Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Eye of an ant and the body of an elephant

Living without the power of sight is hard to imagine. Those tiny apertures just a few millimeters across, are such a great gift, adding immense value to our lives. We take them for granted until sight starts to fail us. Our lives start in the darkness of the womb and ends when the curtain like eyelids close for the final time. In between we experience light, without which nothing would be visible. The opening and closing of this grand drama is not only played out over many years, but daily as well. When we sleep, we enter the womb of our own consciousness. The entryway is through darkness. Our consciousness is very much alive, but we are unaware of it. As soon as we awaken, that communion with our own consciousness within is instantly overpowered by light that reflects off the world of objects. That inner light emanating from our own consciousness is never seen, and thought to be non existent.

Through our physical eyes, we can only see a small sliver of the immense body of creation all  around us. Our eyes are “ant like” in relation to the size of the human body and is an imprecise tool that cannot show us the full picture. Nevertheless it offers a perspective, one which our awareness has become accustomed to. In other words, we hold the power to behold infinite happiness or experience unending misery. Countless days and nights may have passed with our awareness unanchored like the clouds and drifting with passing thoughts, but it is never too late to seize this very moment to make a change in how we perceive life. When a moment of time comes into our conscious grasp, it will never leave us. If we see that moment through the “mind’s eyes” it can stain our sense of being with the colors of the mind. If they are happy colors we feel elated and if they are sad colors, it drags us down.

The palette of memory has many colors and with the brush of habit, a very realistic picture is created by us, without ever having to leave the confines of the mind. We live in the gallery of our own creation, and each individual paints a different picture of his or her own life. The same moment that is seen through the filter of the mind, can also be seen bare, in its own right without our interpretation. Such as a moment can reveal deep insights, give a glimpse of great happiness or can give us the gift of clarity or creativity. Such “a-ha” moments, currently rare can be a regular occurrence in our daily lives if we can lift the door and give ourselves a holiday from the mind.

Many people may like to do this, but don’t know how. When in the mind, it is impossible to imagine a state of existence without the mind. Any thought on those lines still originates within the mind. One has not left the mind when such a thought arises. It is like a prisoner escaping one cell and only to enter another. It may seem new and different, but it is still within the confines of a prison. Only the ones allowed to leave the prison can experience real freedom. Freedom within the mind is not real freedom. If one can step out of the mind, the ability to step back in should also be possible. Mind is a great tool when it is in our hands and we have full control over it. Rather than wield it like a tool, we become a tool in the hands of thoughts. Over time we give up our entire being and we are held hostage by thoughts.

In a state beyond the mind, any given moment could potentially last an eternity. Divisions of past and the future exist only within the mind. Since the mind has a storage function, experiences that enter it have to be kept in a place labelled “the past”. The thinking function creates an illusory experience called “the future”. The time in between, seems momentary when our attention is mostly in the past or the future. How long a moment lasts is relative. When the mind is scattered and full of thoughts, it can be fleeting and we barely even register it. As the mind becomes calmer and slows down, moments can stretch longer and longer. For example, when one is deeply engrossed  in love, the mind is very calm and centered on one thought. Everything else is forgotten. It is a form of a meditative state. Happiness in that state comes from experience a sense of calmness that comes from a place beyond the mind. This can only happen when love that is being experienced is not transactional. In other words it must be unconditional. In such a state, time ceases to exist for the one experiencing it. All of us may have experienced this state to some degree at some point in our lives. If not, it is never too late to try and experience such a state. All it requires is putting aside expectations.

When times goes by without us noticing it, life becomes an effortless process. Everything within the mind involves effort. Concentration is an example. It takes great effort to concentrate. The moment concentration becomes effortless it turns into meditation. The line between concentration and meditation is not a discrete defined line. Just as we slip into sleep from a waking state, we also slip into a meditative state when our concentration is supreme. Whenever there is an awareness of the passage of time, the mind is active. In meditation there is only one, the seer and the seen become one. In concentration, the two are separate. The inner happenings within the mind, while concentrating or otherwise can be witnessed. Let’s call that aspect of our being that can witness these happenings as the inner eye.

