Question: Am I the Subject, or am I beyond both subject and object? Some teachers will say, ‘you are not the object, nor are you the subject, you are beyond that which is both.’ Could you explain please?
Tom: The essential teaching is that You – the Absolute, the Self, the Divine – You are beyond all objects, that is, you are beyond body-mind-world.
If a teaching says what you are is beyond both subject and object, then subject refers to the body-mind and object refers to the world, and you are That Pure Consciousness which is beyond both.
If a teaching states you are the Pure Subject beyond all phenomenal objects, then You refers to Pure Consciousness beyond all objects, ie. body-mind-world.
Don’t forget the purpose of the teaching is not to have merely an intellectual understanding of the above, but to turn your attention selfwards and abide as the Self, for this is the key/clue that leads to self-realisation – otherwise it is just theoretical talk.
The following excerpt is from Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 376, bold type is added by myself for emphasis:
A learned Telugu visitor, who had composed a song in praise of Sri Bhagavan, read it out, placed it at His feet and saluted. After a time he asked for upadesa.
[Tom: Upadesa means spiritual teaching or instruction. The text Ramana refers to below, Upadesa Saram, means ‘The Essential Teaching’, and was written by Sri Ramana Maharshi himself. You can find the full text on the link below, together with a PDF version for download.]
Sri Ramama Maharshi: The upadesa is contained in Upadesa Saram.
Questioner: But oral and personal instruction is valuable.
Sri Ramama Maharshi: If there be anything new and hitherto unknown upadesa will be appropriate. Here it happens to be stilling the mind and remaining free from thoughts.
Questioner: It looks impossible.
Sri Ramama Maharshi: But it is precisely the pristine and eternal state of all.
Questioner: It is not perceived in our everyday active life.
Sri Ramama Maharshi: Everyday life is not divorced from the Eternal State. So long as the daily life is imagined to be different from the spiritual life these difficulties arise. If the spiritual life is rightly understood, the active life will be found to be not different from it.
Can the mind be got at by the mind on looking for it as an object? The source of the mental functions must be sought and gained. That is the Reality.
One does not know the Self owing to the interference of thoughts. The Self is realised when thoughts subside.
Questioner: “Only one in a million pursues sadhanas to completion.” (Bhagavad Gita, VII, 3).
Sri Ramama Maharshi: “Whenever the turbulent mind wavers, then and there pull it and bring it under control.” (Bhagavad Gita, VI, 26.) “Seeing the mind with the mind” (manasa mana alokya), so proclaim the Upanishads.
Questioner: Is the mind an upadhi (limiting adjunct)?
Sri Ramama Maharshi: Yes.
Questioner: Is the seen (drisya) world real (satya)?
Sri Ramama Maharshi: It is true in the same degree as the seer (drashta), subject, object and perception form the triad (triputi). There is a reality beyond these three. These appear and disappear, whereas the truth is eternal.
[Tom: Triputi here refers to the triad of subject/ object/ verb, or perceiver/ perceived/ perceiving or knower/ known/ knowing]
Questioner: These triputi sambhava are only temporal.
Sri Ramama Maharshi: Yes, if one recognises the Self even in temporal matters these will be found to be non-existent, rather inseparate from the Self; and they will be going on at the same time.
All we know are objects. The existence of a subject (eg. the witness or consciousness/awareness) is an inference, a belief.
Some versed in advaita-speak then counter by asking ‘Who/what is it that knows this?’. The problem is that the very question ‘who knows’ is based on the belief that there must be a subject, a knower.
It’s similar to an argument for the existence of God in which people say look at all this marvelous creation, who is the creator? Of course, the assumption is there must be a creator, a subject who creates, and this is a false assumption (ie. it is based on false logic).
Inference does not always work as a way of understanding and knowing things, as it is only as good as the logic that underpins it. We could go on with other examples of this faulty logic in which the notions of a subject is unnecessarily believed in: Who blows the wind? Who quakes the earth? Who grows the trees?
Now strictly speaking, we are not saying there is no subject, just as we are not saying there is no God. We are just saying there is no evidence for either of these, and therefore no need to believe one way or the other in a subject.
What we are left with is ‘what is’ or ‘life’ or ‘experience’. It all just happens. It’s already happening. Everything is a part of IT.
So simple, direct, and already fully known (seen), but in essence it is mysterious and uncapturable by words.
There is a great freedom in seeing this.