So how are we going to find out about the nature of Consciousness or Awareness? We first have to find out what it is that knows the experience of Awareness, of being aware. Only that could tell us anything about its nature.
If I were to ask each of you now the question, ‘Are you aware?’, everyone would pause for a moment, refer to their experience and answer, ‘Yes’. What happens in that pause?
Ask yourself the question again, ‘Am I aware?’, and just remain for a while in that pause before thought answers, ‘Yes’. That pause is a gap between two thoughts, the first thought, ‘Am I aware?’ and the second thought, ‘Yes’.
During the first thought, ‘Am I aware?’, we are not quite sure that we are aware, and by the time the second thought appears, we are absolutely certain, ‘I am aware’. In other words, the certainty of being aware takes place in between those two thoughts. It doesn’t take place in the mind.
When we hear the question, ‘Am I aware?’, Awareness directs itself towards the question. At the end of the question, there is a pause in which Awareness has nowhere to direct itself, and as a result it collapses for a moment, sinks back for a moment into itself, and then rises again in the form of the answer, ‘Yes’.
In this pause Awareness tastes itself, momentarily. In the pause between the question and the answer, we become aware that we are aware. Not only am I aware, but I am aware that I am aware. In that pause, Consciousness knows itself; it recognises its own Being.
It is Consciousness itself that knows that it is conscious. It is Awareness itself that recognises its own Being. In other words, only Awareness can know anything about Awareness. The finite mind, that is, thought and perception, can tell us nothing about Awareness. The finite mind is an expression of Awareness, it is made of Awareness, but it cannot know anything about Awareness, because the finite mind can only know something objective.
It’s easy to test that out in your experience. Try now to think of something that has no objective qualities. It’s not possible. The very best we can do is manufacture a blank object that mimics the presence of Awareness. Although thought is made only of Consciousness, it cannot know the stuff it is made of, just like a character in a movie is made of the screen but cannot know the screen.
Consciousness is an aware field, but because it has no dimensions, we can say it is more like a presence than a spacelike field. As we have just discovered, it is not possible to think, let alone speak, of something that has no dimensions, so in order to speak about the nature of Awareness we give it this spacelike quality. We describe it as the space of Awareness in which all experience appears, or the screen of Awareness on which all experience appears.
Consciousness is a spacelike presence in which thoughts, sensations, perceptions appear, but is not itself made of thought, sensation or perception. It has no objective qualities, and is thus sometimes said to be empty. It’s not really empty, but it is empty from the point of view of objects. It is empty of all objective content or quality. It has no finite qualities and is thus said to be infinite, not finite. Being infinite and empty, there is nothing in it that can divide it.
If there were, for instance, two Consciousnesses, there would have to be something about each of those two Consciousnesses that divided or distinguished them from one another, and those distinguishing qualities would be finite limits. But nobody has ever experienced a finite limit to Consciousness. When I say nobody, I don’t mean to suggest that it is a person that experiences Consciousness; it is Consciousness that experiences Consciousness. It is Awareness that is aware of being Awareness.
If we ask thought about the nature of Awareness, thought will tell us that every single body has its own package of Awareness. But if we ask the one who knows, that is, if we asked Awareness itself, ‘What do you know about yourself? What is your experience of yourself?’ Awareness would reply, if it could speak, ‘I have no knowledge of any border or distinction or form in myself. I am a single open, empty, indivisible, intimate field.’
That means that the Knowing or the Consciousness with which each of us is knowing our experience is the same Consciousness. It means that Consciousness can never be divided into parts or objects or selves. It means that if each of us were to take the thought ‘I’ and trace that ‘I’ to its origin, to its source, and if we were to trace it far enough back to the essential nature of each of our minds, we would all arrive at the same Consciousness. There cannot be two infinite, empty spaces.
The Knowing with which each of us knows our experience is the same Knowing. Each of our finite minds is precipitated out of the same infinite field of Consciousness. Each of our finite minds is a modulation of the same infinite, spacelike field of Consciousness. If we think of each finite mind as a field, we can say that part of the fields of our finite minds overlap, and we call that the shared outside world. Part of the fields of our finite minds don’t overlap, and we call that our private thoughts and feelings.
The religion of materialism uses the fact that we all experience the same world — the intersubjective agreement — as proof that there is a world made out of matter existing outside Consciousness. However, the reason we all experience the same world is not that there is a world made of matter appearing outside Consciousness. It is because each of our finite minds is precipitated within and from the same field of infinite Consciousness. It is because our minds share Consciousness that we feel we share the world. We do share the same world, but the world we share is made of Consciousness, not matter, and we are that very Consciousness that is informing all finite minds with its shared content.
So, the really interesting question, which I believe will sooner or later replace the top two questions — ‘What is the nature of the universe?’ and ‘How is Consciousness derived from matter?’ — is, ‘How is the appearance of matter derived from Consciousness?’
In other words, we will start with Consciousness. Why? Because Consciousness is our primary experience. That’s the obvious place to start. How is it possible for Consciousness or Awareness, which is seamless, indivisible, which has no objective qualities and therefore cannot be divided into parts, to appear as a multiplicity and diversity of objects and selves? That is the really interesting question.
All that is being experienced at this moment is Consciousness. Can anyone in this room, at this moment, find anything other than the knowing of their experience? Look around. Point to something that is distinct or other than the knowing of your experience. It’s not there. All that is known is Knowing. And it is Knowing that knows Knowing.
All that is being experienced at this moment is Consciousness, modulating itself in the form of the finite mind, that is, in the form of thought and perception. In the form of thought, it appears to itself as time, and in the form of perception it appears to itself as space. Time and space are Consciousness modulated through thought and perception.
from his talk at Titignano, Italy 2015