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From time to time, I like to vary my learning up by learning about Advaita. Usually these days, this means listening to Swami Sarvapriyananda. 

 

One thing that has come up again that doesn't make sense to me is the idea of chidabhasa, reflected consciousness. The way it is described by Swami S is fairly in line with how it is presented by Swami Chinmayananda and Swami Dayandanda, and others. Basically, the idea is that the subtler part of the mind somehow "reflect" the universal consciousness. Swami S usually related the chidabhasa to "the awareness which we feel right now." The analogy is typically used on the single sun reflected in many pots of water. 

 

To me, this doesn't really make sense for at least a few reasons: we are using physical objects to stand in for a non-physical, non-object (a common issue); 2) it implies that our present awareness is somehow illusory; and 3) it would mean that our awareness somehow "changes" from what it presently is to something else later on. 

Thoughts?

 

For some one interested but doesn't know what I am referring to, here is a fast outline. He talks about chidabhasa around the 6:25 mark. 

 

 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, forestofemptiness said:

2) it implies that our present awareness is somehow illusory

 

Yes, that illusion is one of the basic tenets of Advaita.  I cannot agree with some principles of Advaitic non-dual based on my experiences and understanding.  Check out and read the non-dual as explained in Kashmir Shaivisim.  You may find answers to some of your questions there.  You may want to check out texts like Shiva Sutras, The secret supreme, The Triadic Heart or The doctrine of vibration -- to read or understand how non-dual is seen in KS and how it differs from Advaita.

 

We had a discussion here in Hindu forum about non-dual as explained by Abhinavagupta vs the non-dual of Advaita.  You can search for that topic, you may find some of the discussions interesting and covering some points you raised.

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We need not be able to see the sun itself to know that it exists because, everything that we see, we see only by virtue of the sunlight reflected from it. Suppose that we are floating in the emptiness of space, with no objects, no planets or other opaque material, within the range of our eyes. If we were facing away from the sun then we would see only blackness. Although the light from the sun continues to stream outwards, there is nothing to illumine so that nothing is seen. And so it is with deep sleep. Although consciousness is still present (after all, it is our true nature), the mind and senses are effectively ‘switched off’.

 

Consciousness itself is aware of nothing. It is the reflected consciousness in the mind that perceives objects via the senses. Since these are inactive, we are not aware of anything. But Consciousness is still there, as we realize on awakening because we know that we were aware of nothing whilst we were in the deep sleep state. This is why the Self is called the eternal witness or sAkshI; its ‘light’ is still there even in deep sleep.


So where does this leave us in respect of answering the question ‘Who am I?’?

 

The answer is provided by an advaita concept called chidAbhAsa and an extension of the above metaphor. The word chit refers to consciousness and AbhAsa means ‘semblance, phantom, phantasm of the imagination; mere appearance, fallacious appearance; reflection; or simply image’. chidAbhAsa (when the words join, the ‘t’ converts to a ‘d’) therefore means the ‘reflection, image or false appearance of Consciousness’.


Suppose that we have a dark, shuttered room. It is so dark that we are unable to find anything inside it. We are only able to open the door and, although there is bright sunlight outside, this does not penetrate far enough to illumine the interior. There is no electricity and I do not have a torch. I do, however, have a mirror. By positioning myself in the doorway, I can hold the mirror at such an angle that the sunlight reflects in the mirror and illumines the contents of the room. Although the mirror is itself inert, having no light of its own, it becomes a source of light by virtue of reflecting the light from the sun, which does have its own light. This, of course, is also how we get the moonlight by which we can see during the night, when there is a moon in a cloudless sky. The light of the moon is simply the reflected light of the sun.


The parallel can now be made with our own inert equipments and Consciousness. brahman is the equivalent of the sun, the only true ‘source’ of Consciousness. brahman ‘illumines’ the instrument of the mind, which itself is not a source of Consciousness. But, by virtue of this illumination, the mind is able to reflect the Consciousness via the senses into the ‘room’ of the world and become aware of the objects therein and interact with them (including the body-mind itself).


