Humanity is fortunate. Spread around the world a few insightful people are awake, that is to say, aware of the distinction between illusion and Simple Reality. As a whole, however, we have been unfortunate in choosing not to acknowledge or incorporate the wisdom of these insightful community members into the worldview of the general population.
That behavior has not changed over time despite the growing sophistication of the human intellect. Why is that? Obviously, so called enlightenment has nothing to do with the intellect but is instead a function of wisdom. Wisdom then, is precious, it is beautiful, it is Truth, it is freedom, it is—alas—rare. And because it is all these infinitely valuable “things,” we should place a high priority on it; but instead we continue to refuse the one thing that can save us from our self destruction and suffering. What is this elusive thing called wisdom?
Traditional learning in the fields of art, science and mathematics, for example, have steadily increased but this is not true of wisdom. Some individuals (given certain favorable conditions), during the period of oral and written history, have been able to attain wisdom; but so far the human race as a whole does not seem to evolve in its attainment of wisdom. And in fact, we seem to have less discussion of what wisdom is today than we did in ancient and medieval times.
Another trait of wisdom unlike other forms of “knowing” is that it is married to action. The wise are not passive in the world. Perhaps that is because at the heart of wisdom is compassion which connects us to others in the act of “suffering with” which is the literal meaning of compassion. Compassion connects and binds humans together in mutual support. No wonder wisdom has been valued in the past and obviously, in view of the current human condition, needs to be visited again.
Buddha and Jesus, two renown teachers of wisdom, are long gone. We failed to avail ourselves of their guidance. Does that mean we missed a rare opportunity? Not at all. As we just said, not only is wisdom accessible within each individual but we have always had—and we repeat—scattered through time and space around the planet, ancient and modern day teachers, living and breathing prophets of the “good news.”
If wisdom is found in each individual, why aren’t we doing a better job of creating a sustainable global community today? Where did we get off track? Why haven’t we established contact with or been able to hear our inner “still, small and wise voice?” One reason (in the West at any rate) is ironically called “the Enlightenment.” The ultimate “head” people, our Western philosophers, stand out as being among the culpable who helped mesmerize the vulnerable, fear-driven mind. They, if course, had lots of help from the rest of the human community.
“Locke’s (John Locke, 1632-1704) purpose in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding was to inquire into the origin and extent of human knowledge, and his answer—that all knowledge is derived from sense experience—became the principle tenet of the new empiricism which has dominated Western philosophy ever since. Even George Berkeley (1685-1753), who rejected Locke’s distinction between sense qualities independent of the mind and sense qualities dependent on the mind, proposed an idealistic philosophy in response to Locke’s provocative philosophy and gave it an empirical cast which reflected Western man’s rejection of innate or transcendental knowledge.” Seeking the origin of Western philosophical thought that provides the foundation for P-B, is of interest for those of us who want to understand how Western humanity developed an unsustainable culture.
Locke’s “new empiricism,” relying as it does on the senses, is obviously flawed for we know that the senses are designed for and limited to enabling the human organism to survive in the physical world. The senses supported by the intellect create the basic human survival strategy but do not provide the possibility for a deeper understanding of where and who we are and for behaviors that allow for the sustainable worldview underlying P-A. We must, therefore reject the philosophy of John Locke, et al. as too limiting in its understanding of reality.
Irish philosopher George Berkeley also failed humanity by rejecting the very wisdom that is essential for the shift from P-B to P-A. He denied the existence of “innate or transcendental knowledge,” what we have called “intuition” which is fundamental to our ability to distinguish “emotion” from “feeling” or “reaction” from “response.” Connecting feeling and response are at the heart of the behavior we call the Point of Power Practice (refer to the Appendix). The American Transcendentalists, especially Ralph Waldo Emerson, were able to come much closer to a profound world view because they affirmed our intuitive connection to what Emerson called the “Oversoul” or what David Bohm called the Implicate Order.
