Where Does the Experience of Separation Come From?
by Igor Kufayev
So that we have a practical understanding of the relationship between subject and object, it would be good to speak about what it actually represents. In other words, where does this idea of division come from? What is the basis behind our experience of duality itself? Because if we have adopted this particular philosophical ground, then it cannot just be taken on some vague understanding or some kind of trust that here is Unity and here is duality, and somehow, they sit together and must make sense.
What makes something into a philosophical ground, into the ground for understanding — a philosophical system — is that there has to be some clarity in terms of its exposition, and that has to make sense to our experience. This is what philosophy is all about. It’s explaining, or making attempts to explain, what we otherwise call experience — not from the gross plane of just sensory or mental modifications, but how it sits in terms of the structure of the macrocosmos and microcosmos; because everything that we experience outwardly makes sense only on the account that there is a recognition. Anything that we experience — old or new — only makes sense because it is being recognized. It’s being literally cognized.
Therefore, we speak of cognition — every act is an act of cognition. But what is happening? This question could be repeatedly asked: If the underlying Reality of all things is held and empowered by that Unified Field of Consciousness, why can there be the experience of separation, or the experience of what we call duality? Why would there even be this experience of subject and object? I just want to know if that is a logical question: Why would that be? If the underlying ground of Consciousness is all there is, why is there this visceral, direct experience of me and “the other”?
PARTICIPANT: As a pre-school teacher, the children have to do that. Every child, they’re not normal, if they don’t develop that. That’s what humans do. The first thing little babies do when they’re coming out of their inner world is learn to point.
IGOR: Yes, but why would that break down Consciousness? Why would that break down our awareness into the experience of duality? I’m not speaking from a materialistic perspective now — this is a given. So, we are immediately invited to speak about Consciousness from the perspective of a monistic or quantum understanding, where Consciousness is a Unified Field. If we accept or welcome or embrace that the ground of creation is a Unified Field, from that perspective, it makes no difference — a newborn baby, an old lady, an old man, a new man — it makes no difference whatsoever. It even makes no difference what kind of physiology that is. It makes no difference what kind of education and so forth; these are all surface values.
Why is there an experience of duality? This is what we are addressing here: what creates the rupture between subject and object? In order to dive into this, take the relationship between Prakasha and Vimarsha, which exemplifies that creative tension between Awareness and the Power to be aware of Itself — that luminosity of Consciousness beholding Its own brilliance. Without this understanding, it will be very difficult to even contemplate the values where the Tantric teaching is expounded from. In the same way, the following is an indispensable part; and that is exemplified by the internality and the externality. It’s that internal and external — and this is what we are going to talk about, even if just to give us an idea and more understanding of what it means.
What subject essentially is is the internal dimension of Awareness. Subject exemplifies the internal aspect of Awareness. It is the internal, never-changing aspect of Awareness; and object represents the extroverted, external aspect of Awareness. When Consciousness or Awareness is withdrawn into Its internal aspect, the thought-patterns cease to exist; all these which are otherwise called vrittis or vikalpas cease to exist. This is the state of nirvikalpa — Awareness without any modification of thought. Consciousness contemplates Itself only as Being. It knows Itself only as subject. And as soon as there is the propensity to go outward, as it were, It immediately assumes the form of an object that It projects out of Itself and illumines at the same time. But in doing so, when Consciousness is drawn out of Itself — out of Its internalized aspect — into the so-called external reality of Its own manifestation, it is experienced at the expense of Its internal reality.
And this pendulum, or this movement, between the inner and the outer is the very basis behind the supreme doctrine of Spanda. Spanda here simply stands for the throb or quiver, a tremor within Awareness Itself. So that internal and that external are the aspects of Awareness which create the division between subject and object. When Consciousness is projected out of Itself, out of Its own will and power to create, It manifests Itself as an object of Its own contemplation and temporarily loses, as it were, awareness of Its internal dimension.
Moreover, what we call “Being” is the very internal or internalized dimension of our utmost Reality, that unchangeable Being, and that extroverted movement is that eternal Becoming. So, Consciousness, our Awareness, is at once Being and Becoming. Becoming, here, is that perpetual outpouring of Awareness out of Its plentitude, and Becoming is the creative power of Awareness to express Itself through the infinitude reality of forms and phenomena. Therefore, two aspects of Consciousness here are eternal: Being is eternal and Becoming is eternal. This Becoming is a creative act, an act of Self-expression; and the outpouring of Awareness is spoken of in yogic and Tantric and Vedic lore as that spontaneous emission.
QUESTION: Before we move on, you were explaining where this rupture between subject and object occurs, and you said that this external experience is had at the expense of the internal experience of Being. But then, there is this state of consciousness of bheda-abheda, which maintains the perception of Unity, even in that perception of diversity. So, this still doesn’t explain where the rupture comes from, because you can have — in that state of bheda-abheda — there isn’t a rupture anymore but multiplicity is still experienced.
IGOR: Yes, because there is no rupture — it just seems as if there is a rupture. Just hold your horses, we’ll come to that. There are still different levels of awareness, and we spoke about bheda, bheda-abheda, and abheda. And in relation to this, what I would like to emphasize and would be good for you to contemplate is that internal aspect of awareness versus the external aspect of awareness. It is everyone’s experience. It is everyone’s experience — it is now. It is always. And [I want you] to understand this not as some discrepancy or some fault in Consciousness, or as some very sophisticated philosophical system. Other philosophical systems explain this as a phenomenon belonging to illusion. For example, from the Vedantic perspective, from the perspective of Advaita Vedanta, what is responsible for this misconception is that one becomes temporarily subjected to maya. And maya is seen here as the superimposition on Brahman, or the superimposition on Awareness, which essentially has no substance behind Its existence. Therefore, it is called and it is dismissed as illusion.
