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Chapter 3 / parts 13 - 18

Workshop on Spirituality - Part 2
13   Illusion 

   The principal function of the dream state is to give us a look behind the scenes, a view of illusion. We gain an appreciation and an awe and an insight into the magnificent illusion that holds us bound in a web of duality and separateness, as long as it lasts. When the dream state recedes into the quiescent state of deep sleep and is remembered as an experience, in other words, when we return to the waking state, we see that from beginning to end, it was only a play in the mind. Just as the dreamer, the dream world and the dreamed self came in together and went out together, so we can also infer that in the waking state, God, man and Nature come in together and go out together. We cannot have the creator-God without his creation; we cannot have man without God and the world. They cannot be separated. Yet, inexplicably, through the power of illusion, they appear to be different.

   In a dream, we might have been taking a bath in a bath tub. When we look back on this from the waking state we realize that the bath tub was made up out of exactly the same stuff as we were made out of. Everything in the dream was all just mind stuff. All the happenings there took place in the mind. Although the dream appeared so real there was no separate reality there. It was all just a shadow-play on the screen of consciousness. The only substance there, out of which everything was made, was consciousness. But because of illusion, a dream reality appeared and held us in its sway.

   As I mentioned before, illusion is made up of two very powerful forces. One is the veil which hides our truth; it covers the light inside. The other is the projection of an illusory world, a mirage, on top of that veil. In deep sleep this projection disappears, but the veil remains. Because the projection has disappeared, it feels so good when we wake up from deep sleep. There has been no confusion, no agitation, no dream, no fear, no anticipation, no concerns, no desire; and so we feel some measure of bliss. That, you may remember, is related to our finest sheath which has to do with the deep sleep state.


14  Universal 'I'

   Immediately a question arises. If the dream and waking are separate states of consciousness, each emerging as a projection from the deep sleep state, then how is it that we are able to see from one state into the other? In other words, how do we manage to remember our dreams when we return to the waking state, and how do we manage to play out some of the same life problems and situations and characters from our waking state in the dream state? There must be an observer common to both states, who persists through deep sleep, as well.

   Vedanta has us examine the 'I', the personal self or ego. Its distinguishing feature is the possessive feeling, whereby it associates itself with a body and mind and takes possession, calling them 'my' body and 'my' mind. This feeling of I-ness and my-ness is common to both dream and waking. Although the bodies and personalities may be different for each state, although the worlds they play in are usually different, although the individual selves and their desires and interests may be different, and although there is no direct channel of communication between the two states, there appears to be some common thread, some strong relationship between them, centering on the experienced 'I'.

   According to Vedanta, they appear to be the same because underneath there is only the one 'I'; both the waking and the dream selves are just roles played by the one cosmic 'I', the 'I' who is also the dreamer and the God of this waking dream.
This one 'I' is the divine indweller, the universal spirit, Swami, who through his illusory power plays in different garbs, posing as the waking self or the dream self. And he plays these roles not just in us, but in all the myriad of dreams that make up the wanderings of these seemingly separate individual souls. There is only one 'I'; and he is omniscient and omnipresent and omnipotent. He is the true subject in every object.

   Every phenomenal object, whether in the waking or in the dream states, if it could speak, would call itself 'I'. That 'I' is the one universal 'I', the unbroken field of consciousness on which all worlds of names and forms rest. That universal 'I' with its illusion is the indweller of deep sleep. It has emerged from the absolute, the ultimate reality.


15  Silence

   The three states we have been considering, signified by the sound symbol AUM and related to the five sheaths we have been discussing, all have to do with illusion. They are not the true OM. The true OM is the basis of all these states, the unchanging background on which the dark curtain of ignorance and the illusion of separate selves and worlds, appear. This is the superconscious state, the transcendental state, the absolute awareness, signified by the silence.

   So, when we do the OM we go through the waking, the dream and the deep sleep states and end up in the silence. We return home. Therefore, when we chant the OM, it is very important that we be aware of the silence. After we have chanted the sound, we must allow the silence to develop and dwell in that. That silence is the real OM.

   The OM is the most powerful of all mantras. It takes us from the physical to the mental to the causal to that which is the basis of all; or, it takes us from the grossest to the finest and subtlest to the ultimate truth. It is the basic breath of the universe. But, somehow, it just is not sufficiently satisfying to us. We need more sound, so we prefer to do more involved mantras and devotional songs. But the Om alone is enough.

   Swami once said that forty years have gone by and there has not been a major war. This has not happened for many centuries. He said, "You know why? Because holy ones in temples and caves, are chanting the OM and they are sending out that sacred vibration into the world. That is the greatest service you can do for humanity." So, there is the power of the OM.

16  Awareness

   Question: "How can awareness exist without ego? What is the meaning of awareness when there is no one to be aware and nothing to be aware of?

   Answer: Find out. There is no other answer to your question. Find out! That can be your project for the rest of your life. And it is the best project that you can be on. Seek the seeker. Seek out the one who wants to know this. Turn your attention onto the subject, onto the 'I'. That one is always with you. Swami says, find out where it came from. When you turn away from the objective and towards the subjective, you will find that even the subjective goes and only its source remains. That, we are told, is the pure awareness.

   To find out what it's like, go there, be there, be it. In fact, you already are it. Every night in deep sleep, you are the witness, without any self or worlds to witness or to be aware of. How nice and peaceful that is. There is nothing to be perceived or thought about or to be remembered. Now, let even that state subside. Then what remains is pure awareness.

