Hitherto we have been considering the state of the man who is seeking enlightenment. But what is the state of the man who has attained it? This is also worthwhile for our closest study. For after all, he is the type we are one day destined to become, the type we are being shaped into by life itself.
An utterly honest appraisal of what enlightenment and liberation really are both in experience and idea is still needed.
Is it given to any human being to express his higher self constantly and without interruption by his ego?
This is a sphere about which the most confused ideas exist or else it has been entirely misunderstood.
It is needful to distinguish between the imagined joy of spiritual self-realization and the Reality itself. The first is largely current in the circles of sectarian mysticism, but the second is rarely found and only there where the larger freedom is gained by bridling imagination and surrendering to the calm, silent Mind.
After we have separated the fantastic myths and fabulous marvels which have been woven around the simple achievement of soul-knowledge, we reach the residue of plain and pregnant truth.
Enlightenment is both a bestowal by grace and achievement by self.
Enlightenment, philosophically found, is both an experience and an understanding.
It is a state attained by very few and only after a great struggle.
"Awareness" is not enough to describe full enlightenment. "Knowingness" includes it but goes farther and is hence a better term.
There is in him now a translucency of mind which gives all things, all persons, all events, a deeper diviner significance. Life henceforth has a wonderful and beautiful meaning.
Although the higher consciousness may vary in vividness, before settling down to a fixed evenness of quality, it remains permanent at this stage.
All problems vanish from his mind as though they had never been. He is under no necessity to concern himself about anything or anyone. "God's in his heaven and all's well with the world." There is no tormenting situation to be cleared up, no difficult decision to be made, no quest to be followed through drawn-out struggles and personal self-disciplines, and inevitable disappointments. He now has the secret of it all, the blissful state of enlightenment.
Hitherto he has been only partially himself. Now, with this radiant entry into the eternal, he is completely himself. Now, he can speak to others, move in the world, and work out relationships, solely from his center, straight from his core: no distortions, no hypocrisies, no insincerities.
Here at last is true normality, existence as it was meant to be but is never found to be.
He has attained the delight and freedom of spontaneous living. The savage may have it, too, but on an altogether lower level.
When the knowledge of the soul is not merely intellectual, however convincing, not only a matter of belief, however firm, but an unchangeable awareness of its ever-present existence, it is true knowledge, authentic revelation, and blissful salvation.
We move up from being to Being.
It is a state which has been attained in its fullness by only a few persons during each century but which has been glimpsed at least once in a lifetime by many more.
Glimpses and permanent realization
Glimpses have been had more often than most people believe but enlightenment that is continuous and always present is rare.
To have the intermittent experience of the inner self is one thing, but to have the continuous experience of it, is quite another.
Emotional union with the Overself is insufficient, fugitive ecstasies are not the final accomplishment. Better than both is the unshakeable serenity of the sage.
The glimpse, in anticipation and retrospect, as well as when it first happens, is abnormal and extraordinary. But in the sage the divine presence is always available, and the awareness of it comes effortlessly, naturally, and easily to him.
When the mystery of it all is solved, not merely intellectually but in experience, not only in the person himself but in transcending it, not only in the depth of meditation but in the world of activity; when this answer is richly felt as Presence and God, clearly known as Meaning and Mind, then, if he were to speak he would exclaim: "Thus It Is!" But this is not the beginner's glimpse: it is the sage's settled insight.
Too often beginners regard lofty emotions or extraordinary powers or ecstatic rapture as the measure of attainment, when the only genuine measure is "awareness."
As the human mind develops, it forms higher and higher conceptions of the deity until, finally, it is lifted above itself into a tremendous experience. It loses itself in the deity itself, and when it returns to normal living, it does not need to seek further. I do not refer here to the experience which several mystics have had called "the glimpse," but something which is of a once-and-for-all nature and which does not, in its essence, ever leave him.
The glimpse, because it is situated between the mental conditions which exist before and afterwards, necessarily involves striking--even dramatic--contrast with their ordinariness. It seems to open on to the ultimate light-bathed height of human existence. But this experience necessarily provokes a human reaction to it, which is incorporated into the glimpse itself, becomes part of it. The permanent and truly ultimate enlightenment is pure, free from any admixture of reaction, since it is calm, balanced, and informed.
The Glimpse, even at its fullest extent, as in the Hindu nirvikalpa and the Japanese satori, is only intermittent. If it becomes continuous, an established fact during the working and resting states, both, only then is it completed.
The awareness of Truth is constant and perennial. It cannot be merely glimpsed; one must be born into it, in Jesus' words, again and again, and perceive it permanently. One must be identified with it.
Quite a number of men have experienced a Glimpse like an eruption that begins and soon ends, but few are the men who have experienced a settled enlightenment of their being like a plateau that continues at a great height for a great distance.
The realization of truth is one thing; the inspiration to seek truth is another. The first is being, the second is experience. The first abides for life; the second is only a glimpse, hence passes and returns intermittently.
Many readers of The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga became both concerned and critical when I pointed out the limited nature of the mystical states. What they did not know is that this was part of the esoteric doctrine given to the few students of the higher philosophy both in India and in several Asiatic countries. This was confirmed in my meeting with Professor A.J. Arberry (of Cambridge), who translated some of the Islamic mystical works into English. He quoted the tenth-century mystic and philosopher Gunaid of Iraq, "Truth comes after states and ecstasies and then takes its place." Swami Siddheswarananda of the Ramakrishna Mission and a lecturer at the Sorbonne in Paris also told me before he passed away that V. Subrahmanya Iyer of Mysore, who had been one of his teachers, had been initiated into the traditional esoteric doctrine of the original Sri Shankaracharya and that it was not written in the books, but taught privately only.
It is easier to glimpse the truth than to stay in it. For the first, it is often enough to win a single battle; for the second, it is necessary to win a whole war.
I tried to make it quite clear in The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga that just as psychic experiences were not to be sought for their own sake, so even mystical experiences were not the highest goal. It was only when their intermittent nature became obvious, however remarkable and uplifting they may have seemed, that one who experienced them was ready to seek for the higher Truth. This was not only a matter of personal feeling, but also of impersonal intuitive knowledge confirmed by reason and experience.
"Not everyone that saith `Lord, Lord' shall enter into the kingdom of heaven," Jesus declared. Only to a very few is it given to enter and remain stabilized in the kingdom; many more must be content with glimpses only.
The belief is all too common that "union with God" is experienced as a tremendous uprush of ecstatic emotion. This is true in several cases but not in all. In any case, only after the excitement has abated and calm has descended on the man will he be able to see whether this is merely another of those temporary glimpses or whether it is really a lasting discovery of his divine identity. For the truth is that such a durable discovery, such an ever-present fulfilment of his highest possibilities, comprises much more than this inspired, but still personal, excitement.
It is true that our sins and faults are automatically dispersed by the inrush of Enlightenment, but it is equally true that they will return if we have not prepared ourselves to be able to stay in the Light.
To gaze upon this great light without sufficient previous training of the inward life is ordinarily not possible for more than a short time. The few exceptions who were able to stay in the light unbrokenly were men of special genius and special destiny.
The difference between the two states has been symbolically stated by Al Hujwari, the eleventh-century Sufi writer. Those who have attained the abiding state are, he says, "in the sanctuary, but those who have attained the transient one are only at the gate."
Visions, mental states, and experiences may succeed each other progressively or otherwise as they do with the yogis, but they are not the same as a continuous stabilized awareness of that which is behind all these temporary states.
When the glimpse experience has been repeated many times it will come to be looked upon as a natural experience. The state it induces will seem to be a normal one. The miracle which the beginner makes of it will seem an unnecessary exaggeration to the matured proficient man.
The difference between the intermediate and the final state is the difference between feeling the Overself to be a distinct and separate entity and feeling it to be the very essence of oneself, between temporary experience of it and enduring union with it.
Whereas the glimpse may be a dramatic experience when it first occurs, being "established" is natural, simple, pleasant but not rapturous, and continuously aware.
We must learn to differentiate between the partial attainment of the mystic who stops short at passive enjoyment of ecstatic states and the perfect attainment of the sage who does not depend on any particular states but dwells in the unbroken calm of the unconditioned Overself. From his high point of view all such states are necessarily illusory, however personally satisfying at the time, inasmuch as they are transient conditions and do not pertain to the final result.
All aspects of human nature need to be illumined and equably balanced if the illumination itself is to be total, pure, and reliable. This statement is no more, and no less, than the truth. Yet ignorance of it is widespread among would-be mystics and even among real mystics. If there is contradiction between their results, it is because they too often experience the illumination fully through their feelings, to a limited extent through their wills, and hardly at all through their intellects.
Illumination is not a result which follows moral purification and emotional discipline. These things are necessary but only preparatory. It is a result which follows conscious attempts to seek the Real and discard the illusory. This discrimination will show itself in the kind of values that are attached to the world, in the thinking reflections that are made about the world, and in the deliberate rejection of ego that takes place during meditation. It begins with either the intellect as enquiry, or the feelings as world-weariness, but it passes gradually into the whole life of the individual.
