In this third part of the series, Acharya Das discusses the topic of enlightenment. He explains that the foundation of enlightenment and self-realization is to understand that a person is not their material body or mind—that they are a spiritual being.
This understanding, that a person is not matter, but is the spiritual occupant of the body, can be life changing in how a person determines their purpose in life, in what ways they pursue happiness, and how they see others and the world around them.
To discover the answer to the question, “Who Am I?” Acharya Das examines three key aspects of discovering the truth about the identity of the living being, our essence, position, and natural spiritual function.
Whenever a person experiences, by self-realization, that both the gross and subtle bodies have nothing to do with the pure self, at that time he sees himself as well as the Highest Spiritual Truth (God). – Bhāgavata Purāṇa 1.3.33
Just as fire, which burns and illuminates, is different from firewood, which is to be burned to give illumination, similarly the seer within the body, the self-enlightened spirit soul, is different from the material body, which is to be illuminated by consciousness. Thus the spirit soul and the body possess different characteristics and are separate entities. – Bhāgavata Purāṇa 11.10.8
One who is enlightened in self-realization, although living within the material body, sees himself as transcendental to the body, just as one who has arisen from a dream gives up identification with the dream body. A foolish person, however, although not identical with his material body but transcendental to it, thinks himself to be situated in the body, just as one who is dreaming sees himself as situated in an imaginary body. – Bhāgavata Purāṇa 11.11.8
Welcome, Namaste. This is the 3rd part in the series “Yoga Spirituality Enlightenment and God.” Trying to speak to about enlightenment in a short period of time is kind of like speed dating enlightenment it’s a little bit of a difficult task but we will try to cover all the necessary information.
Before speaking I would like to offer my respectful prayers to my Spiritual Master, our linage into the Supreme Lord.
So what is the foundation for enlightenment? It basically–what we’re speaking about is or the effect that it will have, enlightenment will have on us is largely—well let me put it this way, enlightenment really determines what I see has been my purpose in life, my pursuit of happiness, which everybody is chasing and how I will see others and this world. So having an enlightened view, being enlighten will mean that the way in which you see the world, others and yourself it is foundational to these things. So in the last talk on spirituality we discussed that there are fundamentally two energies. One is matter or the material energy and other is spirit or the spiritual energy. We will also discussed I the living being am of the spiritual energy and my body and my mind belongs to and is part of the material energy. So this understanding of myself as not being the gross or the subtle physical body but the spiritual occupant of this body is foundational to enlightenment. If a person doesn’t have this understanding if their perception of the world, others and things is not founded on this then it is not an enlightened perspective of things.
So that being the case the big question is who am I? If you close your eyes just for a moment and sit in quietness and listen to this question and consider it word by word, who am I? This is the foundation of all spiritual inquiry. In the attempt to answer that question one must consider what is my essence, what is my position, what is my function. If we want to know what is the truth of anything, we want to really discover the truth about something it’s real, to know it in full I must know it’s essence, fundamentally what it is made of, where it fits in relation to all other things around and what natural function it performs, what is it in terms of its function. When I answer these questions in relation to the question “Who am I?” then I will have a complete picture, this will actually be full self-realization. But if I consider these three questions, my essence, my position, my function in relation to part of a spiritual journey it will lead to actually three different experiences of self-realization. It is not really these three different realizations or experiences are completely separate or completely different and they exist in three different things and I can try and experience one realization and then I’ve got to go another one and experience that one in isolation and another in isolation. The reality is that the first realization of my spiritual essence is also contained within the realization of my position where I fit in relation to other things it’s part of the experience. And similarly the third realization of my natural function also contains within that realization and experience what is my essence and what is my natural position. So that being the case I must also though point out that in the first realization of my essence it dose not contain the realization of my position nor my natural function. So from that point of view we will see that while all spiritual realization of the self is transcendental and considered perfect we have degrees of perfection or increasing perfection.
In relation to my essence the reality is that I am spirit, I am not this body. The body is constantly changing, it is temporary, it has a beginning and it will have an end. I, the spiritual being within, have no beginning and I will I have no end, I am by nature eternal. And similar reality exist in relation to the mind. The mind is more intimately connected with us in the body and we become extremely influenced by it but from a spiritual perspective this is also not me. The fact that I can change my mind, I can try to control my mind, not think about certain things clearly indicates that I am separate and different form my mind. If I wasn’t I couldn’t do those things.