What science calls evolution is not progress toward a paradigm shift. And philosophers can get excited by what may appear to them to be increased human consciousness when in fact humanity remains firmly committed to P-B and the false self. “Kant [1724-1804], for instance, enthusiastically hailed Rousseau as the Newton of the moral world, and Condorcet in his Progress of the Human Spirit enumerated the ten stages by which man had raised himself from savagery to the threshold of perfection. Material progress was certainly an observable fact; and since nature held all the secrets that a man needed to know, and reason could unlock them, eventually man could control his environment. If he therefore would only use his mental and moral powers to their fullest extent, the argument ran, man could go in one direction only, onward and upward.” Such is the illusion created by the functioning of the human intellect.
We will now meet and listen to a few of the present and past insightful mystics and others who discovered principles that distinguish reality from illusion, as well as some who failed to do so. Perhaps some of us are ready to begin making different choices than we have made in the past. If so, we will have all the help we need from those who “embody” the always present human wisdom and our own connection with it as we proceed to take the responsibility of creating our own reality and expressing the deepest yearning of the timeless Universe.
Wisdom cannot be found by means of the intellect because it is not conventional knowledge. The Greek word gnosis often translated as self-knowledge as in the Delphi oracles, “Know thyself,” is as Elaine Pagels says “better translated ‘insight,’ or ‘wisdom.’ She goes on to quote the Gnostic teacher, Hippolytus: “Abandon the search for God, and creation, and similar things of that kind [in other words, the world of form.] Instead, take yourself as the starting place. Ask who it is within you who makes everything his own saying, ‘my mind,’ ‘my heart,’ ‘my God.’ Learn the sources of love, joy, hate, and desire … If you carefully examine all these things, you will find [God] in yourself.”
Pagels is saying listen with your heart and you will be able to hear people like Ken Wilber. “Among Western thinkers who have studied Asian philosophies in depth and have incorporated aspects of the latter into their own thought, a notable modern example is Ken Wilber, whose ‘Integral Psychology’ openly draws upon the work of the Indian thinker Sri Aurobindo. In his first book, The Spectrum of Consciousness (1977), Wilber pointed out the similarities between Asian wisdom traditions and various schools of psychology current at the time, thus drawing attention to the real and valuable contributions to be made by non-Western schools of thought, and in particular by those of India … He has shown that Western psychology can benefit enormously from the thousands of years of empirical experimentations in the field of consciousness studies and psychology conducted by these practitioners, albeit under different names.”
Ram Das expresses an insight on why fear plays a prominent part in our failure to benefit from wisdom when it is so readily available. “Wisdom recognizes that you can be connected because of that part of you which is not different from others. When you fall into separateness and take that seriously, you lose wisdom. The mind is where knowledge resides, and the heart is where wisdom resides. We are afraid to open our hearts for fear that we’ll have to give up our separateness and that in doing so, we’ll be overwhelmed.”
Having begun with Wilber, Pagels and Ram Das, tracing wisdom back through history, we see that wisdom today and wisdom thousands of years ago in both the East and the West has remained unchanged. Indeed, that which is “real” does not change.
How does a wise person behave? One great American judge, Learned Hand (1872-1961) recognized it in his colleague, Benjamin Cardozo (1870-1938). As we have learned wisdom requires a certain detachment from the false self. “Yet from this self-effacement came a power greater than the power of him who ruleth a city. He was wise because his spirit was uncontaminated, because he knew no violence, or hatred, or envy, or jealousy, or ill-will. I believe that it was this purity that chiefly made him the judge we so much revere; more than his learning, his acuteness, and his fabulous industry.”
Dr. Samuel Johnson(1709-1794) in a conversation with his biographer James Boswell (1740-1795) revealed that he understood the pitfalls of reaction and the freedom of responding in the present moment:
Dr. Johnson expressed “approbation of one who had attained to the state of the philosophical wise man, that is, to have no want of anything.”
Boswell then observed that “the savage is a wise man.”
Dr. Johnson explains: “Sir, I do not mean simply being without—but not having a want.”
The wise man knows it is the “craving” for and not the lack of possession that is the origin of suffering.
We can understand wisdom in three ways: first, by meditation; this is the most noble way. Secondly, by being influenced by someone or following someone; this is the easiest way. Third is the way of experience; this is the most difficult way.
