The Immortal One

Two simple propositions, taken from Vedantic philosophy, summarize the whole of truth and the way to attain it. One is from the verse 2:16 of Bhagavad Gita and the other is from Upanishads:

1) The Real cannot not be; the unreal cannot be.

2) That which begins must end.

We needed nothing more if we were intuitive rather than discursive and fond of intellectual currencies, beliefs. All religions and mythologies express the same thing, and all philosophies and sciences strive to grasp it.

These two statements, complementary in nature, must be realized. To go a little in depth we can add the following:

If the Real cannot not be, then all things that begin and end are unreal though apparent. And that which is unreal does not exist whether it is apparent or not; it can exist only as appearance.

Reflecting on things that begin and end we see that there is nothing that is excluded except the one for whom things begin and end. Standing here I see that my body is totally different from the body with which I was born; all those cells have already died and these too will die. Thus, I cannot be the body; because if I were I could not possibly say that I am the body! Change is meaningful only against an unchanging background. Change which means distinction and differentiation is possible only for an agent who remains the same throughout these changes so to be able to perceive them as change as such. I can see two different things if and only if the eye that sees the first is the same eye that sees the second so to establish their difference.

Also I cannot be the mind since all the contents, thoughts and emotions, change overtime, more so overnight; they begin and end while I subsist. I am the same “I” that I was when I was 5 while nothing about it, including body mind, emotions and personality, remains the same; they all begin and end while the “I” remains the “I.” This enduing I has no personality, because personality, the collection of thoughts and emotions and inclinations, changes, it begins and ends, while the “I” subsists. The “I” is the bearer of personality, the substratum upon which personality is superimposed. Thus, personality too cannot be real; it is an artifact of the impermanent flux we call the world.

Everything begins and ends except the “I” for whom things begin and end, the witness “I” or the I-witness if you will. The “I” cannot not be. When I, as this I, say that I die I really mean the personality and its ego, its thoughts and emotions and body; but these were not real to begin with since they always began and ended even while this “I” is said to be living. The “I” still remains in the world but only perceived as this I or that I, as you or someone else. It is essentially the I in all of us that is the Real component, for it cannot not be. Notice that if I say “but there was a time when no one was but the world was” it is because I first am. This world that I claim to exist without me is the world known in and through the I; it is the world in I and not I in the world. It is the world in the eye of the I. Without the “I” I cannot posit the independent existence of the world, hence I must not only precede the world but also subsist in it. Notice that whenever and wherever the “I” is, the world too is; and whenever and wherever the “I” is not, the world too is not.

The subsisting “I” is the Real and also inexpressible One. To say anything about it is to hide it because all sayings and thoughts begin and end; they cannot be Real. The “I” is that which expresses; it cannot be pronounced, for it is He who must do the pronouncing. The Immortal One is the Inexpressible.

My friend, this “I” who is the immortal One and no one’s I is nothing but the I of God which is the same as the eye of God, for God is pure seeing, pure Being, pure bliss. Realize this and be free of all conditioning: You were never born; how can you ever die? How can you not be!

Garden of Nirvana II

“The ignorant regard this samsara as real. In reality it does not exist at all. What does exist after this appearance is rejected, is in fact the truth. But it has no name! Like a lion, break away from this cage of ignorance and rise above everything. To abandon the notions of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ is liberation; nothing else is liberation. Liberation is peace. Liberation is extinction of all conditioning. Liberation is freedom from every kind of physical, psychological and psychic distress.”

Vasistha’s Yoga

Garden of Nirvana I

“Remain as the pure consciousness. Drink the essence of self-knowledge. Rest free from all doubts in the garden of nirvana or liberation. Why do you, O men, roam this forest of samsara which is devoid of any essence? O deluded people, do not run after this mirage known as hope and desire for happiness in this world. Pleasures are pain in disguise. Why do you not see that they are sources of your own destruction? Do not be deluded by this illusory world-appearance. Behold this delusion and enquire into it. You will then rest in your own Self which is beginningless and endless.”

Vasistha’s Yoga 

To Be Present

Every event in our lives is a gift that we will some day unwrap and appreciate. The very being of the moment, the ceaseless flow of conscious experience within which this life-world is given, is the primordial revelation of the One; we only take it for granted, as if it were our own consciousness; little do we realize that we too, along with the world, are known in and through consciousness which is always transcendent to all subsequent knowledge, including our self-knowledge.