I will just read a couple of verses that speak to the subject of my essence it’s quite powerful. It’s from one of the ancient spiritual texts of the Vedas which is also a Yogic text called the “Bhagavat Purana.” In the Bhagavat Purana there’s these three verses that are quite extraordinary, they’re in different parts but I will read them together. “Whenever a person experiences by self-realization that both the gross and the subtle bodies have nothing to do with the purer self at that time he sees himself as well as the Lord or the Highest Spiritual Truth.” Then in another verse “Just as a fire which burns and illuminates is different from the firewood which is to be burned to give illumination. Similarly the seer within the body, the self-enlightened spirit soul, is different from the material body which is to be laminated by consciousness. Thus the spirit soul in the body possess different characteristics and are separate entities.” And then a third verse “One who is enlightened in self-realization although living within the material body sees himself as transcendental to the body. Just as one who has arisen from a dream gives up identification with anybody is in that dream. A foolish person however, although not identical with his material body but transcendental to it, thinks himself to be situated in the body just as one who is dreaming sees himself as situated in an imaginary body.”
So these are wonderful verses that speak very clearly to what constitutes realization of my essence as being spiritual in nature. I will speak a little bit more about this topic when we go forward because what happens is in many of the, particularly in the mystic yoga process, when someone attains this what is called Brahman realization where sometimes it is experienced by the Kundalini type yogis where they leave their body and merge into a vast ocean of spiritual light. This is realization of one’s essence but there are further things to be considered in relation to the question of position. What is my position? Where do I fit in relation to others? Where do I fit in relation to this world? This is a really important question and will determine how happy we will become or fail to become based on how we understand this question. So I must come to appreciate and understand that I am not Supreme, sorry. A lot of people like to promote that idea it’s very popular that I’m the center of everything, that I’m supreme that I can make everything happened, I am the Lord of all I survey, the central enjoying agent. There is no one over and above me, I just need to really get it together with a really positive outlook and I can change my experience in this world and dominate. I mean we have all these new agey and pop kind of ideas that came out in relation to positive thinking and everything where people even talked about: you’re going to drive into the city so on the way you need to get with the program and really will a parking space to be there so that when you pull up to where you’re going there’s a parking space waiting for you like you can make everything happened and of course this a ridiculous idea, I’m sorry if that offends someone my intention is not offend but is actually false.
The reality is that I am dominated. I am dominated by the laws of nature. I am dominated by social law, the laws of the land. You can’t just drive through a red light because you want to, maybe you can get away with it once or twice but you will get caught and punished. You can’t just walk to a shop and look at in the window and see a beautiful diamond ring and go “I am going to get that” and just break the counter or reach in behind the thing and grab it and walk out with it, you can’t do it. You are subject to controls, you are dominated. There are some philosophies out there where people are putting forward the idea that I am somehow Supreme, I am somehow the Lord of everything only I’ve forgotten it and through some magical meditation process or something or really positive thinking I will regain my Godliness meaning to be the Supreme, to be the center of everything, to be the central enjoying agent. If we go down this route we will simply experience frustration in our life. I mean there is nothing worse than God going through a death experience and try to will that one away, I’m sorry no, you’re body is going to get old and crap out, it’s part of the process and as much you try to avoid it you will encounter the reality of death.
We are by nature subordinate, we are not the lord of everything, of everything I survey, the all powerful. In terms of what is our natural function—I’ll just make mention that we’ll speak a little bit more about position in the next talk that we do because it really does come up in relation to a certain type of God realization known as Paramatma realization where it becomes sort of like glaringly apparent what is my true spiritual position, where do I fit in relation to all other things and the third part of full self-realization is connected to my natural function. Natural function meaning that if we take the pure spiritual being and we strip away the material coverings, the coverings of the subtle body made of the mind, intelligence and false ego, if we strip away the gross material body that’s visible to our eyes and the living being is left alone, uncovered, uncontaminated, nothing corrupting or polluting or distorting the consciousness of the pure living being. What is the most natural function of the soul itself? This is a really important part of the path of enlightenment and self-realization. Our natural function is primarily to love and to serve. To love and to serve, our natural functions. The reason that we have this very deep desire to both love and to be loved is because this comes not from our body or mind it arises from the soul, the spirit soul or the atma the self, it arises from the soul itself. It is part of our eternal natural function to experience and to engage in love. Our problem is that when we so overwhelmed by this idea that this body is me, being male or female or whatever I will seek to try and fulfill that fundamental spiritual need in relation to this body and mind and in connection with other material personalities. Of course our original spiritual personality becomes covered and clouded by material misconception and I seek to fulfill that need for love in relation to what I would call material personalities and it never works well. Even people in the nicest relationships still read love stories, watch movies about love, even the heavy rockers sing about it. Remember that one? What is it call, a Foreigner, years ago in the 80s? “I want to know what love is, I want you so show me. I want to feel what love is.” It’s just like this is actually a cry from our heart of hearts, it is something we desperately would love to be able to experience in the most perfect and wonderful way and it is because it’s part of our natural function. It cannot be fulfilled on the material plane. It is a spiritual need and must be experienced in a spiritual way.
