To explore God Realization in our culture, first you have to surmount our deeply embedded ideas about “God”. For one, they’ll be the initial do believe/ don’t believe/ don’t know. As if deity has something to do with opinion.
Next there will be the belief set – from hard-line ‘God is dead’ to the fundamentalist believer. Again, no matter how hard we hold a position, belief is not reality. Just another concept. And then there’s the mixed bag of concepts we were raised on, like a grumpy old bearded man on a throne in the sky.
In spite of what you may hear from many a book or pulpit, all of this has little to do with God. It’s a little like suggesting a debate about reality will affect the chair you’re sitting on.
If we can put aside all that stuff for a moment, the next problem is how to describe it in a way that makes any sense to the mind.
In States of Consciousness, I describe a standard model for awakening. Self-Realization or Cosmic Consciousness (CC), followed by God Consciousness (GC) or Realization and then Unity (UC). The realizations I am That, Thou art That, all This is That. I’ve also explored earlier models of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and some similar ones like Genpo Roshi’s.
I’ve mentioned about how God Realization is more prone to occur after Unity in our mind-oriented western culture. This is because GC progresses through refinement of perception and feelings and development of the heart, something western culture does not support as well as some.
But defining GC has other issues with fixed definitions, unlike CC and Unity. For one, it has an overlapping progression. While GC cannot flower until after Self Realization, the process itself often begins long before awakening to Self. And it continues long after Unity dawns.
Also key, both Self Realization and Unity have distinct realizations. Both have various experiences that may arise in the leadup, then there is a distinct shift in being, then further development. For example, CC typically develops with periods of transcendental awareness or samadhi. Increasingly, that inner silence stays with us. This flowers into periods of witnessing, being detached from the body-mind. There is a distinct switch where we become Self. Then there is a progression in depth through peace, freedom, and bliss, maturing into sat chit ananda.
God Realization on the other hand is a continual progression that overlaps both the others. This is due to it’s nature. It develops with refinement of perception so we can experience finer and finer values of existence. Not only perceptual, it is also characterized by refinement of feelings and the awakening heart.
Some obvious steps:
– refined perception, unfolding mechanics of creation and being
– perception of doership, the devata
– seeing all beings in the Self
– perception of the finest relative, the aliveness or flow.
The first steps are the most likely to begin before awakening. We may remember past lives or see auras or begin to have cognitions. Once we’re established in silent being, the evolution accelerates and begins drawing things together.
But it’s important to recognize the maxim with awakening. Experiencing is not being. An experience of an awakening heart is not the same as being the divine flow in the heart. The above are stages towards, not being.
Even the direct experience of God is not GC. While this is certainly a significant experience in anyone’s life, GC is much more than this. Commentators suggest we may experience God in personal (in form, seen unique by each person) and impersonally (as formless Being).
Shankara describes 6 primary forms of God. Thus, we may experience God in many forms before we come to full realization.
Now, this may seem sacrilegious to some, but in essence, God Realization occurs when we Become God. Not an aspect of God or an experience of God but God in wholeness.
Of course, the big caveat here is that we have a human nervous system. No matter how refined and polished, we are only able to reflect some value of that wholeness. We experience being Thou/That/Being, but only to the extent of the capacity of our nervous system.
But that does not minimize the scale of becoming. Awakening the Body can give you some idea of this, where we have first experienced being all beings, then being the cosmic being, then transcending that into absolute being. We’re not talking about abstract ideas here but a directly experienced reality.
In the Bhagavad Gita (4:35) Krisna says “You will see all beings in yourself and also in Me.” In his commentary, Maharishi suggests that seeing all beings in the Self is the start of GC. Once all beings are seen in Self, then Self is seen in God. In it’s completeness, the realization absorbs even the sense of Self and the height of CC.
In Yogananda’s translation, “thou shalt behold the entire creation in thyself, and then in Me.” In discovering ourselves as the cosmic body, we find both all of creation and all beings within. That then dissolves into divinity.
Later, Maharishi speaks of God Realization rising to Godhead, then direct communion with God. This suggests he uses God Realization as a stage into God Consciousness, similar to how the realization of Self matures into full CC.
Because of the intimate nature of this process, we experience becoming God the personal. But if this is after the Unity switch, we know this is none other than God the impersonal (Brahman, Nirikar) as well. The difference is only in relationship to the One. Should Unity occur after GC, the impersonal connection may be made later in the merging of Oneness.
He also mentions every object in creation reflecting the light of God (sight) in terms of ones own Self, similar to the aliveness found right on the surface to the sense of touch.
The last verse of chapter 7 of the Gita, (7:30): “Those who know me together with the physical (adhibhuta), that which is within the celestial realm (adhidaiva), and that which is within the Yagya (adhiyagya), their minds united with the divine, remain conscious of Me even at the time of death.”
As you might imagine, relationships are changed dramatically by this process of refinement of feelings and perception and the awakening heart. Mates become objects to flow love to, for example. We no longer seek something from them but rather seek to give to and share.
At a certain point, the whole idea of “States” breaks down. The cosmic body illustrates this well. We could call this the upper reaches of CC, when we become physically cosmic, prior to dissolving into divinity. We could call this a key step in God realization as the Gita describes above. And we can also describe it as a stage in the development of Unity.
In other words, the states are not separate things but rather aspects of an over-arching unfoldment of awareness to its own nature.
As I mention above, this process does not end. Even the most highly evolved souls I’ve met over lifetimes speak of a continual development of feeling, perception, and unity. The scale is hard to comprehend, the changes beyond the minds experience to grasp.
But this is our birthright, the home we are all stepping towards. However wiggly our paths sometimes seem to be. 😉