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11. The Noumenon and the Phenomenon
Whatever was prior to the knowledge of the consciousness of 'I am' is truth; whatever is subsequent to that knowledge of 'I am', is false. The truest statement you can ever make is 'I don't know', because that is the true position before the consciousness manifested itself. You are That which cannot be known, which is prior to the arrival of the 'I amness'. What has come upon your true nature is something like an illness, or an eclipse, lasting for a certain duration. The 'I amness', the conscious sense of presence has been given various laudatory names like Ishvara, Krishna, Maya, but nevertheless it is ignorance, complete illusion. It gives rise to the world, and peoples it with innumerable physical forms, and then mistakenly believes that it itself is those forms. Thus consciousness assumes the identity of the appearance, the illusory form, and for some time forgets its own true nature. At the end of the allotted time, the physical form returns to the five elements, the life-force mingles with the air, consciousness is freed from the limitations of the body and the three gunas, and the illusion that has come upon your true nature comes to an end.
To abide in your true nature, prior to consciousness, you must go to the source of your beingness. You must go to the seed, the root, and find out how the knowledge 'I am' first appeared. When you find out the seed of your beingness you know the seed of the whole universe. To begin with, consider: Is this phenomenon of the human being any different from that of the other creatures, or even the grass which sprouts up from the earth? Suppose a little water accumulates somewhere; after a time the body of an insect forms itself there, it begins to move and knows itself to exist. Or suppose that a piece of stale bread is left in a corner for some days; a worm makes its appearance in it and begins to move, and it knows that it exists. An egg is hatched and a little chick appears; it begins to move about and it knows that it exists. A sperm germinates in the womb of a woman and nine months later a baby is delivered; it goes through the stages of sleeping and waking, carries out its various physical functions and knows that it exists.
In all these cases what is it that is really born? Is it not the knowledge of 'I am' that has remained latent from conception to delivery, and in due course, is born? This beingness, identical in all these four cases, mistakenly identifies itself with the form it has assumed, and although itself without any shape or form, it limits itself to that particular form. Thereby it accepts its own birth, and being anxious to preserve itself in that form, it exists from that time on in the constant shadow of the terror of death. Thus is born the notion of an individual personality or ego. Its support is food, made up of the five elements, its energy comes from the life force, its destiny is determined by the play of the gunas, its character is consciousness and its true parent is ignorance.
As for the conceptual individual so also for the conceptual universe. The thought 'I am' which is the seed that is 'born' as the phenomenal individual, is also the seed that projects the phenomenal world of the waking and dream states. The thought 'I am' creates the sense of duality in the original state of unity, by separating that fundamental unity into the notion of subject and object. The objective universe arises from the 'I am' through the primordial sound of creation, the OM, which consists of the three sounds, a, u and m. These represent the three gunas, satva, rajas and tamas, which produce the three states of waking, dream and sleep, wherein all worlds are found... namely, the phenomenal worlds of the waking and dream states, and the unmanifested worlds of the causal or deep-sleep state.
But, rather than get lost in the bewildering diversity of the play of Maya, let us look at the overall picture. Manifestation comes into existence through the basic concept 'I am'. This 'existence' is nothing but a projection and for this the screen or the basis is the noumenon. The impersonal 'I am' is the mirror which reflects the noumenon into the phenomenal world, projecting all phenomena as images of the noumenon, appearing to be outside of it. This objectification happens through the medium of space and time, which are conceptual mind-constructs that create the notion of objects. The impersonal consciousness then identifies itself with each physical form and the personal I-notion arises. This I-notion, forgetting that it has no independent existence, converts its original subjectivity into an object with intentions, wants and desires, and thereby becomes vulnerable to suffering. This mistaken identity is precisely the bondage from which liberation is sought.
Liberation or awakening, then, is nothing other than understanding profoundly...
that the seed of all manifestation is the impersonal consciousness...
that what is being sought is the unmanifested subjective aspect, and...
that, therefore, the seeker himself is the sought
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