The Glorious Journey Home
Reality and Non-Reality
So, is there anything possible? Does the mind have any usefulness at all? To get further into this we will have to continue to use the mind to examine and probe, even though, as has already been pointed out, this cannot help us ultimately, because the mind can never reach the truth. Yet, the mind can be used to get us to the door, that is, it can show us all that is not truth. It can be used to set aside false ideas of what is real. What good is that? Remember, truth is ever the only unchanging ground on which all else, through the illusion of time and space, appears. Remove all that comes and goes and covers the truth, in other words, give no further credence and energy to the existence of either a projected outer world of separate objects and happenings, or a projected inner world of thoughts, ideas and beliefs, then what remains is the truth, which alone is real, and which alone shines forth in all its fullness. For this to happen, the individual has to disappear; in other words, the i-thought with its proclivity for dreaming up an illusory world and roaming around in it, has to fade into oblivion; and all the seeds of possible manifestation have to be made impotent so that they can no longer potentize into apparent happenings. This is the negative practice of denying the denial, of uncompromisingly ferreting out all the false ideas of reality and exposing their nonreality. But there is also the positive practice of affirming the absolute equivalence of the self-evident 'I-amness', the pure beingness, with the unchanging truth which is all there is. It is fully incorporating the mantra Sai Baba gave us to repeat again and again as an affimation of truth, namely, "I am God, I am God, I am no different from God. I am the infinite Supreme, the one reality, fear or grief can never touch me."
To catch a sense of this approach, let us consider the ocean. In this we'll think of the ocean as a metaphor for the ultimate reality. When we think of the ocean we recognize a discontinuity, a boundary, where the ocean, which is one state, meets non-ocean, which is another state different from the ocean and having nothing intrinsically in common with it. For example, the latter can be land or air or space or a ship or a school of fish or an underwater mountain. At the boundary where these two different states meet we find many phenomena, each with their own particular names and forms and characteristics. They appear to be quite individual and different. To name a few such phenomena, we can think of waves, snow, ice, fog, clouds, steam, hail, spray, currents, swells, turbulence, hurricanes, dew, sink-holes, water spouts, glaciers, icebergs, etc. They appear to be quite different from each other, but they all have two things in common: Although they seem to have unique names and attributes, they are all made up only of the ocean's substance, namely, water. And when viewed from non-ocean, each in their own particular area of influence tends to cover and veil the ocean, hiding it from view by locally replacing the vast boundless expanse of ocean with their own characteristic forms. So, in summary, they arise at the discontinuity of ocean and non-ocean, and they are made up of the ocean, i.e., they exist because of the ocean, but have the effect of hiding the ocean from view, when seen from non-ocean. In contrast to this, when the reference point is deep within the ocean, all that is seen is only more ocean. So, all these forms appear only at the boundary and only when seen from a reference point beyond the ocean.
What does this metaphor tell us? If the ocean represents reality or truth, and the non-ocean represents untruth or illusion, then it becomes clear that if we believe that illusion can be real, in other words, that what is not reality can exist, then there must be two worlds, a world of reality and a world of non-reality or illusion, with a boundary between them. It follows from the example that when there is reality and non-reality, then when seen from non-reality, or in other words from the world of illusion, there will be many seemingly separate and distinct forms and phenomena made up of the substance of reality, (truth, love, God), but this commonality will not be at all evident. Instead the various phenomena will appear to be different from reality and different from each other, and they will in effect hide the reality from view, replacing it with their own forms and characteristics, which will now be seen to be real.
Conclusion: It is near impossible to see truth from the vantage point of non-truth, particularly using the mind as the instrument for this purpose. For the mind is itself steeped in untruth and by its very makeup (thoughts) is designed to obscure the truth. Truth or reality can only be seen from truth not from non-truth. The mind, associated with the individual, is non-truth and therefore incapable of perceiving truth. Therefore, whatever the mind perceives through the medium of its thoughts can be rejected as non-truth or non-reality.
There is, however, true perception which does not involve the mind and does not involve the individualized consciousness. Universal love, deep peace, abiding stillness, true beauty, are beyond the realm of mind. They may be mistakenly associated with particular objects but they are the very substance and nature of reality and therefore ever unchanging. They do not come and go. They do not appear here or there. They are ever-present everywhere. They are all that is. They transcend the mind. Looking out from love all that is visible is love. It may be seen otherwise in the mind, but that doesn't change what alone is there.
The classical example of the obfuscation of truth and illusion is the rope and the snake.
In the twilight, the innocuous rope had become a snake as I dimly perceived it in my mind; and then I run around, frightened and excited. But, when I illuminate the snake in the light, I see that it is just a rope, and was always just a rope. Darkness, that which is the apparent absence of light, that which is not, can never be illuminated by the light and seen more clearly. It just disappears when the light comes, and then, what was always there reveals itself. In my delusion of seeing a snake where there is only a rope, I might try to use the light to illumine the snake to find out more about it, whether it is poisonous, whether it is ready to strike, etc. But the snake is just a dark thought. A thought of fear. It doesn't exist. It represents the absence of light. When I shine the light, the dark covering disappears, and what it covers again reveals itself.
