AWARENESS as the Method, Tool and Goal to Self-Improvement/Self-Realization

V. George Mathew, Ph.D

Elements of Experience

Awareness is the common factor in all experience. All experiences have three elements in common- a cognitive (= knowing) element, an affective (=emotive) element and a conative (=will) element. Relative experiences take place in a framework of our own personal construction of our self (=limited self). In other words, between the object of perception and the experiencer, there is the self constructed framework of the perceiver which distorts the perception/experience. Because of our identification with and attachment to this self construct, we tend to conserve, defend and develop this limited self. Ordinarily, we are not fully aware of this process.

Awareness of Awareness

The more we are aware, the more we become aware of the process of our identification with the limited self. This relative awareness gradually leads to the awareness of awareness or pure awareness ( or absolute awareness). First, one becomes aware of one’s body, and then of the mind and still later, of the process of identification itself. This increasing awareness leads to a change in behaviour: one becomes less defensive (=less egoistic) and less aggrandizing. This leads to loosening of the tie-up with one’s own limited self and thus awareness becomes more and more pure. Pure awareness is awareness that doesn’t involve any trichotomy of (1) the person who is aware, (2) the process of awareness and (3) the object of awareness. In pure awareness, these three merge together into one simple pure awareness. This may be called the awareness of true self or the awareness of awareness. This is beyond space and time.

Purification of Awareness

The purification of awareness is not a mere cognitive, affective or conative process. It is a holistic process and involves the transformation of one’s own root self-directed effort. One cannot achieve this without changing one’s own deep rooted defensive or aggrandizing motivation. Any selfish motivation behind the effort will have to be get totally dissipated before awareness can become pure. All egoistic effort, possessiveness and dissociation will have to dissolve into unitiveness before awareness gets purified. All the defensive and aggressive tendencies will have to get totally wiped out in the fire of awareness before the mind becomes spontaneously quiet and still. It is not possible to confirm objectively that one has attained pure consciousness (awareness) as there is no separate experiencer, or experience to validate. It is intuitive self-validation.

Transformation of Relative Awareness into Pure awareness

The transformation of relative awareness into pure awareness will be a short or long process depending on the degree of defensive tendencies in the person. A person who is relatively free of deep-rooted fears can easily achieve this transcendence whereas a highly egoistic person with a lot of complex and defensive habits will take a long time for the same. Hyper intellectualization and manipulative cleverness are also blockades to the process of purification of consciousness. Persons with strong guilt feelings cannot achieve unity unless they dissipate the guilt. Guilt often leads to non-awareness, as awareness of the same is unpleasant to the person himself/herself. So the purification of awareness cannot happen in a person with a great deal of guilt unless he nullifies his guilt by performing sufficient good karma to compensate the guilt.

Stages of Awareness

There are three stages of awareness. The first one is, doing whatever you do with full awareness. The second stage is just simply sitting with full awareness. And the third stage is sitting without doing anything physical of mental, which is meditation. Only a person with a minimum amount of ‘sathwic’ qualities can directly practice meditation.