If the enlightenment is to be continuous and the self-conquest completed, the technique which is to achieve them must be a sufficiently adequate one.
To become established in the Reality is to give up seeking all those transient and temporary experiences which come by pursuing particular techniques, whether they be techniques of yoga or techniques of taking drugs, and take to philosophy.
We must carefully qualify by such words as "intermittent," "partial," and "temporary," the attainments to which exercises lead. This is because the full and permanent attainment cannot emerge out of meditation alone. It is a fruit of the threefold planting of meditation and reflection and action combined. Hence although the foregoing exercises will bring the student considerably nearer it, it must not be thought that any mystical exercise of itself can confer ultimate enlightenment. The path to this exalted result must traverse all three fields of yoga, metaphysics, and self-abnegating activity.
Somewhere beyond meditation with its starts and stops, its ecstasies and drynesses, beyond yoga, lies the permanent ever-enduring be-ness. It is therein he must be established.
We need to know the truth, the wisdom-knowledge, but it is not enough. We need to have the living mystic experience, the vital feeling of what I am, but it is not enough. For we need to synthesize the two in a full actual intuitive realization, conferred by the Overself. This is Grace. This is to emerge finally--born again!
Let meditation stay as a beautiful, peace-bestowing, and calming exercise. If it does, it need not limit you to getting stuck with "Experience" as a final attainment. It is a felt experience, but one which must be accompanied by the knowledge that the entire universe is a form of knowledge. The two together complete the meditation experience. Thus you learn to understand that you must advance beyond meditation to this goal of Being, to become established in it, in this stillness, ever-present and ever-proven. So do as you wish in this matter, do not deprive yourself of the occasional or even regular practice of meditation, should you be inclined toward it, so long as you comprehend that though it has its very important place in the Quest, it is not essential to attainment of the ultimate goal itself.
Sudden or gradual?
Does enlightenment come all of a sudden? Or do we have to work slowly for it by degrees? The answer varies with the case concerned. Most need time to fit and equip themselves for the glorious moment of insight, but a few receive it in a day. It must be remembered that it does not actually happen in time but out of it, in the great Stillness. The man does not know the absolute final truth a second before--and then it is all there. How soon it can settle down in him will also vary with different persons--it was a few hours in one case but three years in another.
Whether enlightenment is reached by steps as an outcome of practice unremittingly done, or that it comes suddenly all at once, it must be a concept-free phenomenon, a dogma-less understanding, and a recognition of what always was, is, and will be.
Is insight achieved gradually or suddenly, as the Zen Buddhists claim? Here again both claims are correct, if taken together as parts of a larger and fuller view. We have to begin by cultivating intuitive feelings. These come to us infrequently at first and so the process is a gradual and long one. Eventually, we reach a point, a very advanced point, where the ego sees its own limitation, perceives its helplessness and dependence, realizes that it cannot lift itself up into the final illuminations. It should then surrender itself wholly to the Overself and cast its further development on the mercy and Grace of the power beyond it. It will then have to go through a waiting period of seeming inactivity, spiritual stagnation, and inability to feel the fervour of devotion which it formally felt. This is a kind of dark night of the soul. Then, slowly, it begins to come out of this phase, which is often accompanied by mental depression and emotional frustration into a higher phase where it feels utterly resigned to the will of God or destiny, calm and peaceful in the sense of accepting that higher will and not in any joyous sense, patiently waiting for the time when the infinite wisdom will bring it what it once sought so ardently but what it is now as detached from as it is detached from worldly ambitions. After this phase there will come suddenly unexpectedly and in the dead of night, as it were, a tremendous Realization of the egoless state, a tremendous feeling of liberation from itself as it has known itself, a tremendous awareness of the infinitude, universality, and intelligence of life. With that, new perceptions into the Laws of the cosmos will suddenly unfold themselves. The seeker must thus pass from intuition into insight.
It is the making the man ready, the preparation of his mind and heart which take so much time, so many years even in many cases; but the enlightenment itself is a single short happening: the effect remains permanently.
When all illusory ideas are discarded, he will be able to see directly into the truth, and to see it without delay. For what need could there then be to pass through progressive stages?
The name "lightning flash of insight" should not be allowed to give the impression that its swiftness is its most important attribute. That is merely incidental. What constitutes its essential attribute is its introducing an entirely different state of mind, an entirely new kind of perception, within us so that we are transformed in ourselves along with the world with which we are in relation.
When the ego finally falls out of the picture, it does so with the swiftness of a flash of lightning.
The story of King Janaka's initiation by the Sage Ashtavakra illustrates a condition similar to that of Socrates' being caught by the flash during a military campaign and standing still throughout a day and night in its spell. Ashtavakra took Janaka to a forest for this initiation, Janaka riding horseback and Ashtavakra walking alongside. When they reached the spot selected, Ashtavakra told Janaka to dismount. Janaka began to do so. When halfway through the act of dismounting, he was caught by the flash. One leg was raised above the horse's back, while the other rested in the stirrup. So he remained for some days. His Queen sent attendants to search for him, and they brought him home to the palace--still transfixed in the same attitude. He was put in bed still in the same posture. Ashtavakra was called and he bade Janaka to awaken, which he did, becoming bodily normal again. Thereafter he was a fully enlightened rishee. This does not mean that everyone who once glimpses the flash thereafter becomes permanently enlightened. Most do not, for it depends partly on their previous karma and present tendencies whether they can remain permanently in the light or drop out of it again. But it illustrates the swiftness with which it dawns and the need of recognition, surrender, and union with it.
Enlightenment seldom comes all at once. But in the case of rare geniuses or of those with rare good karma, the possibility is certainly there.
That illumination can be quite instantaneous in some cases, only gradual in others, and entirely absent in most, need not be an enigma. The workings of the law of recompense are still the same even when they are beneath the surface.
Wu Men said: "Even though Chao Chou became enlightened, he should continue to work for thirty years more to graduate."
When enlightenment comes through philosophic preparation for it, the experience is sudden, direct, unexpected, and spontaneous.
It comes to some minds with the force of a Himalayan mountain torrent rushing out from a narrow gorge.
Enlightenment may come slowly or suddenly but in the second case it has the effect of sunlight bursting through the sky.
The impossibility of such instantaneous illumination being permanent without due preparation and purification was taught by the Buddha: "If the cloth be dirty, however much the dyer might dip it into blue, yellow, red, or lilac dye, its colour will be ugly and unclear--Why? Because of the dirt in the cloth. If the heart is impure one must expect the same sad result."
Those geniuses who get a lasting illumination by direct gift of Grace without having worked, studied, prepared, or trained for it, are rare. A Saint Francis or a Ramana Maharshi is an exceptional phenomenon to gaze at, not a model whose life may be closely imitated with the assurance of being able to produce a like result. Everyone else has to undergo the gradual development and patient ripening that a flowering bush has to undergo.
The calmness which he carries inside himself, and which is apparent in all his bearing, has not arisen out of nothing. It has come to him out of long struggle and after varied suffering.
Not all persons come into this desirable state through formal methods of meditation and regular practice of them. Some attain it through adopting a higher attitude to the happenings, situations, impressions, and emotions which each day's course presents to them.
Lao Tzu was a librarian by profession, Janaka a king, and Brother Lawrence a kitchen menial. Yet all had this same wonderful experience of peaceful communion with Overself, proving that one's antecedents, or work, or position are neither helps nor handicaps.
It is true that illumination is itself an instantaneous experience, since we pass into it from one moment to the next, and since the Real is timeless. But to hold this illumination against the intrusions of negative personal habits and negative personal characteristics is another matter and success in it is quite rare.
When conditions are ripe and prerequisite qualifications fulfilled, the truth spontaneously shows its self-revealing character.
It may come as an instantaneous flash of understanding or as a vision of the cosmic drama, but most often it comes quite slowly in bits and pieces.
The holy joy may visit you but cannot stay in you if both the animal and the ego are staying in you. Purify yourself of the one and empty yourself of the other, if you would convert a passing glimpse into the permanent union.
Enlightenment comes quietly
He will find that the onset of insight will not be at all like the picture of it which he had previously and erroneously formed.
When you awaken to truth as it really is, you will have no occult vision, you will have no "astral" experience, no ravishing ecstasy. You will awaken to it in a state of utter stillness, and you will realize that truth was always there within you and that reality was always there around you. Truth is not something which has grown and developed through your efforts. It is not something which has been achieved or attained by laboriously adding up those efforts. It is not something which has to be made more and more perfect each year. And once your mental eyes are opened to truth they can never be closed again.
The discovery of his true being is not outwardly dramatic, and for a long time no one may know of it, except himself. The world may not honour him for it: he may die as obscure as he lived. But the purpose of his life has been fulfilled; and God's will has been done.
There is nothing melodramatic about realization of Truth. Those who look for marvels look in vain, unless indeed its bestowal of singular serenity is a marvel.
