Over the years, I’ve heard many descriptions of where in the body the soul resides. By soul, I mean the spark of our being.
Some talk about it as kundalini, coiled in the root chakra and rising with the awakening process. Some as the light in the heart, although that is more the celestial than personal. (I’ve described it there myself) Some refer to the crown chakra. And some the “high heart” at the top of the chest. Recently someone said it’s in the upper belly chakra.
To some extent, this is thinking in linear, physical terms. But the soul is not physical; it’s not limited this way. It’s working on the level of chakras and the chakras are not personal. All beings in this universe share the same 7 chakras. From that we express the myriad of forms of beings, many who live in ways beyond our conception.
The soul is what might be called a cosmic “idea form”, divine thought-form, or spark of life. It descends through the thread that comes in the top of our head and enters all of the chakras so they express locally as this person.
It may be more strongly or openly expressed in this place or that, leading to the above impression about where it resides. But the real answer is “all of the above“. It is present to all of our being.
Note that this is distinct from experiences some have described of energy leaving the body in this or that way at death. The soul withdraws from the form, gathers itself back up. The Yog Vasishtha suggests it gathers in the heart first (dropping the physical form and lower mind). What happens next depends on the person. Energy may release in other ways, as does the prana, the breath. The soul then migrates to a new role for what is needed next, usually after a transition period.
This is the journey of life. From one point of awareness where awareness is aware of itself at every point, we could say a spark expresses into form. That point of awareness can then come to know itself completely, through all the ways of experience. This continues until it comes to know itself fully – both locally and globally. The scale of this adventure is astonishing.
We may sometimes get lost in the details but eventually the bigger picture emerges – and it is who we are.
In the Gunas in Awakening, I talked about how inertia is transformed into clarity with fire, tamas into sattva via rajas.
In this article, I’m going to talk more about karma. Karma means action, movement, or energy. When we act in tune with our environment or nature, we are always moving to balance and the energy completes and resolves. We are in dharma, we are keeping the gunas in balance.
However, when we act out of tune or get into resistance to what is unfolding – a common habit for many people – we create a boundary, a point of friction. This is also called a Vasana or impression. It holds things a little out of balance and restricts the free flow of life. It also creates a “seed” for future action because it contains the impetus or desire for it’s own resolution. Kinetic energy becomes potential energy.
Notice the words like action, energy and desire – words to describe Rajas guna. (rajoguna) Resistance or friction also points to rajas but contains that undercurrent of inertia – tamas guna (tamoguna). Rajas is being held rather than moving. Rajas needs to be shifted to movement so it can release and convert inertia and dissolve karma.
It’s useful to note that boundaries themselves are not a problem. It’s useful to have “edges” so there is a form to experience through and forms to experience. The issue here is when the attention is attached or identified with the forms rather than flowing. The observer is bound to the observed rather than playing its role.
In traditional teaching, karma is said to be of three types: There is the “unsprouted” seeds; the past resistance that remains held but is not currently playing out. This is typically described as mountains of backlog, the seeds of future lifetimes. There is also the seeds that are “sprouted” or acting out in our life now, the energy that drove our current form and life into being through the impulse of desire, seeking a way to resolve. And there is the resistance we are currently adding to the pile, the new identifications we’re adding to the backlog.
These are called Sanchitha, Prarabdha, and Agami karmas.
When we finish our sprouted Prarabdha karma, this life ends. Then a new portion drives us into the next incarnation. Some traditions describe a meeting to discuss what you’ll take on in this life before it begins.
Many peoples lives are full of boundaries and limitations, barriers to the easy flow of energy and blind spots. In fact, many consume the lions share of their energy just supporting their internal resistance. We don’t even realize it because we’re so used to it. But we may feel it’s weight and draining qualities.
The advantage of the spiritual awakening process is multi-fold. For one, touching pure being or the source in Samadhi is said to burn the backlog of seeds of karma. Thus you want a proper technique that brings you samadhi. Secondly, we become increasingly in tune with what is and resistance falls away. Thus we cease creating new resistance that leads to new karma. This leaves only the sprouted tendencies active in our life.
Of course, behaving in a more conscious way helps us to better choose. At first, we’ll realize after the fact that we’ve done it again. Then, we’ll catch the impulse in the act, while it is unfolding. Finally, we begin to see the impulse as it arises and can begin to resolve the energy on the level of energy itself. We no longer have to live it all out to resolve it. This will happen at various rates in different parts of your life, depending on how much you “carry” there.