Wisdom and compassion are synonyms in that we cannot err when being guided by an open heart in the present moment, our natural and compassionate state of being. The well-known Spanish mystic, St. John of the Cross (1542-1591), uses the word “natural” to mean just the opposite in the next sentence. “[In] order to attain this state [the Now] the natural operations [false-self behaviors] must be completely disregarded [stop the identification with the body, mind and emotions], and this happens, as the Prophet [Jesus] says, when the soul comes into solitude [the Now], according to these its faculties, and God speaks to its heart.” In short, reactive behavior must cease before we can access the Implicate Order, our inner wisdom.
In the 16th century Christian worldview, the intellect was sometimes thought of as synonymous with the personified devil. “And finally all the worst deceptions which are caused by the devil, and the evils that he brings to the soul, enter by way of knowledge and reflections of the memory [conditioned reactions] … For the devil has no power over the soul unless it be through the operations of its faculties, principally by means of knowledge.” Here St. John of the Cross, because of his extensive meditation in solitude, expresses his experience that the intellect can be used by the “the devil” (false self) to distract us from Simple Reality.
“By contemplation [meditation] it is possible to attain to this Grund [“ground” or present moment], leaving aside the discursive and imaginative activities [the intellect in P-B] which normally characterize conscious [unconscious] life.” This insight of Meister Eckhart (1290-1328) would alone have gotten him into trouble with Pope John XXII even though he was the superior-general for the whole of Germany and former vicar-general of Bohemia. “Eckhart’s teaching that God creates the world in the same ‘eternal now’ in which the emanation of the divine Persons from the Godhead takes place could be understood as implying the eternity of the world—a doctrine that conflicts with the literal sense of Biblical revelation.”
It didn’t pay to speak of knowledge, let alone wisdom in the Church of the 13th century. Eckhart was charged with 28 counts of heresy and perhaps escaped severe punishment by dying. There was a parallel between the beliefs of Eckhart and the Indian teacher Shankara whom we shall meet in a moment.
Eckhart’s insights were also not unlike those of Buddha wherein during his contemplation, Eckhart found the distinction between the observer and the observed dissolve, an experience of Oneness. “The experience of the introverted mystic includes a state of consciousness in which there is both a sense of illumination and an absence of distinction between subject and object; that is, the contemplative is not having an experience like that of ordinary perception, where the thing conceived can be distinguished from the percipient.”
P-A provides a vantage point that brings clarity to the observer and adds to his store of wisdom. Lucretius (99-55 B.C.) found nothing “more gladdening than to dwell in the calm high places, firmly embattled on the heights by the teaching of the wise, whence you can look down on others, and see them wandering hither and thither, going astray as they seek the way of life.” Wisdom brings the perspective of Oneness, the Great Insight.
“Plato (427-347 B.C.) had set a theme by picturing the Ideas of God as the patterns on which all things were formed; the Stoics had combined these Ideas into the Logos Spermatikos or fertilizing wisdom of God; the Neo-Pythagoreans had made the Ideas a divine person; and Philo had turned them into the Logos or Reason of God, a second divine principle, through which God created, and communicated with, the world.” This could be read as the chronicle or history of the Implicate Order, as conceived by the human intellect of course.
Substituting Logos for the more common translation Word in the familiar passage from the Fourth Gospel, we can get a better feel for how appropriate the Implicate Order of Simple Reality and wisdom become more inclusive synonyms for God.
In the beginning was the Logos; the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God … All things were made by the Logos; without him nothing was made. It was by him that all things came into existence … So the Logos became flesh and blood, and dwelt among us.
The Fourth Gospel
Wisdom is intuitive, simple and insightful. By insightful, we mean that wisdom penetrates through the illusion of P-B. The following example illustrates both insight and simplicity. From E. J. Thomas’ Life of the Buddha, we have the Four Noble Truths followed by the simplified Simple Reality (SR) version.
Buddha’s First Noble Truth: “Now this, oh monks, is the noble truth of pain: birth is painful, sickness is painful, old age is painful, sorrow, lamentation, dejection and despair are painful.
(Simple Reality) (SR) Reaction instead of response results in afflictive emotions or suffering.
Buddha’s Second Noble Truth: “Now, this, oh monks, is the noble truth of the cause of pain: that craving, which leads to rebirth, combined with pleasure and lust, finding pleasure here and there, namely, the craving for passion, the craving for existence, the craving for non-existence.
