Planes of Existence - Beneath The Surface We Are Indistinguishable


by Jayaram V

From a universal perspective, there is nothing but the Self. It is the "Iam of Iam" that Moses met on Mount Sinai. It is the realization of the chant "Aham Brahmasmi", (I am Brahman) or "tatvamasi", (this is that). It is the state of Samadhi where nothing is left to experience so everything seems to have been lost. Individuals cannot understand this concept till they learn to see the world through an expanded awareness, with God or the Self at the center of their consciousness. It is difficult to explain this aspect of our existence because we do not see the Self in all or all in the Self.

As long as we are caught up in the activities of the senses and the objects they seek through our desires, we cannot grasp the fundamental unity of life and our inseparable connection with it. We remain bound to the world and its myriad distractions. It is only when we turn inward and look into our inner worlds, we become aware of the reality that is hidden from the surface consciousness.

As a physical being, we are but an organic mass of biodegradable matter differentiated into a body and mind and certain organs composed of the same chemicals we find elsewhere. Each of us carry a name, a distinct combination of qualities such as shape, color and behavior that enable us to prove to the rest of the world who we are. These qualities enable each of us to exist as individuals and carry out our mundane existence in our respective little spheres. When needed, we use our names and physical forms or our photographs to prove our existence to the world and enjoy the privileges to which we are entitled to.

Thus physically, we are all distinct, unique and separate. This is how nature intends us to be and saves us from chaos. Imagine what would happen if we all look alike. How much confusion would reign and how difficult it would be for the governments to regulate our affairs or enforce law! There would be confusion everywhere and we will have difficulty in safeguarding our interests or protecting our identities.

Now let us go a little deeper inside and talk about our mental personalities. If the body is like the earth, the mind is very much like water. At this level we still have several distinct qualities. The way we think, act and respond would be distinctly ours, based upon which others may be able to recognize who we are, what we are and where we can be placed. The distinction ends here. In the mental sphere we can assume any form, go wherever we would like to, create anything we want and be the supermen we all want to be. At this level, we transcend many limitations of the body and lose much of our uniqueness. Most of the things that set us apart physically also start melting away. As the distinctions become less apparent, we realize that we share many common features with the rest of the world and that any distinction that exists is in the way we use our minds. Finally compared to the physical body, the mental body is better connected with the rest of the world through thoughts and ideas.

Now let us talk about our breath bodies. If we say that the physical body is like the earth and the mental body is like water, we can say that the breath body is very much like air. It is subtle, invisible and all pervading. Breath keeps the body alive and connects us to the rest of the world through the air we breathe in and breathe out. Breath distributes the energy coming from the digested food in the body through the five channels of Prana, Apana, Samana, Vyana and Udana.

Breath is superior to the rest of the organs in the body because it is their support. They will not be able to stay alive and function in the body if breath departs. Breath body is therefore very important to our survival and Wellbeing. It is superior to the gross and mental bodies and subtler than them. In this stage is very difficult to distinguish the breath body of one person from another. We breathe the same air. The same breath which is in the sun is also in our bodies. Our breath bodies are thus largely indistinguishable. There may be still some distinctions but they are difficult to discern. In breath, we are thus indistinguishable.

The fourth innermost aspect of the human personality is the intelligence, which distinguishes us from the animals, insects and plants. In terms of hierarchy, intelligence is higher than breath. Human intelligence is a reflection of God's divine intelligence in the purity (sattva) of the human mind. It is therefore even more difficult to distinguish individually. Intelligence is universal. The way we think and reason may differ from person to person, and the way we use it may also differ, but we use the same intelligence and rely upon the same power to make sense of the world. In its purest and highest aspect it matches the intelligence of the Self. When we achieve that purity we become even more indistinguishable and experience self-absorption.

Thus, intelligence is not a very useful criteria to establish the identity of an individual. We may use a few quantifying methods to measure intelligence. We may even categorize people based upon their intelligence quotient or IQ. However, such measurements are not sufficient to identify individuals solely based upon their intelligence.

Intelligence can be measured and even categorized based upon some measurements. We may even categorize and label people using some intelligence tests. However, to establish the identity of an individual solely based upon his or her intelligence where by his individuality or uniqueness can be established is certainly not possible. As the intelligence body is very abstract and intangible, it is difficult to draw any individual distinction based solely upon intelligence.

The fifth and the most mysterious component of our personality is that which is awake when we are physically asleep. It is the space (or ether), the fifth element, which is most subtle, mysterious and unknown. It is called the bliss body, or the innermost body of the Self, which is indefinable and beyond the mind and the senses. As the Upanishads declare, there the mind travels not, nor thoughts, nor breath, nor speech, nor intelligence. We have no control over it and no understanding of it. Our happiness is a mere shadow of it. We may develop some intuitive idea about its nature but cannot define it or distinguish it. It is the truth which the Upanishads see as hidden behind the golden lid. As the Isa Upanishad puts it, the whole universe is permeated with its presence. It is the purest and the subtlest body of the Self containing its essential nature, which is uniform, universal and indistinguishable. There may be grades in the intensity of bliss one may experience as the Upanishads indicate, but in its essential nature it is universal and indistinguishable.

Thus we can see that while diversity is greatly visible in the outer planes of the body, as we go deeper into the subtle aspects of our personalities, we become indistinguishable universal. We may differ from others in names and forms, but in parts the distinctions become less evident. In the subtle planes the distinctions almost disappear. This realization is important in our spiritual growth. Contemplating upon the different aspects of our personalities, we can overcome our attachment to names and forms and feel oneness with the rest of creation. Those who realize this truth renounce their selfishness and egoism, and develop detachment and sameness. They would see the same Self residing in all and pervading all. They would see the hidden presence of God in the whole creation. They enter higher states of consciousness and experience bliss and liberation.

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