There is only one unquestionable, brute fact that defines life and world: Impermanence. Our sciences, religions, philosophies, our state of knowledge and technology, all change; they have no absolute reign. But impermanence is the very nature of phenomena. What is ironic of human existence is that we accept and entertain all kinds of fiction with no trouble at all but we have not been able to accept and cope with this one brute fact. All the pain and suffering comes from our tantrums in the face of the inevitable, the impermanence of all things. So much for man as the rational animal!

When we judge a situation we are viewing it from our particular state of mind at the moment of judgment. Whether things are good or bad depends on our values at that moment. What we judge now as the worst mistake of our life may in a few years turn out to be the best gift of life, and then again the worst mistake when we judge it after a decade. If we are rational and reasonable animals, then we must see that judgment is the most futile epiphenomenon in nature. An act propagates endlessly into the inaccessible future; it has no end result, and hence no intrinsic value expect against the background of our our values and expectations.

One may object and bring the example of murder. But we ought to be objective and detached from our passions: A man who hates murder is more likely to commit murder when what he loves is destroyed. If we do not like murder here in America it is because we forget our democracy is founded upon the genocide of Native Americans, and this is for all great empires that ended up creating great men and women in history who transformed the masses. It would be a good research project for us to investigate and see how many people are being killed in poor countries for us to enjoy the little things of our everyday lives in developed countries!

And how about the murder of animals; it is perfectly justified as long as we like meat, though we prefer others do the murder for us. Thus, every single one of us is in one or another, directly or indirectly, involved in and benefiting from, whether physically or spiritually, some murder somewhere in history. But so far it was only the physical murder that concerned us, since we believe only in the physical reality; but there is more: On a daily basis we murder dreams, crush human spirits, and commit murder against ourselves by food and medication.

The pain and suffering will continue as long as our individual interests and benefits come before our objective intelligence which is really our consciousness of impermanence and the source of humility. This is so because the inevitable part of life, the impermanence, constantly gives and takes away, and hence constantly puts our egos under stress and strain. Insofar as we identify with the ego which is the inertia of the mind we won’t be able to face the inevitable and at once enjoy it. Ego is the cancer of the soul, and only divine radiation can eliminate it.

The good is Him; the bad is Him

The pleasure is Him; the pain is Him

In pain and pleasure, in hell and heaven, I am always with Him

If you have come to take Him away then take Him away, for this too is Him

He is the here and the away

He is both the Being and the Non-Being

It is not that we are made to suffer: Suffering is there in the world as the blue of the sky is there in the world; we feel the suffering only because we identity with it, thinking that it is ours. Both pain and suffering arise from our attachment to phenomena: Pleasure comes when our attachments are present and safe; pain comes when our attachments are being taken away. But attachment to and identification with the impermanent is suicide, for there is no pain without pleasure and no pleasure without pain. Suffering comes to an end only when we all learn to prefer peace to pleasure, unity to individuality, Oneness to mine-ness, God to ego.

What we must learn, and what spiritual traditions speak of, is precisely the art of facing the inevitable and undergoing impermanence. What is the original sin but lack of patience, and what is lack of patience but the reign of the ego, the snake of the Eden? If an object falls due to its mass, man falls due to its ego. The Fall is not so much the fall from heaven which is the eternal present given by the One. Our fall, the real fall, consists in our forgetfulness of still being in heaven and in His presence.

The existential angst of modern man, which is the vertigo of this apparent fall, comes from resistance against the inevitable. The return to the One, that is accepting the impermanence, is in the heart’s act of embracing Its present to us, and Its present which is Its presence is none other than the present, the now, which is indeed the primordial present. Thus, to be with the One is to be fully in the present, that is to be perfectly committed nihilists. It is often the case that our seeking the One makes us farther away from Him.

Meister Eckhart, a 13th century Christian mystic and theologian, says:

“A man must become truly poor and as free from his own creaturely will as he was when he was born. And I tell you, by the eternal truth, that so long as you desire to fulfill the will of God and have any hankering after eternity and God, for just so long you are not truly poor. He alone has true spiritual poverty who wills nothing, knows nothing, and desires nothing.” 