It is extraordinary how the same experience may produce the same metaphoric sentences used to describe it, although the speakers belong to lands thousands of miles apart and use utterly different languages. A South Indian illumined mystic, telling me of the moment when illumination dawned on him, said that it was all as simple as seeing a fruit held in the palm of one's hand. A Chinese mystic of the same high status said that it was as obvious as seeing a pearl in the palm of one's hand!
Chuang Tzu wrote: "From wholeness one comprehends; from comprehension one comes near to Tao. There one stops. To stop without knowing how one stops--this is Tao."
No one really knows how this enlightenment first dawns on him. One moment it was not there, the next moment he was somehow in it.
No announcements tell the world that he has come into enlightenment. No heralds blow the trumpets proclaiming man's greatest victory--over himself. This is in fact the quietest moment of his whole life.
Naturalness of the attainment
He who has attained the consciousness of Overself puts in no claim to the attainment. He accepts it in so utterly natural and completely humble a manner that most people are deceived into regarding him as ordinary.
He has not attained who is conscious that he has attained, for this very consciousness cunningly hides the ego and delivers him into its power. That alone is attainment which is natural, spontaneous, unforced, unaware, and unadvertised, whether to the man himself or to others.
At this stage there is no struggle for further growth; it comes as softly and as naturally as a flower's. There is no sacrifice of things the ego desires or clutches to itself, for there is such insight as to their worth or worthlessness that they stay or fall away of themselves.
It is better to attain such high status without knowing it. For this absence of pride and presence of humility keeps the ego from threatening it.
The actions of a man who has attained this degree are inspired directly by his Overself, and consequently are not dictated by personal wishes, purposes, passions, or desires. They are not initiated by his ego's will but by a will higher than his own.
Since there is no consciously deliberate thinking, no attempt at ordered logical formulation of ideas, there is also no hesitation, no broken trends. There is only spontaneous thought, feeling, and action, all being directed by intuition.
Plotinus even made the point that it is better for a man not to be aware that he is acting virtuously, courageously, wisely, or practising contemplation beautifully, free from interfering mental images or thoughts. For then, if he does not know that he--the person--is doing so, no egoism will taint his consciousness. It will be pure being. He will do whatever has to be done by him as a human creature--whether it be a physical act or a mental one, he will respond to all situations that call for a human response, but neither the act nor the response will be accompanied by the personal ego. This does not mean that his worldly life or he himself will suffer loss of identity--only that he will be isolated from the worldly self-centered thought, desire, and motive which prompts the existence of the mass of people.
He feels no need--so conspicuous in neurotics with a message--to call attention to himself. Rather does he seek to keep it away.
Chuang Tzu: "Unawareness of one's feet is the mark of shoes that fit, unawareness of right and wrong is the mark of a mind at ease. . . . The moment a centipede becomes conscious of his seventeenth or twenty-third pair of legs he cannot move any more. . . . As fish forget themselves in water, so should men forget themselves in Tao."
It is then as natural as breathing. The sage does not have to be self-conscious about his sagehood, as if it were a quality apart but added to his other qualities.
Degrees of enlightenment
The strength of the enlightenment will determine the extent of its effects.
An illumination may be permanent but at the same time it may be only partial. Not until it is complete and lasting is it really philosophic.
It is not only true that there is variety in the types of illumination but also true that there is a scale of degrees in the illumination itself.
Until he is established permanently, although not necessarily at the very highest level, the consciousness can become corrupted, the man himself can fall back.
There are varying degrees of spiritual illumination, which accounts both for the varying outlooks to be found among mystics and for the different kinds of Glimpse among aspirants. All illuminations and all Glimpses free the man from his negative qualities and base nature, but in the latter case only temporarily. He is able, as a result, to see into his higher nature. In the first degree, it is as if a window covered with dirt were cleaned enough to reveal a beautiful garden outside it. He is still subject to the activity of thinking, the emotion of joy, and the discrimination between X and Y. In the next and higher degree, it is as if the window were still more cleaned so that still more beauty is revealed beyond it. Here there are no thoughts to intervene between the seer and the seen. In the third degree, the discrimination is no longer present. In the fourth degree, it is as if the window were thoroughly cleaned. Here there is no longer even a rapturous emotion but only a balanced happiness, a steady tranquillity which, being beyond the intellect, cannot properly be described by the intellect.
Again, mental peace is a fruit of the first and lowest degree of illumination, although thoughts will continue to arise although gently, and thinking in the discursive manner will continue to be active although slowly. But concentration will be sufficiently strong to detach him from the world and, as a consequence, to yield the happiness which accompanies such detachment. Only those who have attained to this degree can correctly be regarded as "saved" as only they alone are unable to fall back into illusion, error, sin, greed, or sensuality.
In the second degree, there will be more inward absorption and cerebral processes will entirely fade out.
Freedom from all possibility of anger is a fruit of the third and higher degree.
The Witness is both an abstract metaphysical concept and a concrete mystical experience. It is not an ultimate one, yielding pure Being, the unsplit Consciousness, but a provisional one.
The Witness itself, while witnessing, is being witnessed.
To be the witness is the first stage; to be Witness of the witness is the next; but to BE is the final one. For consciousness lets go of the witness in the end. Consciousness alone is itself the real experience.
He discovers the presence of this link with World-Mind by a wonderful experience, brief and passing though it be. It is felt intensely and known intuitively. That the divinity is within him is thenceforth his certainty even at the times when awareness is absent. But eventually, if mind develops, he has to ask the question, "What of the world outside?"
Human thought can rise to levels of godliness until it takes the final leap and transcends itself.
We may reasonably hope to see God one day but not to be God. The Cosmic Vision of the World-Mind at work which Arjuna had may be ours too but not the complete union with the World-Mind Itself.
Although there are certain similarities between the experiences of Adepts and that of Saint Paul, the nature and ultimate aim of the trance which they underwent was different from those of Saint Paul. There are various degrees and kinds of trance, ranging from mere oblivion to psychical visions and mental travelling, and higher still to a complete immersion of the ego in cosmic Divinity.
A rare but complete illumination must not only pass from the first to the final degree of intensity, but must also contain a picture of the cosmic order. That is to say, it must be a revelation. It must explain the profounder nature of the universe, the inner meaning of individual existence, and the hidden relationship between the two.
Two factors account for the differences between individual cosmic illumination. First, there is the human contribution made by the mind itself; second, there are ascending stages in the Illumination or rather in the receptivity to it.
Cosmic Vision is of two kinds: (a) seeing the forms and objects around and feeling one with them, (b) seeing only the Idea of the universe. This is called identifying through worship with Hiranyagarbha. It is the subtle universe. It is an advanced experience, not the ultimate: "So one ought not to stop there," said the Professor.
There is some confusion on this point in the minds of many students. On attaining enlightenment a man does not attain omniscience. At most, he may receive a revelation of the inner operations of life and Nature, of the higher laws governing life and man. That is, he may also become a seer and find a cosmogony presented to his gaze. But the actuality in a majority of cases is that he attains enlightenment only, not cosmogonical seership.
The deeper one penetrates into the Void the more he is purified of the illusions of personality, time, matter, space, and causality. Between the second and third stages of insight's unfoldment there are really two further subsidiary stages which are wrapped in the greatest mystery and are rarely touched by the average mystic or yogi. For both of them are stages which lead further downwards into the Void. The yogi touches the edge of the Void, as it were, but not its centre. These two stages are purificatory ones and utterly annihilate the last illusions and the last egoisms of the seeker. They are dissolved forever and cannot revive again. Nothing more useful can and may be said about it here. For this is the innermost holy of holies, the most sacred sanctuary accessible to man. He who touches this grade touches what may not be spoken aloud for sneering ears, nor written down for sneering eyes. Consequently none has ever ventured to explain publicly what must not be so explained.
All human beings on this planet are imperfect. Perfection is not fully attainable here. But when a man has striven for it and advanced near to it, he will attain it automatically as soon as he is freed from the body.
So long as man is immured in this earth plane, so long must the enlightenment he attains be an imperfect one, or the fulfilment he experiences a limited one.
The liberation from further reincarnations can be attained while still here in the flesh, but the full completion of its consequent inner peace can come only after final exit from the body.
So long as he is held by the finite flesh, so long as existence in the inner human body is continued, the perfect and complete merger of his individuality in the cosmic mind is impossible. But once through the portals of so-called death, it becomes an actuality.
It is not that philosophy denies the possibility of escaping from personal consciousness into the universal one; on the contrary, it well admits it. But it declares that the journey is still not finished.
Nonduality, sahaja, insight
The illuminate is conscious both of the ultimate unity and immediate multiplicity of the world. This is a paradox. But his permanent resting place while he is dealing with others is at the junction-point of duality and unity so that he is ready at any moment to absorb his attention in either phase.
