Photo by Christopher Campbell on Unsplash

How Can I Know Anything Without Awareness?

A while back, a friend was attempting to persuade me that awareness is real. He told me that all the saints and sages have talked about Awareness or Consciousness as being primary. Until recently, I believed that to be true as well. I think he might have quoted people like Ramana Maharishi and Nisargadatta Maharaj. I don’t know much about those people, but I presume that they must have existed in the same reality as all of us.

After I demonstrated that I wasn’t willing to argue with concepts vaguely related to apparently dead people, my friend asked me, “Did you drink coffee this morning?” After I told him that I had, he claimed that this was evidence of awareness or consciousness.

To me, this sounds the same as arguing that if you tap a spoon on the edge of a plate and it makes a sound, then you can claim “Ah-ha, the plate knows that it was made on a potter’s wheel, from clay, and it is therefore conscious.” But the plate is just no-thing plating. In the story, the spoon and plate seem to make the sound because the plate (and spoon) were made, but they are not in themselves conscious of having been made. In reality, they were not even made. There is just unborn no-thing clinking. A human responding to a question is no different; just no-thing responding.

In the story of me, I had drunk coffee, but that response doesn’t require consciousness or awareness. There are a few false presuppositions that the question is based upon, including that there is a past, that there is a thing called me, and that I can know anything.

When the question is apparently asked, it is no-thing questioning. Then, in the apparent story of time, there is a memory of drinking coffee, which is no-thing appearing as memory, and then, in the apparent story of time, what seems to be a response is no-thing responding. In the whole interaction, nothing happened, as nothing ever does.

Okay, you might say, but what about in the “present moment”? Isn’t there something aware of drinking coffee as it’s happening. Actually, there isn’t even that. Each thing that seems to be happening is no-thing thinging. Every apparent experience is unborn wholeness being itself without witness.

The touch of the fingers on the cup, the seeing of the cup approaching my mouth, the taste, the swallowing of the coffee: there is nothing witnessing any of this. All that appears to be happening is actually no-thing touching, no-thing cupping, no-thing seeing, no-thing tasting, and no-thing swallowing. Each apparent thing is no-thing being everything. There is no separation from wholeness that could be aware or conscious of wholeness.

Just to be clear: when I write “no-thing seeing,” I don’t mean that there is a thing called no-thing that is the subject that is seeing something. I mean that no-thing is appearing as seeing, and appearing for no one. It’s more like no-thing is being seeing, whole in itself.

The illusion of individuality recasts all of what is apparently happening to be about the individual: I am inside this body experiencing or witnessing all of this as awareness or consciousness. When wholeness is contemplated from the perspective of separation, it can seem to be some kind of universal consciousness or awareness, but that is a projection of individuality onto it. In itself, wholeness is neither conscious nor aware.

I want to add something about why I’m writing all this stuff. On one level, I don’t really know why; I just seem to be doing it. On another level, there is a story that this is a way to get it out of me and take a look at it, to reflect on it, to come to terms with it. It seems like I’m teaching myself, and in the process I am refining both my way of understanding all of this, and somehow sinking more deeply into it.

I thought we were building a lego castle, but then you tipped the whole bucket of bricks over my head.

I thought I was special, but then you told me that I don’t exist.

I thought we were having fun, but then you destroyed all my beliefs.

I thought I understood what was happening, but then you revealed that it’s just a dream.

I thought that these were my thoughts, but now I know that these thoughts are you as well.

An engineer-psychologist focused on machine intelligence. I write from my own experience to support others in living more fulfilling lives |

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store