To realize the Self is to realize God
To arrive at true Self-knowledge is to arrive at God-realization. God-realization is a unique state of consciousness. It is different from all the other states of consciousness because all the other states of consciousness are experienced through the medium of the individual mind; whereas the state of God-consciousness is in no way dependent upon the individual mind or any other medium. A medium is necessary for knowing something other than one’s own Self. For knowing one’s own Self no medium is necessary.
In fact, the association of consciousness with the mind is definitely a hindrance rather than a help for the attainment of Realization. The individual mind is the seat of the ego, or the consciousness of being isolated. It creates the limited individuality, which at once feeds on and is fed by the illusions of duality, time, and change. So, in order to know the Self as it is, consciousness has to be completely freed from the limitation of the individual mind. In other words, the individual mind has to disappear, but consciousness has to be retained.
Consciousness and mind intertwined
Throughout the past life history of the soul, its consciousness has grown with the individual mind; and all the workings of consciousness have proceeded against the background of the individual mind. Consciousness has therefore come to be firmly embedded in the individual mind and cannot be extricated from this setting into which it has been woven. The result is that if the mind is stilled, consciousness also disappears. The intertwining of the individual mind and consciousness is amply illustrated by the tendency to become unconscious when there is any effort to stop mental activity through meditation.
Explanation of sleep
The everyday phenomenon of going to sleep is not essentially different from the lull experienced during meditation, but it is slightly different in its origin. Since the individual mind is continuously confronted by the world of duality, it is involved in ceaseless conflict; and when it is wearied by its unrelieved struggle, it wants to lose its identity as a separate entity and go back to the Infinite. It then recedes from the world of its own creation and experiences a lull, and this lull is also invariably accompanied by the cessation of consciousness.
The quiescence of mental activity in sleep entails the complete submerging of consciousness; but this cessation of mental life and conscious functioning is only temporary because the impressions stored in the mind goad it to renewed activity. After a while the stimuli of the impressions result in stirring the mind and reviving the conscious functioning that is performed through its medium. So the period of sleep is followed by a period of wakefulness; and the period of wakefulness is followed by a period of sleep, according to the law of alternating activity and rest. As long as the latent impressions in the mind are not completely undone, however, there is no final annihilation of the individual mind or emancipation of consciousness. In sleep the mind temporarily forgets its identity, but it does not finally lose its individual existence. When the person awakens, he finds himself subject to his old limitations. There is a resurrection of consciousness, but it is still mind-ridden.
Obstacle of ego
The limited mind is the soil in which the ego is securely rooted, and this ego perpetuates ignorance through the many illusions in which it is caught. The ego prevents manifestation of infinite knowledge, which is already latent in the soul; it is the most formidable obstacle to the attainment of God. A Persian poem says truly, “It is extremely difficult to pierce through the veil of ignorance, for there is a rock on the fire.” Just as a flame cannot rise very high if a rock is placed upon it, a desire to know one’s own true nature cannot lead to the Truth as long as the burden of the ego is placed on consciousness.
Success in finding one’s Self is rendered impossible by the continuation of the ego, which persists throughout the journey of the soul. In old age, an aching tooth can give untold trouble because it is not easily uprooted, although loose within its socket. In the same way the ego, which might become feeble through love or penance, is yet difficult to eradicate. It persists till the very end. Though it becomes looser as the soul advances on the path, it remains till the last stage, which is the seventh plane of involution of consciousness.
Difficulty of overcoming ego
The ego is the center of all human activity. The attempts of the ego to secure its own extinction might be compared to the attempt of a person to stand on his own shoulders. Just as the eye cannot see itself, the ego is unable to end its own existence. All that it does to bring about self-annihilation only goes to add to its own existence. It flourishes on the very efforts directed against itself. Thus it is unable to vanish altogether through its own desperate activity, although it succeeds in transforming its own nature. The disappearance of the ego is conditioned by the melting away of the limited mind, which is its seat.
Parallel between sleep and God-realization
The problem of God-realization is the problem of emancipating consciousness from the limitations of the mind. When the individual mind is dissolved, the whole universe relative to the mind vanishes into nothingness; and consciousness is no longer tied to anything. Consciousness is now unlimited and unclouded by anything and serves the purpose of illumining the state of infinite Reality. While immersed in the bliss of Realization, the soul is completely oblivious of sights or sounds or objects in the universe. In this respect it is like sound sleep, but there is an infinite difference that distinguishes God-realization from sound sleep.
