A World Without Mirrors and Milestones
In the spiritual world knowing is a happening, not an effort. In that knowing there is no certainty or security. If you think you know, you may not know. Jayaram V
You are always someone in a context, in a relationship or in comparison to something. Without it, you do not know what you are and how you measure up. Your knowledge also rests upon many assumptions and beliefs. Take them away from the equation, and you will have a hard time drawing valid conclusions about yourself.
Truly speaking, your self-knowledge is mostly assumptive rather than factual. From an existential point of view it is not a problem at all since you can live your whole life without knowing much about yourself. Are not the animals able to live without much self-awareness? However, difficulties arise when you step out of your comfort zone and probe your consciousness to know your true nature.
What is the best way to do it? In the perceptual world, you rely upon both objectivity and subjectivity to ascertain any truth. In doing so, you try to remain free from bias and logical errors. Scientifically, there is no other way to know the world. However, with regard to self-knowledge this approach may not be much helpful unless you pay attention to it with non-judgmental awareness. Here you have to rely more upon your subjective experience and become a mirror to things rather than look at them in the mirror of your mind.
There are many types of subjective experience. In some you are aware of your awareness, as you engage your mind and senses in the process of knowing. However, as your practice of calming your mind and senses deepens, you may enter a state of pure subjectivity without awareness, judgment, observation, analysis, comparison, and relationship. It is an indeterminate state, which is beyond the grasp of your mind and intellect. Let us dwell upon this state and why it cannot be objectified.
magine you live in a world without a mirror. Imagine in that world nothing is reflected and nothing works like a mirror to produce a mirror image. In such a world how can you see yourself and know how you look or what distinguishing features you have? You may see parts of your body and make some assumptions about them. You may also learn from others how they perceive you, and how you appear to them. However, since you do not have any mirror or reflecting surface, you cannot subjectively validate that knowledge. You have to fully rely upon others to create your self-image.
You do not have such a problem in our world because you can see your reflection in a mirror, or rely upon a photograph, video camera, motion picture or any image capturing device to look at yourself. In addition, you may also rely upon other's opinion about you. Through introspection, meditation, observation, you may also subjectively gain insight into your behavior and personality.
However, objectivity is not very helpful if you want to go beyond your mind and senses to know yourself. In the transcendental states, you have none of the physical or mental means to observe yourself or know yourself. The transcendental world is a world without reflections, and duality. It is free from forms and totally self-existing without a second, where you do not experience otherness or any relationship. There you have to rely upon your own intelligence to be aware and awake, without the senses, mind, and memory.
Since there is no duality no one can really explain to you what happens in a transcendental state. It is true even for those who have experienced self-realization or god-realization. They cannot clearly articulate their experience or hold that state in their wakeful consciousness. Therefore, usually a sage does not confirm whether he had entered the state of Self or Brahman. Others may know about it from his words, behavior, conduct, mental brilliance, but he may choose to remain silent about it. He may speak to you about the state, but he may not show particular interest in letting everyone know about his own experience.
Ordinary people enter the state of non-duality every day during deep sleep. They do not know it because their minds and senses remain asleep and their memory remains inactive. Deep sleep is a subjective experience without any subject. When spiritual people enter a similar state through meditation, they experience the same predicament.
However, since it is a culmination of willful self-effort the experience brings a sudden shift in their awareness and transforms them whereby they do not have to struggle to control their lower impulses or manifest their higher nature. For them detachment and dispassion arises naturally as they become free from desires, attraction and aversion, attachments, confusion, delusion, evil thoughts, and worldliness. As they tap into their higher wisdom, they experience a new found sense of freedom, without expectations, want, worry and anxiety, which ordinary people experience in their waking hours.
It is the miracle of self-realization, and the highest of all perfections (siddhis). If you want to know whether a yogi has experienced self-realization, look in him for those qualities. When you see them in a seer or a guru, or even a seemingly ordinary person, know that that person has tasted the stateless state of Supreme Brahman and reached the culmination of spiritual perfection.
Suggestions for Further Reading
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- How to Cultivate Mindful Awareness
- The Basis For Spiritual Life
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- Relevance of Scriptures in Modern Life
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- Materialism and Spirituality, The Two Paths of Life
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