4. The Three Illegitimate Pursuits
b. Three Common Human Ideals - The first thing that came to mind as I was reading about the 11 dimensional 'M Theory', (which is the quantum/string version of the unified field theory now believed to be the successful formulation), is that here was another opportunity to remind ourselves of the three illegitimate human pursuits spoken of in the Mahabharata, the great ancient Indian classic. As we get further into these we'll see that they are really the only proper starting point for coming up with a 'Theory of Everything'. The three illegitimate pursuits are: 1) Nobody wants to die; ideally, most everyone wants to live forever. 2) Nobody wants to be ignorant; ideally, most everybody wants to know everything and have all knowledge. And 3) Nobody wants to be suffering and be miserable; ideally, most everybody wants to be ever happy, eternally immersed in joy and delight. These three are paramount in what most humans ideally want, but all three of these are totally illegitimate. They're never reachable. Why? The reason for this may surprise you.
c. You Cannot Lose It or Find It. You Can Only Be It. - Let's look at an example. If you are already wearing glasses, and using these glasses to search for those very glasses which you think you lost, mistakenly believing them to be missing somewhere outside of you, you will never be able to find them. Unknown to you, the glasses you are looking for are already sitting on your nose and are fully in use by you. Unaware, you continue to pursue a useless search for them, coming up with ever more clever and more brilliant search strategies for finding them, but to no avail. You have to give up looking outside for them (and to strain this example a little further and continue using it as a metaphor here) you have to instead look in the mirror to see yourself, where you'll spot the missing glasses already part of you and fully in use by you. Of course what all this means is that you have to look not at the objective world outside to look for what you believe you lost, but look within to discover that what you believe you lost, was never lost, and was always part of you. So, the three pursuits are illegitimate because you already are all that you are wishing for. You cannot be anything else. They already are what you are, and, what's more, they are all there ever is. You cannot find them outside because they are not something outside that can be lost or found. They are your very own intrinsic nature. In truth, the real you already is the eternal being, you already are all consciousness and therefore you are all knowledge contained in that consciousness, and you already are all joy, all love, all beauty, all dharma. This is the SatChitAnanda, which you already always are. I will say more about this as we go on, below.
d. SatChitAnanda Is Who You Truly Are - Your greatest task and your greatest adventure should be to seriously explore that which truly is everything. And once you decide that you really want that for yourself, more than anything else, then you need to discover whether you first need to gain that, or if, previously unknown to you, you already are that, and have always been that, and only that? Here we are not referring to the physical or even the mental.... not your body, not you as an individual person, not the particular name you bear, not the particular form you seem to inhabit, not the egoic "I" you believe yourself to be, not your analytical mind, not the higher intellect, not the you who was born and will some day die, not the you who seems to be leading a separate life in a world of multiplicity, and not you as a member of a family or a tribe or a people or a country or a region or a planet or a universe. Netti! Netti! Not this. Not this. Not any of these. And not even you as a human being, but just you as pure being. In other words, you the true you, the one; not one of many, but always only the one, the immortal, ever-unchanging, eternal SatChitAnanda. Whatever story may be running in your mind, hold this one thought and do not let it go: You, the 'true you', are the One! You are the one who is real, who is the Reality itself. (Matrix didn't have it right... it's not Neo... it was always you and only you!) At least for now, hold that thought. If you are thinking, "This is absurd. What about everyone else?" If so, please suspend your judgment for a little longer and read on through the next few sections. To wind up this section, as has already been covered a number of times, SatChitAnanda is what is. It is all there is. Nothing else can ever be. It has neither beginning nor end. It alone is real. It alone is true. But it is also a mystery. For it cannot ever be known by the you that you think you are in this world, but nor can It ever be not known by you. For, despite the obfuscation of the true Reality, an occasional ray of light will sneak through the chinks, and the Reality will make itself known like a haunting surprising whiff of fragrance that suddenly comes into your awareness. And for a moment, like an unexpected miracle, it will light you up with a smile. And you will have been touched by a wonderful, unfamiliar part of you, not known in your mind and yet unmistakably there within you.