So, maya here is only spoken of, in the case of this perspective known as Advaita Vedanta, as an illusion, superimposition. It has no substance to it whatsoever, and moreover — we spoke about it earlier — it is causal as well. It is something to overcome. From the perspective or the philosophy of Kashmir Shaivism, maya is seen in a different light.
Maya is the power of creative impulse; maya is the power to create. It it is the very svatantrya — the freedom to create. Moreover, that freedom to create and maya are one and the same. In other words — I can give you a worldly example — it is like the Absolute, as an artist, lost in the creative act. Awareness, in a playful act of creativity, loses awareness of Itself, as it were, temporarily. Just as an artist does in every domain, whether it is a dancer, musician, painter, any one —artist here is spoken of universally. In fact, we can then turn that metaphor and say that that is why that experience is there — because that experience is a replica of what is actually happening. The experience of losing yourself in the act. So, this is a positive perspective on why Awareness loses Its power to hold this in utter Unity.
In other words, all this which we are experiencing is nothing other than the creative genius of our own Awareness. This is the Becoming. And where you’ve asked this question is linked to the Tantric understanding of the spontaneous emission. That spontaneous emission, that outpouring — speaking in terms of the anatomy of that process — is exemplified by the outpouring of the supremely subtle category of the pranava or that outpouring of that primordial sound.
The connotation of that, in terms of our own anatomy, is that Bindu Visarga. The Bindu Visarga corresponds to a place of origination, where from a dot of singularity the diversity pours out of our own Being in terms of pure, unobstructed sound. And this outpouring is not something that happens in space-time — it is that which creates space-time — but is beyond time and space, just as Becoming Itself is beyond time and space. Therefore, Becoming cannot be understood in terms of Becoming from “point A” to “point B.” It is a continuous Becoming. It is a continuous outpouring, and this is our experience. This is the true validity of our experience inasmuch as this philosophical platform allows us to talk about it.
In other words, just as you ponder that, even to speak about creation loses its meaning. There is no such thing as creation, because creation presupposes that something has a beginning, an intermediate state, and therefore could have its end. From this perspective, from this point of view, there is no such thing as “the first day of creation.” The first day of creation is at every instant — that perpetual outpouring is that which this reality really is, and that is what makes it seamless.
Of course, our human experience is subjected to the very experience locked in the dimension of space-time, and the linearity here comes unquestioned, unchallenged. But that is being re-evaluated when we directly experience the cessation of any vrittis because, really, the world here is also a byproduct of our mind — it’s a thought construct. This is where Kashmir Shaivism shares its perspective with the teachings we can find in some of the great sages of our time, like Ramana Maharshi or Buddha: that this whole world is a byproduct of the mind, a byproduct of thought. When thought ceases, Subject abides in Itself, Awareness abides in Its universal “I-ness.” It abides in its universal centrality of the “I” — this, by definition, is that Universal Ego.
QUESTION: Why is the illusion of separation so dominant, if we are Pure Awareness?
IGOR: The answer is very simple, but you are invited to have a very radical departure — perhaps from everything you have contemplated or known before. The illusion of separation we speak of is nothing other than the creative expression of your own Awareness, which willingly conceals Itself from Its own nature in the act of that creative outpouring… and in the same way, finds a thrill in recovering Itself. And that is, by definition, Spanda — that movement outward and in is the throb of Awareness. That is the quiver at the Heart of it all.
PARTICIPANT: [Tearfully] That’s quite beautiful!
IGOR: It is beautiful — I completely share that. It is an integral understanding where we no longer abide in any remnants of outlived perspectives and paradigms, whether they are based on some religious hang-ups of separation or even in some of the New Age concepts of ignorance. There is no such thing as ignorance. All this is a throb of Consciousness, throb of our own Awareness — that movement outward and movement back in, this Being and Becoming at once. In the act of Becoming our Being is not lost, but it appears to be so because it is continuously Becoming something else. It’s continuously expressing Itself. There is no end to that power of Self-expression. There’s no beginning to that either.
This unfathomable relationship between Being and Becoming is the very quiver, the throb, of our Awareness. And that throb of our Awareness is what creates that division in order for Unity to express Itself as diversity for the sake of Its own enjoyment. And all the drama which comes in between, of course, is just thrown there to spice up life. Just as we often say that we will not call it a drama and will never go to the theatre or to the movie if there is no drama.
The simple example is given that if you want to go and watch a true nonduality drama or true nonduality film, be prepared to watch the blank screen. How much fun is that? I much prefer Brad Pitt!
PARTICIPANT: You explaining that in that way just now was such a relief to me because I feel like I’ve been trying so hard to remain in a Unity Consciousness, and it’s really difficult. But there’s nothing wrong!
IGOR: It’s total freedom.
PARTICIPANT: It’s so beautiful! Oh, my God! Thank you! Wow!
IGOR: All glory to your own Self — most intimate Self!
— Igor Kufayev, excerpt from Darshan delivered at the “Vibrant Self” immersion at Dancing Deer farm in California, 2017.
To watch the live Darshan, please follow this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OnL1BYoXo7Y