced by repetition of the belief.
c. Since Reality is absence of separation, It cannot be perceived. Therefore, concepts cannot describe Reality (but they can be true, see g and h below).
d. Example: A material object by definition is separate from other material objects. Therefore, material objects are not real. The belief that material objects are real is constantly reinforced by materialistic culture, and is sustained only by a failure to see the distinction between objects and Reality.
e. Although concepts cannot describe Reality, they can point to Reality.
f. A pointer is an invitation to see directly the distinction between an object and Reality.
g. If a concept asserts or implies the reality of any object, it is untrue. If it negates the reality of an object, it is true (but not a description of Reality). A true concept can be a useful pointer to Reality.
h. Example: The concept that material objects are not real is true, and is a pointer to Reality.
3. What is the world (the universe)?
a. The world (the universe) is the collection of objects consisting of the body-mind and all other objects. The world appears to exist in time and space.
b. However, time and space are nothing but concepts. They are not real.
c. Time is the concept of change. Since all objects change, all objects are temporal concepts.
d. Space is the concept of extension (size and shape). Since all objects are extended in space, all objects are spatial concepts.
4. What are polar, or dual, pairs of concepts?
a. Conceptualization always results in inseparable pairs of concepts (polar, or dual, pairs) because every concept has an opposite.
b. Reality is apparently split into polar (dual) pairs by conceptualization. However, no concept is real since Reality cannot be split.
c. The result of apparently splitting Reality into polar pairs of concepts is called duality.
d. The two concepts of a pair are always inseparable because the merger of the opposites will cancel the pair.
e. Example: “I”/not-“I” is a polar pair of concepts. If the “I” and not-“I” merge, neither concept remains.
5. What is Awareness?
a. Awareness is what is aware of the world.
b. Awareness is self-evident because you are aware and you know that you are aware. It does not change and It has no extension. Therefore, Awareness is not a concept or object.
c. The terms “Awareness” and “Reality” are equivalent conceptual pointers.
d. All objects appear in Awareness and are Its contents.
6. What are You?
a. You are not a concept or object. Clear seeing shows that You are not the body-mind because You are what is aware of the body-mind.
b. Therefore, You are Awareness.
c. The world and the body-mind appear in You–You do not appear in the world.
7. What is existence?
a. An object formed by conceptualization plus identification is said to exist.
b. Without identification, there is no object—it is just a concept.
c. No object is real because Reality is absence of separation. Therefore, no object exists.
d. The apparent existence of objects is called dualism (not duality–compare with duality in 4c above).
e. The sage, being only Awareness and knowing only Awareness, sees no separation, thus he/she sees concepts but no objects, i.e., duality but not dualism.
8. What is the “I”-object?
a. The “I”-object is an assumed entity that results from identification of Awareness, which is real, with the “I”-concept, which is unreal. The “I”-object seems to exist, but clear seeing shows that it does not.
b. You are not an object and You do not exist -You are Reality (Awareness).
9. What is it that makes other objects seem to exist?
a. Whenever the “I”-object appears to arise, the non-“I” object also appears to arise. Then the dualism of desire for, and fear of, the non-“I” object appears to arise also.
b. Thus, the non-“I” object seems real.
c. Further conceptualization then splits the apparent non-“I” object into a multitude of objects, and fear/desire makes them also seem real.
10. What is God?
a. God is another word for Consciousness, which is what You are.
c. Transcendent God is pure Awareness, while immanent God is the Background of the objects of Awareness.
d. Thus, God is What is aware of objects, and God is also the Background from which objects arise.
e. The Background is not different from its objects. Together with Awareness they comprise Consciousness. God, Consciousness, and What-Is are all pointers to the same thing.
f. God, Good, and Love are all the same. Therefore, you are God, Good, and Love.
11. What is the personal sense of doership?
a. The illusory “I”-object carries with it the illusory personal sense of doership.
b. However, since the “I”-object does not exist, there is no doer, no thinker, no chooser, and no observer.
c. Therefore, You can do nothing. Thus, if something is supposed to happen, it will. If not, it won’t.
12. If there is no doer, how do things happen?
a. Doership is a concept that assumes that both the doer and causality exist (“’I’ can cause this to happen”).
b. However, since there is no doer, causality is nothing but a concept and is not real.
c. Since all objects are nothing but concepts and do not exist, everything that appears to happen is also nothing but a concept and does not exist.
d. Everything that appears to happen happens causelessly (spontaneously).
e. Even if objects existed, it is easily seen that no putative cause could ever be isolated from the rest of the universe, so it could never act alone. Therefore, the entire universe would have to be the cause.
f. Because the “I”-object and causality are nothing but concepts, so is free will. It too does not exist.
13. What is suffering?
a. Suffering is the desire/fear dualism (i.e., where there is desire, there is fear, and vice versa) plus all the emotions that derive from desire/fear.
b. Separation of “me” from objects makes objects seem real and desirable/fearful.
c. Identification with the concept of doership leads to the belief that “I” can change what-is and get what “I” want.
d. With this belief comes the sense of personal responsibility.
e. With the sense of personal responsibility, comes regret, guilt, and shame for the past; and worry, anxiety, and fear for the future.
14. What is awakening (enlightenment)?
a. Awakening is disidentification of Awareness from the “I”-concept, and therefore also from the sense of personal doership.
b. With awakening comes the awareness that there is no person or entity, and there never has been any person or entity.
c. Consequently, there are also no other objects, and there never have been any other objects.
d. Since there is no doer, there is no regret, guilt, or shame for the past; or worry, anxiety, or fear for the future.
e. With awakening also comes the awareness that Reality, which is what You are, has never been affected by either conceptualization or identification.
15. What can you do to awaken?
a. Since direct seeing shows that there is no doer, there is nothing that you can do to awaken.
b. Since awakening transcends time, and all practices are time-bound, no practice can bring about awakening.
16. Does this mean that there is no hope for the sufferer?
a. Definitely not. There are many practices that will lead to less suffering. However, like all other actions, they are never done by a doer since there is no doer. Therefore, you cannot do them, but if they are supposed to happen, they will. If not, they won’t.
b. Any practice of direct seeing can reveal Reality.
c. Example: To see that there is no “I”, look inward for it and see that there is none. See also that everything that happens, including all thoughts and feelings, happens spontaneously, so there is no doer.
d. Example: To see that no object exists, look and see that, if there is no separation, there are no objects. Then, look and see that nothing in the world can ever bring you peace. Finally, see that nothing can affect You who are pure Awareness and Peace.
17. What else can you do?
a. Choose and use a mantra. Do it mindfully!
b. Go inward to Awareness/Presence. This will bring you to the present moment where there is no suffering.
c. Meditate. Find a meditation teacher and group that suit you, and give your practice the highest priority.