The understanding that everything is illusive is not the final one. It is an essential stage but only a stage. Ultimately you will understand that the form and separateness of a thing are illusory, but the thing-in-itself is not. That out of which these forms appear is not different from them, hence Reality is one and the same in all things. This is the paradox of life and a sharp mind is needed to perceive it. However, to bring beginners out of their earthly attachments, we have to teach first the illusoriness of the world, and then raise them to a higher level of understanding and show that the world is not apart from the Real. That Thou Art unifies everything in essence. But this final realization cannot be got by stilling the mind, only by awakening it into full vigour again after yogic peace has been attained and then letting its activity cease of its own accord when thought merges voluntarily into insight. When that is done, you know the limitations of both yoga and enquiry as successive stages. Whoever realizes this truth does not divorce from matter--as most yogis do--but realizes non-difference from it. Hence we call this highest path the "yoga of nonduality." But to reach it one has to pass through the "yoga of philosophical knowledge." Christian Science caught glimpses of the higher truth but Mrs. Eddy got her facts and fancies confused together.
The knowledge of Allah follows upon the dissolving of the ego, fana, says Sufism. But some Sufi masters go even farther and assert that it follows only on the dissolving of this dissolving (fana-el-fana). What does this strange statement mean? The answer is nonduality. What nonduality itself means is to be gleaned from another Sufi declaration: "The outer path: I and Thou. The inner path: I am Thou and Thou are I. The final insight: neither I nor Thou."
The expression used by some Buddhists, "the Undivided Mind," has the same meaning as "the Oneness with all things" used by many mystics--that is, a permanent knowledge got in a single glimpse, a great nondual truth.
In this high state his own mind is consciously connected with the divine Mind. The result can scarcely be understood by the uninitiated.
When the masculine and feminine temperaments within us are united, completed, and balanced, when masculine power and feminine passivity are brought together inside the person and knowledge and reverence encircle them both, then wisdom begins to dawn in the soul. The ineffable reality and the mentalist universe are then understood to be non-different from one another.
Where both unity and diversity are experienced and the individual is able to attain both these levels, he is surely gifted with insight. However, if diversity has to be blotted out before becoming aware of unity, this may be regarded as a penultimate faculty; that is, the insight is genuine but is still not fully mature. Everything depends on the capacity of the individual.
When his mind moves entirely and wholly into the One Infinite Presence, and when it settles permanently there, the divided existence of glimpse and darkness, of Spirit and matter, of Overself and ego, of heaven and earth, will vanish. The crossing over to a unified existence will happen.
When duality is blended with, and within, unity it is the true jivanmukta realization. The One is then experienced as the Two but known to be really the One.
The state of nonduality is a state of intense peace and perfect balance. It is so peaceful because everything is seen as it belongs--to the eternal order of cosmic evolution; hence, all is accepted, all reconciled.
That which is called duality in Oriental metaphysics, the related two, self and non-self, self and universe, self and its experience, is transcended.
Quoted from Advaitin John Levy's Immediate Knowledge and Happiness: ". . . although outwardly something of duality appears to still remain, he is nevertheless established in nonduality." Ramakrishna admitted that a slight bit of ego still is left over to continue functioning in the physical body.
A twelfth-century Japanese scroll at Museum Rietberg, Zurich, is inscribed with verse by Monk Saih-len: "For the heart in inner harmony and for which everything is one, no difference exists between this and that."
To such a man, the here and there become as one.
Paras on sahaja: It is wrong to use the illustration of a camera shutter--the image getting larger or vaguer or smaller and sharper as it opens or closes--for attention focused on nirvikalpa in meditation or spread out in sahaja in the wakeful state. The correct illustration is this: the stillness is being experienced at the centre of a circle, the thoughts revolve around it at the circumference. But the degree of Stillness remains just as much in outer activity as in meditation.
There are two different ways to realization: (a) The path of yoga meditation whose goal is nirvikalpa samadhi. (b) Gnana whose goal is sahaja samadhi. This looks on the world as being only a picture, unreal. Both seek and reach the same Brahman, the world disappearing for both.
The concept of Nirvana has often been miscomprehended in the Occident. Because the name itself is derived from the Sanskrit word (Nirva) "to extinguish," the earliest translators of Buddhist texts took Nirvana as being the extinction of being, the annihilation of man, self completely ceasing to exist.
It is the difference between visiting a palace (the glimpse) and coming to live permanently in one (Sahaja).
Ramana Maharshi often used the term sahaja samadhi to describe what he regarded as the best state. Although the word samadhi is too often associated with yogic trance, there is nothing of the kind in his use of this term. He said it was the best state because it was quite natural, nothing forced, artificial, or temporary. We may equate it with Zen's "This life is very life" and "Walk On!"
The only worthwhile enlightenment is the one which lasts all through the year and every year. The Zen flash is not the same.
Sahaja: This is "natural" as contrasted with "artificial" spirituality, "spontaneous" as against "cultivated," and "unconscious" by comparison alongside "professionally conscious," with its narrow limits.
With all the other samadhis the yogi goes in or comes out; whereas with sahaja he stays permanently.
The constant application of meditation to the activity of knowledge, to behaviour, thought, and feeling, eventually brings about a continuous awareness. This is called Sahaja.
Sahaja samadhi is not broken into intervals, is permanent, and involves no special effort. Its arisal is instantaneous and without progressive stages. It can accompany daily activity without interfering with it. It is a settled calm and complete inner quiet.
There are no distinguishing marks that an outside observer can use to identify a sahaja-conscious man because sahaja represents consciousness itself rather than its transitory states.
Sahaja has been called the lightning flash. Philosophy considers it to be the most desirable goal.
This is illustrated with a classic instance of Indian spirituality involving a king named Janaka. One day he was about to mount his horse and put one foot into the stirrup which hung from the saddle. As he was about to lift himself upwards into the saddle the "lightning flash" struck his consciousness. He was instantly carried away and concentrated so deeply that he failed for some time to lift himself up any higher. From that day onwards he lived in sahaja samadhi which was always present within him.
Those at the state of achieved sahaja are under no compulsion to continue to meditate any more or to practise yoga. They often do--either because of inclinations produced by past habits or as a means of helping other persons. In either case it is experienced as a pleasure. Because this consciousness is permanent, the experiencer does not need to go into meditation. This is despite the outward appearance of a person who places himself in the posture of meditation in order to achieve something.
When you are engaged in outward activity it is not the same as when you are in a trance. This is true for both the beginner and the adept. The adept, however, does not lose the sahaja awareness which he has achieved and can withdraw into the depths of consciousness which the ordinary cannot do.
What is the difference between the state of deepest contemplation, which the Hindus call nirvikalpa samadhi, and that which they call sahaja samadhi? The first is only a temporary experience, that is it begins and ends but the man actually experiences an uplift of consciousness, he gains a new and higher outlook. But sahaja is continuous unbroken realization that as Overself he always was, is, and shall be. It is not a feeling that something new and higher has been gained. What is the absolute test which distinguishes one condition from the other, since both are awareness of the Overself? In nirvikalpa the ego vanishes but reappears when the ordinary state is resumed: hence it has only been lulled, even though it has been slightly weakened by the process. In sahaja the ego is rooted out once and for all! It not only vanishes, but it cannot reappear.
Sahaja samadhi is the awareness of Awareness, whether appearing as thoughts or not, whether accompanied by bodily activities or not. But nirvikalpa samadhi is solely the awareness of Awareness.
I am an Advaitin on the fundamental point of nonduality of the Real, but I am unable to limit myself to most Advaitin's practical view of samadhi and sahaja. Here I stand with Chinese Zen (Ch'an), especially as I was taught and as explained by the Sixth Patriarch, Hui Neng. He warns against turning meditation into a narcotic, resulting in a pleasant passivity. He went so far as to declare: "It is quite unnecessary to stay in monasteries. Only let your mind . . . function in freedom . . . let it abide nowhere." And in this connection he later explains: "To be free from attachment to all outer objects is true meditation. To meditate means to realize thus tranquillity of Essence of Mind."
On samadhi, he defines it as a mind self-trained to be unattached amid objects, resting in tranquillity and peace. On sahaja, it is thorough understanding of the truth about reality and a penetration into and through delusion, to one's Essence of Mind. The Indian notion of sahaja makes it the extension of nirvikalpa samadhi into the active everyday state. But the Ch'an conception of nirvikalpa samadhi differs from this; it does not seek deliberately to eliminate thoughts, although that may often happen of its own accord through identification with the true Mind, but to eliminate the personal feelings usually attached to them, that is, to remain unaffected by them because of this identification.
Ch'an does not consider sahaja to be the fruit of yoga meditation alone, nor of understanding alone, but of a combination seemingly of both. It is a union of reason and intuition. It is an awakening once and for all. It is not attained in nirvikalpa and then to be held as long as possible. It is not something, a state alternately gained and lost on numerous occasions, but gradually expanded as it is clung to. It is a single awakening that enlightens the man so that he never returns to ignorance again. He has awakened to his divine essence, his source in Mind, as an all day and every day self-identification. It has come by itself, effortlessly.
This is as high as human consciousness can possibly go while yet encased in the flesh.
I do not claim that sahaja yields ultimate reality: I only claim that it yields the ultimate so far known to man.