   Here is another way to look at it. What is the one thing that has not changed since you were a little tot until the present, and will not change until the moment of your death? It is your self-awareness, your sense of 'I am', 'I exist'. The body and the circumstances have changed with time but this feeling of beingness is the same throughout. That is the ocean on which the waves of change have played.

Now dive into that ocean of awareness and let go of all memories of the changing waves on the surface. Go back to before your birth; go forward to beyond your death. Be there, in the timeless depths of your beingness, unaffected by all these changing phenomena on the surface. There the pure awareness reveals itself.

17  Free Will

   Question: "You said you would talk some more about free will."
Answer: One Christmas morning, Swami collected all of us Westerners in the temple. It was in the early seventies; at that time all of us could still fit into the temple. He was just pure love. He gave some loving, personal attention to everyone there. He made a number of rings and medallions. He signed books and blessed photos. He filled everyone full of joy. And then he gave a little ad hoc talk. He just came to the front and spoke to us. It was not his regular Christmas discourse, which was given later that day.

   That morning in the temple he said, "You see the power of this hand. It can turn dust into gold. It can turn rocks into diamonds. It can turn earth into heaven and heaven into earth. There is no power that is not in this hand." Then he added, "But, it cannot turn your heart towards God. That is your choice. Turn towards God and God will turn towards you. Take one step towards him and he will take ten steps towards you. But turn towards the world and God will leave you alone. The choice is yours." So here was a clear statement by Swami of our free will.

   But, when asked: "Swami, is there free will or no free will?" He said, "It is as you think. If you think there is free will, then you have free will. If you think 'no free will' then, there is no free will. But if you think 'no free will,' then you must be in total surrender. When you completely surrender to the Lord, there is no free will."

   And he gave this example. The Bhagavad Gita was delivered at the beginning of the Mahabharata war. You may remember that Krishna was the charioteer of Arjuna. Krishna drove the chariot so that Arjuna would see his beloved grandfather, who was like a father to him, and had raised him. And then he saw his dear teacher, his guru. Both were on the opposide side. The duty that Arjuna had been taught was that father is God, guru is God. You must treat them as God. But now he was preparing to kill them. Arjuna was in great inner conflict. He sank into despair. He didn't know what to do. He decided to throw down his bow and not fight. But he had many doubts and he fell at Krishna's feet and said, "Lord, I don't know what is right, what my duty is." And so he begged Krishna to clarify his doubts. At that point he was not fully surrendered. Although he had many questions, he must still have felt that he had some choice.

18  Surrender

   But by the time of the 18th chapter of the Gita, when Krishna had shown Arjuna his cosmic form and all of Arjuna's doubts had been clarified, Arjuna said to Krishna: "Lord, I will do as you say. Direct me!" Now he was fully surrendered. At that point, in one of the last verses of the Gita, Krishna said: "Arjuna, I have given you the highest wisdom. Now, think it over and do as you wish." Think it over and do as you wish ..... that gives a choice, doesn't it? "No," said Swami, "there was no question of any choice. At that point Arjuna was totally surrendered to the Lord. And 'do as you wish' meant, whatever you wish, know that it is my will. You do not need to check with me every moment and ask: 'Is this what you want? Is this what I should be doing?' Just do! Whatever you do is my wish, my will." So, is there any free will involved in that? No.

   Now, let us suppose that you had a dream last night. And that in that dream you were trying to make a decision, "Should I go to the Sai center tonight or should I not go? All right, let me get dressed and go sing at the center tonight." So, it would appear that you had a choice and that you had weighed the alternatives and come up with a decision. But, remember it's a dream. In that dream, could anything have happened unless the dreamer dreamed it? Can there be anything in the dream outside of his will? The dreamer can decide to give that dreamed character some measure of free will and watch what happens, like a father watching his son grow up and handle decisions. He can set up certain rules of behavior, such as the law of cause and consequence, and assign rewards and punishment on that basis. But, this is just a play within the play. Ultimately, isn't everything under the dreamer's control?

Suppose you see a cartoon film of Mickey Mouse, and Mickey Mouse says: "Should I go to the movies tonight? No, I think I'll visit Donald Duck, instead." He made his choice. But can Mickey Mouse even exist as a cartoon character without Walt Disney, the cartoonist, having made every move?

   When you see that all this is just a dream, then you know that nothing can happen through your own independent will; although through the power of illusion it would appear that you have something to say about your destiny. Swami says, "Not a leaf can fall, not an ant can move but that it is part of the divine plan."

If you are interested in reading more on this, there are a number of places I can suggest you look. One is the Karika of Gaudapada, which is a commentary upon the Mandukyo Upanishad. That commentary was written by the guru of the guru of Shankaracharya, the great non-dualist. That is the clearest exposition of this waking dream, but it is not easy to comprehend.

   Another place where you can read of this, if you can find it, is the Yoga Vashishta. Vashishta, the great sage, came to help Rama out of his delusion. Of course, Rama was the avatar, playing a part. Every day Vashishta would give spiritual discourses to teach Rama the knowledge of the supreme self. But it was not given for Rama's benefit but so that we can benefit from these teaching. In the discourses he speaks of the law of cosmic evolution. And therein there is a very clear statement that nothing can possibly happen without it being part of the divine will. You might also look at 'I AM THAT' which is a book containing the recorded conversations of Sri Nisargadatta, who Swami confirmed was a fully-realized soul of this century. And of course, these teachings are sprinkled throughout Swami's discourses and his writings as well, particularly in the talks he has given since his 60th birthday

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