AADISHRI ARUN : The dictionary defines awareness is the state or condition of knowing or having knowledge off; and being conscious off.
To be alive is to be aware but there are two big questions. Firstly since the world is full of so many objects and situations, what should we chose to be aware of? And the second question is – Who is the one who is aware?
Most people think that to be aware is to have knowledge. That is why people spend lifetimes in the pursuit of knowledge. From how to create a better society, to exploring the frontiers of science and to finding the nature of God, people pursue knowledge because they think that ‘to know’ is the same as to be aware of.
But to have knowledge of is not the same as to be aware.
Let us study the mechanism of awareness.
The first thing to understand is that we take in the world from our five senses. We either see,hear, taste, smell or touch something. The input through our five senses is basically just sensations and they are fed in through our sense organs into our brain through our nerves. That’s the first step.
The second step is that the brain analyses what has come through the senses. This is done by using cognitive skills. The brain tries to fit the sensory input into patterns that already exist inside the brain.There are pre-programmed patterns that are related either to our instincts or to our memories. For example, if the light falling on our retina takes the shape of a lion, we will feel fear since our instincts are pre-programmed to flee and save our life but if the light falling on our retina takes a shape of someone we love, we feel happy. These programs inside us make us react through creating emotions.
Thus our awareness is dependent not only on the stimulus received but also on our existing memory and knowledge of what that stimulus could mean. In essence it also depends on Who we think we are.
This is why true awareness is so difficult to achieve since, most of the time, we are in the reactive mode rather than in the aware mode.
Animals are almost 100% reactive/ instinctive while we humans have the power of discernment-The ability to think beyond the instinct. Thus we can react to a stimulus either through our programming or we can take a step back and look at the input through completely fresh eyes.
Thus when we attempt to gain knowledge, we must first explore why we look.
This is where I must talk about the nature of knowledge.
To know is to understand but since Maya is constantly creating new kinds of creations, new knowledge is also constantly being created. As one thing is replaced by another, the new object needs to be understood through knowledge. In short each new object requires its own particular knowledge. For example when we buy a phone, we must learn to operate it through the do by reading the manuals and by understanding the functions and features of the phone. But after sometime another version of the phone comes out and again we have to gain knowledge about it. This is how our life proceeds and we are constantly gaining knowledge and this is an endless process.
To sum it up, not only is knowledge endless it also varies as per the point of view of the seeker of knowledge.
Thus “Knowledge” can mean a number of things. If you are carrying stones in your hands thinking that they are diamonds, you will feel rich and if I tell you to renounce those stones, you will never do it so I won’t tell you to throw them away. I will simply say, ‘Be alert and have another look!’ If you are yourself able to see that they are not diamonds, the job is done. They will fall from your hands on their own accord. In fact, if you still decide to carry them because of some other reason, then you will feel burdened by them. You will have to make a great effort, you will have to bring great will, to still carry them. But you won’t be able to carry them for long once you have seen that they are useless and meaningless. And, once your hands are empty, you can search for the real treasures.
Thus it is extremely important to have the right awareness before we try to gain any knowledge because that is the foundation of how to start coming out the dysfunction of wrong knowledge. We live in the age of information, but even with all the knowledge of the world at our fingertips, what good does it really do us if we are not correctly conscious and aware?
If we have a wrong perspective then knowledge essentially binds us, the more knowledge a person gains, the more psychologically asleep that he becomes. The more knowledge he gains the more entrenched his mind becomes in a certain way of thinking.
So how do we get out of this?
Firstly the gain of knowledge should never be our final objective. Knowledge is simply a tool in our desire to achieve something. Knowledge is only the map that tells us the way. It can never be the destination. Therefore knowledge should never be the be-all and the end-all.
Secondly we must ask the question-Who is the one who is aware?
That is a vital question. If you believe you are a deer, then the sensory input of a lion will scare you. If you believe you are a man who was injured by a red-coloured car in his childhood, a red coloured car will provoke fear whenever you see it. So the way to expand awareness is to be first aware of who you truly are. What if the deer realized that he is actually a lion which was brought up by a family of deer ever since he was a cub? He will then suddenly lose his fear of lions!
So who we are is the first question to explore when we try to become truly aware.
I will give you a practical way to understand your lack of awareness and your fixation on your current identity. Suppose you are a successful doctor who is wealthy and famous. You are an authority on your subject and you are always asked for your opinion whenever lesser doctors are in doubt. And you are never wrong. You are proud and happy that you are a doctor and you are completely comfortable being known as a famous doctor. Yet when you fall asleep, do you remember that you are a Doctor? Do you remember your name when you sleep? You don’t! The fact is that you completely lose your sense of self and your identity which you cling onto so strongly when you are awake. So if you don’t remember that your identity when you sleep then who wakes you? What is that awareness that keeps watch over your sleeping body and wakes it when it is time to wake up?
Friends. that is your real self. That true self has temporarily taken birth as a doctor! So identify with your true self, that has taken birth as a doctor in this life and then look around the world. That will be then with true awareness.
When we live in that awareness consciously we can function as doctors, lawyers, wealthy, poor, ill or healthy or whoever we are but we are more than that We are an entity that knows how to be in its fullness without the necessity of knowledge.
So if a lion comes in front of you, you will know what to do and if you are a doctor and a patient comes to you, you will know what to do and all the knowledge of have gained in being a doctor will also work but under the command of a true and complete awareness.