5. Dream As A Metaphor For Realizing The Truth
a.The Dream World, The Dream 'I', and The Dreamer- Let us take a moment out and interrupt our discussion to look at the nature of dreams - the ordinary dreams you have during sleep. This will be very useful in discovering the nature of Reality and unreality. A dream comes on suddenly in your resting consciousness, appearing as a perceivable world being experienced by a central character that you identify as yourself, and that you call ‘I’ in your dream. But, this ‘I’ is not the same as the familiar ‘I’ that you call yourself in your waking state. It is the dream ‘I’, which is only loosely patterned after the waking ‘I’. So, in the dream, we have a dream world, which is the objective, and we have a dream ‘I’, which is the subjective. And then there is also a third part to the dream which is hidden from both the objective dream characters in that world and hidden also from the central character who is the subjective ‘I’ character. That third principal is the dreamer of the dream, the behind-the-curtains creator-god of the dream. This dreamer of the dream is the one who is orchestrating all the dream happenings, including choosing all the dream characters and their characteristics, as well as the parts they play. All three of these, the dream world, the dream ‘I’, and the dreamer who is the god of the dream, will have arisen together spontaneously when the dream begins, and will disappear together when the dream ends. When the dream is over it leaves behind only the pure unchanged consciousness and the subjective ‘you’, which you’ve known most of your life and called ‘I’. This latter subjective ‘I’, which even now you identify with in the world, was momentarily hidden behind the ‘dream I’ that took its place, and then reappeared again when the dream was over.
b. Context vs. Content- It would not be unreasonable to assume that the content of the dream, that is, the story that is playing out, although it may hold our fascination, cannot be very important if all of it quite unceremoniously disappears without a whimper when the dream is done. What is important, however, is the context of the dream. Whatever the story, whatever the characters and their parts, whatever their version of time and space, and whatever setting they are in when playing out their parts in the dream, the moment the dream ends, all of this dream activity dissolves and disappears for good, except for a fleeting memory that holds on for a moment and permits us to remember some of the dream story after we awaken. Later we will again meet up with this sequence just discussed, that of looking at the process of waking up, but at that time we will not be interested in waking from the night-time dream, but waking up to Reality and our immortal Self.
c. Behind the False 'I' Is the True 'I', Permanent and Unchanging- It must be stressed again, that going from waking to dream and back to waking, the only thing that doesn’t change is the consciousness in which the dream plays and the continuing presence of the subjective ‘I’, which remains throughout, although it takes on different forms and roles in the process. So, even as all the objective parts are changing, appearing and disappearing, there is a subjective ‘am-ness’ or ‘isness’ that travels through all the different parts and stories, unaffected. That ‘I’ is the true ‘I’ which never disappears, but whose eternally unchanging nature can for a time remain hidden from view behind various disguises, hiding its truth. But when the dream ends, it is always there, waiting. As we’ve already covered, both the consciousness being spoken of here and the ‘I’, both of which endure, are really the ‘Chit’ and ‘Sat’ of the one same SatChitAnanda, that never changes.
d. Dream as Metaphor- Next we will see how the dynamics of dream are a very useful metaphor for waking up from the illusion that we (and, sadly, Hawking and the other brilliant physicists) have all been caught up in, namely, believing in the false reality of this made-up perceived world, and undervaluing the importance of the ubiquitously-present subjective, the ‘I’ of the one eternal Self, on which all this apparent multiplicity rests. In the Vedantic understanding, maya is said to have two very powerful shaktis or powers. One shakti is a cloud of obscuration that hides the true Reality. The other shakti is the projection, which thrusts forth a fictional world of illusion super-imposed onto that veiling cloud, and which, thereby, replaces the hidden true Reality with a false reality, which it now claims to be the only reality. We see that the dream works in precisely the same way. In the cloudiness of sleep the dream world arises spontaneously. Through its projection power it spins out a made-up world of things and happenings. This replaces the previously prevailing world, which through the action of the veiling power of sleep has become hidden. So in dream both powers of maya are active, and through dream we can see the out-picturing of the very woof and warp of maya in action.
e. The End of Maya- When maya is finally conquered and truth is again realized and the ego thought system with its illusory world and separation have been transcended, the SatChitAnanda re-emerges and shines forth. Then the ‘real you’ takes over the manifested equipment (your body, mind and affairs, etc.) which previously were under the direction of ego, the false you. And you wake up. At that point a long charade will have come to an end, and the previously-playing life story, although it may continue for a while, loses all its self-importance. The particular time when you wake up, doesn't matter very much. What does matter and is important is that your awakening be assured, in other words, that you will for sure return from sleep and dream. And of that we have the assurance of all the thousands of great beings who have gone before all the way back to antiquity, assuring us that all who are asleep in a world dream will in time wake up to their true Self, whether that awakening happens in this physical incarnation or another one. Living in the world dream as separate incarnated beings is a lie. That lie takes up all our energy, and keeps us asleep and locked into our dreams. But sleep does not last forever; nor does dream. When we remember who we are and the ignorance of our true Self dissolves, we wake up from our dream and everything changes. This may involve giving up the body. To the ignorant that symbolizes death, a terrifying finale; but to the awakened it is a non-event, much like waking from a night dream, wherein everything changes and nothing changes, but none of which is regarded as a big deal.