It is as present to him as his clothes, yet it exists through a sixth sense. He lives simultaneously aware of both worlds of being. And he knows which is the eternal one.
When sahaja is established in a man, when it stays with him for the remainder of his years, he is truly blessed.
This state is paradoxical for the very name is really wrong, since it implies something that can be different later or was different earlier, something that is in time. But what is being here described is not of that kind. Time flows out from it, there is no change yet to come that will better it or bring it any gain. It still is what it always was. Why, then, is the word "state" used at all? Partly, of course, through the poverty of human language in describing what is trans-human and partly because there is a state but it is in us, the change which brings us into it being in our minds.
The general idea in the popular and religious circles of India is that the highest state of illumination is attained during a trance condition (samadhi). This is not the teaching in the highest philosophic circles of India. There is another condition, sahaja samadhi, which is described in a few little-known texts and which is regarded as superior. It is esteemed because no trance is necessary and because it is a continuous state. The inferior state is one which is intermittently entered and left: it cannot be retained without returning to trance. The philosophic "fourth state," by contrast, remains unbroken even when active and awake in the busy world.
When body is still and ego-mind is at rest, there is peace, sometimes even ecstasy. But when both are active but I am not, when there is neither questing nor non-questing, there is unchanging stability. That is realization.
When the sense of this presence is a continuous one, when the knowledge of the mentalness of this world-experience is an abiding one, and when the calm which comes as a result is an unshakeable one, it may be said that he is established in the Truth and in the Real.
He does not have to enter into formal meditation to find his soul. It is an ever-present reality for him, not merely an intellectual conception or emotional belief.
If he has no need to sit down specially for an arranged period of meditation, it is only because he has successfully gone through all three stages of the practice.
In the world you will find only two kinds of people--the unconscious and the conscious. The first kind know only their own little egos and their own large desires. The second kind know continually that they are in the presence of the Overself, and enjoy its great peace.
The consciousness of Consciousness never deserts him. It remains somewhere on the outer periphery of the mind all the time and expands to its fullness at special times--that is, when withdrawn from all activities for a few minutes.
He lives in inwardly silent thought-free awareness of whatever is presented to him, whether it be the body in which he must live or the environments in which he finds himself. He enjoys a supernal calm, being indeed "free while living," as the ancient Indian phrase describes the state.
The true deathlessness must be a changeless one. Consequently it must be an eventless one. But this does not necessarily mean a boring one. For if we realize our higher individuality, we shall be able to hold consciously and unaffected such an immortal life within our hearts whilst entering into relations with a changeful world process without them. And this will be true whether the world be on our present physical level of perception or not, whether in the flesh or out of it.
He who has reached this degree will be always poised in the Overself, always aware of his identity with its inimitable nature yet also conscious of his limitations as an ego. This may seem queer and contradictory yet the man will never feel himself pulled in different directions but, on the contrary, will feel a perfect harmony between the human and the divine.
This, once established, will remain when all else is but a heap of ashes.
Insight always remains with its possessor whereas intuition only comes and goes. Insight deals solely with the Real whereas intuition deals with the phenomenal. Amid all this variegated world-activity, the Real remains unchanged and unchangeable just as the dream-world which is emanated from the mind of a dreamer leaves his mind unaffected and unaltered. It never changes. Hence the first characteristic of insight--that faculty in man which can perceive this reality--is likewise that it never changes.
While still continuing to feel the presence and enjoy the peace of the Infinite, he attends to ordinary everyday affairs. But it is inevitable that the attention demanded by the latter forces some reduction in awareness of the former.
His work in the world, his life in the home, and even his pleasures in society will not at any moment stray outside his divinized consciousness but will always be held within it.
He will remain in relation with the mystical part of him, the part that is forever alone.
The Buddhists call lasting enlightenment by the name of Nirvana.
Because the fourth state is a thought-free, passion-free state, it is also a steady and unaltering one. Yet it is so delightful that there is no monotony, no boredom in it.
To attain this advanced stage is to attain the capacity to enter directly and immediately into meditation, not merely at a special time or in a particular place, but always and everywhere.
Once this stage is attained, neither the knowledge of reality nor the feeling of serenity will ever leave him again. He has found them not for a few hours but forever.
Therefore the man who perceives this naturally, perceives the ultimate reality everywhere. He does not need to meditate or to go into a trance to find it.
His whole nature has come completely to rest in the Overself.
The disciple is aware of the Overself at some times but not at other times. The adept, however, always has this awareness in an unbroken flow.
Inner strength, divine joy, deep understanding, and unspeakable tranquillity will pervade him always and not be limited to the hours of solitary meditation. This is so because the Overself whence these things come is always with all men. Only, they know it not, whereas he has awakened to its abiding presence.
At this stage his mind never loses its magnificent poise but remains always fixed on its own deepest level.
When this has been fully achieved without fluctuations or breaks, when the mind is always established in this lofty state, it is characterized by a beautiful peace.
Conscious transcendental sleep
He sits, poised in this great Mind.
He may be said to have entered and settled in the fourth state when he is conscious of its purity egolessness and freedom at all times, and even during the torpor of sleep or the activity of work.
When this awareness is so stabilized that it maintains itself at all times awake or asleep, he is at the end of the quest.
The divine presence does not leave the enlightened man when he goes to sleep and return to him when he awakes, nor does it leave him when he enters the state of dream and return to him when he leaves it; it is in truth something which is ever present. If he enters the sleeping state, he enters it while in the light of knowledge, and the same applies if he enters the dream state.
The sage does not retire at night in the darkness, the ignorance of ordinary sleep, but in the light of the Consciousness, the ever-unbroken Transcendence.
His sleep is a suspended state, with his awareness never fully lost but retracted into a pin-point.
There are no breaks in the awareness of his higher nature. There is no loss of continuity in the consciousness of his immortal spirit. Therefore he is not illumined at some hour of the day and unillumined at another hour, nor illumined while he is awake and unillumined while he is asleep.
That alone is the final attainment which can remain with him through all the three states--waking, dream and deep sleep--and through all the day's activities.
What is ordinarily known during deep sleep is the veil of ignorance which covers the Real. That is, the knowing faculty, the awareness is still present, but caught in the ignorance, the veiling, and knowing nothing else. The sage, however, carries into sleep the awareness he had in wakefulness. He may let it dim down to a glimmer, but it is always there.
This state of conscious transcendental sleep is symbolized in some mystical figures of antiquity by forming or painting them without eyelids.
Sleep is a condition which nature imposes on man. No one, not even the sage, can alter its general course and therefore even the sage has to accept this condition as an inevitable part of his own human lot. But if he is to attain full self-realization, this must eventually pertain to his sleeping state as much as to his waking state, else it will not be what its name suggests.
If the sage's sleep is wholly without those varied mental experiences of persons and places which manifest as dreams, then it will pass so swiftly that an entire night's sleep will take no longer than a few seconds of wakeful time.
Although the sage withdraws with the onset of sleep from wakeful awareness, he does not withdraw from all awareness. A pleasurable and peaceful sense of impersonal being is left over. In this he rests throughout the night.
They are still debating in India, as they debated hundreds of years ago, whether the soul will always preserve its individuality or whether it will eventually merge and vanish into the One.
After this passing-over into the Overself's rule, does he carry a loss of identity? Is he no more aware that he is the named person of the past? Were this so he could not exist in human society or attend to his duties. No!--outwardly he is more or less the same, although his pattern of behaviour betrays recognizable signs of superiority over the past man which he was. Inwardly, there is total revolution.
What or who is using the body and mind of a self-realized person? Is it God or man who acts, works, speaks, or writes then? Is it true that the ego is kept but subordinated by him? Or does it vanish altogether and only seems present to the outer observer?
We do not accept that interpretation of mystic experience which proclaims it to be an extinction of human personality in God's being.
The differences between human beings still remain after illumination. The variations which make each one a unique specimen and the individual that he is, still continue to exist. But the Oneness behind human beings powerfully counterbalances.
When it is said that we lose our individuality on entering Nirvana, words are being used loosely and faultily. So long as a man, whether he be Buddha or Hitler, has to walk, eat, and work, he must use his individuality. What is lost by the sage is his attachment to individuality with its desires, hates, angers, and passions.
The line of demarcation between man and the World-Mind can be attenuated but not obliterated.
It is perfectly possible to become impersonal in attitude and yet remain individual in consciousness. The winning of the one condition does not mean the losing of the other.
We humans recoil from the bleak picture of an impersonality without feeling, a life without passion, or survival without ego. Yet it seems bleak because it is rarely known or seen in experience, and also because it is unfamiliar and unrealized.
Freed at last from this ever-whirling wheel of birth and death to which he was tied by his own desire-nature, what happens to him can only be an opening up to a new better and indescribable state, and it is so. He as he was vanishes, not into complete annihilation and certainly not into the heaven of a perpetuated ego, but into a higher kind of life shrouded in mystery.