By this process of melting resistance (tamas), we step off the “Wheel of karma” that has driven us back over and over. We no longer have to act it all out in an effort to come to balance.
In several of the worlds philosophies, the universe exists in grand arcs of time. The Great Year, the Ages of Greece, the Yugas of India, the astrological Ages… astronomically marked cycles of light and dark ages like seasons within a larger cycle of creation, destruction and recreation. In the traditional Indian conception of time, this cycle of the life of the universe is on the fifth tier of cycles. In other words, there are 4 cycles of time that are each progressively larger (by about 1000x) than the life-cycle of the universe.
It has been my experience that there are multiple universes in our creation with various lifespans. From the outside, a universe has the look of a golden egg, hiranya garbha. Like pearls on a necklace of Brahma. Each universe has its own distinct set of laws of nature and beings. And each hangs within a slightly oval bubble of self-referral awareness, though it is experienced as an infinite space from within. The space of our universe is nested in the space of its container, which is nested in the space of creation. The space of creation arises from the self-referral awareness of Atman, the cosmic Self. This is part of what begins to be realized in the process of enlightenment.
Note that we may not be able to recognize the form of the universe from the inside, just as the form of the container is not apparent from inside it. Similarly, Atman is typically experienced as infinite and eternal until we discover it’s “edge” in the transition to Brahman.
It’s been fascinating to see science gradually coming to the same discoveries. “Last month, Roger Penrose at the University of Oxford and Vahe Gurzadyan at Yerevan State University in Armenia announced that they had found patterns of concentric circles in the cosmic microwave background, the echo of the Big Bang.
This, they say, is exactly what you’d expect if the universe were eternally cyclical. By that, they mean that each cycle ends with a big bang [not necessarily] that starts the next cycle. In this model, the universe is a kind of cosmic Russian doll, with all previous universes contained within the current one. [sort of]
That’s an extraordinary discovery: evidence of something that occurred before the (conventional) Big Bang.
Today, another group says they’ve found something else in the echo of the Big Bang. These guys start with a different model of the universe called eternal inflation. In this way of thinking, the universe we see is merely a bubble in a much larger cosmos. This cosmos is filled with other bubbles, all of which are other universes where the laws of physics may be dramatically different from ours.”
Not bad. How about both? The article goes on to mention they suggest that the universes have jostled each other (nope – they’re applying physical rules to non-physical space) and that this is proof of other universes.
Note that current images of the universe and galactic clusters show a broad oval – but this is defined by the current limits of our measuring devices (perception), not by the actual shape of space-time. I’ve also seen some describe space-time more like a flat plane but because it does gradually curve, it eventually curves back on itself. In fact, curving back on itself is in the fundamental basis of its existence, as noted in “Self-referral awareness” above.
“the Planck spacecraft that is currently peering into the cosmic microwave background with more resolution and greater sensitivity than ever. Cosmologists should have a decent data set to play with in a couple of years or so.” It will be interesting to see what they make of it.
Last month, I posted a talk that Igor Kufayev gave on subjects related to Brahman and Tantra. I find his clarifications a useful perspective. During that same visit to CA in November last year, he also gave a talk at Rudramandir Centre in Berkeley. In this case, the talk is more focused on kundalini and Shakti. The second half is Q&A
Igor addresses some key points where confusions can arise in current thinking. I’ll add that we don’t need to have the idea that the process is difficult or there will be problems, but it’s good to be aware of what may arise so we can deal with it smoothly. As Igor notes at the beginning, we don’t want superficial ideas but rather we want to engage in the real journey and face what arises.
The talk is posted in 6 parts:
1 – Intro, Kundalini
2 – Dynamics of Awakening
3 – Mind, Beings of light
4 – Biological perspective
5 – Pain
6 – Breathing
Here are some paraphrased notes on points he raised.
An idea we can “outsmart consciousness” without any integrative work.
“kundalini” exiled as dirty word
Ramana: kundalini is nothing other than the Self.
kundalini will rise naturally, is unavoidable
only one way to God – our connection to God – it’s never lost.
Custodians preserved knowledge but may have hidden it or it was lost and the teaching became calcified.
Gita – the Self realizes itself, within itself, for itself.