The other thing that is part of our eternal function, it is to serve and it’s kind of like this weird conflict. We exist in this kind of strange, actually polluted consciousness where we’re trying to be like mini-Gods. We’re trying to be the center, we see everything, the world and everything in relation to us falsely thinking this body is me and this mind and this is who I am and so I lay claim to my house, my car, my husband, my wife, my partner, my parents, my children, mine, it’s all mine, I’m the center of things. And I seek and I’m in constantly engaged in the pursuit of happiness with this self-centered focus, meaning centered upon myself. And yet we have this experience that—I tell you, you do it with your children, you bring them to a homeless shelter or to a community in need or people in some suffering condition and you go and you perform an act of kindness. It warms the heart in way that nothing else does. I mean in people’s loneliness they get pets and people feel that they have a loving relationship with their pets. They speak to their pets, they care for their pets, they’re very absorbed and worrying and thinking about them and what is it that we’re always doing? We are serving. We are trying to do nice things. You know if we have a relationship, if we feel affection for someone, it is inevitably always expressed in a desire to be pleasing to them, to do something for them to somehow serve them. You know whether we have children sometimes if gets a little hard with our own kids when you have grandchildren it’s kind of much easier you’re detached from the day to day dealings with them and when the little guy show up the grandparents become—they call it doting grandparents, why do we have this nature? Why do we enjoy this? Because it is a small glimpse into part of our spiritual identity, it is part of our spiritual nature. And therefore when a person has the full experience of self-realization, when I’ve fully realized my essence, my position and my function then it really begins to alter, tremendously alter, how I live while still within this world. How I am living and the knowledge that flows from self-realization is enlightenment, this is what enlightenment means. It is founded on true wisdom, well no let me change it—when we are enlightened we acquire spiritual knowledge the application of knowledge meaning how we live, how express that knowledge actually defines what is wisdom. When you act on spiritual knowledge you are acting in a wise way.
So this was our brief and rather fast look at the topic of enlightenment and just as a recap I am a spiritual being, I have eternal spiritual essence, I have a natural position where I fit in relation to others. I am not supreme, I am dominated and my natural function is to both love and to serve. This is the function of the soul itself and the more I am living in harmony with those spiritual truths the happier I will be. When I stray from those spiritual truth, when I begin to consider the body as me or the mind as me. When I see this world an others as something to exploit and to use to try and squeeze some happiness out of I’m not living in harmony with spiritual reality I will be unhappy because of that even if I’m highly successful. My natural function is to love and to serve when I can engage in the most perfect and spiritual way then I will experience unlimited, boundless happiness and joy, that will be the experience and the opposite is true if I live with false understandings of who I am and that drives who I relate to others and the world my life will be one of difficulty, pain and suffering and the end of the life in this body will be a terrible experience rather than it being an enlightened and wonderful experience it will become something quite tragic and unfortunate. So we will pick up in the next talk that we have looking at these question of realization in relation to God or some higher truth.
Thank you very much and I’d like to invite you to join with us in chanting these transcendental sounds or mantras in what is known as Kirtan meditation. It is by this process in this age that a person will come to the highest platform of full realization, spiritual realization and experience. We don’t have the capacity to change our self but that which is spiritual has the potency to affect us and change us and by exposing ourselves or emerging ourselves in that which is transcendental we can come to this platform of true spiritual enlightenment.
So we’ll be chanting this mantra “Haribol” and “Nitai-Gaur” and hopefully it will appear on the bottom of the screen.