Saturday, 3 June 2017

The Experience

After dissecting the Experiencer, we take a look at the other aspect of the Presence - the Experience. We immediately find that the Experience part is much more exciting, happening, rich and very mysterious. It is all that is manifested.

What is an Experience?

The fundamental question, as usual. There can be a few ways to describe it without being circular. Obviously, it is whatever that is left when we isolate the Experiencer part. It is something that the Experiencer is presented with. It is the dynamic aspect of the Presence (aka existence) that the Experiencer is aware of or is witness to. It is a knowing in the sense of "there is this". It is the isness. It is also the "not-I" part that remains when the mind identifies with the Experiencer as "I". It is everything that is not the Experiencer.

As you must have noted, its pretty difficult to define the Experience, but it is very easy to understand what it is. It "stands out" apart from the Experiencer or the consciousness. It is what the consciousness is conscious of. We can firmly say that the only thing an Experiencer is capable of doing is Experience, because, by definition, there is nothing else apart from these two.

Experience is not being used here in the sense of accumulated knowledge, training or expertise that comes after a long period of doing some particular task or job or exercising some skill repeatedly. So a baby experiences equally well when compared to a grown up person, and so does an animal.

We can immediately note some interesting characteristics of the Experience. Firstly, no two Experiences are same, so there is Change. If there is no change, there is no Experience and when there is no Experience there is no change. So change is the essential nature of the Experience, its actually as good as a synonym for the Experience.

Secondly, we see that the contents never remain same. They change and sometimes change into something else totally. In other words, the patterns are changing, one pattern changes into another, and that is being Experienced as a change in contents. They do not last, and hence everything is impermanent. We can be pretty sure that if something can be Experienced, it will not last. In other words, everything ends somewhere, sometime.

Third thing, which is really interesting is - the Experience is not a random happening. There is some order and structure to it. Events or contents do not randomly appear and disappear or do not randomly change into unexpected things. There is some predictability or deterministic qualities to any Experience. Not only are contents organized, they change in organized way. Not all, but most. And hence we have a spectrum of Experiences ranging from completely random to completely deterministic. However, the random stuff is not even registered by the mind. The mind is usually pulled to structured stuff. So most of our Experiences are well structured and make sense. In fact, all knowledge is just structured Experience.

Fourth observation that you can make is - an Experience is nothing but consciousness of patterns and there is no limit on the number of patterns there can be. So the contents of the Experience are infinite in number. But we can reduce those contents into qualities or Qualia. So for example, there are infinite number of objects, but all objects are just colours and shapes. There is nothing to an object except a colour and a shape, as far as vision is concerned.

So each sense assigns a "quality" to the contents of the Experience. There are non-sensory qualia too - such as emotions, pain, feelings and everything that appears as "mental" kind.

More questions

So now we can start introspecting and answering more questions. There can be uncountable number of questions, so I will take up only a few.

What is really being Experienced?

If you take a closer look, you will find things or what we call as contents. Contents form parts of an Experience. Its the mind that divides the Experience into separate contents. The examples of contents are: thoughts, memories, perceptions, body, objects, people, mountains, oceans, planets, stars, universes and so on and so forth. Anything that can be named and recognized as a familiar pattern is a content. But ultimately what we Experience is just patterns, changing patterns.

What are the contents? 

They are mind's interpretation of patterns and processes. The patterns are pure information without any substance or substrate. In other words the stuff that underlies the contents is metaphysical in nature. What we experience is essentially an iconification of metaphysical patterns. That is, those patterns are turned into identifiable icons before they are presented to the consciousness as an Experience.

The mind does that, and the mind itself is, again, just a collection of patterns and processes.

What causes an Experience?

Let us assume a cause, but then that cause must be experienced in order to be known certainly, and as soon as you experience it, it becomes an Experience. So the Experience exists even before it is caused, which is absurd. We can only conclude that the Experiences have no cause, they are uncaused.

We can surely see one content causing the other, but Experiencing itself is uncaused, it just is.

How many kinds of Experiences are there?

We can categories the Experiences into two kinds, broadly speaking. They are - physical and non-physical. Physical ones correspond to the Experience of the world - objects, people, creatures, planets etc, and non-physical ones are Experiences of the mind, they are mental contents - thoughts, feelings, emotions, desires, memories, imaginations etc.