Can perceive the whole creation, down to its very fibre – how it creates, vibrates, time & space. Meaning of the term Rishi (one who perceives with the inner ear) Sees reality as it is, even before form.
Tantra explicitly speaks of the messy process of transformation
It is Shakti which expands to itself
Need to include the physiology, embrace our divine form – the portal or gate through which we enter. It is the sacrifice itself.
Body not an accident to be disregarded but is to be cared for.
Tantra and Advaita [non-duality] are sister sciences.
ego expands, not dies [I'll note there may be an experience of "ego death" but what actually dies is the identification. The ego is later noticed to still be there but is now an aspect, like a finger, not who I am]
Aham – supreme principle of I(ness), I am. [see mahavakyas]
Ahamkara – Individuation > myriad of forms and phenomena
Asmita – egoic sense, mine
Confusion of this creates psychological problems for seeker, ego blamed
Needs healthy ego for spiritual development or is dangerous
Know who you are in the relative first, then absolute.
No one there to enjoy enlightenment?
Vedanta speaks of relationship of Brahman and Leisha Avidya – part of the design of enlightenment. Duality does not dissolve in Brahman completely – or we cannot function in a body.
From fullness fullness arises, from fullness it is sustained and into fullness it is reabsorbed – always full. Never empty. 100% absolute, 100% relative, hence this divine vehicle, body.
Consciousness enjoying itself here and now.
Wrong emphasis creates subtle contractions within
Mind will never stop, not free of mind. Faster, more positive mind.
What stops is the chatter. [and identification]
Beings of light, left traces in the subtle
Awakening is grace, but not always.
In the transformation, in the midst of that process, reality is shattered
need support or may not culminate where it should
The wholeness sacrificed itself so multiplicity can be experienced
sacrificing before they become pillars, new power awakening in the world
Parashakti, Chit shakti and kundalini shakti [detailed in his prior series]
Chit – consciousness
Kundalini collapsed onto itself so human can exist.
Part 4 (Q&A begins)
Body has its own process which can take us out of clarity
Rewiring needs profound unplugging – happens in prolonged samadhi
kundalini spontaneously opens dormant areas
Qualitatively different hormones produced, over time changes body and vibration
Takes 3-12 years for Self Realization to be embodied
Tantra embraces everything, not fight emotions
Kashmir Shaivism is householder – cannot renounce the world
Embrace the contraction, that is Spanda, you’ll see the qualitative difference
Pain is welcome when there is humility, recognized as part of the process
But when it happens unexpectedly…
Idea we can do it ourselves not good
Fire needs oil or burns the house down
Ojas, tejas and prana:
Prana is the subtle essence of air
Tejas of fire
Ojas of earth and water (oil)
By-products of spiritual refinement
Need both oil and air for fire, needs to be in balance
Kriya – releases, being freed
Spontaneous pranayamas, allow more deeply
Western pathologizes kundalini.
Firstly, it’s useful to note what the gunas are. In Indian philosophy, all of the created world is said to arise from the interplay of 3 primary “forces” or qualities of Prakriti, nature. Elementally, these are creation, maintenance, and destruction. One of these three qualities tends to dominate everything we experience but nature as a whole seeks continual balance between them. Without that balancing force, known as dharma, the universe would cease – as it sometimes does.
The three forces of creation, maintenance, and destruction express as the three gunas of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. They exist only together. These can be perceived directly in a number of ways, such as by subtle colour or feel, for example. In practice, we see them as bringing various qualities to our experience. Sattva as light, balance, equilibrium, purity, clarity. Rajas as energy, desire, motion, fire. Tamas as inertia, stability, stupor, or dullness. Notice how for stability, we also need balance yet for continuance, we also need energy. It is a continual interplay.
Each of tends to have a dominant internal guna due to habits of thinking, feeling and lifestyle. Not to mention the simple momentum of our long past. The guna feeds the habits which feed the guna, self-reinforcing. I’ve written several articles about how our experience of the world is influenced by our dominant guna.
For example, most people have Tamas dominant. The world from a Tamas perspective behaves like a covering over it’s source. The physical world seems real and the subjective or inner world unreal. The world is heavy, solid, dark, and inflexible – a hard taskmaster otherwise known as tamas.