Furthermore, when we see an object, we register the object itself (i.e. its name, form and attributes) but rarely think that this is only possible because light is being reflected off it from an external source. Similarly, in respect of our actual awareness of objects or of our own body and mind, we register that we are aware of something but not that by which we are aware, i.e. Consciousness itself.

 

Once I have acknowledged that my feeling of being an aware, conscious being is because Consciousness is reflecting in my (independently) inert mind, I can also acknowledge that it is the same Consciousness reflecting in other independently inert minds that gives the impression of other people.


The ‘reflection’ theory (or pratibimba vAda) was fully developed post-Shankara by the vivaraNa school of philosophy as opposed to the theory of ‘limitation’ or upAdhi-s (known as avachCheda vAda), which belongs to the bhAmatI school. But the origins of both can be found in Shankara’s own writing and, in particular, the reflection metaphor is found in his commentary or bhAShya on brahma sUtra (II.3.50) (AbhAsa eva cha).

 

Shankara says on this: ‘The individual soul is not directly the highest Atman, because it is seen to be different on account of the upAdhi-s; nor is it different from the Atman, because it is the Atman who has entered as the jIvAtman in all the bodies. We may call the jIva as a mere reflection of the Atman. But just as when one image of the sun in some water trembles, the other image in other portions of water need not, even so if one soul is connected with actions and fruits thereof, the others need not be so connected. So there would be no confusion. And, as the reflection itself is the effect of avidyA, the whole of the saMsAra as connected with this reflection is also the effect of avidyA.

Naturally, with the destruction of the avidyA there will be the destruction of the so-called reflection of the Atman on buddhi, and the consequent justification of the instruction that the soul is nothing but the brahman.’[3]

 

There are many reflections, jIva-s or chidAbhAsa-s [‘reflections of consciousness’], but only one ‘original Consciousness’, bimba chaitanya. The pratibimba or reflection is the ‘I’ that we start off presuming ourselves to be. But this is only the empirical or vyAvahArika reflection, otherwise known as the ego or ahaMkAra. The real, or pAramArthika Consciousness or chit on which it is founded – its adhiShThAna – is the sAkshI chaitanya, the ‘witness’ Consciousness. And it is this which is the real ‘I’.

 

We are the sun, not its reflection in the mind-mirror of the jIva. (N.B. Swami Paramarthananda, commenting on brahma sUtra (II.3.49), points out that the metaphor should not be taken too literally – there is no physical separation between Consciousness and its AbhAsa, unlike the distance between the sun and mirror.)

 

source: https://www.advaita-vision.org/chidabhasa/

 

10 hours ago, forestofemptiness said:

The analogy is typically used on the single sun reflected in many pots of water. 

 

To me, this doesn't really make sense for at least a few reasons: we are using physical objects to stand in for a non-physical, non-object (a common issue);

 

Hi forestofemptiness. This seems like a matter of preference. How is it you've concluded it is illogical? What would you suggest using to analogically illustrate that which is being pointed to ?

 

10 hours ago, forestofemptiness said:

2) it implies that our present awareness is somehow illusory; and 3) it would mean that our awareness somehow "changes" from what it presently is to something else later on. 

 

Indeed, and it isn't mere implication. It's an outright declaration that an impulsive, (to the exclusion of all else) self-identification with the individual body-mind is an illusion. :) 

 

Pure awareness reflected as the mind is inconsistent, a flickering phantom. The body and mind are temporal instances within pure awareness. Naturally, the registering of the changeful requires that which is changeless. Attributing qualities to that which makes attributing possible, is tantamount to being convinced the sun actually exists in a water-filled pot in which its rays are reflected. It does not. The reflected rays are but an image. The sun is the reality, and 'that thou art.'

Edited by neti neti
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The way I understand it is - It is the “I am” knowing that arises before the mind activates. It is the borrowed/reflected light of pure consciousness which appears as the root of the mind. 

 

How do one know one has eyes? Seeing is sufficient and adequate for that. 

 

To elaborate  a bit more. It is clear that the pure subject cannot become an object. This chidābhāsa is known as sense “i am”, and hence is not pure awareness, but only reflected.

