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Volume IV - Mental Purification and Healing

Part III: Mental Purification

Chapter XVI

It is very difficult to point out exactly what condition it is that may be called sleep. For when one thinks about this question one finds that one is always asleep and always wakeful. The difference is that of the particular sphere which man is conscious of when he is awake; in one sphere he thinks, ' I am awake', and when that sphere is not before his consciousness he thinks, ' I am asleep'. In reality sleep and the wakeful state are nothing but the turning of the consciousness from one side to the other, from one sphere or plane to another; and therefore according to the mystical idea man is never asleep. Although the soul is much higher than the physical body, it is the character and nature of the soul which the physical body expresses.

When a man is looking at one side he is unconscious of the other. This shows that the faculty of seeing and being conscious of what one sees can only engage itself fully with one thing at a time. A conception of musical sound which has been held for a long time in the East, and which today is recognized by scientists in the west, is that man's ear can only hear fully one sound at a time, not two or three. This indicates that each sense is capable of looking at one side only; the other is absent from the consciousness; and in order to see a particular side one has to turn one's face to it. In other words, one has to expose one's faculty of seeing to that side.

This is not only the nature of the body but also the nature of the mind; the mind cannot think of two things at the same time. Also, when the mind is at work and fully absorbed in a certain thought, a certain imagination, the outer senses may be open, but they are not fully at work. When a poet is thinking of a verse, the verse is before his mind. His eyes are open, but he does not see; and if it happens that he sees anything when he is thinking, then it is just like a moving picture. So many different pictures coming one after the other that they seem to be continuous. When the mind stops the eyes work, and when the eyes work the mind stops; and in the end it seems to make one picture, but in reality it is a separate action of the mind and of the senses. It is also true that the wakeful state of every individual is different and peculiar to himself, just as the sleep of every individual is different and peculiar to himself. One person will be what is called fast asleep, that is to say in deep sleep. Another will be half-asleep. Another knows what is going on around him, and yet he is asleep. This shows that the extent of sleep is different in every experience, and no one can classify this extent of sleep.

The wakeful state also differs in every individual. Many people may be sitting in a room, but one is more conscious of what is going on in that room than another. Five people may be hearing music, and each will apply his consciousness differently to what he hears. Each will enjoy and receive the effect of the music differently, and this shows that the body and the mind are vehicles or instruments through which the soul experiences life, the soul being that part of our being which is capable of being conscious by means of mind and body. Therefore to the mystic it is that part of one's being which witnesses life through vehicles such as the mind and body which is the real being, and he calls it himself or his soul. In Sufi terms it is called Ruh, and in the Sanskrit or Vedantic terminology it is called Atman, the real being of man. By experience of life, with the help of the mind and body, this Atman or soul becomes deluded. The delusion is that it loses consciousness of its pure self, as it is natural that when a person is poorly dressed he thinks he is poor; he never thinks it is only his dress that is poor. When he is moving in a beautiful palace he is a big man. He does not think it is the palace, which is big, rather than himself.

This shows it is not what a man is, but what he believes he is, that he is related to. The soul is never ill, but when it is conscious of the illness of the body the man says, 'I am ill.' And the reason is that he cannot point out to his own consciousness his own true being; as the eyes cannot see themselves though they are able to see the whole world, so the soul cannot see itself except when it is conscious of all that is reflected in it. The soul is neither poor nor rich; it is neither sorrowful nor joyous. These are reflections which fall upon it. And as it cannot realize itself, it considers itself to be that which is reflected in it and therefore man lives his life in his consciousness. He is at every moment that which he is conscious of; in cheerful surroundings he is pleased; in miserable surroundings he is sad. No sorrow or joy can make an everlasting impression on the soul, for the nature of the soul is like a mirror, and while all that stands before the mirror is reflected in it, nothing can stay there. When the person who stood before the mirror is removed, then the mirror is as clear as ever; and so it is with the soul.

For the sake of convenience the mystics have divided the experiences of the consciousness into five different phases. The particular phase the consciousness is most familiar with is the wakeful state in which the soul experiences through mind and body. This state in Sufi terms is called Nasut, and in Vedantic terms it is called Jagrat. As the soul only considers what it experiences through the senses with the help of the mind, the reason that many are not yet ready to believe in the soul or in the hereafter or in God is that the soul is acquainted with one sphere only. That is the sphere, which it experiences with the help of the body and mind.

An intellectual person also develops consciousness of another sphere, which is called Malakut in Sufi terminology and Swapna in terms of the Vedanta. This state is experienced in two ways. When a person is absorbed in thought and is not aware of his surroundings, all he knows at that moment is the thought or imagination in which he is absorbed. This state is not dependent upon the body for its joy or its experiences of sorrow.