When Rajas becomes dominant, it has the effect of “burning” or purifying tamas. In this stage, the world is seen as an illusion, like our life is in a movie. This is a common symptom of good spiritual progress.
When Sattva becomes dominant, the illusion is recognized as ‘created by’ and is now seen as Lila, the divine play. Subtle beings (deeper than astral) and the divine are apparent to us.
This leads us to the subject of the article. In a recent conversation with Igor Kufayev, he brought up how our experience of Awakening itself is also influenced by the dominant guna. Because sattva brings clarity, it’s easier to awaken when sattva is more prominent. But awakening is not something done by the person or their form. It happens from a much deeper trans-personal level. So when it does happen, it happens through whatever is here. Another good reason to prepare the vessel.
As Igor put it: “In fact, every awakening is subjected to the overall energetic condition of an individual soul in its current embodiment.”
A person having more sattva dominant will experience the process more directly, will recognize the process is being guided by grace, and will recognize some of the sages and devas (light beings) that are supporting them on their spiritual journey. This platform is much more likely to lead to a smoother process.
Such people will also have the bliss arise, a much fuller experience, and have a clear God Consciousness stage.
When Rajas is more dominant, there can tend to be more fire and excess colouring the process. Ideally, this occurs as heat to burn off the old Tamas and release more energy for transformation. More of this is necessary to embody the awakening more fully. As Igor notes, it can also bring the courage to boldly step through this transformation.
But it may also amplify desires, create excess thinking rather than a settled mind, and cause heat imbalances. (Ayurveda can help there) Self-importance can be inflated plus a premature desire to guide others.
Just as world-as-illusion is a pretty common meme in modern awakening circles, so too is the above issue of premature teaching. Rajas also tends to lead to drier forms of awakening with less refinement. Further, until the way is more clear, there can be a delay in the bliss coming on.
As Igor observes: “When Tamasic quality dominates the awakening, the process is driven by inertia, could lead to orthodox forms of worship and often [is] accompanied by intolerance, even religious fanaticism.” The literature refers to this as a “demonic” type and has a few examples in the epic stories. This can require some real support to shift the process and transform the awakening with the “fire of knowledge” and the gradual shift to sattva.
“Needless to say, all of us are minute combinations of all three gunas and the process of self-realization is unique to each soul and each combination.” Igor observed. We’ll all have some tamas to burn and rajas to settle.
What this points to is the true value of techniques. Not in awakening itself but in preparing the vessel so our experience of life is optimized and our awakening is as smooth and clear as possible. Note that this also means we don’t have to be perfect and pure to awaken. Not even slightly. But it can certainly help if we’re moving towards that. Meditation, good lifestyle, and the company of the wise can really help with a quality awakening into the fullness of who we are.
“While transcendent wisdom is realized by dropping one’s attachment to body and mind, redemptive love is an infinite embrace of the entire human condition.” “It comes as a gift and as a grace bestowed upon us when we begin to open our heart in an honest and intimate way to the hidden love flowing through all of creation.”
“Awakening to the potential of redemptive love has the power to change our entire relationship to life. It opens up a perspective where we realize that each one of us is an expression of love that has the power to redeem, or liberate, all that is broken and in conflict. And redemptive love is the means through which we embody and express the transcendent wisdom of spiritual awakening.”
– Adyashanti, speaking to a new course offering on the title subject.
This is a deeper surrender to what is than simple awakening. This is the profound healing and heart awakening that unfolds a much fuller value of life. This is the essence of unfolding God Consciousness.
As we’re in the energy age, it should be no surprise that there is a major rise in the presence of energy healing. You’ll now find energy medicine, energy psychology, and energy spirituality. Even a bit of it in formal medical settings. Energy is the flow that gives rise to the forms of our experience. Thus, being able to heal energetically can correct causal issues that effect both quality of life and spiritual progress.
What that arena has tended to be missing is energetic literacy. That is, good energy reading skills. For example, it’s not uncommon for energy healers to be taught to feel a patients energy for resistance, then flow energy into that area. And while that can indeed bring some relief, does it heal the source of the resistance? Or will that resistance simply amp up again? What if the healer could read your energy like a book? What if they could see the actual source and heal it specifically? The difference is significant.
I’ve thus been suggesting lately to start with energetic literacy, then add energy healing. However, I now realize that’s flawed – at least for some people. Empaths.
