Friday, March 7, 2008

Path of the mystic- II

“ The final stage of meditation is reached when the sense of identity goes beyond the 'I-am-so-and-so', beyond 'so-l-am', beyond 'I-am-the-witness-only', beyond 'there-is', beyond all ideas into the impersonally personal pure being. But you must be energetic when you take to meditation. It is definitely not a part-time occupation. Limit your interests and activities to what is needed for you and your dependents' barest needs. Save all your energies and time for breaking the wall your mind had built around you. Believe me, you will not regret.”
This is a quote from “I am that”, a series of talks between Nisargadatta Maharaj and seekers. The enquiry into “I” as the root of all experience, as the very seed of life is the method elucidated in these conversations as I understand them. The truth of being cannot be logically denied. Whatever my state of being may be, it derives from and presupposes my being. And while the state is transient, the being is transcendental. To be free of all existential discord, the root of individuated existence must be scrutinized. What the result of the inquiry would be depends on earnestness of effort. However before delving into ‘an experience of that which experiences’, it must be understood that every mystical trance or vision, however beautiful and blissful, necessarily ends as it is within time. The essence can never be known through its manifestations, however pleasing they may be per se.
Individuated human existence is insipid and devoid of any lasting joy. Momentary joys are many but they appear only against a background of dullness, or worse suffering. The joy of deep sleep is against the background of the monotony of waking existence. The pleasure of sex lasts but a moment and usually causes much pain and perversion. Attachment to somebody from the opposite sex seldom leads to lasting love and is frequently corroded by jealousy and possessive instinct. And what is lasting in a life that lasts but a moment? Even relatively innocent human relations that enrich are transient episodes in the drama of life. Youth lives in fear of old age or in an ignorant shell which gives way to despair when broken. Being a health ‘freak’ is itself a symptom of psychological unrest and instability. Wealth is no surety for happiness and is a tyrant if its end is not clearly defined. Power is either severely restricted or if mighty for a time, soon ends in assassination or worse, disgrace or subsequent anonymity. Even if shorn of hyperbole and calamities, the garment of happiness woven by wealth and power as fabric is rent apart by time.
Three states of individuated human existence viz. waking, dreaming and dreamless sleep are well understood. The memory of previous events registered in waking existence is commonly understood as ‘my life’ in a nostalgic mood. However memory is fallible and distorted. To romanticize the past is common. Yet, on probing further, what constitutes an experience? Is it a subjective interpretation of neural activity associated with sensory stimuli? Or is neural activity merely a repercussion of extra-neural consciousness. Genes can as well be caused by consciousness and an interface between its subtle and gross manifestations rather than causing consciousness. It’s logical for the subtle to be the cause of the gross rather than the other way around. If waking existence is life, how are dreams and the deepest dreamless sleep classified? Dreams are often echoes of the waking existence but may not necessarily be so. And dreamless sleep ordinarily lies beyond cognition. To wake in the deepest dreamless sleep is the beginning of self-discovery. The empirical pseudo-self derived from sensory perceptions colored by memories and anticipation is a mere shadow of the essence.
It is well understood that matter and energy can be transformed into one-another but can never be destroyed. Matter is gross energy while energy is subtle matter. Where does consciousness originate? Is it a kind of subtle energy? Or is it altogether different? Can it be that consciousness is a type of vibration having light as its essence? Can this sound and light be perceived in the state of deep concentration? Deep meditation and mystic texts suggest as much. In Hindu mysticism, OM is exalted as the highest symbol of the supreme absolute. The essence of OM is sound and light. The Gospel of John in the New Testament similarly mentions the Word (audible vibration) as existing prior to the world and identifies it with God. What does this convey?
I am no expert on psychology but I understand every experience has a neural repercussion. Neural transmission is electrical in nature. Cerebral activity that makes consciousness in waking existence possible is also associated with a particular brain wave pattern. Similarly dreaming and dreamless sleep too have neural and brain-wave associations. Can experiences transcending the biological body be associated with commonly unperceived ‘waves of consciousness’ that dissolve what is understood as perceptible matter in waking state into something altogether different?
Dispassion is the sharpest weapon in mysticism. Freedom form the constrained is gained through deep aversion for it. Why is it so? Why do all mystic texts exhort the seeker to shed desire? Sunlight illuminates and doesn’t know what darkness is. The essence is ever pure and blessed. Every blemish is a mistaken appearance which is annihilated forever when the essence is known. What obstructs the essence? Desire does. Desire tries to grasp a manifestation which cannot be grasped. All grasping is an illusion and it produces the illusion of suffering after a while if not immediately. Manifestations are inherent in the natural effulgence of essence. However by itself the essence neither causes manifestations nor is it dependent on or limited by its effulgence.
Is their a way out of the net cast by unruly desires? One way is to desire the highest, the greatest and the most perfect that can be conceived of and to make this supreme desire too great to be sidelined by petty urges. Desire supreme infinite bliss, at once eternal and all-encompassing. Desire to be God. Don’t be satisfied with anything less. Intensity of one master passion would subdue all inferior desires. Soon it would be realized that the individuated can never encompass the unlimited. Eternal bliss can never be enjoyed by any body limited by time. Even the universe is transient. The only way out is to transcend the body and all other sheaths that imprison and suffocate pure bliss of uncontaminated being. But wouldn’t annihilation of the body end consciousness? This is the primary question. Is consciousness a manifestation of matter or is matter manifested in consciousness? The unequivocal answer of all mysticism is that matter is a gross manifestation of an essence beyond anything material, beyond energy and beyond consciousness and even bliss.
What is the essence of everything? What underlies everything? It is that which is beyond all manifestations and yet without which no manifestation can ever be possible. That which can never be enjoyed but makes all joy possible, which can never be experienced but makes all experience possible, which can never be recognized as existing but makes all existence possible. But how is such an essence of any use to me and you? How does it matter what lies at the core if it can never be grasped? The answer is- it can never be grasped but is what you would be when you let go of every illusion that you have grasped. The essence is what you have always been without being aware of it. The essence is what makes you love yourself, it is love itself. The essence makes life possible, it is life itself. It is all that is blessed, beautiful, joyous and awesome. It is the supreme flowering of infinite bliss while being always your intimate essence. It is what you are here and now, shorn of all delusions which merely appear to be and which derive their very appearance form the primal essence.
Here I want to discuss the concept of void. Some thinkers hold that the universe along with you, me and everything that appears to exist is in reality void or without any essence. In other words nothing really exists. Everything merely appears to be. It can be argued that appearance is as good as existence if it is all there is. Or in other words, non-being has meaning only when distinguished against being. To say that everything is an illusion would give absolute reality to all illusion. After all, illusion is only that which doesn’t really exist but merely appears to be. Indeed if all that is taken to be real derives merely from sensory perception, even this is not true. Senses can merely perceive what appears to be and never what is. Senses don’t perceive atoms or radio waves yet they exist. A standard book on psychology has this to say on illusions. “An illusion is not a trick or a misperception; it is a perception. We call it an illusion simply because it does not agree with our other perceptions.” The essence of everything can never be void. Nothing can ever emerge from nothingness. The essence can be beyond being and not-being. It can transcend void. It can be infinitely subtle and infinitely akin to void but it is impossible that it be void. Indeed the closer the essence would get to void, the more subtle and potent it would become but it would never become the void. It would become infinitely akin to void and in its very approaching void would it become potent to manifest absolutely anything. Absolute void would be absolute bliss, absolute power and absolute existence because its capacity to manifest would be infinite as it would have transcended the last subtle barrier.

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