 

Just like the jñāni can see brahmarupam in and through samsāra via asti, Bhāti and Priyam (Isness, Luminous and Beloved) attributes of all objects, similarly with “I am”.  

 

Here is a more detailed discussion  on the topic — https://www.advaita-vision.org/seven-stages-of-chidabhasa/

Edited by dwai
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I didn't say it was illogical. I said I couldn't make sense of it. In this case, I mean phenomenologically, i.e. as a matter of experience. Analogically, perhaps the best metaphor to use is space given it is unchanging, attribute-less, etc. 

 

It seems to me that the term "chidabhasa" can be applied differently:

 

1. To "pure awareness" or "pure consciousness," i.e. the unchanging, objectless, awareness that is ever present like a golden thread connecting all experiences, and yet never apart from any object or experience which arises; or 

 

2. Some sort of object. This could be the mind, the "I am," the ahamkara, etc. 

 

My feeling is that it is pointing to #1 in an effort to reconcile our experience with the proclamations found in the Vedas. Our experience is never universal. For example, I may experience a waking state centered on my body-mind; a dreaming state centered on a fluid body-mind; or deep sleep that is not centered on any body mind. However, I never experience looking out from some one else's eyes. Nor have I ever had the experience of looking out through all body-minds. 

 

So I suppose I would say that it appears to be saying Brahman + upadhis = jivatman = chidabhasa. In other words, Brahman under the limitations of ignorance is not really Brahman (the sun) it is a pseudo-Brahman (the reflection). 

 

However, you all seem to be saying that it is pointing to a #2. 

 

On 9/28/2019 at 7:18 PM, neti neti said:

 

 

Hi forestofemptiness. This seems like a matter of preference. How is it you've concluded it is illogical? What would you suggest using to analogically illustrate that which is being pointed to ?

 

 

Indeed, and it isn't mere implication. It's an outright declaration that an impulsive, (to the exclusion of all else) self-identification with the individual body-mind is an illusion. :) 

 

Pure awareness reflected as the mind is inconsistent, a flickering phantom. The body and mind are temporal instances within pure awareness. Naturally, the registering of the changeful requires that which is changeless. Attributing qualities to that which makes attributing possible, is tantamount to being convinced the sun actually exists in a water-filled pot in which its rays are reflected. It does not. The reflected rays are but an image. The sun is the reality, and 'that thou art.'

 

On 9/28/2019 at 7:48 PM, dwai said:

The way I understand it is - It is the “I am” knowing that arises before the mind activates. It is the borrowed/reflected light of pure consciousness which appears as the root of the mind. 

 

How do one know one has eyes? Seeing is sufficient and adequate for that. 

 

To elaborate  a bit more. It is clear that the pure subject cannot become an object. This chidābhāsa is known as sense “i am”, and hence is not pure awareness, but only reflected.

 

Just like the jñāni can see brahmarupam in and through samsāra via asti, Bhāti and Priyam (Isness, Luminous and Beloved) attributes of all objects, similarly with “I am”.  

 

Here is a more detailed discussion  on the topic — https://www.advaita-vision.org/seven-stages-of-chidabhasa/

image.png.bfdcfd1887e964ebcf0f6e4b1e210f91.pngCommendation

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, forestofemptiness said:

I didn't say it was illogical. I said I couldn't make sense of it. In this case, I mean phenomenologically, i.e. as a matter of experience. Analogically, perhaps the best metaphor to use is space given it is unchanging, attribute-less, etc. 

The problem with language is that it is always symbolic/representative. 

Phenomenology implies subject-object duality. Nonduality is not in the realm of experience — at least not the phenomenological kind (i.e., Paroksha Jnana). It is aparoksha. 

Quote

 

It seems to me that the term "chidabhasa" can be applied differently:

 

1. To "pure awareness" or "pure consciousness," i.e. the unchanging, objectless, awareness that is ever present like a golden thread connecting all experiences, and yet never apart from any object or experience which arises; or 

 

2. Some sort of object. This could be the mind, the "I am," the ahamkara, etc. 

If you read the article I linked to, he makes the distinction between Kutastha chaitanya and chidābhāsa. 

The pure objectless consciousness whose light is reflected in the mind. 