If you’re an empath, the first thing you need is empathic skills so you can manage your gifts effectively. Otherwise, you pick up other people’s junk all the time. Especially if you’re directly reading their troubles. Help yourself before you try helping others.
“If you are wired as an empath, you have been serving humanity as a healer for your whole life.” – Rose Rosetree The question is – have you been doing that effectively or at cost to yourself?
About 1 in 20 people (5%) are born an empath, although it varies which gift(s) they have. Rose mentions the skill can be seen in the womb (with energetic literacy). All empaths are Highly Sensitive People (HSP) but only about 1 in 4 HSP’s are empaths.
What is an empath? “An empath has at least one lifelong gift for directly experiencing what it is like to be someone else.” It’s split-second, spontaneous “reads” of those around us and/or the environment. And it may even be a vivid rush we’re attracted to. But unskilled, we pick up their fear, anxiety, and pain in the process.
This is not subtle senses, though it may be accompanied by them. It’s also quite distinct from psychic or other 6th sense intuitive gifts. And it’s unrelated to mental disorders. But it is related to Oneness and what I’ve called the 7th sense.
Funny thing though – you may not even realize you’re an empath. It’s something you’re born with and thus, like our relationship with food, we develop early habits around it that soon become largely sub-conscious. But just because we’ve learned to ignore the signals consciously does not even slightly mean that we’re not walking around connecting with other people’s energy and junk, all the time.
And thus we have the curse of the unskilled empath rather than the gift of the skilled one. We wonder why we have so much baggage to process all the time, not realizing it’s not even ours. We’re walking around with our antennas out, picking up all the static. Rose has a little quiz to get a sense of it for yourself.
While I don’t often use myself as an example on this blog because my process has been somewhat non-standard, in this case I’m apparently pretty typical.
At a health conference some years ago, I heard a talk by Judith Orloff. I found it quite insightful and a short quiz she gave made it clear I was an empath. This was quite outside my self-conception. In fact, if anything I considered myself the opposite. (laughs) However, Judith only talked about it from her own experience as an emotional empath and described it in ways I didn’t relate to. She also popularized ideas like “energy vampires” that are a little misleading. So there it sat. Interesting but no real application.
As the sub-title suggests, for 30 days you spend a very few minutes each day doing a series of very easy exercises to become familiar with your gifts and learn to turn them off. Off means you’re not walking around collecting others junk. If you wonder about the title, it comes from the fact that most empaths have the habit of diminishing themselves. Either to support others or as an unskilled way to avoid energy connections. It doesn’t work. And you may have come to see that habit as a personal defect with a different cause. Empaths also tend to live in the upper chakras and thus easily turn “invisible” (little grounded presence). Grounding is a much more effective adjustment.
In the book, Rose quickly gets to a simple quiz that gets more specific than the above. It outlines the following types. You may have one or several: Emotional Oneness, Emotional Intuition, Physical Oneness, Physical Intuition, Animal Empath, Environmental Empath, Crystal Empath, Plant Empath, Mechanical Empath, Intellectual Empath, Spiritual Intuition, and Spiritual Oneness. A blog article also mentions being a Molecular Empath.
Gifts like crystal and plant empath may be more obvious because we’ll be less inclined to repress them compared to say, a physical empath, where we feel others aches and pains. But like any other skill, if it’s not been developed we may not recognize it or that our experience is different from most others. This can thus be a self-conception buster.
She describes the book as life-changing. For an empath, that’s an understatement. At a number of points in the book, I had one of those combination light-bulb and doh! moments where life experiences were seen in a completely different light. Not to mention discovering that old defects or burdens were actually gifts (once skilled).
And Rose clearly comes with years of experience teaching this. At a number of places in the book, she anticipates your response and has the answer. Only once did she get that wrong – I had actually discovered one adaptation she mentioned. But I’d been seeing it as a defect too. (laughs)
I’ve been a little astonished. I consider myself decently self-perceptive so it was rather a surprise to see how oblivious I’d been about this. But again, we typically learn to suppress this stuff early on. When it’s both innate and sub-conscious, we may not realize it’s not the experience of most people. But to notice I was actually sub-consciously “reading” people and things constantly was a revelation. Learning to turn that off is unexpectedly easy, but it does take a bit of practice to change the habits.
She also teaches how to easily dial the sensitivity down. I was surprised to discover this was completely unfamiliar. What – me normal? (laughs) This is not about creating “boundaries” or developing social skills as we may have been directed in the past.