The Zen Master Nan-Sen says:

“Do not strive to seek the truth; only cease to cherish opinions.”

The Sufi Master Bayazid Bastami says:

“Knowledge of truth cannot be attained by seeking; but it is found only by those who seek it.”

To seek God in heaven, in church or mosque, in the saint and the prophet, is like seeking a picture of him who is always already present with us. To be with the One is to stop looking for Him and seeing Him in the very Being of everything in and around us.

Wake Up! Remember Who You Are

I am not something that exists. I am not something that is known, nor the knower of anything. I am not someone who can be free, nor someone who can be happy. Instead, I am the very condition for the possibility of the existent, the known and the knower, the free and the happy. To be more precise:

I am existence itself. I am knowledge itself. I am freedom itself. I am happiness itself.

As knowledge of a defect does not make the knowledge itself defective, I too am untouched by all defects and imperfections though I may witness them day and night.

As knowledge of misery does not make the knowledge itself miserable, I too am free from all misery and lowliness though I may witness them day and night.

As knowledge of bondage does not entail the bondage of knowledge, I too am devoid of all bondage and ignorance though I may see nothing but them.

As knowledge of mortality does not make the knowledge itself mortal, I too am immune to all death and decay though I may witness them day and night.

I am perfect and pure, wise and immortal, free and happy, blessed and beautiful, for I am forever untouched by all that is unlike my nature: I am the Transcendental Witness.

I am the “I” in all of you. Remind yourself this truth: If you are bounded and miserable it is only because you say so.

The Direct Vision of Truth

What are the things that characterize human life? What is the wish of all men and women?

There are three things that characterize human, three objects for which all men and women strive and which have shaped the course of human civilization:

1) Knowledge, in the sense of an answer to the questions “Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going?”

2) Immortality, eternal existence.

3) Happiness, a state in which all needs and wants are satisfied.

All human attempts and accomplishments have a motivation in one or more of the above. To make it short, the three ideals of human life constitute a three-fold structure, a trinity: Existence-Knowledge-Bliss.

The intensity by which man strives for the attainment of these goals is suggestive: Man is running after the very things he has never fully tasted, things not even possible to attain! How can man long for something he has never had? Or has he not?! He chases these as if they were taken away from him, as if he knows them very well and knows that they belong to him, for he never ceases the chase even after thousands of failures. Without all three of them, existence-knowledge-bliss, man is still lacking something; he is not yet fully satisfied. He must have Existence-Knowledge-Bliss together and at once.

What is ironic is that Advaita Vedanta of Hinduism, one of the oldest metaphysical systems, is found on a principle known as the Supreme Identity. It states that the true Self of man is one and the same as the essence of the ultimate reality called Brahman: Man is essentially divine. The supreme reality is indivisible, unmanifest, impersonal, infinite, and absolute; it has no attributes and cannot be defined. However, the seers, those mystics who have directly perceived it, say that this Brahman, the ultimate truth which is the essence of man, is of the nature of Satchidananda. Satchidananda, the best and the only word in Hinduism that characterizes the divine essence which is man’s original state, is a Sanskrit compound that means exactly this: Existence-Knowledge-Bliss. 

It is important to understand that Advaita Vedanta in particular, and Hinduism in general, is not a religion in the limited sense of the word used in the West as faith-based dogma. It is neither some speculative philosophy developed based on prejudice. Advaita Vedanta is a scientific-metaphysical system founded upon empirical evidence and direct perception of the philosophers; its methods and findings enjoy a mathematical precision and an intellectual intuition still too lofty and abstract for the western scientist to grasp and digest. The penetrating intelligence of its philosophers was never seen before and not seen ever after. The goals that western sciences and philosophies never attained as regard the answers to human existential questions, was directly perceived and known by the Indian philosophers of more than 2000 years ago. What all men and women of all ages have sought is known by the Advaitist to be already in man’s possession, all answers dwelling in man’s own heart. All answers are expressed in one phrase:

Satchidananda: Existence-Knowledge-Bliss

Questionable World: A Phenomenology of Wonder

Why does man raise questions? 