f. One Awakens. What About All the Others?- You may wonder, “Does that assurance apply to all the beings in my world? Do they also all awaken?” Well, I suggest you forget about 'others'! Why? Because in the presence of the real you, the one immortal Self, there are no 'others'! That is a grand mystery. From your perspective, wherein you are the observer, and wherein you alone have the ability to look inside to your true Self, there you are alone. To get a sense of this, think of your experience in a dream. The dream you dream is yours, not someone else's, and not shared with another. But in this private dream of yours, there may appear to be many, many 'others', and they seem to have their separate autonomous lives and their own separate wills. You don't question the reality of the dream world, because for the 'you' in the dream, the dream world is the world you appear to be in and is playing out all around you. In the same vein, you tend not to question the existence of all the diverse characters appearing in your dream. But after you awaken, none of the 'others' who were in the dream with you, will still be around. They and the whole dream world and the dreamer who is the god of the dream, will be totally gone. Just the familiar waking 'you' and the consciousness in which it is perceived, will be all that remains when the dream has disappeared.
g. Removing the False, theUnreal You- Dream is a metaphor for Reality. It can be used to help point you to the actual Reality by noting the disappearance of the false reality of the dream world and everything that's in it, once the dream ceases. But, it does this while still leaving an aspect of 'you' intact. When the superimposed covering of maya, the ego-thought system, with its illusory world of separation and false 'I' of individual life, have been removed, (much as happens, as we just covered, in awakening from a dream, in which the projected dream world and the dream 'I' have been removed), then what remains is the real you, the SatChitAnanda, the true Self, the eternal Atma, that shines forth in the same subjective place within where the false ‘I’ (what Ramana Maharshi has called the 'I thought') had previously been, and had subsequently disappeared. So, spiritual practice, which intends to expose and realize the true Reality, consists primarily of removing the false reality that has covered the truth, and which has falsely posed, quite convincingly, as being the one reality, when in fact it is nothing.... just an illusion made-up by the ego to hide the truth. The best practice for experiencing the Self is to engage in inner inquiry into the true Reality, which, in turn leads to the exposure and then removal of the false reality. So, spiritual practice is mostly a matter of taking away, rather than adding to. But this may go against your natural inclination when you first hear about enlightenment.
h. You Are Always Complete- When you hear of that ultimate path and realiz,e that this is the direction you need to go, but you also realize how very far you are from that awareness, you experience yourself feeling a deep lack and a hole in your personal development. So, you fervently go about acquiring and learning whatever new 'spiritual' teachings and experiences would fill that empty hole and deal with your perceived spiritual lack. Unfortunately, you may continue with this pursuit for many months or even years, until you realize the truth that there is no lack and there never was a lack. You have always already been at that final goal which you have been searching for, and believe you must continue to search for. The truth is you are, and always have been the one SatChitAnanda, but you simply are unaware of it because of the mischievous maya/ego obfuscation, which covers, hides, and corrupts the true immortal Reality, which you are and always have been. (But this corruption cannot really happen except in your mind, deluded as it is by maya and its ego cohort.)
i. You Will Never Find Reality in the Objective World - Having gotten this far in the discussion we can come to some general conclusions. One important one is that the objective world is the province of maya, illusion. It is here that we find variability, multiplicity, separation, the many, the ‘others’, all the inhabitants of a world of time and space and history, the realm of unreality. Unchanging eternal Reality is not to be found here. We see from the example of dreams, that even as the objective world comes and goes, the subjective remains unaffected by the comings and goings. It does, however, change its outer names and outer forms with each new dream and every new situation, but without its basis being affected by the situation. Even if there were never another dream, the subjective waking self would carry on unconcerned. The dreams with their objective worlds can change and even totally disappear, but the total disappearance of the subjective Self, on the other hand, is impossible. The subjective can seem to disappear, but only in illusion, i.e., in a fictional story, because behind the subjective waking self, underpinning it and providing its basis, is the true immortal Self, which is eternally unchanging, and therefore, can never be extinguished. When I say “I am Al Drucker”, two thirds of this statement, namely, ‘I am’, is eternal and can never change, whereas ‘Al Drucker’ is a temporal name, associated with a temporal form that relates to the particular dream story playing. To be truthful I should call myself by the response of the biblical voice in the burning bush, when questioned by Moses, “Who are you?” The voice responded, “Ehyeh asher ehyeh - I am that am.” which is the universal response of the one Self. But Moses, deeply enmeshed in his maya-fabricated world, could make no sense of that. So, upon further questioning, the voice said that it was ‘the God of his forefathers’, upon which the ongoing Moses story took off, and went on from that. Similarly if my response is “I am Al Drucker”, the ongoing Al Drucker story follows and takes off from that. But if instead the response had just been ‘I am’ that would have been it. Then there would have been no further story to follow, no change, no elaboration, no opening for made-up unreality to take over.