Putting this in the larger context of this site, it’s useful to make the distinction between spiritual development and empathic gifts. During the Unity Consciousness stage of development, we become what we experience. Everything is being merged into Oneness, so there can be various experiences of being a plant or animal, for example. But this is your focus of consciousness experiencing through that form. It is a shift within consciousness.
In an empath merge, it is an energetic level merge and read. We could call it a form of energetic oneness rather than of consciousness itself.
Spiritual development can enhance our existing gifts and may bring new ones on-line. But our skills are quite distinct from enlightenment itself. They function on different levels. Becoming enlightened will not give you automatic knowledge of how to fix a carburetor or pole-vault. Nor will it bring you skills with your existing gifts. These all have to be developed. This is why I’ve been talking about these subjects.
The most fun with developing a skill? When we begin to get good at it, they become much more powerful and effective. Same with empath gifts. We can consciously turn them on, do a constructive read, then turn them off again and go on with our lives, unburdened and self-contained.
And if you worry about what will happen to those around us if we stop “helping” them – Rose gives instructions for that too. No more energy co-dependence needed.
There’s a process I’ve noticed with some people recently that bears noting. That is of a rediscovery of God in Brahman. To explain this, lets roll back a bit.
As has been noted by teachers such as Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, in order to realize God, we first have to realize the Self. By realize here, I don’t mean experience, I mean become. To discover ‘Aham Brahmasmi’, ‘I am That’ and have always been. This also supplants the egoic sense of “me” with a cosmic sense of being, hence it’s also called Cosmic Consciousness.
I’m also not talking about theism or atheism here. This is not about belief or the mind. It is in the very ground of our being.
While we may or may not have experiences of (or belief in) God prior to Self Realization or Cosmic Consciousness, it is after this that more rapid refinement of perception takes place. Finer perception along with the unmoving platform of pure Being allows the unfolding experience of the divine. If this has not been in our range of expectations, it may take some time to adjust to it.
When this flowers, it is known as God Consciousness. “He who sees Me everywhere, and sees everything in Me, I am not lost to him not is he lost to Me.” *v6:30. In the commentary one “moves on earth and lives in the land of God….they share their life with God“. The stage is appropriately named.
And yet another note – this is not yet being widely expressed in the west. Likely due to the more mind-oriented culture, some value is showing but certainly a full flowering is more rare. Many go from Self Realization to Unity with little refinement these days. Hence the rather dry expositions of illusion and emptiness.
Once inner and outer are merged in Unity Consciousness, there is a further progression of becoming what we experience until we recognize ourselves as the container of all creation. This sets the stage for what is known as God Realization, when we recognize ourselves as the divine.
Note here that we’re not talking about some person thinking they’re God. The sense of me winds down with Self Realization a couple of stages back and is further dissolved over time. This is a recognition that we always have been an aspect of God. That there is nothing but the Divine itself.
This first God Realization comes with a choice. We may take the Personal or devotees route or the Impersonal. In either case, the choice is deeply personal.
In the personal, we retain a small gap or separation to keep the flow of love and devotion to God. The personal relationship is sustained with a Leisha Avidya, a faint remains of ignorance. This is likened to having a light film of butter on the hands.
“The Lord embraces the devotee and makes him one with Himself, and the devotee holds fast to the Lord in worship. This is the state of oneness where each upholds the other. This is the duality and the Unity in the Great Union.” *commentary v6:47
This is only impersonal in the sense of the choice – in this case a complete Oneness with God. We surrender even our relationship with God.
“As the union grows more complete, the link …finds fulfilment in its own extinction, leaving the worshipper and worshipped together in perfect oneness, in the oneness of absolute unity.” *commentary v6:32
The people I’ve discussed this with so far have all had the second. Don’t know yet if this is a westerners tendency.
This at last brings us to the subject of the article. In those I’ve explored it with, the surrender of the profound relationship they have with the divine can lead to a period of grief. As the line goes, you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.
With this merging comes the ability of global awareness to turns from always looking in on itself to turning and seeing beyond itself. Eternal infinite awareness becomes aware of its own “edge” and origins. This is the beginning of the shift into Brahman. And this is also the surrender of the profound unity with all things. We shift from alive everything to absolute nothingness.