There are many criteria based on which man is distinguished from animal, such as language and logic. One peculiar aspect of man, in contrast with animals, is his ability to refuse to accept matters of fact, to turn away in the face of the inevitable, to act as if, to pretend, to believe in the invisible and to get away with it, to doubt and to raise questions. To raise a question entails man’s conception of the alternatives to the fact: He sees what is in front of him, the factual aspect of world; but he questions this facticity because he can conceive of it being otherwise. The question of “why this” presupposes a “why not that?” the two being equivalent formulations of man’s peculiar mode of consciousness. In other words, man is distinct from the beast insofar as the world is questionable for him.

The questionability of world for man is a questionability of world’s facticity; world being a matter of fact can always be, or appear, otherwise. Man’s consciousness of this logical structure of the world makes it possible for him to raise questions in the face of what is since he knows that nothing has to be the way it is. It is this ability of man that poses the perennial question “why is there something rather than nothing?” To be more precise, man’s consciousness of world is a consciousness of contingency. Man knows that fact is contingent; world can always be a different world, even not be. Without consciousness of contingency man would not be able to doubt or raise questions in the face of facts. Question is the backbone of civilization; it was man’s ability to perceive the contingent character of his condition and to realize that his condition can be other than what it is that pushed him to change the condition from above, to change the very conditions that condition the course of future changes; thus, man entered into a dialectical relationship with his environment. Man’s civilization defined as constant transcendence of environmental and existential conditions is possible only in virtue of his realization that his condition can always be better, a realization that entails man’s ability to distinguish between fact and essence, necessity and contingency.

Consciousness of contingency is a possibility only against consciousness of necessity. Man can know the contingency of world if and only if he understands the essence of contingency as that which is not necessary, that which is possible but not actual. In other words, man’s consciousness of contingency, being at once the consciousness of what is possible but not yet actual, is possible only where there is consciousness of the Absolute: If man raises questions it is because he is conscious that fact is contingent and that it is so by necessity.

The same is true of man’s consciousness of the relative character of phenomena. Consciousness of relativity entails consciousness of the absolute. Man would not be able to understand relativity if he didn’t know what it is like not to be relative, hence the absolute. Relativity is not possible without the insertion of the absolute. An analogy may help us here: Einstein’s theory of relativity is based on two postulates: First, the laws of nature enjoy the same form in all inertial reference frames; that is, all inertial reference frames are equally valid in their formulations of these laws. Second, the speed of light is constant and has the same value in all inertial reference frames in vacuum; that is, the value of the speed of light doesn’t depend on the particular reference frame in which it is observed and measured.

It is evident that the first postulate is possible if and only if the second holds; in other words, all reference frames are equally valid since the speed of light is independent of all reference frames, thus being the absolute criterion based on which all reference frames can be considered equally valid.

This is similar to the case of man’s consciousness of relativity. If we posit that everything is relative, then this is so if and only if there exists an absolute reference frame relative to which everything is equally valid or relative. Everything is relative relative to man’s consciousness which has to be absolute in its apprehension of the relativity of all phenomena. The consciousness that posits relativity is at once the consciousness that posits itself as the absolute, the absolute criterion for the apprehension of all that is relative.

Man is the being for whom world is finite, contingent, and relative. If man raises questions about the world it is because he is in principle capable of conceiving of what is possible but not actual, which springs from his consciousness of world’s contingent character. Man’s consciousness of finitude, contingency, and relativity entails his consciousness of infinity, necessity, and the absolute.

It is against the consciousness of the infinitude, necessity, and the absolute that man grasps his own finitude, facticity, and relativity.

World is questionable for man because it stands in sharp contrast to the intrinsic values of his consciousness, such as perfection and immortality. The most factical aspect of man’s existence is his mortality; yet this mortality is that which man cannot be comfortable with; he readily accepts the existence of improbable phenomena such as aliens or transmigration of soul but cannot accept the most certain of all things, his death. If man struggles in the face of the inevitable death, if he is always bothered by his mortality, it is because he is at once in possession of the consciousness of immortality; it is against his consciousness of immortality that man’s mortality and finitude concerns him so much, being the very basis of all religions and philosophies and art and literature.

In a world that is essentially finite, contingent, relative, and mortal, no consciousness of infinity, perfection, and immortality can possibly grow. But it is a matter of fact that man is in possession of such consciousness, for otherwise world could not possibly be questionable for him. The questionable character of world for man entails an element within him that is not of this world, an element against which this world is what it is for man, a questionable world.