They must face this dilemma in their thinking, that if their absolutist "realization" is a fixed and finished state there is no room for an ego in it, however sublimated, refined, and purged the ego may be. The end then, can only be a merger, a dissolution into Nirvana and a total disappearance of the conscious self. This is a kind of death. But there is another kind of salvation, a living one where unfoldment and growth still continue, albeit on higher levels than any which we now know.
The gap between the finite human mind and the infinite World-Mind is absolute. A union between them is not possible unless the first merges and disappears into the second.
Will he have to surrender all conscious life and get in return the problematical advantage of a merger indistinguishable from complete annihilation? True, the possibility of further suffering will then be entirely eliminated. But so will the possibility of further joy.
It is a fallacy to think that this displacement of the lower self brings about its complete substitution by the infinite and absolute Deity. This fallacy is an ancient and common one in mystical circles and leads to fantastic declarations of self-deification. If the lower self is displaced, it is not destroyed. It lives on but in strict subordination to the higher one, the Overself, the divine soul of man; and it is this latter, not the divine world-principle, which is the true displacing element.
He is united with, but not absorbed by, the infinite Overself. He is a part of it, but only individually so. This is his highest condition while still in the flesh.
There is some kind of a distinction between his higher individuality and the Universal Infinite out of which it is rayed, whatever the Vedantins may say. And this distinction remains in his highest mystical state, which is not one of total absorption and utter destruction of this individuality but the mergence of its own will in the universal will, the closest intimacy of its own being with the universal being.
The Overself is one with the World-Mind without however being lost in it.
There is no final absorption; the individual continues to exist somehow in the Supreme. The fact that he can pass away into it at will and yet return again, proves this.
Something is there, something must take the place of the absent ego to perform its function and do in the world what needs to be done.
The unit of mind is differentiated out and undergoes its long evolution through numerous changes of state, not to merge so utterly in its source again as to be virtually annihilated, but to be consciously harmonized with that source whilst yet retaining its individuality.
If on the one hand he is conscious of himself in the divine being, on the other he is conscious of himself in the human ego. The two can coexist, and at this stage of advance, do. But the ego must knit itself to the higher self until they become like a single entity. When his mind is immovably fixed in this state, his personal will permanently directed by the higher one, he is said to have attained the true mystical life.
What he has to do in the world as a human being is henceforth to be done not really by his ordinary personal self but by the Presence which, shapeless and silent though it be, is the vital living essence of what connects him with God. If this seems to deprive him of the attributes which make a man man, I can reply only that we are here back with the Sphinx. Yes, the enigma is great; but the realized understanding and experience is immeasurably greater in its blessedness.
His life becomes a lengthened awareness of this Presence. He is never lonely because he is never encased in the belittling thought that this narrow personal self-consciousness is the totality of his "I."
He lives every moment in the awareness of his higher self. Yet this does not oppose nor interfere with, the awareness of his lower one.
Everything he then does is done by the ordinary personal self alone, out of and in harmony with the Overself, or his higher individuality. In thus working together, the divine presence supports the ego's presence, but the ego is put in its place and kept in harmony with the higher individuality. If this is what people mean by killing out the ego (which is really killing out its tyranny), there could be no objection to the statement. But to assert that it is not functioning at all is silly.
If the claim of complete merger is valid, if the individual self really disappears in the attainment of Divine Consciousness, of whom then was this same self aware in the experience of attainment? No--it is only the lower personal self that is transcended; the higher spiritual individuality is not.
When the universe itself runs down and disintegrates given enough time, how can this little and limited being of man hope to preserve his personal consciousness, his personality, his character just as it is today? Any belief fostered by any kind of authority--religious or metaphysical or any other--which fosters this illusion is a false one. But, this said, let it be countered by that other truth which is needed to complete the thought. If the individualized being must one day part with its limited consciousness, this is only in order to return to its origin in the universal consciousness, for consciousness cannot come out of nothing. It came from and goes back to the universal mind. Therefore, if a man loses the little and temporary immortality of the ego, it will only be to gain the greater and true immortality of that mind.
The higher individuality is preserved, but the lower personality, with its miserable limitations, is not.
The difference between the individual and the universal self persists throughout the incarnations and no mystical emotionalism or metaphysical jugglery can end it. It will end indeed not by the individual transforming himself into the greater being but by merging himself into it, that is, by the disappearance of his separate consciousness in the pure essence of all consciousness. But it need not so end unless he wants it.
Jew and Christian alike have honoured Martin Buber. If his views are examined and appraised, it will be found that two tenets received his weightiest emphasis. In his early period it was the mystical feeling and mystical experience. In his later period, it was the application of truth to everyday living, the immersion of routine physical existence in spiritual influence that came to matter most to him, or in short, the non-separation of the Overself from the body. The appeal of both these tenets to the Western mind, starved as it was, and is, of deeper inner experience and fearful of being sucked into monastic flight from the world as the only answer to the question "How shall I fulfil my duty as a spiritual being?" is quite obvious, understandable and natural. But there was a metaphysical error in this second phase, expressed in his claim that the ego persists even in the state of alleged union with God, and therefore in his denial that such a union is really what it purports to be. Albert Schweitzer fell into the same error. The only way to expose such an error is to pass through the tremendous and transforming experience itself; but then its validity will exist only for oneself, not for others, unfortunately. What happens then is that the feeling of a personal separate "I" vanishes during the short period of profound inward absorption when "I" is absent, Overself is present. There is really no ego because the mind is not at work producing thoughts. But when the meditation ends, and the ordinary life is resumed, the "I" necessarily is resumed too. In the case of a philosopher--that is, one who has thoroughly understood the nature of the ego--the relationship with this "I" is no longer complete immersion and identification. It is there, yes, but he is detached from it, a witness of it. His world-experience does not contradict his inner experience, hence the latter fulfils the test of ultimate reality.
It is impossible to put into sharply precise statements any positive definition or description of Mind that would be quite satisfactory. It is just as hard to put into proper words what the resultant is when ego vanishes, when the No-thing reigns in the consciousness. To assert that there is non-existence would be as misleading as to assert that there is existence, even if it were of a higher kind. For if the ego is gone, what is it that activates the body in its dealings with the world, or even with itself? Because the topic is incomprehensible, the answer to this question must itself be either incomprehensible or wholly phrased in negative terms. But to say what IT is not, does not make very lucid what it is.
His individual characteristics still remain and make him outwardly different from other men. No inward unity can obliterate them. So it would be correct to say that it is his egoism rather than his ego which disappears.
There is no reason why he should not preserve his individuality even if he should surrender it to God.
The goal is achieved when the higher self encloses and absorbs the ego.
Though he has been caught up into something immensely greater than himself, he still remains an individual--albeit a loosely held one.
Nirvana is never achieved, never attained, never realized. For if that were possible then the achiever, the attainer, the realizer--that is, the ego--would be on the same unchanging level, would itself be Ultimate!
If there is no such entity as a "me," an ego, you are entitled to ask who then has this enlightenment? And the answer is the only possible one: it is the Void having the experience of itself: or rediscovering itself as it does in each person who attains this level.
In such a person, the Impersonal becomes the individual, the Relationless enters into a duality of "I" and the "Not-self."
With one's own being, "I" as person expands through knowledge into "It" as universal Self. When? Never. For now I perceive all this as a dream. "It" alone IS on awakening; "It" alone was then.
The idea of a higher individuality was more acceptable to Western mentality than the Brahmanic one of total dissolution in a single mass consciousness. It was also more understandable. The lesser self finds its transcendental goal in submission to this higher individuality. Here is the highest form of duality.
The "I" has been transformed into the "I Am."
His further life will be a record of discovery rather than speculation, of insights rather than intellections.
What will happen to his environment after illumination? Nothing. It will not be miraculously transformed so that he sees auras, ghosts, and atoms mixed up with its ordinary appearance. It will still look as it did before. The grass will have the same shapes and colour.
Some--especially Indians--imagine that a fully attained man lives only in a state of abstraction, as if he were in a prolonged half-dream. They confuse a stage on the way up with the end itself.
The mind passes through a stage when, seeking after truth, it finds out that the world is other than it seems to be, and that its material substance is not matter at all but energy: its form is illusory. But this is not the end. For the seeker does not stop there; if he proceeds farther, he may find that illusion is itself an illusion. It is next found to be derived from reality and to be a form assumed by reality. This is the sage's enlightenment, this is his experience.
The ordinary man is aware of his surroundings, first, by naming and labelling them; second, by linking them with past memory of them; and third, by relating them to his own personal self. The illumined egoless man is simply aware of them, without any of these other added activities.
Whether in the sage or the simpleton the thought of the world, as well as of all that the man has to do in the world, is inescapable if he is to remain in it. The difference between them is that the ignorant one is held captive by what appears to him whereas the enlightened one knows also its inner reality. Whoever believes that he is the body alone cannot escape the name materialist. The other man reverses this belief, regards himself as distinct from and possessor of the body. His is not just a belief, however, but a piece of knowledge. It has the certitude which follows being freed from all doubt. Why then should he be afraid of acknowledging his personal-impersonal existence in, and awareness of, the world?