j. Love All Aspects of Yourself - Notice that when you consider ‘others’, it is a concept that speaks of those, other than ‘I’, who seem to occupy the world of the particular dream-story that is playing. So, the ‘others’ come and go as the story changes. They are part of the projecting power of maya, appearing to exist outside of ‘me’. They are illusory; they are never real. But they seem to be so real. Then where did they come from? They arose from your mind (with your full previously-given consent). They come along with your dream, and are a consequence of maya having taken up long-term residence in your mind. Whatever you appear to see outside is always only yourself, seemingly and convincingly projected to appear to be outside by the power of maya, that you have tolerated to occupy your mind and run your show. So whatever you appear to be looking at ‘outside’, you’re always looking only at yourself. Since in Reality, without the obfuscations of maya, you are Ananda, pure undiminishable bliss and unbounded all-inclusive love, you can get closer to this true Self that you really are, by unconstrainedly loving your Self. And as long as you still find yourself in the world, you can best love your Self by fully loving all your projections, all the many aspects of yourself. In other words, by unconditionally loving all the ‘others’ you still believe are ‘out there’, you are knowingly or unknowingly loving your Self, for it was you who through maya, projected them out there and gave them their seeming individual reality.
6. The Two Domains, Reality and World
a. The True and The Untrue - So now let us look at how the real (the true), and the unreal (the untrue, the illusory), interface in your experience. There are always two domains: Reality is one, and the world of maya is the other. These two domains, much like light and darkness, can border each other, but they do not normally interact with each other, except for one to swallow the other. Let me explain. Light and darkness cannot separately exist in the same space, for in the presence of light the dark is absorbed and disappears. Similarly, Reality and illusion cannot separately exist in the same domain; for in the presence of Reality, illusion is absorbed and disappears. And yet, somehow, in different compartments of the mind of man, the two domains seem to be able to coexist. The human mind can come to know that Reality exists. Furthermore, that it is nothing at all like the world of things, objects, beings, ideas and thoughts that the mind is so familiar with. Although the mind cannot really ever know what Reality really is, it can quite definitely know what unreality is, and hence, what is not Reality. Reality is eternal, totally independent of time and space, and so it is always that which never changes. The mind can readily conclude what in its perceptive field changes with time and position. Knowing that, the mind can engage in the spiritual practice of discrimination, wherein it reject all that is not Reality with the mental discernment of ‘netti’ ‘netti’, (not this, not that), as was previously mentioned.
b. Denial of the Denial - Note that although ‘netti’ seems to be a negative process, identifying what something is not, it nevertheless is a positive process. The whole point of the ‘netti’, the ‘not this!’, is to deny reality to the illusion of separation. But that illusion, which has given rise to the world in which we appear, is itself a denial of what is true. And thus, the mind denies the denial, a double negative, which, therefore, is positive. As already stated, although the mind does not directly know with certainty what is Reality, it can assert with certainty what is not Reality, and therefore, what is unreal. This is a declaration the mind has the authority to make because it can directly ascertain what is time or space dependent (which is so for just about everything that it knows of, in the world in which it functions). So, although Reality is beyond the mind’s capacity to comprehend and it cannot directly affirm what is true, the mind can be very useful in spiritual practice by marking everything that it encounters that is untrue, and then removing its support and belief from it.