Knowing of the phenomenological kind is only in the mind. And the mind is not Brahman per se. Brahman/Atman is the knower of the mind. 

 

Quote

My feeling is that it is pointing to #1 in an effort to reconcile our experience with the proclamations found in the Vedas. Our experience is never universal. For example, I may experience a waking state centered on my body-mind; a dreaming state centered on a fluid body-mind; or deep sleep that is not centered on any body mind.

There always is and remains an awareness that continues through all three states. But it is not a memory — Depending on whether the identification is with the body-mind or as Awareness itself. 

Quote

However, I never experience looking out from some one else's eyes. Nor have I ever had the experience of looking out through all body-minds. 

That is still in the realm of subject-object duality.

Quote

So I suppose I would say that it appears to be saying Brahman + upadhis = jivatman = chidabhasa. In other words, Brahman under the limitations of ignorance is not really Brahman (the sun) it is a pseudo-Brahman (the reflection). 

Brahman is always Brahman, who is the knower of the reflection and the reflected consciousness (aka mind).  

 

Edited by dwai
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On 10/1/2019 at 7:11 PM, forestofemptiness said:

I didn't say it was illogical. I said I couldn't make sense of it. In this case, I mean phenomenologically, i.e. as a matter of experience. Analogically, perhaps the best metaphor to use is space given it is unchanging, attribute-less, etc. 

 

Then please forgive my lack of insight mistaking your supposed inability to grasp it for labeling it as nonsensical! I'm sure you understand how some opponents of Advaita may seem to easily dismiss its teaching methods due to lack of depth in clarity. Thankfully, you seem to be scratching beneath the surface. :)

 

As a matter of direct experience, one could say it consists of a subtle shift in perception; an inuitive abiding. Being, that is, true knowing beyond intellect, reveals how it is solely oneself which imparts reality to whatever may be objectively known or observed(including the body mind). The analogy in which the self-effulgent sun effortlessly illumines all simply by its being, is quite fitting in that regard.

 

There is a knower of space residing beyond it. 

 

On 10/1/2019 at 7:11 PM, forestofemptiness said:

It seems to me that the term "chidabhasa" can be applied differently:

 

1. To "pure awareness" or "pure consciousness," i.e. the unchanging, objectless, awareness that is ever present like a golden thread connecting all experiences, and yet never apart from any object or experience which arises;

 

On 10/1/2019 at 7:11 PM, forestofemptiness said:

or 

 

2. Some sort of object. This could be the mind, the "I am," the ahamkara, etc. 

 

My feeling is that it is pointing to #1 in an effort to reconcile our experience with the proclamations found in the Vedas. Our experience is never universal. For example, I may experience a waking state centered on my body-mind; a dreaming state centered on a fluid body-mind; or deep sleep that is not centered on any body mind. However, I never experience looking out from some one else's eyes. Nor have I ever had the experience of looking out through all body-minds. 

 

The golden thread throughout, or bridge between known and unknown is the sense that you are. The Subject or Witness through which one could not otherwise claim to have witnessed or known. The entirety of phenomenal manifestation from alert activity to deep blissful swoon arise and subside within it. This experience is universal, and there is no experience or object apart from it.

 

Pure awareness is but aware of itself. Brahman is where only One is. Brahman is non-dual. Experience can only take place with the aid of some other object. Freedom from all experience is freedom to truly experience, universally.

 

On 10/1/2019 at 7:11 PM, forestofemptiness said:

So I suppose I would say that it appears to be saying Brahman + upadhis = jivatman = chidabhasa. In other words, Brahman under the limitations of ignorance is not really Brahman (the sun) it is a pseudo-Brahman (the reflection). 

 

However, you all seem to be saying that it is pointing to a #2.

 

The jivatman suffers from the darkness of ignorance(otherness), delusion that he is other than Brahman. There is only Brahman. 

Edited by neti neti
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Lo and behold! Swami Sarvapriyananda's folks released this video this very morning --

 

 

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2 minutes ago, idiot_stimpy said:

Consciousness watching itself as consciousness. 

 

Being, seeing itself being?

Being :) 

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