This inner eye is like a powerful telescope. It can zoom in and out of the mind. The depth and degree of focus depends on the skill of the operator, which in our case is our attention and awareness. For example, through a telescope we may be able to get a closer look at the surface of a neighbouring planet. Let’s imagine that there is a violent dust storm on the surface of the planet we are looking at. That storm which is seen through the telescope will not damage the instrument through which that event is viewed. Similarly, this inner eye that we all possess, through which we can see the mind cannot be damaged or destroyed by what goes on in the mind. It’s lens can never be clouded, but we part company with its sharpness and focus when our attention and awareness is lost behind the cloud of the mind. This inner eye can see the mind, but it cannot be seen from the mind.

The evidence for the existence of this inner eye is easily found. Everyone can can visualize the mind either in bits and pieces as thoughts or the whole mass of the mind without focusing on its parts. In other words, we can stand apart from the mind and be a constant witness to it. The “ground” from which we are able to witness the mind may seem like a very strange place to be standing on. That space has no physical attributes like the space between objects. That space cannot be seen but it can be felt. When our attention is in that space the mind appears small or large depending on our distance from it. The mind may appear to be the sole occupant of that space as long as the light from the mind burns bright enough to light up everything around it. Just as the light from the sun makes stars invisible during daylight, the lighted world of a restless mind makes the space around the mind invisible.

The mind derives its power from something deeper within us. Our constant attention and focus on it is the source of that power. Just as the moon is invisible without the sun’s light, the mind will also become invisible if we don’t shine the light of our attention on it. We have become habituated to constantly focus rays from our “inner gaze” onto the mind. On one hand we empower the mind, and on the other, we take whatever is reflected in it as real. We see our reflections in our thoughts and those become our reality. We tend to more strongly identify with what we consider as real.

The reflections within the mind come and go. They are not constant. We can perceive this coming and going within the mind. Even as we see this perception, we always say, “I am here” and not “I am coming and going”. Only when the “I” gets uncoupled from the “here, now and this moment”, does the confusion start. The “I” then gets reflected in the mind, it assumes forms within thoughts and is then named and classified. This process then spills over into the physical world.  All this can be observed from the inner eye. That invisible inner eye is infinitely smaller compared to the all the forms we see in the world.

Power does not lie in the size, shape or attributes of any formed object, large or small but in the awareness of pure perception. What may appear immense to the physical eyes and the mind can be just a tiny dot in the vastness that the inner eye can perceive. This concept is within the grasp of everyone’s experience. For example, let’s say we are standing in front of Mt. Everest. It is truly immense no doubt. When we close our eyes, we can fit a million such mountains in the space of the mind. The totality of the mind holding everything within it in turn is a tiny speck in relation to the space that can be perceived by the inner eye. All one has to do is take a “virtual step back” from the mountain visible through the physical eyes, to the mind and beyond it to the inner eye.

Here is another example to illustrate the relationship between the outer physical eyes, the body and the inner eye. Think of a large container ship. Relative to the size of the ship, the captain’s deck is very small. The ship is controlled by the captain. The body may be thought of as a large container ship. Within its confines, various cells and organs are stacked one on top of another. There is virtually no space between them. We carry this “organic cargo” wherever we go. The captain’s binoculars may be compared to the physical eyes and the eyes behind the binoculars to the inner eye.

Just as a ship has a port of origin and a port of destination and the journey in between, the body has an origin in birth and destination in death. Between the point of origin and the final destination, we stay afloat on the sea of our life’s experiences. This sea may be placid or stormy. The sea of life can change at any moment. The body is strong enough to withstand most of what life throws at us, but not the mind. Just as a ship cannot leave the water, we cannot leave the body as long as there is life in it. When the captain of a ship is assigned a route for his cargo, he takes great pains to reach the destination in the safest manner possible. The captain does not own the cargo, but is responsible for it as long as it is on the ship that is commanded by him. Similarly, we are not owners of our bodies to do what we please with it, but rather custodians. Without the body, there is no way to derive meaning from life. It must be cared for just as one would a precious cargo of expensive flowers. The flowers though delicate are protected by the strong hull of the ship that transports it. Similarly, life within our being is a like a delicate flower. It can be crushed in no time, but it takes time to flower. If it is allowed to flower, its beauty will always be on exhibit. Once it flowers, a deeper experience of this life within us beyond the mind and senses can be experienced as a sense of being.

