The Nature of Your Spiritual Experience

Breath control

by Jayaram V

Whatever you feel or experience in the presence of God or a deity or in your meditation is your own projection. It is true when you ask a question and receive an answer or when the deity manifests in your dreams or when you feel that you have an extraordinary spiritual experience. It is the play of your consciousness. All experiences arise within the field of your own mind, some when you are bound and some when you are free.

You may not be happy with this assertion because it is contrary to your expectations. You may have had your own experiences and you may have begun to enjoy the feeling that you are special or you are specially chosen by God to experience them. You may have also concluded that you have earned God’s favors or his special attention because of your scholarship, knowledge or devotion. These feelings arise in most cases not because of any spiritual advancement but because of the growing influence of the ego. It is an indication that one has grown farther and apart from the truth within oneself.

Whatever that happens in your conscious mind is the play of your mind or the play of maya. The mind is verily maya. It is the product of maya. It is the cause as well as the effect of maya only, which plays all tricks to distract you, delude you or keep you engaged with the world. Hence, we are advised to observe the mind with awareness and detachment to stay free from its influence, but at the same time to abide in buddhi or the discriminative intelligence to discern truth regarding the observer and the observed. Without buddhi, you are like a rudderless boat lost in the turbulent sea of life.

Your mind becomes active because of its unstable nature or because of some desire or intention to which it is vulernable. In either case, it is your mind which engages in the action, the reality or the illusion of experience. All that happens in your mind because you let it happen. Whether your mind is active or silent, whether you are attached to the world or detached from it and whether you are under the influence of your ego or free from it, it happens because of your mind. By mind I mean the sum of your consciousness, whether you are awake, dreaming or asleep. It is the field (kshetra) of which you are the owner or lord (kshetrajna).

There is none other than you, who makes that happen. No, this is not a figurative statement. Indeed, there is none other than you. There are only two realities, your subjective reality and your objective reality. You and the other. One is your experiential self which makes you feel that you are distinct and separate, and the other is the pure Self which is in everyone and everywhere and which cannot be distinguished at all. It is like the emptiness in every vessel or pure water in every ocean. All experiences arise within the domain of the experiential self only, while the other watches.

One may trigger a thought in you and open your mind to a newer possibility. One may inspire you to do extraordinary things or lower your morale with negativity and criticism. You may feel different feelings and emotions in the presence of someone you like or dislike. They are reactions and modificiations of the mind. In that transformative and churning process, the external cause is just a trigger. They happen because you are ready for those experiences, emotions and feelings.

The question of whether God exists or not should not be a debating point in Hinduism at all. Hinduism emphatically says that you are God. There is no one else other than God. Therefore, you can be none else but God. To deny God is to deny yourself.. You are indeed God himself, a living and breathing God, enveloped and infused with myriad impurities, imperfections and inconsistencies. You are the water of the ocean, mixed with the soil of the earth. Your life is meant to achieve that perfection and completeness of God by overcoming the impurities of the earth. You are like the rock or the clay which when chiseled or shaped properly ends up becoming a beautiful statue or idol, which people worship in temples and sacred places.

You are the creator, preserver, destroyer, concealer and revealer. You are Shiva enveloped by a cloud of materiality. Shiva is the only truth, and you are that truth. Shiva is the only reality, and you are that reality. If you think that Shiva is doing it to you, you are deluded. Shiva is all this, here and hereafter. He is the Isa, the Lord, who inhabits all this and who exists in all its movements and happenings. You may degrade yourself by worshipping an external entity, ignoring the God in you. It is a choice you make, influenced by either desire or fear or ignorance. You have the freedom to make that choice and the obligation to accept its consequences.

It is true with regard to your experiences with God or Shiva or Vishnu or Brahma or whatever deity you worship. As the Bhagavadgita affirms, God is indifferent and disinterested. He does not take particular interest in anything. He is a nimittamatra, an apparent cause, trigger or pretext. Just as the lotus blooms when the water is there and the sun shines or just as a fruit falls from the tree when it is ripe, all experiences happen in their own time when conditions are favorable or when you reach a particular moment or point in your life. It happens when you are ripe for it or when you earn it through your own merit, having accumulated enough karma to precipitate a situation.

It is true with regard to any experience people may have with their gurus also. You do not have to give them undue credit. They deserve your respect and gratitude, but not your bondage, superstition or blind faith. They guide you according to your merit and theirs. If you think they are causing your spiritual experiences or responsible for them, you are mistaken. They may not even know what happens to you in sleep or in dreams or in your own mind or life, unless you tell them. If you have never met them, they may not even know that you exist.

A guru  may prepare his disciple for the spiritual journey or experience, but he or she does not make it happen by some miraculous power. Whether it is a message you receive in meditation or a vision you see or a dream you have or a good omen you witness or the peace and prosperity you experience, the experience is created by your own effort. You are its creator, preserver, destroyer, concealer and revealer.

Always remember this, you are the water of the ocean inside an earthen, fragile and impermanent vessel. You are Shiva. All this is Shiva. There is no second, except in your mind or thought.

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