(SR) The creation of our survival strategy, deriving our identity from our body, mind and emotions and our being contained in P-B, leads to delusion and dissatisfaction.
Buddha’s Third Noble Truth: “Now this, oh monks, is the noble truth of the way that leads to the cessation of pain: the cessation, without a reminder, of that craving; abandonment, forsaking, release, non-attachment.
(SR) By using the Point of Power Practice, choosing response over reaction, we transcend the old story, the old identity and the old unconscious, reactive behaviors that are the source of our suffering in P-B.
Buddha’s Fourth Noble Truth: “Now this, oh monks, is the noble truth of the way that leads to the cessation of pain: this is the noble Eightfold Way: namely, right views, right intention, right speech, right action, right living, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.”
(SR) The eight behaviors named above are, in fact, among the results of our choosing to stay in the present moment, not the “causes” of Simple Reality. In the fourth Noble Truth, Buddha had put the cart before the horse.
It will be difficult for many of us in the West to understand how the intellect is a barrier to Simple Reality given how enamored we are of our ability to “reason.” The “Enlightenment” that we believe ushered out the dark ages of superstition is not the Enlightenment of transcendence. Buddha (563-483 B.C.) seemed to understand the distinction. “There is nothing stranger in the history of religion than the sight of Buddha founding a worldwide religion, and yet refusing to be drawn into any discussion about eternity, immortality, or God. The infinite is a myth, he says, a fiction of philosophers who have not the modesty to confess that an atom can never understand the cosmos. He smiles at the debate over the finity or infinity of the universe, quite as if he foresaw the futile astromythology of physicists and mathematicians who debate the same question today.
“He refuses to express any opinion as to whether the world had a beginning or will have an end: whether the soul is the same as the body, or distinct from it: whether, even for the greatest saint, there is to be any reward in heaven. He calls such questions ‘the jungle, the desert, the puppet-show, the writhing, the entanglement, of speculation,’ and will have nothing to do with them; they lead only to feverish disputation, personal resentments, and sorrow; they never lead to wisdom and peace.”
Wisdom is indeed found only beyond words in the fruitful realm of silence. We cannot “understand” but we can “feel” the truth of the cosmos, we can “feel” the “heart” of Creation because it is not separate from or alien to us. We are an integral part of all that is, we are That.
Identity, change or impermanence, and Simple Reality are closely linked. We are indestructible energy not individual personalities. “Even the saint, even Buddha himself, will not, as a personality, survive death.” Simple Reality (Nirvana) in the teaching of the Buddha meant the extinction of all individual desire. Living in the present moment beyond the illusion of time and space is also living beyond the conditioning that causes reaction, beyond the identification with body, mind and emotions. “‘Now,’ says Buddha, ‘this is the noble truth as to the passing of pain. Verily, it is the passing away so that no passion [reaction] remains, the giving up [choosing response], the getting rid of, the emancipation from, the harboring of, this craving thirst.’”
Emerson’s famous essay on self-reliance was no doubt influenced by his study of the Upanishads and/or the sutras where Buddha said “And whosoever … either now or after I am dead, shall be a lamp unto themselves, and a refuge unto themselves, shall betake themselves to no external refuge, but, holding fast to the Truth as their lamp … it is they … who shall reach the very topmost height! But they must be anxious to learn.” And “they” must embrace life as a meditation, choosing response over reaction, moment by moment, day by day; that is the way to the topmost height, to the mountain top called liberation.
Oneness as the basis for our true identity lifts our experience of life to new heights the epiphany of compassion. “When we see ourselves as parts of a whole, when we reform ourselves and our desires in terms of the whole, then our personal [false-self] disappointments and defeats, our varied suffering and inevitable death, no longer sadden us as bitterly as before; they are lost in the amplitude of infinity. When we have learned to love not our separate life, but all men and all living things, then at last we shall find peace.” This is what Buddha taught, we would do well to listen.
Why do we need to study more ideas, facts and concepts when they are the very source of the problem, i.e. ignorance itself? Because the process of studying and reading provides a context wherein we struggle with our own process of awakening. Similarly being in community provides a context in which our “Self” is reflected back to us and our “self” is exposed as an illusion. Both are a self-encounter that creates “consciousness.” And the creation of consciousness is the answer to the Great Question, Who am I?