That light is CIA, constant integrated awareness. How do I get hold of that light that will illumine the truth and shine away the darkness? I already have it. When I ask for help I will be shown that it is already mine. All I need do is want it and it will manifest in me. All the rest follows. The details, and the feelings along the way, are really not important and can take any number of forms and adventures. It is just that the fear leaves, and I become the witness to the lotus, petal by petal, unfolding itself in all its grandeur.
In the traditional Vedantic way of speaking of it, the real I, the Self, stands behind the illusory I, the individual self, whixh covers the Self. The real I, the Self, is the one universal Reality that is all there is. The illusory I, the individual, is the organization of separable parts and distinguishing characteristics that I, and every other separate thing, living or nonliving, gross or subtle, manifested or unmanifested, thought or substance, regards itself as being. But when differentiated from others, this individual I is never anything at all. It isn't real and so it is nonexistent… a mere hallucination without true meaning.
Yet, when it is seen correctly, not as something separate and different, but merely as an evanescent name and form, an insubstantial outer covering worn by the one universal Self, then that seemingly separate individual is correctly seen as being the one Self, which alone is real. Therefore, it is ludicrous to think that I, this individual composite body/mind/personality can ever become that Self. Clothing cannot ever become the man. Whatever the clothing, the man underneath always remains the man, unchanged by the clothing. The individual I cannot be transformed into the Self. The only transformation possible is in the seeing of what already is, but was previously misperceived. Correctly seen, I am not the separable individualized self; that self never exists. But I am always that one universal Self and nothing else. The particular distinguishing body/mind/personality equipment is merely some outer clothing worn by that Self for its amusement. It doesn't change anything.
To Say It Again…
What makes this teaching radical is its uncompromising stance regarding the world. It proclaims and demonstrates through direct experience that the world you see and think you are in, is not real. The world is something you concoct. It is not there. It is a lie you make up and need to refresh every moment with every new thought, since it has no energy of its own and would quickly disappear if you don't keep it alive in your mind. This made-up world has no power over you except the power you give it. In truth, you are not in this world. But, neither are you free of it. It is in you. It has an apparent existence in your mind. It is your subjective dream, your brain-child. As such, it is totally personal and unique. Like any dream, you project it onto the screen of consciousness, and perceive it there as something outside of you, peopled with images you make up. It is a distortion of the oneness of Reality, made up of the single Self, but twisted in your mind into an illusory idea of multiplicity, separation, differences and specialness. Central to it and ever present in it is a limited, individualized you, playing the central character around whom the whole story rotates. This fictional separate being is you as you perceive yourself.
You willingly take on both the dreamer and the dream character roles. Instead of laughing at these ideas for the silliness and unreality they are, you take these roles seriously to the point of forgetting completely who you are. Why? Because you prefer being what these roles represent. You like being the author of your world. You like being the principal character in it as well, although in that role you have chosen not to be aware of your other role as maker of your world. In this way, you have supplanted the Self with your own version of an all-powerful, impersonal, hidden I standing behind the personal I, a dreamer pulling the strings behind the dream character, with the latter unaware of it. Together they make up the I-thought, or in other words, the ego. As dreamer, the ego assumes the role of the creator-god of the dream, who fabricates an objective dream world spun out of nowhere and nothingness, but superimposed onto, and effectively veiling the one Truth, the Self, that is everywhere and everything.
This dream world, projected by the dreamer, appears to be filled with seemingly independent, alive beings, who seem to be thinking separate individualized thoughts, who seem to be surrounded by a plethora of different objective things, and who seem to have different and unique personal adventures in a commonly-experienced world. All these make up the perceived world. But also in it, and very special among all the separate entities, is the subjective dream character, the individualized self, who, in this story, calls itself ‘I'. All three categories… dreamer, world, and I… which make up this false reality, are the fiction I have arrogated to myself. All are equally unreal and non-existent, yet, unbelievably, I chose to identify with this ridiculous idea and accept it as real for me.
In that choice, the ego, which makes up this non-existent illusory composite of dreamer, world and I, establishes itself in the awareness and appears as a totally self-consistent, dualistic, substitute reality. It completely replaces the one singular Reality, the true Self, in my mind. And just like, at dusk, a harmless rope lying undisturbed on the ground seems to disappear in the twilight, and an illusory cobra appears in its stead and immediately gives rise to fear, likewise, the ego manages to hide the true Self, making it appear non-existent, and supplants It with the impossible, namely, a separative world of objects, forms, and ideas, with an ‘I', appearing as a separate individual within that world.
Where did this idea of separation come from? How did it arise in my mind? How did it enter my God-mind which can only be awake and home within Itself? How did the one Self become many? How, did all this multiplicity arise from the One? How did these different entities, some conscious and alive, others insentient and unaware, some manifest in form, others unmanifest and formless, some appearing as gross inert matter, others appearing as subtle, intangible energy… how did they all spring forth in my mind? Calling the whole conglomerate the ego thought system or maya, how did this ego, this maya, arise, where did it come from? And why? That is the grand, unsolved mystery for which there is no solution and can never be known, because it never was and never is. It doesn't exist. It is not real. And yet, somehow, from out of nowhere, this totally insane thought seemed to have crept into my mind and convinced me that I can be something other than God, independent of God; that I can be a separate autonomous individual and I can be in a world made up of countless other separate autonomous individuals.