Japanese Zen Master Dogen: "Unwise people think that in the world of essence there should be no bloom of flowers and no fall of leaves." The Master here shows that in the mind of the enlightened man the external world appears as for the ordinary man and remains a mere mentation for the mentalist.
The permanence which ordinary normal people seem to find in merely living does not exist for him. He finds only transience. This affects both the bright and dark sides of existence, the good fortune and ill fortune. All is unstable and subject to change.
The enlightened man has the same kind of body and the same five senses as unenlightened men have. His experience of the world must be the same, too. But--and this is a vast difference--he experiences it along with the Overself.
For incarnate man the cosmic dream is always going on. This is also the case for the sage. But he has the knowledge of what is happening and the power to intromit it one step further back.
We are all in this dream which is itself the product of, and hidden within, a greater dream. Is God, the Dreamer, then asleep? This is the mystery: that he is both awake and asleep at the same time. How can man's tiny mind understand such a thing? Of course not. Let him be still and seek not to carry his profane curiosity into the Holy of Holies. In the end it shall be as if he were never existent, but this cannot be the same as death. For the dream--of which he is a part--goes back into the Dreamer, into the Living God.
If the illuminate detaches himself from the world because of its immediate transiency, he re-attaches himself to it again because of its ultimate unity with his own innermost being.
He lives in the knowledge of the World-Idea--not in its fullness of detail but in its general outline--which is fulfilling itself in the whole universe and with which he tries to co-operate according to his knowledge. This it is which supports his inner being, counters his everyday experience of human weakness and evil, and transfigures him when leaving the hour of communion to resume that experience.
Is such a statement that the sage sees no world because no world exists to be taken literally? Does it really mean what it says? If so, the sage is squatting in complete isolation, not even seeing a single sage existent anywhere in space now, or in time earlier, and who hears or records this statement, since all others are non-existent along with the world.
Philosophic discipline relates at every point to the act of living. For once insight has been unfolded, the philosopher is continuously aware of the oneness of the stuff of the world existence--which includes his own existence, too.
How does the illuminate react to his own karma? "Even after knowledge of the self has been awakened, Prarabdha (the portion of past karma now being enjoyed) does not leave him but he does not feel Prarabdha after the dawning of the knowledge of the truth because the body and other things are unreal like the things seen in a dream to one on awakening from it," replies Nadabindu Upanishad. That is, he treats his karmic suffering as being but ideas.
The contradictory attitudes involved in satisfying physical need and submitting to spiritual detachment are united and resolved by the sage into a single harmonious insight.
The man who has this higher consciousness permanently will see and experience the outer world like other men, but he will understand the relation between what he sees and the Real world which is behind it. In the same way, anyone can understand the relation between his body and its shadows; but whereas unenlightened men see the shadow alone, the enlightened one sees both.
Of little use are explanations which befog truth and bewilder understanding. To inform a Western reader that an enlightened man sees only "Brahman" is to imply that he does not see forms, that is, the world. But the fact is that he does see what unenlightened men see--the physical objects and creatures around him--or he could not attend to the simplest little necessity or duty of which all humans have to take care. But he sees things without being limited to their physical appearance--he knows their inner reality too.
General effects of enlightenment
As man grows in true understanding, he moves from mere existence to authentic essence.
When the wall between his little ego and the infinite Being collapses, he is said by some Orientals to have entered Nirvana, the Void, and by others to have joined his soul to God.
This disclosure that the whole universe exists in the mind comes with Reality's revelation.
This is the spiritual climax of one's life, this dramatic moment when consciousness comes to recognize and understand itself.
He will be conscious that inwardly he has been born utterly and unmistakably anew, that not only has the old self passed away but also that the belief in the existence and reality of self has passed with it.
What does it give to the dignity of man? It provides a rare link with the Absolute, an answer to What am I? and a touch of the Untouch.
It is the gift of an inner security, the blessing of a peace which comes to stay.
The Overself will overshadow him. It will take possession of his body. There will be a mystical union of its mind with his body. The ego will become entirely subordinate to it.
Whoever attains this inner liberation rarely finds it reflected in the outer world of human societies. Only by going to the lonely places of nature, to forests and fields, deserted shores and unbuilt-on hills can he match the freedom felt. If he ventures into an ashram--however reputed--the sense of entering a cage is produced. It could be that this is partly caused by the mental pressure of its authorities or inmates, by the smug if unexpressed exclusiveness. If he enters a church, he is at ease only if he is the only worshipper; otherwise sectarian pressure comes to awareness.
From the time that this great shift of consciousness has taken place, the event itself as well as its tremendous effects ought to be wrapped in secrecy and revealed only under authentic higher guidance.
If he has become enlightened, a discerning eye may note the fact by his body and his actions, by his silences and his utterances. But an ignorant eye may note nothing at all.
The effects of enlightenment include: an imperturbable detachment from outer possessions, rank, honours, and persons; an overwhelming certainty about truth; a carefree, heavenly peace above all disturbances and vicissitudes; an acceptance of the general rightness of the universal situation, with each entity and each event playing its role; and impeccable sincerity which says what it means, means what it says.
He cannot dwell in that magical state without transforming his experience in the world so that in some way or other it serves God's purpose, thus turning even outer defeats to inner victory.
He understands then what it means to do nothing of himself, for he feels clearly that the higher power is doing through him whatever has to be done, is doing it rightly, while he himself is merely watching what is happening.
The experience of enlightenment brings a tremendous feeling of well-being.
It is in his attitude toward himself particularly that we see the immense advance he has made beyond ordinary men.
Just as the Illumined State does not prevent him from receiving physical impressions from the world around him, so it does not prevent him from receiving psychic impressions from the people around him. But he does not cling to any of these impressions, nor does he let his emotions get entwined with them.
For him there is no split between spiritual and secular, nothing done that is not done in holy meditation.
The serenity of his life is a hidden one. It does not depend on fortune's halting course.
The feeling nature of one who attains enlightenment opens itself to purely impersonal reactions.
It is a state of tranquil feeling, not of emotional feeling.
Both opposites find their place in existence for the unenlightened, the masses, the narrow-horizoned. The tension between them contributes toward development, the conciliation of extremes broadens views. With enlightenment comes equilibrium, harmony, balance, the larger outlook, piercing insight.
In that universal Mind wherein he now dwells, he can find no man to be called his enemy, no man to be hated or despised. He is friendly to all men, not as a deliberately cultivated attitude but as a natural compulsion he may not resist.
When this consciousness of the Overself is attained and maintained, his mind becomes perfectly equable and his moral character perfectly unblemished.
The tremendous tension of effort which makes the quest, with all the evanescent elations and despairs which it involves, comes at last to a welcome end.
His submission to the divine will is henceforth spontaneous and innate; it is no longer the end product of a painful struggle.
He is no longer able to will for himself for the simple reason that some other entity has begun to will for him. Egoism in the human sense, sensualism in the animal sense, have both been eliminated from his heart.
Selflessness of purpose is said to follow attainment of this high spiritual status. On this point there is some misrepresentation so that beginners get half-false, half-true notions. It does not mean that, as against other men, an enlightened person must surrender his possessions, his position, or his services to them. He has his own rights still and does not automatically have to abandon them.
A man may attain this union with the Overself and yet produce no great work of art, no inspired piece of literature as a result. This is because the union does not bestow technical gifts. It bestows inspiration but not the aesthetic talent which produces a painting or the intellectual talent which produces a book.
Henceforth he is to work knowingly and lovingly with the power behind his life.
Henceforth he functions as the human instrument of a trans-human power.
One result then comes, that what he does by instinct and what he does by choice are henceforth one and the same.
These finer qualities will no longer appear only in momentary impulses. They will possess his whole character.
One of the foremost features of enlightenment is the clarity it gives to the mind, the lucidity of understanding and luminosity which surrounds all problems.
He who understands the Truth at long last, does so only because he becomes the Truth.
All that he knows will be intensely lived, for he knows it with his whole being.
He has come to the end of this quest. His discovery of truth has released the power of truth and conferred the peace of truth.
The pieces of life's mosaic are at last fitted neatly into place. He has attained complete understanding.
The intellectual faculties will not be extinguished by this radiant exaltation, but their work will henceforth be passively receptive of intuitive direction.
Freed from obsession with the past as well as anticipation of the future, he will regard each day as unique and live through it as if he were here for the first time.
Changes in the functioning of man's mind could bring about such complete changes in his sense of time that he could veritably find himself imbued with the sense of eternity. This continuous flux of time which to us seems to go on forever, to them is but an illusion produced by the succession of our thoughts. For them, there is only the Eternal Now, never-ending.
The realized man does not look back constantly for memories of the past and does not consider them worth recapitulating, for they belong to the ego and they are blotted out with the blotting out of the ego's tyranny. The only exception would be where he has to draw upon them to instruct others to help them profit by his experiences.
Only what the mind gives him now is alive and real for him.
He is not afraid to be outside the current of his time. This is because inwardly he is inside the Timeless.