A person who can experience joy and sorrow by raising his consciousness to that plane can make his heaven in himself. The great poets, thinkers, writers, who have lived through difficulties, through poverty, through circumstances in which people did not understand them, opposed them, and even despised them, have lived a most happy life for the reason that they have been able to raise themselves to that plane where they could enjoy all the beauty, comfort, and joy that the ordinary man can only enjoy if it is given to him on the physical plane. And when the key of this plane comes into the hands of a man, then he is the master of his future life.

When a man's consciousness reflects heaven, that man is in heaven; and when a man is conscious of torture, pain, and suffering, he is in the place of suffering. Man makes his heaven or his hell for himself. How many in this world you will find who keep their illness by thinking about it all the time, by being conscious of it. One sees many who might become well after having suffered pain for some years were it not for the consciousness of the pain being held by them, not as something new but as something which has always been there.

Nothing belongs to a man unless he is willing to hold it. But when he becomes accustomed to holding a certain reflection without knowing the nature of it, in time that reflection becomes his master and he becomes a slave of that reflection. And so it is with the worries and anxieties and sorrows which people have on their minds. Many say, 'I cannot forget', because they imagine it. It does not mean that that person cannot forget, but that he is holding on to something which he does not wish to throw away. If a man would only realize that it is not that someone else is holding something before him; it is he himself who holds it. Some memory, something disagreeable, something sorrowful, some severe pain, anxiety, worry, all these things a man holds in his own hands and they are reflected in his consciousness. His soul by nature is above all this. It is an illusion whose place is beneath the soul, not above, unless a man, with his own hands, raises it and looks at it.

When one considers the psychology of failure and success, failure follows failure. And why is it? Because the consciousness reflecting success is full of success, and the activity which goes out from that consciousness is creating productive activity; so if the consciousness has success before its view, then the same reflection will work and bring success. Whereas if the consciousness is impressed with failure, then failure will work constantly, bringing failure after failure.

Very often pessimistic people speak against their own desire. They want to undertake some work, and they say, 'I will do this, but I don't think I shall succeed in it.' Thus they hinder themselves in their path. Man does not know that every thought makes an impression on the consciousness and on the rhythm with which the consciousness is working. According to that rhythm that reflection will come true and happen; and a man proves to be his own enemy by his ignorance of these things. The mistake of one moment's impulse creates a kind of hindrance in the path of that person all through his life.

This state of consciousness is also experienced in the dream; for the dream is the reaction of man's experiences in his wakeful state. The most wonderful thing which man can study in the dream is that the dream has a language, and a true knowledge of dream experiences teaches one that every individual has a separate language of his dream peculiar to his own nature. The dream of the poet, the dream of the man who works with his hands, the dream of the king, the dream of the poor man, they all are different. There are many differences and one cannot give the same interpretation of his dream to every person; one must first know who has dreamed it. It is not the dream which can be interpreted by itself. It is the person to whom the dream came that one must know; and the interpretation is according to his state of evolution, to his occupation, to his ambitions and desires, to his present, his past, and his future, and to his spiritual aspirations.

Thus the language of dreams differs; but there is one hint which may be given, and that is that in the wakeful state man is open to outward impressions. For instance, there are moments when the mind is receptive, and there are moments when the mind is expressive. And during the moments when the mind is receptive, every impression from any person is reflected in the consciousness. Very often one finds oneself depressed and cannot find a reason, and then one finds oneself full of mirth and again cannot find the reason. As soon as a person has a certain feeling he at once looks for a reason, and reason is ready to answer him, rightly or wrongly. As soon as a person thinks, 'What makes me laugh?' there is something which his reason offers as the reason why he laughed. In reality that impression came from someone else. But he thinks the reason is something different. So very often in the dream it happens that the reasoning faculty answers the demands of the inquiring mind, and frames and shapes the thoughts and imaginations which are going on so freely when the will power is not controlling the mind in sleep. The mind behaves at that time just like an actor on the stage: free, without control of the will. When that happens there may be a moment when the mind is in a receptive condition, when it receives an impression from other persons, from those who are friends or from those who are enemies, from anyone who may think of the dreamer or with whom he is connected in any way.

Those who are spiritually inclined or who are connected with souls who have passed away also feel the impressions reflected upon their souls, sometimes as guiding influences, sometimes as warnings, sometimes as instructions. They also experience what are known as initiations, and sometimes have deluding, confusing, experiences; but all takes place on that particular plane where the consciousness is experiencing life independently of the physical body and of the senses.

