How Appearance Arises from Reality
One of the gifts this Yoga can give to those who follow it, is the knowledge that all human beings are in essence divine, and this implies that they have always been divine and will never cease to be so. The picture man usually presents of varying degrees of domination or inefficiency is the result of ignorance. This is not the negative ignorance of not knowing through the mind. It is a primal ignorance, or nescience, which is positive and a divine instrument, for through its power, creation —the conception of multiplicity—comes into play, the world swims into view and the eternal non-dual reality appears as seeming multiplicity, limited by attributes.
In the outer world this multiplicity manifests as names and forms, colours and gradations of vitality. In the inner world, the world of man’s subjective being, it manifests as the mind, the senses, the emotions, the memory and the vital force. The unbroken play of this primal nescience forms the basic root of the world and produces the alternations of pleasure and pain, hate and love, in fact all the attractions and repulsions which make up the phenomenon called in Sanskrit sansara, or that moving thing, the world.
As far as man is concerned, the instrument which introduces him into this turmoil of existence and keeps him there, is the mind—itself the most important detail in the magic show. According to the Vedanta philosophy, the mind, or antahkarana, means the inner organ of activity as against the outer organ of the body, and it is a recording, hoarding, testing machine. The major activity of most people during their lives is to receive through the mind, and pack away in it, impressions, fears and desires. They have identified themselves with these things, and are therefore ruled by them unknowingly. Such impressions, fears and desires colour their relationships with the outer world, until the spiritual science has been learnt by which they can be neutralised.
The supreme reality cannot be described in the language of men; it can only be indicated and in relative terms. It is unchangeable and interpenet-rates undetected the whole creation—before, behind, above, below and within. These words are themselves a product of maya or the agent of multiplicity; nevertheless, they give a picture by which the Whole may be theoretically apprehended by the imagined part.
In the realm of maya, the supreme reality is conceived as Consciousness, which, ever the same in itself, manifests in varying degrees in the thousands of forms which constitute the empirical world. Thus Consciousness is said to be progressively manifest in matter, flora, fauna and human beings. It is recognised by man as being the self-consciousness within him, and is known in its fullness by the spiritually illumined sages only.
This is another way of saying that reality—or what is called the Self, partless and supremely independent of all phenomena, the only lasting principle—is ever-present, to be revealed in due time within the awakened man, who will recognise it as his fundamental nature. This is true, but it is only after ‘he has risen from his mound of dust, has ordered his life and has looked upon the Sun’, that he will know it to be truth and will be transformed by this knowledge. Until then, the spiritual Sun will be concealed and overlaid by phenomena, in other words by the mind, for this power—called maya—which splits unity into diversity, operates wherever the mind can reach. It promotes multiplicity, and its accomplice, the mind, recognises and savours it.
But all the while, interpenetrating both maya and the mind, above, below and within, lies the supreme spirit, ever the same and self-luminous, which implies that its light and nature is derived from itself alone, and from no independent source. All spiritual training, whether yogic or otherwise, has for its aim the withdrawal of the mental or mayic activity to the background in order that this divine power may manifest, be brought to the foreground, and finally dominate the scene.
You may say: ‘If this spirit is supreme and unassailable, as you maintain, how can it possibly be overcome and distorted by a lesser power— this power called maya?’ The answer is that it is neither overcome nor distorted nor made less, for it is ever untouched. The Self, the supreme reality, is not changed or acted upon by the clouds which temporarily obscure it. It will shine out again in its original brilliance, when the clouds have dissipated.
The supreme Self is revealed through the action of powers which lie beyond or above the mind, and they only become active as the result of discipline and training. Just as scientific instruments can extend the range of the physical senses and enable them to view hitherto unknown objects, so these inner and higher faculties can be concentrated, controlled and extended by traditional practices and training, and in this way the omnipotent Power can be directly known. This assertion is neither hearsay nor personal opinion, but the testimony of illumined sages of the past and the present—for some of them are with us even today.