You will never know all of these facts, these reflections—but you will vividly know the sole reality which is reflected. And thus does Lao Tzu proclaim:
Without going outside, you may know the whole world
Without looking through the window, you may see the ways of heaven.
The farther you go, the less you know.
Thus the sage knows without traveling …
Lao Tzu (6th century B.C.)
In our journey back through time in search of wisdom we arrive at the Vedas, the earliest level of Hinduism developed in the last half of the second millennium B.C. The Vedas began as an oral tradition or that which is “heard” from the mystical realm. We will focus on the mystical aspects of the Vedas most in harmony with Simple Reality, Vedanta.
“Vedanta refers to the philosophical school of nondualism. But in a larger view, Vedanta means the religion based on the Vedas, the revealed scriptures of India … In another sense, Vedanta is a philosophy founded on a set of mystical truths that are in complete agreement with the fundamental teachings of all the great religions.” Unfortunately, the great religions have lost touch with these “fundamental teachings.” We are revisiting those teaching which are at the same time both old and new.
The foundation of the Hindu religion is located in the Upanishads which Schopenhauer praised for their “deep, original, and sublime thoughts.” “The word Vedanta itself points to its essential nature. Outwardly, Veda-anta only means ‘end of the Vedas,’ a purely factual reference to the final scriptures in the Vedic literature, namely the Upanishads. We focus on The Upanishads (1000-600 B.C.) as part of a mystical wisdom literature, not a scriptural prophesy.]
But just as in the eyes of the Christian the New Testament does not merely outwardly conclude the literature of the Bible but also inwardly ‘fulfills’ and transcends all that preceded it, so here too anta means not only ‘end’ but also ‘culmination’ and ‘going beyond’—not only with respect to the Vedic scriptures but with respect to all that we are capable of knowing. For veda means knowledge and Vedanta is thus what transcends all (relative) knowledge.” This relates to our two realms of “knowing,” the relative and the Absolute or Simple Reality.
“Vedanta is above all a spiritual outlook, an attitude of mind, and not so much a closed religion with well-defined doctrines. There is no ceremony by which one ‘joins’ Vedanta. It is true that adherents of Vedanta tend to share certain convictions. Most, for example, believe in reincarnation and the Law of Karma [cause and effect]; devote themselves to meditation; believe in the innately divine nature of man, the Atman, and in a transcendental, supra-personal ‘ground’ behind Creation—the latter considered by most as mere maya (illusion). Yet nearly all these components also serve as early pointers on the way, inviting us to keep on going; reminding us that ‘a bridge is for crossing, not for building a house on,’ as the Persian saying (sometimes attributed to Jesus) goes.”
“Vedanta has the figurative meaning of goal or purpose; for literally it means ‘the end of the Vedas’ or the highest goal of wisdom, which is the realization of one’s identity with Brahman or God.”
“From the early great Upanishads, the recognition ATMAN=BRAHMAN (the personal self equals the omnipotent, all-comprehending eternal self) was in Indian thought considered, far from being blasphemous, to represent the quintessence of the deepest insight into the happenings of the world. [The I AM THAT that Nisargadatta speaks of.]” This is the Great Insight that leads to the shift from P-B to P-A.
“Emerson and Thoreau, for example, were explicit in their admiration for the Hindu classics, namely the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. The ‘Oversoul’ of the Transcendentalists is a rephrasing of the Upanishadic doctrine of the impersonal absolute, Brahman.” As we have already mentioned. Emerson’s belief in the power inherent in self-reliance can be found as a core principle in mystical Hinduism. “In man himself lies the supreme unity, and it is there he must begin—and end—his search. This is the message of Vedanta.”
He who has learned to see the one Existence everywhere
He is my master—be he Brahmin or Chandala (outcaste or untouchable).