c. The Origin of Maya and the Ego Thought System - Now you might wonder why is there illusion or maya in the first place? Where did the maya (which literally means ‘ma-ya - that which is not’) and its henchman, the ego, come from? Did God make it? Or are you in some way responsible for it? These are not just innocent questions that arise to satisfy your curiosity; they touch on the deep inquiry that is necessary to get at the very foundation of the illusion. To gain some insight into this process, reflect on an old parable which you may have heard many times before, and which is one of the most effective traditional teaching tools used to expose the ego thought system. Here you will again meet the two shaktis of maya, wherein the truth is hidden by a cloud of darkness, and a false projection appears to replace the prevailing peaceful situation, causing fright and disturbance. Here is that familiar story:
d. The Rope and the Snake - Suppose you are walking on a path at dusk and the light is rapidly failing. There happens to be a short length of rope lying on the path, but it is very difficult to clearly make it out in the diminishing light. Based on the wiggly shape that you dimly see, you believe you are about to step on a frightful snake lying there, just a few steps ahead on your path, which may threaten you. Of course there really is no snake there, but unfortunately you don’t know that. You believe you see a snake, but it’s just the rope. The rope did not suddenly change into a snake. It is still a rope; it’s just that in the twilight, you mistook the rope to be a snake. Now, if instead of just responding with fear and running away, or getting a big stick, or shouting for help, you choose not to panic, but calmly, cautiously approach closer to find out what kind of snake it is…. ‘Is it poisonous?’, ‘Is it alive?’, ‘Can it harm me'. So, you shine your flashlight on the snake to get a better look. What then follows is a complete surprise. Remember, you shone your light on the snake to illuminate it more clearly, but what happened instead, and totally unexpectedly, is that suddenly the snake disappeared, and all you saw was a harmless piece of rope lying there. Remember, you expected to better see the snake and get more information about it, but totally to your surprise what happened instead, is that you inadvertently uncovered the hidden truth that there was no snake there at all. There was only the rope, which alone had been there all the time. So, the false vision of a snake could not survive the light of focused inquiry.
e. Ignorance and Non-inquiry Is the Source of Maya and Ego - Applying the example of the snake and the rope to the question about the origin of the ego or maya which started this discussion, when you shine the bright light of inquiry on the ego it slinks away, and the unchanging truth that it covered then reveals itself. So, as with the false vision of the snake, in its falsely projected vision of a world and its concealment of the true Reality, the ego cannot survive the light of focused inquiry. When you ask, ‘Who is this ego?’, ‘Where did it come from?’, ‘Who gave it authority over me?’ these very questions will themselves provide the answers. For, they will result in the unmasking and unmaking of the ego illusion. The important thing to know is that maya and ego are inherently false. They are not real. They do not exist. From the standpoint of Reality, they are meaningless; they are nothing. They have no effect at all. They are only supported by your false belief in their reality, and the energy you provide them through your belief. Remove your belief in their credence and they collapse and vanish. They are mere ghosts which need your fascination in them to work their subterfuge. And this applies to all the subtle aspects of them as well, such as, for example, the dogged attachment to the body and the outsized fear of the death of the body, believing this to be the ultimate catastrophic event that heralds your permanent end. You have to remind yourself that this is a monstrous lie propagated by the ego, by which, through the medium of fear, it holds you in its thrall. No! Your existential nature is not in peril! It can never be. You are eternal. The body which is really not you, can die, but you are not the body and you can never die. In this way, firmly holding on to these truths, you have to dig out and expose all the countless subtle ways you have been holding on to maya, even while professing to want to be rid of it.
f.Maya Is Like A Stray Dog You Befriend - But how did you get entangled with maya, in the first place? Sai Baba says that maya is like a stray dog. You start off by encountering the dog in the street and showing some interest in it. It seems very friendly, so you feed it, you pet it and you talk warmly to it. Then the next day there it is again to greet you. And again you feed it and stroke it, and perhaps repeat that on even a third day. At that point the dog will surely follow you home and become yours. You may think you adopted it, but more correctly it will have adopted you. Now it expects to be fed, to be paid attention to and to consciously be made part of your family. But soon you find the dog to be obnoxious, to be constantly demanding, to bark and viciously snap at your children and friends, and have become totally unwelcome. Now you clearly don’t want it around any longer and you decide to get rid of it. Then what you do is reverse the process by which you acquired it and it acquired you. From that point on you totally shut it out, stop feeding it, ignore it and pay it no mind, no matter how much it wails and cries for attention. When there is no more food set out and absolutely no attention paid to it, it will see no value in remaining there, and it will on its own give up and go away.
g. Freeing Yourself of Maya - Similarly, to finally rid yourself of the maya-world, you must forget it, give separation consciousness and specialness no further consideration. Instead, at that point turn your focus only on the one eternal Reality. Sai Baba has said, “Dust if you think, dust you are. God if you think, God you are! Think God! Be God! You are God!” When you think like that, when you focus on God, which in this context really means the one Reality and not the world, when you shift your fidelity from the small personal self to the grand immortal eternal Self, maya will feel itself abandoned and give you a hard time. But when you persist, knowing you are invulnerable to both its blandishments and its vitriol, maya will soon abandon you and you’ll be free of it. Then you’ll forget even what it was and how it troubled you, and you’ll care very little about knowing more about its shenanigans and where it came from. What’s important is that it will have given up on you and unceremoniously departed.