The light of this realization of the sense of being shines in all directions just as the sun shines in all directions. The mind is  illuminated by this and it cannot be pinpointed from within the mind. We see this light indirectly through the mind. Only the conscious part of the mind is visible to us. The other aspect, the subconscious remains dark just like the side of the earth that does not face the sun. We are constantly basking in the warmth of the sense of being but we don’t perceive it directly. Since we perceive the mind directly, we feel that it is the source of that light. The mind acts as a prism that scatters light falling on it. Thoughts dissipate that energy that comes from a deeper source, the sense of being. Concentration on one object or concept helps in focusing the energy of the mind in one place. Gradually one must slip away from concentration on an object within the mind to that sense of being that lies beyond it. When one is able to do it, it may seem like a sudden leap, but in reality it is a gradual process like the setting sun. Day does not turn into night in an instant. There is a twilight in between. Similarly, going from the mind to the sense of being and staying there happens gradually.

The mind is more of a receiver than a giver. It is the mind’s nature to receive. In our everyday experience, it is much easier to receive than to offer gifts. This natural tendency of receptivity of the mind must be harnessed in order to bring it under one’s control. Rather than receive suggestions from the external world, the mind must be habituated to receive commands from a deeper purer space within our being. There is randomness in thoughts that float through the mind’s space. If we are not in full control of the mind, we become subject to the influence of randomness that thoughts represent. This may be what some consider as fate. We are fated to live the lives based on the dominant thoughts that cross our mind’s space if we are not in charge of the mind.

Trying to behold our sense of being through the mind is like using a candle to find the sun. In the darkness of the night, no amount of light will help us find the sun. During the day, no light is required to see and experience the sun. Similarly the sense of being within us stands alone and apart from everything that the mind is. An effortless way to experience this sense of being is to be aware of the inner eye that can observe the mind and everything else.

Watching a starry sky with and without deeper awareness gives us very different experiences. When the mind is active, whatever we may be looking at is seen with our attention scattered. We may be involved but only peripherally depending on the intensity with which the prevalent thoughts at that time grab our awareness and attention. When we see the night sky with a sense of deep awareness and attention, we will likely be filled with a sense of wonder and amazement that through an eye so small we are able to visualize the vastness of the universe. The night sky may come alive and those mere dots that flicker on the black background of space will give us a whole new perspective and meaning. On the map of humanity, each one of us is a tiny dot like the stars in the sky. In that vast expanse of space, one star appears to be indistinguishable from another. But up close, each may be a very different world. In the case of the stars, our eyes can only see them from where we are, on earth. But as far as humanity is concerned, we can view it from a distance as one unit or or we can focus on its individual members.  We tend to examine individuals up close and pass judgment, forgetting that at another level, we all are just specks indistinguishable from one another. The tendency of the mind is to observe everything up close and lose sight of the big picture. The bigger context is never seen. When our awareness is linked to the inner eye, we tend to see the big picture before delving into little details.