We will hear now about the dawning of wisdom from perhaps the most profound teacher of wisdom in human history as described by the historian Will Durant; the scholar, Clive Johnson; yoga teacher Hans Torwesten; student of religion, Wayne Teasdale; from Shankara in his own words and finally from the indescribable Seth. Shankara (died c. 820) is said by some to be the greatest of Indian philosophers because of his commentaries on the Vedanta, that system of philosophy which gives logical structure and support to the essential doctrine of the Upanishads (first millennium B.C.). Among his most profound insights has to do with the limits of the intellect. “Reason is a lawyer, and will prove anything we wish; for every argument it can find an equal and opposite argument, and its upshot is a skepticism that weakens all force of character and undermines all values of life. It is not logic that we need … it is insight, the faculty (akin to art) of grasping at once the essential [Simple Reality] out of the irrelevant, the eternal [the Now] out of the temporal, the whole [Oneness] out of the part … Behind the … Veil of change and things [P-B], to be reached not by sensation or intellect but only by the insight and intuition of the trained spirit, is the one universal reality.”
Shankara describes the True self (Atman) familiar to students of Simple Reality. “… the underlying life which we feel in ourselves when we forget space and time, cause and change, is the very essence and reality of us, that Atman which we share with all selves and things, and which undivided and omnipresent, is identical with Brahman, God.” This description of Oneness sets up the goal of the doctrine of Vedanta, i.e., “to lose the seeker in the secret found.”
Simple Reality teaches response as a practice to lessen our identification with body, mind and emotions, and to weaken our false-self conditioning. “Vedanta says that the most important goal of the spiritual aspirant is to cease identifying himself with the body, mind and senses and recognize his true nature which is divine.”
One of the illusions in P-B, the doctrine of reincarnation, is detonated by the insight of Oneness when we find that “then it is seen that the separate self and personality, to which reincarnation comes, is an illusion.” Shankara concludes that “the soul’s existence as wanderer, and Brahman’s existence as creator have vanished away … in the esoteric or secret [mystical] doctrine, soul and Brahman are one, never wandering, never dying, never changed.” Our identity in the finality of profound Truth is understood to be eternal, never changing, indestructible energy. Only that which never changes is “real” existing beyond the illusion of P-B.
The importance of keeping our practice focused on Simple Reality and the goal of choosing response over reaction is illustrated in how Hinduism fragmented into various “practices” and its loss of a focus on a simple experience. “However individually different the paths may be in emphasis and detail—whether they focus more on knowledge of the truth [jnana yoga] or on loving surrender to a personal God, [bhakti yoga] on meditative mastery over discursive thought [raja yoga] or on selfless action [karma yoga]—they all have the same aim: the dissolution of the ego and intimate communion, or even union, with the divine.” How easy it is to wander off the path of the present moment.
“It is because of human instability [false-self delusion] that Vedanta, in practice, became bound up with the yoga system—more specifically with the classical raja-yoga of Patanjali—which teaches a gradual release from the fetters, or strands, of prakriti through increasing degrees of detachment. Mental exercises, such as the withdrawal of the senses (pratyahara), concentration (dharana), meditation (dhyana), and their culmination in the final state of absorption (samadhi) are already mentioned in many of the Upanishads, in the Gita, and, of course, in the later advaita [Oneness] Vedanta texts.”
“A typical raja-yogi, for instance, relies primarily on systematic exercises—he literally ‘works’ for his own benefit—for him everything is an experiment the final ‘result’ of which is samadhi. The Vedantic jnani, on the other hand—no matter how many yoga exercises he may adopt—never loses sight of the truth that the real heart of liberation consists in the knowledge that he already is, and has always been, Brahman, that is, that there is in effect nothing really to do. Vedantic ‘exercise’ centers on remembering our everlasting Atman nature. The Vedanta teacher merely whispers the truth into the disciple’s ear: Tat tvam asi (That thou art). Looked at from this perspective, Vedanta has actually more in common with Zen than with classical yoga, where the emphasis is on step-by-step advancement.”
Few words in the Christian Gospels more aptly characterize the spirit of the Upanishads than those from the Gospel of St. John, “And you shall know Truth and Truth will set you free.” It is a question of realization, realization of the kind which no longer binds us to the world of superficial appearances where “the dead bury their dead,” but which releases us, includes us in Life Everlasting. To quote a well-known prayer from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, and one still much recited by Hindus today: “From the unreal lead me to the Real, from the darkness to Light, from death to Deathlessness.”