The third experience which the consciousness has is called in Sufi terms Jabarut. In Sanskrit or Vedantic terms it is called Sushupti. In this state, the consciousness is not very well connected with the world. It does not bring its experiences to the world except for a feeling of joy, of renewed strength or health; and all one can say after this experience is, 'I have had a very good sleep, and feel much better for it.' In point of fact, the cause is that the consciousness was freed from pain and worry and any activity or limitation of life. Even prisoners can enjoy the blessing of this state when they are fast asleep; they do not know whether they are in a palace or in a prison. They reach the experiences of that plane which is better than a palace.

Man does not realize the value of this state until the time comes when for some reason or other he is unable to receive this blessing. He cannot sleep; then he begins to think there is nothing he would not give to be able to sleep soundly. This shows that it is not only sleep he needs, but also a blessing behind it. It is something which the soul has touched which is much higher and deeper, for this experience is greater than one can imagine. In this experience the consciousness touches a sphere from whence it cannot get an impression of any name or form. The impression it gets is a feeling, a feeling of illumination, of life, of joy. What message does it give? It gives a message of God, which comes directly to every soul. And what is this message? God says to the soul, 'I am with you, I am your own being, and I am above all limitations, and I am life, and you are more safe, more living, more happy and more peaceful in this knowledge than in anything else in the world.'

Besides these three experiences there comes a fourth experience to those who search after it. Why does it not come to everybody? It is not that it does not come to everybody, but everybody cannot catch it. It comes and slips away from a person, and he does not know when it came and when it went. In the life of every man there is a moment during the wakeful state, a moment when he rises above all limitations of life, but so swiftly does it come and go, in the twinkling of an eye, that he cannot catch it, that he does not realize it.

It is just like a bird, which came and flew away, and you only heard the flutter of its wings. But those who wish to catch this bird, who wish to see where this bird goes, and when it comes and when it goes, look out for it and sit waiting and watching for the moment when it comes; and that watching is called meditation. Meditation does not mean closing the eyes and sitting; anyone can close his eyes and sit, but he may sit for hours, or he may sit all his life, and still not know what came and what went. It is looking out for what comes, and not only looking out for it, but preparing oneself by making one's senses keen, by making one's body and mind a receptacle for the vibrations, so that when the bird makes a vibration one feels that it has come.

It is this which is expressed in the Christian symbolism of the dove. In other words it is the moment, which approaches one's consciousness rapidly, of such bliss that one so to speak touches the depths of the whole of life and reaches above the sphere of action, even above the sphere of feeling. 'But,' one will say, 'what does one's consciousness receive from it?' It receives a kind of illumination which is like a torch lighting another light; this inner life, touching the consciousness, produces a sort of illumination which makes man's life clear. Every moment after this experience is unveiled because of this moment. It charges man's life with new life and new light. That is why in the East Yogis sit in Samadhi, in a certain posture for so many hours, or go into the forest and sit in the solitude; and they have always done so in order to catch this light which is symbolized by a dove.

There is one step even higher than this, which in the terms of the Sufis is Hahut, or Samadhi in Vedantic terms, the fifth sphere which consciousness experiences. In this the consciousness touches the innermost depth of its own being; it is like touching the feet of God. That is the communion which is spoken of in the Christian symbolism. It is just like touching the Presence of God, when one's consciousness has become so light and so liberated and free that it can raise itself and dive and touch the depths of one's being.

This is the secret of all mysticism and religion and philosophy. The process of this experience is like the process of alchemy, which is not given freely except to those who are ready and who feel there is some truth in it. It takes time for a person to become familiar with things of this nature or even to think there is some truth in them and that it is not only talk and imagination. Even one who has felt the truth of the mystical state may question if it is worthwhile to go on with this quest. But if he does so he must accept the guidance of someone who has knowledge of this matter, in whom he can put his trust and confidence. But it must be understood that the path of discipleship, the path of initiation, is not such that the teacher gives some knowledge to his pupil, tells him something new which he has not heard before, or shows him some miracle; if he does he is not a true teacher. Man is really his own teacher; in himself is the secret of his being. The teacher's word is only to help him to find himself. Nothing that can be learned from books, nothing that can be explained in language, nothing that can be pointed out with a finger, is truth. If a man is sure of himself he can go further, but when he is confused in himself he cannot go further, and no teacher can help him. Therefore, although in this path the teacher is necessary and his help is valuable, self-help is the principal thing; and the one who is ready to realize his own nature and to learn from himself, is he who is the true initiate. And it is from that initiation that he will go forward, step by step, finding the realization and conviction that he seeks; and all that comes to him throughout his life will but deepen that realization of truth.

checked 24-Jan-2005