It seems to me, as I read what is commonly
accepted as true on nondual lists, and what I
myself once paid lip service to, but only had
some very vague notions about, that it is generally
accepted in modern circles of nonduality that
one cannot 'know' the truth. That the truth is
something unknown and unknowable, and that the
less one knows, some how the better that is.
To my mind this frankly does not make any sense
and never did.
But I also once blindly subscribed to the notion
that truth 'doesn't make sense, and can't be
known,' so I should just not try and make sense
of it (good luck!), and that somehow, someday,
if I was very lucky, this illusive thing called
'enlightenment,' which those higher ups on the
stage at satsang gatherings claimed to have,
might magically descend upon me from the sky.
There is so much which is untrue in the, now
popular, doctrine of not being able to know the
truth, that I think examination of the doctrine
(as I was first exposed to it) might be useful.
First of all, in the ancient teachings of Advaita/Vedanta,
which precede any other writings or teachings
that I know of on the subject of nonduality,
(including the teachings of Buddhism), we have
the words, atma jnanam, brahman jnanam, atmavit,
brahmavit, atma vidya, brahma vidya, tatvavit,
jnani, and many others as well. All of these
words mean 'self-knowledge,' or 'one who knows
the self,' the knower of tat, the ‘tat’ of
tat tvam asi , (tat, aka brahman, atma, self).
If these ancient teachings of nonduality contain
such words, all of which mean self-knowledge,
moksha, or enlightenment, then perhaps we should
examine the now commonly accepted notion in nondual
circles that the truth cannot be known.
So what do the words 'the truth (or the self)
cannot be known' actually mean, because there
is some meaning to those words, but that meaning
has to be clearly understood.
The words simply mean the following. The self,
the nondual truth of the creation, cannot be
known as an object. It cannot be known using
my usual means of knowledge.
No person can hold up an object and say categorically
'this object is the truth,' or 'here is the self.'
(For those who like to skip to the last page
of the book, in the final analysis, we can hold
up any and all objects and say 'this is the self.'
But prior to getting the truth of that, a lot
of understanding needs to first take place).
So back to basics. Although my self is not available
to be known using my usual means of knowledge,
that is, I can't see it, hear it, touch it, taste
it, or smell it, I *can* know it. I cannot know
it as an object, but I can know it as myself.
Why? Why can I know it? Because, first of all,
you are here to be known, and secondly because
you already know it.
"Well," you might say, "that
sounds confusing." And without further explanation
You are here. You exist. You are a conscious
being. If you say 'yes' to those statements,
then we can move on. If you say 'no,' then perhaps
what is described below would not work for you.
If you say, "Yes, I know I exist. I know
I am a conscious existent being," then we
need to examine who (or what) this existent conscious
being is, that you know yourself to be.
Is this consciousness a product of the body,
(many people assume that it is), or is this existence/consciousness
something else, something which is ever present?
Through a process of analysis, part of which
is known as 'neti, neti,' we come to see that
although everything having to do with the body/mind
changes, 'I,' consciousness, never change or
go out of existence at any time.
Arriving at the direct recognition that 'I,’ consciousness,
never change, while everything else does, can
take some time and the skilled application of
various methods of pointing out.
In the end, what is recognized is that this
self, this conscious/existent being which I am,
is not a product of the body or mind, exists
at all times, is ever present, never changes,
cannot be touched or damaged in any way, and
is the ground of all being. The direct recognition
of my self, the ever present existent consciousness,
as distinct from the changing body mind, is called
So to say that the truth cannot be known, directly
contradicts the words of Advaita/Vedanta, which
is most ancient teaching of nonduality that exists
as far as I know.
What is true is that the self cannot be known
using the usual means of knowledge which we use
to cognize objects in duality. We cannot pick
up one rock, and say this alone is the truth,'
and then point to another object and say, 'and
In the end it is true, that we can point to
any and all objects and say, 'the truth of any
object is the self.'
But first we have to recognize that self as
existing independently of any object, which can
be done, because the self does exist independently
and is already self-evident, but taken to be
a product of the body, which it is not.
So once we have recognized my self as the conscious
existence which is ever present, then we can
go out and examine this seeming world of duality.
Then through more analysis and means of pointing
out, we come to the direct recognition that everything
in the final analysis is my self alone. Everything
'shares' this existence, this knowness which
I am, and therefore we say it is limitless. There
is no second thing which in and of itself exists
Thus we arrive at advaita, nonduality. This
truth, the nondual truth of all which is seen
and perceived, can be 'known,' not as an object,
not as a concept, but is directly and completely
known as my self.
This can happen because the self is entirely
self-evident, and in fact already known, but
previously overlooked or taken to be a product
of those things which change.
It is because the truth can be known, the self
can be known, can be directly recognized as the
reality of all that exists, that the teachings
of Advaita/Vedanta give us the words 'self-knowledge,'
and also 'tatvavit,' the one who knows tat, (that
self) to be my self. Tat tvam asi. That thou
art. Having had this recognition, knowing this,
is also called moksha.
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