“After the first few lessons, every student of Vedanta philosophy quickly learns not to identify with his body, nor with his breath, nor with his feelings, nor with his perceptions, nor with the highest reaches of his intellect, but with the pure Atman alone, with the true Self developed within these “sheaths.” But does he really know it deep down? What the Upanishads are about and emphasize over and over is the attainment of truth, the actual realization of what all too often was later to become an academic commodity.”
What is left of the false self after these many profound Self realizations? What remains in today’s Freudian terms is what we call the ego or personal self, a shadow of the former persona, but with no desires, wishes, or needs. It cares nothing for the survival strategy pursuits of plenty, pleasure and power. It has no desire to control events, circumstances or people. It lacks nothing within itself; therefore, it does not seek gain inasmuch as all is complete at every moment. There is not even a desire for continuance. There is nothing one needs or wants to experience.
What about change, a paradigm shift, even self-transformation? “But in the Upanishads the immutable [God] is not yet a rigid absolute contrasted with change and transformation; it is itself the origin of all change and transformation, all life: it is not only everlasting sheer being, but the eternal creative process itself.”
“They [the Upanishads] keep reminding us again and again of the oneness of all existence: that we are children of immortality, that we come from the Brahman and return to the Brahman—indeed, that in our innermost being we are always one with the Brahman.”
“Advaita, or nonduality, is the core unitive experience of the Hindu tradition … advaita means coming to realize that you are God, the Brahman, with whom you are so intimately united … Satchitananda is the boundless bliss (ananda) of realizing total and unlimited awareness (chit) of being infinite existence itself (sat) … Through a rigorous meditation practice, one’s consciousness is made more subtle as well, and undergoes a radical change that allows it to become sensitive to the divine vibration. When that happens, human and divine consciousness merge—or rather, we become intensely engaged in the Brahman’s awareness of itself—so intimately that our human identity is overtaken by the divine reality.”
Next comes discrimination, that is to say, the distinction between illusion and reality. “Brahman—the absolute existence, knowledge and bliss—is real. The universe is not real. Brahman and Atman (man’s inner self) are one.” This is Shankara’s answer to Who am I?
Elaborating on the nature of Reality, “Shankara only accepts as ‘real’ that which neither changes nor ceases to exist … No object, no kind of knowledge, can be absolutely real if its existence is only temporary. Absolute reality implies permanent existence.” This definition of reality has implications for everything including God. “[If] we regard the Infinite as a transcendental first cause of the phenomenal world (a position held by most Christian theologians), then we must admit that the Infinite is infinite no longer. A God who transforms Himself into the visible universe is Himself subject to transformation and change—He cannot be regarded As the absolute reality. A God who creates a world limits Himself by the very act of creation, and thus ceases to be infinite.”
The limitations of the human intellect are also understood by Shankara. “[The] world of thought and matter has a phenomenal or relative existence, and is superimposed [projected] upon Brahman, the unique, absolute reality. As long as we remain in ignorance (i.e., as long as we have not achieved transcendental consciousness [Simple Reality]) we shall continue to experience this apparent world which is the effect of superimposition. When transcendental consciousness is achieved, superimposition ceases.” Shankara goes on to define superimposition. “‘Superimposition is the apparent presentation to consciousness, by the memory of something previously observed elsewhere.’ We see a snake. We remember it. Next day, we see a coil of rope. We superimpose the remembered snake upon it, and thereby misunderstand its nature.”
Both the East and the West have grappled with the fundamentals of the human story. “Vedanta philosophy occupies a central position between realism and idealism. Western realism and idealism are both based on a distinction between mind and matter; Indian philosophy puts mind and matter in the same category—both are objects of knowledge.”
Shankara, that brilliant articulator of Vedanta philosophy weighs in on the subject of good and bad which bedevils most Westerners. “The absolute Reality is beyond good and evil, pleasure and pain, success and disaster. Both good and evil are aspects of Maya [the illusion of P-B]. As long as Maya exists they exist. Within Maya they are real enough.” But what about transcendent behavior in P-A, what does that look like. “If we say ‘I am good’ or ‘I am bad’ we are only talking the language of Maya. ‘I am Brahman’ is the only true statement any of us can make.” “I and the Father are one” had been heard in the West but not understood. “The illumined seer does not merely know Brahman; his is Brahman, he is existence, he is knowledge.”