It is one sign of the sage who lives in perfect detachment that he does not miss an enjoyable experience which has passed away, and another sign that he is not afraid of this passing while he is enjoying it.
What happened in all those earlier years is now veiled history to the enlightened man; what happens now, in the Eternal Now, is the important significant matter. Thus his mind is free from old burdens and errors. Yet, if needed, dead events can be resuscitated by intense concentration.
The background of his mind is far away from everyday consciousness as if invisible, but it can spring instantly forward if needed. There is no split between higher and lower mind: they are in harmony but the kind of activity is different.
It would not be correct to say that his consciousness splits itself into two.
The proficient can mentally turn inside from the busyness of his environment and within a few moments find the divine presence there.
One part of him can enter frequently into cerebral thinking but another part can drop out of this into celestial experience.
Our work remains active in the foreground of consciousness, while our wisdom remains in the background as its inspirer.
He moves in the world of bodily senses and their surrounding objects without losing the Presence, being held by it rather than holding on to it.
Illumination and the Illumined Life [Essay] "Thou art a Man God is no more. Thy own humanity learn to adore. For that is My spirit of life Awake, arise to spiritual strife."--William Blake
One day the mysterious event called by Jesus being "born again" will occur. There will be a serene displacement of the lower self by the higher one. It will come in the secrecy of the disciple's heart and it will come with an overwhelming power which the intellect, the ego, and the animal in him may resist, but resist in vain. He is brought to this experience by the Overself as soon as he is himself able to penetrate to the deeper regions of his heart.
Only when the disciple has given up all the earthly attractions and wishes, expectations and desires that previously sustained him, only when he has had the courage to pluck them out by the roots and throw them aside forever, only then does he find the mysterious unearthly compensation for all this terrible sacrifice. For he is anointed with the sacred oil of a new and higher life. Henceforth he is truly saved, redeemed, illumined. The lower self has died only to give birth to a divine successor.
He will know that this is the day of his spiritual rebirth, that struggle is to be replaced henceforth by serenity, that self-reproach is to yield to self-assurance, and that life in appearance is transformed into life in reality. At last he has emerged from confusion and floundering and bewilderment. At last he is able to experience the blessed satisfaction, the joyous serenity of an integrated attitude wholly based on the highest truth. The capacities which have been incubating slowly and explosively during all the years of his quest will erupt suddenly into consciousness at the same moment that the higher self takes possession of him. What was formerly an occasional glimpse will now become a permanent sight. The intermittent intuition of a guardian presence will now become the constantly established experience of it. The divine presence has now become to him an immediate and intimate one. Its reality and vitality are no longer matters for argument or dispute, but matters of settled experience.
When a man has reached this state of inward detachment, when he has withdrawn from passion and hate, prejudice and anger, all human experience--including his own--becomes for him a subject for meditation, a theme for analysis, and a dream bereft of reality. His reflection about other men's experiences is not less important than about his own. From this standpoint nothing that happens in the lives of those around him can be without interest, but everything will provide material for detached observation and thoughtful analysis.
He who has attained the state of desirelessness has liberated himself from the need to court, flatter, or deceive others, from the temptation to prostitute his powers at the behest of ambition or Mammon, from the compulsion to drag himself servilely after conventional public opinion. He neither inwardly desires nor outwardly requires any public attestation to the sincerity of his services or the integrity of his character. The quiet approval of his own conscience is enough.
Although he holds to the apex of all human points of view to which philosophy brings him, he keeps open the doors of his mind to all sincere writers, to all good people, and to all lower points of view. To him every day is a school day and every meeting with other persons a class lesson, since everyone has something to teach--even if it is only what not to do, how not to think or to behave.
When the ego willingly retires from all its worldly concerns or intellectual preoccupations to the sanctuary of the heart to be alone with the Overself, it becomes not only wiser but more powerful. At moments when the divine influx blissfully invades a man, it will not be out of his ordinary self that he will speak or act, but out of his higher self.
It is natural as well as inevitable that one who has entered into the larger life of the Overself should show forth some of its higher powers. Such an individual's thoughts are informed by a subtler force, invested with a diviner element, pointed by a sharper concentration, and sustained by a superior will than are those of the average person. They are in consequence exceedingly powerful, creative, and effective.
That which the sage bears in his heart is for all men alike. If few are willing to receive it, the fault does not lie with him. He rejects none, is prejudiced against none. It is the others who reject him, who are prejudiced against him.
Outwardly he appears to act as intensely or as vigorously as other men. But inwardly he will really be at rest in the Overself, which will lead him like a child into performing necessary actions. His mind is still, even though his body is busy. And because of this leading, his actions will be right and even inspired ones, his personal will will be expressive of a higher one.
So wherever the illuminate goes, he is immovably centered in truth. He may descend into the noisy maelstrom of metropolitan life. He may retire to the green quietudes of the countryside. He may meet in his wanderings with violence and accident or with flattery and fortune. Yet always and alike, he remains self-composed, calm, and king-like in his mental grandeur.
At long last, when the union of self with Overself is total and complete, some part of his consciousness will remain unmoving in infinity, unending in eternity. There, in that sacred glory, he will be preoccupied with his divine identity, held to it by irresistible magnetism, gladly, lovingly.
The sage is a man who lives in constant truth-remembrance. He has realized the existence of the Overself, he knows that he partakes of Its life, immortal and infinite. He has made the pilgrimage to essential being and returned again to walk amongst men, to speak their language, and to bear witness, by his life amongst them, to Truth.
His relationship to the Overself is one of direct awareness of its presence--not as a separate being but as his own essence.
Intimate communion and personal converse with the higher self remain delightful facts. The Beloved ever companions him and never deserts him. He can never again be lonely.
There is a feeling of living in a self other than the ego, although that also is present but subdued and submissive.
The awareness will be with him at all times, a part of all his actions and feelings. It will indeed be the essence of every experience and enable him to pass through it more happily.
He has no fixed abode, no permanent address, for like the wind he comes and goes from nowhere to anywhere. Destiny or service may keep his body in one place for a time, or for a lifetime, but it will not keep him.
For the person who has come to this understanding, who continually feels that IT IS, who is ever in remembrance of It, rituals, ceremonies, mantras, and prayers are not only unnecessary but are a waste of time.
The owl, which sees clearly at midnight, is an old and good symbol of the sage whose mind is ever at rest in, and lighted by, the Infinite Mind.
Because this Mind is common to all men, it is an inevitable and inescapable consequence of awakening to its existence that the initiate rises above a merely personal outlook and maintains a sympathetic attitude towards all men.
At this level, he is beyond bothering to listen to the discordant sounds of competing sects and cults: he is uninterested in the claims made for different teachings. He has only one concern: direct communion with the God within him as a felt, grace-giving Presence.
At this point all written doctrines, however ancient revered and established they may be, can be thrown away. His further needs can be satisfied only from within himself.
Henceforth he is able to return his consciousness and retract his attention from the ego--and this, not only at will, but throughout his lifetime.
The mind emptied of all the activity of ordinary thoughts and filled with the beauty of this presence is a divinely sustained mind.
He will be surrounded by an Overself-conscious atmosphere even in the midst of social functions. His inward repose will be no less evident there than in solitude.
He may be most intensely occupied with his worldly affairs, but he will remain fixed in the holy presence.
The illuminate stands in the centre of the world-movement, himself unmoving and unmoved.
The liberated person is liberated from all intellectual dogmas, perplexities, and questionings--whether they concern the present past or future, whether they relate to himself personally or to the universe abstractly. For all these can interest only a limited egoistic consciousness.
At last he has not only peace of mind--a philosophic attitude toward the events of his personal life--but also peace in the mind, a freedom from the struggle against baser impulses and ignoble tendencies.
The momentous results of this inner change will naturally reflect themselves in his outer life as a general nonattachment to the world. And because he has become free even of intellectual possessions, he is able to enter with full sympathy into the views and ideas of every other person--although this does not prevent his deeper wisdom from calmly noting at the same time the defects and errors of those views and ideas. To himself the practical value of this attainment is its conferment of freedom, but to humanity the practical value is his resulting dedication to service.
The sense of strain which accompanies present-day living vanishes. The peace of being relaxed in thought and feeling, nerve and muscle, replaces it.
He becomes a focus where persons, utterly incompatible and totally diverse otherwise, are able to meet.
The sense of a divine presence will be with him, the conviction of its supreme reality will grip him, and the feeling of an indescribable serenity will suffuse him.
The Master necessarily lives in an inner world of his own, immeasurably remote from some of those environments in which he is plunged. Nevertheless, he possesses the power to recall himself freely and instantly from one to the other, and in either direction.
It is one sign of this attainment that a man becomes less critical of other persons. Yet this does not mean he understands them less accurately.
A fulfilment such as this must bring joy to the heart and peace to the mind.
He may remain human in several ways--but not too human.
Penetrated by the feeling of a divine presence as he daily is, his life becomes a truly inspired one.
His first reliance will be on the soul. His last reliance will be on the soul.
His life silently becomes a witness to the fact of the Overself's continuous presence.