All this of course amplifies the loss. Further, the prior sense of having discovered the secrets of creation is nullified as nothing has ever or will ever be. It’s not that it’s an illusion – that still requires a mirage.
However, if we’ve been observant, we’ll have noticed that every time we surrendered it all into a new stage, all the development of the prior stage returns, but now in the new context.
The same thing happens here. First there is the surrender of Unity into Brahman, of alive everything into nothing. We may at first find this rather dry.
Over time, the previously developed values of Refined Unity arise again but not in relationship now. There is no 2. We are it.
The subjective process is thus quite different. In Unity there was a series of experience and becomes. But now we already are, so it is more a deepening. A profound sense of knowing presence, deeper than everything and with a power greater than anything that has never been.
But there is another stage to Brahman I’ve not mentioned prior.
Parabrahman – this is the wholeness of all of it. “pure holiness even in non-self nothingness.” as Lorne put it. Transcending Purusha and Mother Divine, we came to Divine Mother, the wholeness of all. And this is really stretching the words.
Brahman is full of apparent paradox. While it is clear nothing has happened or ever will – at the same time there is this point of attention experiencing this life. And we know the flow of attention and process that allowed it to come to be experienced as it is.
And that brings us back around to the quote Igor mentioned.
“The world is unreal Only Brahman is real The world is Brahman”
We might be inclined to then refer to the 4th Mahavakya, That alone Is. But that’s a Unity perspective. This is beyond being or non-being. ‘What is’ is still a subtle duality. Brahman is one, without a second.
The knower of Brahman is Brahman itself. – Mundaka Upanishad 3.2.9
* Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, On the Bhagavad Gita, A New Translation and Commentary
aka higher states of consciousness or stages thereof
One of the most popular articles on this blog over the years has been on states of consciousness. First as an outline of the 7 states of consciousness model, then a newer version, consolidating the many updates to the prior article.
This article reframes that model a little further to better reflect how people are experiencing the process. I’ve begun making references to this model, so I thought it time for a new Key Post. I’m also working on an e-book that goes into this in much more detail.
Psychology has begun studying these Transpersonal (post-personal) stages of development. Dr. Cook-Greuter proposed Construct-Aware and Unitive stages. (pdf link) Dr. Skip Alexander observed that eastern models of development of consciousness could be integrated with western models (pdf link) from psychology at this juncture.
In other words, what is called Enlightenment or spiritual awakening is actually a normal part of human growth and development. However, in the cycles of time, those habits of life and understanding that culture higher development become lost in the struggle to survive. But in a rising cycle, as now, the opportunity for such growth is revived and increasing numbers of people become living examples.
However, what is currently understood about enlightenment has largely been divided into various religious and philosophical camps arguing over concepts.
If we can instead find a consistent framework that understands the underlying process and accounts for much of the variety of experience, we will find that the truths of the worlds traditions all have a place within these stages of development.
Keep in mind that this is an experiential process. It is not about building concepts. However much you may think you understand this or that, until it is your lived experience, it will not be known. And in fact our concepts about it must be shed to live it.
Today, there are millions of people in the world who have had very clear tastes of these stages, although they well may not realize it. And some of those have begun to actually live them. Works like this are designed to support this growing community.
Higher Stages of Development
The Transpersonal Stages are essentially stages of the development of clarity of consciousness. Our physiology and psychology have matured. The next front is our being. While we might say “stages of development of consciousness”, consciousness itself doesn’t develop. What is shifting is our clarity and depth and relationship to consciousness.
As may thus be apparent, the consciousness I refer to is boundless, universal consciousness, the ground of all our being. This is what we recognize ourselves to be in the first awakening. It is not the waking state consciousness that comes and goes as we sleep and dream.
It’s also important to understand these are post-personal stages. It is not the individual person who becomes enlightened. It is Consciousness, your true Self, that is experiencing these higher perspectives and greater fullness of Itself. The sense of individual takes a progressively smaller role.
It’s also worth noting that this is a subjective process we’re describing. Reality itself does not change, just our perspective of it.
While the experience of these stages varies widely for a number of reasons, there are common distinct shifts that happen as Consciousness becomes more awake to its own totality. Each stage also has levels of clarity. Thus, there is an apparent process that occurs as Consciousness unfolds to Itself. This is much like puberty. Puberty is experienced a wide range of ways but there is a common underlying process.
