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Difference Between Seer And Seen In Vedanta

Vedanta philosophy describes at great length the distinction between the ‘Seer’ and the ‘seen’, the Subject and the object, the ‘Ego’ and the ‘non-Ego’.

The ‘Seer’ is the perceiver, identical with the Subject and the Ego, and is of the nature of Consciousness and Intelligence. The ‘seen’ is the thing perceived, identical with the object and the non-Ego, and is insentient by nature.

The ‘Seer’ is all sentiency; therefore the ‘seer’ and the ‘seen’ the Subject and the object, the ‘Ego’ and the ‘non-Ego,’ are mutually opposed and must never be identified with each other.

If one associates the attributes of the Subject with the object, or, vice versa, those of the object with the Subject, one is a victim of an illusory superimposition, the result of one’s own ignorance. Yet it is a matter of common experience that in daily practical life people do not distinguishes between the Subject and the object, but superimposes the attributes of the one upon the other. Through ignorance they confuse the Subject with the object. This confusion is observable in every action and thought of our daily life, and is expressed in such common statements as ‘This is I’ or ‘This is mine,’ whereby we identify the ‘I’, which is of the nature of Pure Consciousness, with such material objects as the body, the mind, the senses, house, or country.

On account of the same confusion we associate the Eternal Self with such characteristics of the body as birth, growth, disease, and death; and this confusion is expressed in such statements as ‘I am born,’  ‘I am growing,’ ‘I am ill,’ or ‘I am dying.’

Discrimination between the ‘Seer’ and the ‘seen’ is the road leading to the realization of Truth. The ‘Seer’ is the unchangeable and homogeneous Consciousness, or the knowing principle. It is the perceiver, the Subject, the real ‘Ego.’

The ‘seen’ is what is perceived; it is outside the ‘Seer’ and therefore identical with the object. It is matter, non-Self, and non-Ego. The seen is multiple and changeable.

Swami Nikhilananda, Self-Knowledge, 43 - 4