During sleep the illusion of the universe vanishes, since all consciousness is in abeyance; but there is no conscious experience of God, since this requires the complete dissolution of the ego and the turning of full consciousness toward the ultimate Reality. Occasionally, when the continuity of deep sleep is interrupted for brief intervals, one may have the experience of retaining consciousness without being conscious of anything in particular. There is consciousness, but this consciousness is not of the universe. It is consciousness of nothing. Such experiences parallel those of God-realization, in which consciousness is completely freed from the illusion of the universe and manifests the infinite knowledge that was hitherto hidden by the ego.
Difference between sleep and God-realization
In sleep, the individual mind continues to exist, although it has forgotten everything including itself; and the latent impressions in the mind create a veil between the submerged consciousness and infinite Reality. Thus during sleep, consciousness is submerged in the shell of the individual mind; but it has not yet been able to escape from that shell. Though the soul has forgotten its separateness from God and has actually attained unity with Him, it is unconscious of this unity. In God-realization, however, the mind does not merely forget itself but has (with all its impressions) actually lost its identity. The consciousness, which was hitherto associated with the individual mind, is now freed and untrammeled and brought into direct contact and unity with the ultimate Reality. Since there is now no veil between consciousness and the ultimate Reality, consciousness is fused with the Absolute and eternally abides in it as an inseparable aspect, promoting an unending state of infinite knowledge and unlimited bliss.
God-realization a personal attainment
The manifestation of infinite knowledge and unlimited bliss in consciousness is, however, strictly confined to the soul that has attained God-realization. The infinite Reality in the God-realized soul has explicit knowledge of its own infinity. Such explicit knowledge is not experienced by the unrealized soul, which is still subject to the illusion of the universe. Thus if God-realization were not a personal attainment of the soul, the entire universe would come to an end as soon as any one soul achieved God-realization. This does not happen because God-realization is a personal state of consciousness belonging to the soul that has transcended the domain of the mind. Other souls continue to remain in bondage, and they can only attain Realization by freeing their consciousness from the burden of the ego and the limitations of the individual mind. Hence the attainment of God-realization has direct significance only for the soul that has emerged out of the time process.
What was latent in Infinite becomes manifest
After the attainment of God-realization, the soul discovers that it has always been the infinite Reality that it now knows itself to be, and that its regarding itself as finite during the period of evolution and spiritual advancement was in fact an illusion. The soul also finds out that the infinite knowledge and bliss it now enjoys have also been latent in the infinite Reality from the very beginning of time, and that they merely became manifest at the moment of Realization. Thus the God-realized person does not actually become something different from what he was before Realization. He remains what he was; and the only difference Realization makes in him is that previously he did not consciously know his own true nature, and now he knows it. He knows that he has never been anything other than what he now knows himself to be, and that all he has been through was but the process of finding his Self.
Two types of advantages
The whole process of attaining God-realization is just a game in which the beginning and the end are identical. The attainment of Realization is nevertheless a distinct gain for the soul. In general there are two types of advantages: one consists in getting what one did not previously possess, the other in realizing fully what one really is. God-realization is of the second type. However, this creates an infinite difference between the soul that has attained God-realization and the soul that has not. Though the God-realized soul does not possess anything new, its explicit knowledge of all that it really is, has been, and will ever be, makes God-realization all important. The soul that is not God-realized experiences itself as being finite and is constantly troubled by the opposites of fleeting joys and sorrows. But the soul that has Realization is lifted out of them and experiences the infinite knowledge and the unlimited bliss of being God-conscious.
Value of God-realization
In God-realization the soul drops its separate consciousness and transcends duality in the abiding knowledge of its identity with the infinite Reality. The shackles of limited individuality are broken; the world of shadows is at an end; the curtain of Illusion is forever drawn. The feverishness and the agonizing distress of the pursuits of limited consciousness are replaced by the tranquility and bliss of Truth-consciousness. The restlessness and fury of temporal existence are swallowed up in the peace and stillness of Eternity.
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