The principles of Simple Reality are universal in the human heart; the way it is expressed varies. The following is Shankara’s language followed by the language found in Simple Reality (SR).
Discrimination in Vedanta says: “Brahman is real; the universe is unreal.”
(SR) P-A is real; P-B is an illusion.
Tranquility is achieved by “detaching the mind from all objective things by continually seeing their imperfection.”
(SR) Peace of mind is achieved by ceasing to identify with mind, body and emotions.
Renunciation “is the giving-up of all pleasures of the eyes, the ears, and the other senses, the giving-up of all objects of transitory enjoyment.”
(SR) Cessation of the pursuit of sensation, pleasure and power begins the process of eliminating craving and aversion, the source of all human suffering.
Self-control is “to detach both kinds of sense-organs—those of perception and those of action—from objective things … True mental poise, consists in not letting the mind react to internal stimuli.”
(SR) Self-reliance results in choosing response over reaction.
Forbearance is “to endure all kinds of afflictions without rebellion, complaint or lament.”
(SR) The importance of avoiding reaction was stated so succinctly by J. Krishnamurti: “I don’t mind what is happening.”
Self-surrender means “to concentrate the intellect repeatedly upon the pure Brahman.”
(SR) When we live always in the present moment our life becomes a meditation.
Shankara’s view of reality parallels the simplicity of P-A, especially with regard to worldview and identity. As to the benefits of the Great Insight of Oneness. “Maya [P-B] is destroyed by direct experience of Brahman.” The false-self or “Ego is the self-consciousness which arises when the mental organ identifies with the body.”
In summation, Vedanta philosophy expressed by Shankara and the corresponding language of Simple Reality would read like this: “The fruit of dispassion [choosing not to react] is illumination; the fruit of illumination is the stilling of desire [no longer pursuing the survival strategy needs of security, sensation and power]; the fruit of stilled desire is experience of the bliss of the Atman, [an experience of “feeling” in the present moment], whence follows peace.”
We will conclude our revelations on wisdom, our search back through time and space, with a source of wisdom who transcends time and space. Seth has told us elsewhere in these books that time and space a part of the illusion of P-B but not so with wisdom. Wisdom is “real.” Thank heaven for that!
Like many of our wise ancestors and current insightful and wise fellow travelers, Seth begins with a warning about our over-reliance on our intellect and our so-called “free will.” “With the large freedom provided by the conscious mind, however, man could stray from that great inner joy of being, forget it, disbelieve in it, or use his free will to deny its existence.” Ouch! I’m glad I don’t do that, aren’t you?
“The splendid biological acceptance of life could not be thrust or forced upon his emerging consciousness, so to be effective, efficient, to emerge in the new focus of awareness, grace had to expand from the life of the tissue to that of the feelings, thoughts and mental processes. Grace became the handmaiden of natural guilt, then.” The “church fathers” of our various religions were quick to see the opportunity here and most of us throughout human history were conned into believing the story they concocted to solidify their power and control.
“Man became aware of his state of grace when he lived within the dimensions of his consciousness as it was turned toward his new world of freedom. When he did not violate it, he was aware of his own grace. When he violated it, it fell back into cellular awareness, as with the animals, but he felt consciously cut off from it and denied.” This is why in Simple Reality we emphasize ceasing our identification with our body.
This article has provided food for thought about how we make everything so complicated in P-B. We could go on and on about the subject of wisdom but we have already described what it is many times over so this is as good a place as any to shut up. So wise-up dear reader and embrace the truth of your being. It’s not that hard.
What is the end result of the search for wisdom throughout human history? For those few who have been successful in transcending the illusion of P-B they have experienced a True self, a liberated identity that has no desires, wishes, or needs. It has no desire to control events, circumstances or people. It lacks nothing within itself; therefore, it does not seek gain inasmuch as all is complete at every moment. There is not even a desire for continuance. There is nothing one needs or wants to experience. This is the freedom of Simple Reality available to all and it always has been.
References and notes are available for this article.
Also find a much more in-depth discussion of Simple Reality
on this blog and in published books by Roy Charles Henry.