Rather than laugh it off for the impossible, meaningless nonsense that it is, a small part of my God-mind splits off and entertains that thought. I take possession of it. Once it establishes itself in my mind the thought turns out to be a Trojan Horse. Immediately it opens the flood-gates for time, space, ego, sin, judgment, guilt, fear, illusion, world, bodies, polarity, difference and a whole hornet's nest of other unforgiving separative ideas to come in, and take up residence, and assume control. And so, in this split-off part of my God-mind I know myself only as a deluded, confused, lost human being, ridden with fear and guilt.
Wherever, whenever separation appears, there also appears fear, guilt, suffering, and the rest of its tribe, all of which come along for the ride. I cannot tolerate the feeling of guilt that being a character in my world entails, so I have to manipulate the story to assert my innocence. I insist that if guilt exists, it cannot be in me, but must be in others. Whatever guilt I experience is not my doing. It has been projected onto me by others. I am the innocent victim being attacked, and I have no recourse but to protect and defend myself. Of myself I would bother no one and could hardly be responsible for anyone's suffering. This is the self-deception that I, as a character in my dream, spin for myself. But it's a deception that doesn't work.
Even though I am the dreamer of this dream, I cannot get rid of the guilt and the suffering it entails. My great fondness for the world of bodies I fabricated, will keep the idea of separation rooted in my mind, and with it the guilt that always comes along with it. Guilt produces anguish, which in turn leads to more desperate attempts to free myself of it, through further projection. Ultimately the cycle of suffering and the futile attempt at projection to get rid of it, creates the world I experience, filled with all the miseries of human existence. That is the hell I made for myself and inflict on every inhabitant of my world. When the time for change arrives, usually when my discomfort is great enough, I realize that I have been in a sleep of illusion from which I now desperately wish to awaken.
Fortunately, none of the anguish I experience is real. The truth is, there is no way I can ever be guilty. There is no way I can ever be a human being in a body. It is not possible. I am not a body. I am pure awareness. I am always only the one Mind of God. I am forever guiltless, sinless, and holy as God. I cannot change my mind about my Self. There is nothing I can do to change what I am. I can use my mind and all the infinite power of God that it possesses, to think myself to be otherwise. I can make up time, and within that time fool myself into believing that I can contravene the Truth. I have the power to make up dreams and fool myself, but I do not have the power to make them true. My hallucinations, my dreams of guilt, my belief in illusions, my determination to fool myself, mean nothing. They are based on nothingness. They have no real Cause, no true Source. They cannot affect my divine guiltlessness and sinlessness in any way. Guilt, and the world that emerges from it, has no reality at all. It is an insane idea, a hobgoblin, with no effect at all on who I am.
And so, as will become logically clear as I proceed with the discussion below, the one idea that needs repeating over and over again, to undo the lie that I stubbornly hold on to and believe and reinforce with every perception and interpretation… is that: the world I know, with myself as an individual in it, together with all the other beings and objects that make it up, does not exist at all. None of that has ever existed, and can ever exist. This whole world, with everything in it, is totally illusory and therefore totally meaningless and totally valueless. And that includes everything in it, everything separably definable in terms of a unique name and form, particularly these bo dies and these minds and these individual identities and all the furnishings and objects and ideas and values that make up the world. None of this is true. Separation is never true. It is a negation of Truth. Separation cannot and has not happened.
To give meaning to something which is meaningless and untrue, is an insane attempt on my part to find some order here and distract me from the insufferable, meaningless chaos that I fear I will sink into in my mind if I have to face Reality as it truly is. The Course calls it the ultimate fear.... the fear of my total wipe-out as individual consciousness when I dissolve into the avalanche of all avalanches, the tsunami of all tsunamis.... the apocalyptic, all-inundating deluge of God's Love. That Love is the only Reality. It is the Love that I am and have always been, but have forgotten. It is the Love that I now fear more than anything. In my upside-down thinking, that all-consuming Love is what I need to hide from and protect myself from. Driven by my suppressed guilt, I don't see God's Love as love at all. I see it as my annihilation, my wipe-out as an individual, which I attribute to God's rage and punishment for my insubordination and rebelliousness.
This is where world, time, space, and relationships come in. I desperately need allies and shelter and meaning in a life that is now outside of heaven and without God. So I invent the idea of individual beings in separate bodies, and associations and relationships and linkages between these individual beings, to provide meaning in my life and fool me into believing in the reality of all the sequential situations I seem to find myself here as a body, in my pursuit of happiness here on earth… story lines that tie together quite believably, just like dreams of the night.... or like a movie in which I play the central role… as well as, (although unknown to me), every other part... all of which finally end in death.
It is at this dismal juncture in my life when nothing seems to work and death seems to be the only sure thing I can count on, that the mind training of the Course mercifully appears in my awareness, to show me a totally new way of perceiving everything.