Even within the mind, more often than not, we separate ourselves from its contents, the individual thoughts. Without that space and a little separation, thoughts cannot be visualized. But sometimes we become totally identified and one with certain thoughts. An example is the emotional outburst associated with anger. When we are angry, nothing else exists but the thought that triggered anger and the emotion that goes along with it. At that time if we are able to step away from the thought that provoked anger, we may be able to calm ourselves down before the emotion leaves us and reaches another person. For that to happen, we have to create a certain amount of space for us to wiggle out of that identification. There is space everywhere including within the mind. If there was no space around us, the world and the universe would not exist. Looking at thoughts from within the mind cannot give us full perspective of the mind. When we visualize other thoughts, we are generally doing so sitting on a ledge of another thought. That thought from which we see other thoughts serves as our “eyes” within the mind. This “mental” eye is also very limited just like the physical eyes. Just as the mind scatters the energy associated with the sense of being onto every thought, each thought further dissipates this energy. From mere fragments of thread, the pattern that the carpet weaver had conceived of can never be known. Similarly from just traces of this energy within the mind, the clearer picture of our true being can never emerge.
Our perspective of the mind will quickly change if we are able to first look at the mind as a whole before engaging with individual thoughts. Imagine a forest where leaves are heaped up in one place, tree trunks in another and branches in yet another place. Such as place would not be able to support the fauna that exists in a forest. Just as a forest is a self-sustaining ecosystem, the mind also is self-sustaining. Forests come about naturally. Nobody has gone about planting seeds and planning its layout. Similarly, the mind grows naturally. We don’t wake up every day planting thoughts and watching them grow. Thoughts grow by forming links with other thoughts. There is a certain beauty to the randomness of a forest. It is so with the mind as well. Just as the beauty of a forest can be appreciated from a distance, the mind may also appear beautiful from a distance. Rather than be a source of misery, it should be a source of amazement. Everyone carries this gift without realizing its potential.
When standing on the surface of the earth, the sun’s light fills the entire sky from horizon to horizon. But imagine being up in space far enough away to see the earth as a giant ball but close enough to also see it as a very bright object in space. There is a black emptiness around the earth. Similarly, from the vantage of the inner eye, the mind does not occupy the entire space in front of it. One must ask oneself what surrounds the mind like a halo just as emptiness of space surrounds each heavenly object? That question can only be answered by direct experience not through books or teachings. During the day, only the sun is seen in the sky and at nighttime, millions of such suns are seen. Just as one sun can hide millions of other suns as in daytime, when oneness with all is realized, all the millions of forms that are seen by the physical eyes disappear in such an individual’s experience. What is truly real cannot disappear. This is so with the experience of oneness that comes when the mind is put aside. If it is just a thought, it will come and go and that experience cannot be called as real.
We have both and form and the formless within us. We don’t need to look very far find proof.  Our inner eye represents the formless, and the physical eyes have a form. Mind is formless and the body has a form. Our consciousness originates in the formless, using its energy we give rise to thoughts which take various forms within the mind. Through the energy of consciousness we are able to see other life forms. Majority of our time is spent with interactions with other forms, be it as thoughts or other living beings. But only through the formless can we experience true happiness. For the mind to grasp happiness it needs a form.

As mentioned earlier, the entire visible universe can fit into the tiny opening in the center of the human eye. This portal opens into the vastness of the mind which in turn can easily fit into the even smaller inner eye. The basis of all that we see inside and outside is energy. Matter and energy are two sides of the same coin. Matter comes from energy. Everything that we do in life, productive or unproductive involves the use of energy. The mind acts as a powerful filter and prevents us from having a “pass through” experience of energy transforming into matter and matter back into energy. Defining and categorizing the immense creation that we see all around is exhausting and potentially endless. By going to the very source, that is the energetic field on which it springs up, one can feel the glue of unity that keeps everything working in perfect order. The interdependence of the material world, hard to see from the perspective of matter can easily be experienced at the the level of energy.

The inner eye is not the source of the energy that turns into matter. It is a medium to experience it. It “sees” energy in a purer state. For example, pure water turns into the color of the earth it mixes with, evaporates when exposed to fire, water drops as in rain scatter when exposed to the wind and water flows and spreads out when there is space to do so. But confined in a bowl it remains undisturbed. One cannot see one’s reflection in damp earth, water vapor or in raindrops. But in a bowl of perfectly still water, every feature of one’s reflection is easily seen. Similarly when energy is transformed into various states, one can infer its presence but it does not readily show its true reality. When all seeing stops through the eyes and the mind, the inner eye may show us a reflection of our true selves. For that, energy must be experienced at the source, well before it hits the mind. It remains as a potential, before it turns into kinetic energy in the mind and dissipates in the form of thoughts. Practising seeing with the inner eye and not the outer eye can show us the way. If the mind cannot be tamed, it must be avoided as one would a rampaging elephant. Only an experienced hand can handle such an elephant. Meditation with awareness can give us the experience to handle the mind. But first, we have to be aware that there is a whole new world unexplored right within ourselves.