Monday, 6 October 2014

Part 2: The Observer Itself

So who is this Observer who is such an essential part of meditation? 

The Observer is the identity of the one who is aware. Awareness as we know is the one guaranteed constant in meditation practice. Of course at first it seems that the awareness is just a part of the mind trying to observe itself. And of course this sounds absurd, as absurd as the example often given for this:

Imagine that there is a thief. And it is necessary to identify and catch the thief. Who is assigned to catch the thief? It's the policeman. Naturally the policeman will catch the thief. But in this scenario - which is the mind being aware of itself, also the mind - the policeman is the same person as the thief. He's trying to catch himself! Now the thief is a thief. He has all the natural deception of a thief. But the policeman is also still a policeman, he believes in justice and upholds the law. So you can see the natural dilemma if the policeman is assigned to catch the thief who is himself. And the mind watching the mind also reflects the different aspects of any individual which leads to a divided personality.


So although at first it may be that the awareness appears to be the mind being aware of itself, watching itself, this is just an early stage, which it is necessary to go through. Now, it helps to have some understanding by considering the possibility of the awareness, which we have identified as the Observer, arising out of a different quality than the mind. Up to now we have always considered our identity to be identical with the mind. This is an often mentioned truth in yoga, so much so that it's become a cliche. We hear it, nod to ourselves, even smile, and then pass on. Without actually realising that this is the key to all the problems that arise in yoga. If we know that the mind and the true identity are not the same, why then do we go on behaving as if this were not true! What would be the behaviour of one who believes that this is true and would like to investigate further? At least consider this in relation to meditation, where it matters most.

If the mind is not the true nature, who or what is the true nature? This is the search that we undertake by any form of spirited enquiry. It must mean that there is a self, an identity, which is not defined by the mind. What is that, where is that? If it was so easy none of this would be necessary. The search for this, the thing itself, is what we undertake with the journey. But why undertake the journey in the first place? Because we have heard about, because we believe in, because we have had some momentary connection, with the thing itself. If truth is there as real identity then, in our thoughts about it, in our consideration of it, in our belief, and most specifically in our practice, it must become more recognisable. It doesn't make it easy, but it is there.

So let us accept for the moment that there is a true nature residing within us that we do not yet know - at first as a thought, then as a belief, then as a sincere undertaking. To discover this hidden inner identity, it is this word identity which is the key. Remember that up to now we have always considered the identity to be with the mind. Now we are considering that the real identity lies elsewhere. So now the relationship with the mind changes, which is why we have taken so much trouble to develop this quality of awareness. It doesn't take too much more from here to connect up the dots. If the awareness can be considered to be an extension of the true nature then everything begins to fall into place. 


True nature knows itself through a quality called drashta. Drashta is perfected awareness. As we practice, so our awareness - with all its trials, tribulations, faults and corrections - becomes more refined. The refining of the awareness brings us nearer to drashta. And drashta knows its own true nature. So consider awareness simply to be an extension of drashta.

Experience has given rise to an identity which is a product of the mind. It is not a true identity. So as practice goes on there is a sense of a transition of identity from what is observed to the Observer itself and as we have seen Observer is an extension of drashta which knows its true nature.

Qualities of the Observer

Which is why it is possible eventually to become free, when we recognise and trust some connection with the qualities of the Observer, why it is possible to be free from both Experience and the Experiencer. And what are the qualities of the Observer? You’ve heard it here before: presence, being in the present moment as much as possible; and a certain way of seeing everything in a particular light - equally, dispassionately, and without continually falling for the temptation of those two impostors, preference and rejection - at least in meditation. And being in harmony with that. You just take it from there.

Further reading:

Part 1: Experience, Experiencer and the Observer

Part 3: What does the Observer Observe?

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