You will find that the physical Experiences appear distinct from non-physical and they are presented/mediated via senses. Non-physical or mental Experiences are directly perceived. Apart from this, the physical ones are shared Experiences, we share them with others, while mental ones are private.

Why are there two kinds when the underlying patterns are just one kind?

If you take a closer look, the physical contents are perceived as happening "outside", and mental ones are seen as "inside" you, but when you ask the question - where is outside? where is the boundary between outside and inside?, you will find that the boundary is arbitrary. You can place it anywhere, lets say, at the body, but then you will see that the body is outside too, it is an object. Now you place it at mind, but then you will see that the mental events are outside "you" too. You are witnessing them happening, so "you" or the Experiencer must be outside them, and that is exactly your Experience. So ultimately everything, physical or non-physical is "outside" the consciousness. There is no boundary, or the boundary is only an illusion that exists because it is our conditioning, or ignorance.

So that answers the question - where are all Experiences taking place? They are taking place outside consciousness. Given the unity of the Experience and the Experiencer, that is also an illusion, there is really no separation, the Experience of anything is exactly identical to consciousness of that thing. Just take a look!

For convenience, and as a half-truth we say that the Experiences are happening "outside" the Experiencer. Which implies that all Experiences are happening as a whole, there are no two kinds. The difference of physical and non-physical is merely a creation of the mind. All that is Experienced via senses is labeled as physical and all that comes directly is labeled as mental or non-physical. If you observe closely, we never see anything physical, we always see (or sense) qualities of stuff "out there". The qualities themselves are not physical, for example the color red. The qualities are fundamental and mind makes up everything using them. So all we perceive is mind's creation of stuff, not the stuff itself. It cannot be perceived, it is emptiness, just information patterns.

If you take a look at a dream or an Astral Projection Experience, you will find that objects, people, world and everything that is supposed to be physical appears without any intervention of senses. This shows that the physical stuff is also merely mental stuff. However, even though essentially the same, the physical and mental contents have different qualities in waking state. This is a very useful trick of the mind and helps a lot in survival.

So we find that the physical Experiences can be reduced to mental Experiences and we are left with only one kind. Therefore it makes sense to call everything as mind. In this blog, a collection of all structures is being called a Universal Mind.

Can the Experiences end?

Although there is a continuous flow of change, we can draw arbitrary boundaries and define the start and end of an Experience. Particular Experiences may end, but Experiencing never ends, there is always another Experience that follow the preceding one.

But don't they end when we are in deep sleep?

The Experience follows the sequence - perceptions > thoughts > dreaming > thoughts > perceptions. This is what is registered in the memory starting from waking to going to sleep to waking up again. Since there is no memory formation in deep sleep, it appears as if no Experience happened for that particular mind. But the Experiencer is busy Experiencing through other minds while that particular mind is inactive. So from the point of view of the Experiencer, the Experiencing never ends, but from the point of view of the mind all that can be said is that there is no memory of any Experience during deep sleep, which is assumed to have happened for some duration, although nothing about it is retained.

Since the mind is shut down (most of it) during deep sleep, when it comes back up, it assumes that the consciousness must have disappeared too. But it has no way of knowing that. So, as an aside, it is an assumption that a person is "unconscious" during deep sleep. In the strict sense of the word conscious, the mind cannot know anything about its status, during the period of its own disappearance.

But won't they end after death?

Let's find it out. Let's assume that all Experience comes to an end at some point. But how will we know that? It is the mind that stores knowledge, and since it is also an Experience, it will end too. So it cannot be known by the mind. The mind knows only presence of Experience, nothing else.

From the point of view of the Experiencer, all Experiences come and go, and that does not happen in time, all Experiences are here and now. So there is no start or end of them.

Can't we simply ask others who witness the death of a person about it? Well, no one can witness the status of Experiences, they witness the status of the body only, which obviously turns into dirt and smoke. We cannot rely on others to know what happens to Experiences (including that of his mind) after death.

But from the point of view of the Experiencer, the Experiencing continues via other minds anyway. So we find that the belief that all Experience will end just after death is just that - a belief, an unfounded assumption. Death means end of a particular kind of Experience - one that involves a body. End of it does not imply end of all Experiences. This is an extremely important realization and has huge implications. But then, what other Experience can be had in absence of a body? Well, that depends on whether the mind survives the destruction of the body and this needs to be Experienced by that particular mind itself.

We will go into the details of Experience in the next article.

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