This reframing is courtesy of Lorne Hoff and is derived from the Yog Vasishtha. This text is the core teaching from the sage Vasishtha, given to Rama in the royal court during the epic Ramayana. Estimates put the events at least 8,000 years ago.
The Transpersonal Stages in summary:
1 – Cosmic Consciousness (CC) or Self Realization
1a – Refined CC or God Consciousness (GC)
2 – Unity Consciousness (UC), Oneness or non-duality
2a – Refined Unity and God Realization
3 – Brahman or Beyond Consciousness
3a – Refined Brahman
3b – Parabrahman or Wholeness
By the numbering, you’ll notice there are 3 primary Stages of Consciousness awakening to or from Itself and each has their own Refined aspect. The refined stages are not each separate but are rather a continuous process of refinement. But when the primary stage changes, the context of the refined stage changes distinctly with it. Thus, we can describe stages in that process also.
The primary stages begin with what can be described as a realization or becoming or change in sense of being whereas the refined stages are a continuum that can begin well before or after the first realization. The refined stages have climactic realizations instead.
One key detail can help understand the variation in how this unfolds for people. In the 6 bhavas model from Ayurveda, two of them are Atman and Sattva. The development of Atman (cosmic Self) takes us through the primary stages. The Development of sattva (purity or clarity) is what develops the refined stages. (via soma)
With sattva well-developed, you see people who may not be spiritually awakened but have amazing perceptions or gifts. With Atman well-developed but less sattva, you see clear awakening but little of the divine and a drier, flatter unfoldment. The ideal is of course a balanced development of both.
1 – Cosmic Consciousness (CC) or Self Realization
The cosmic Self wakes up to Itself through this apparent person. We shift from being identified with an ego “me” to being Atman, the cosmic Self. I am That. This shift is permanent though it may take a little time to be clear. We are a witness or observer to an apparently illusory world. Only the inner wakefulness is real. It’s completion is sat chit ananda, absolute bliss consciousness.
1a – Refined CC or God Consciousness
aka Celestial or Divine Con.: the refinement of perception and the awakening heart uncover very fine feelings and perceptions. The direct perception of finer values of creation and the divine unfold. The Refined stages are more a process than a state. The inner remains real and the outer world comes to be seen as a Lila or divine play. This stage climaxes in God Realization post-Unity. Refinement continues through all stages and can take hundreds of years to complete. Thus in the current age we do what we can.
2 – Unity Consciousness (UC), Oneness or non-duality:
when the intellect recognizes the outer experience of the world and the celestial plus the inner experience of silence are of the same thing, the division between them falls. The inner and outer worlds are rejoined as the same reality. Then, through a series of recognitions, all layers of experience, memory, and all space and time are united in one wholeness. It’s completion is in Brahman.
3b – Parabrahman or Wholeness
I’ve not written about this yet. This is the wholeness of all of it. As Lorne describes it, pure holiness even in non-self nothingness. This is Parabrahman. It is before Purusha and Mother Divine (Shiva and Shakti). It is the Divine Mother, the wholeness of all. The one and only.
Hopefully, this model offers a more complete and consistent perceptive of the process of enlightenment.
About a year and a half ago I was invited to speak on a panel. I declined but through that discovered Igor Kufayev. Here was a man who had followed the same tradition but who had a rather energetic awakening. This lead him to become much more familiar with the various kundalini traditions of the east. We ended up “meeting” soon afterwards through discussion comments and have exchanged notes and feedback a number of times since.
He’s a regular on Buddha at the Gas Pump and I discovered a few days ago he’s coming to my home town later this year so we’ll get a chance to meet. That’s a bonus as he lives in Spain.
Last November he gave a talk at the Falkirk Cultural Centre in San Rafael, CA. It’s posted on-line in a 5 part series.
(click Playlist for the next in the series)
Here is a general topic list, although the title pages have more detail. A key theme is the distinction between Advaita and Tantra outlooks. This is similarly the difference between a dry awakening and the refined value it.
1 – Tantra and NonDuality history (18 m)
2 – sat chit ananda, RDC (18 min)
3 – world is bliss vs suffering (8 min)
4 – spiritual anatomy (8 min)
5 – right action, trauma (14 min)
Here are some paraphrased notes. Note that this is what I would broadly describe as a Unity perspective.
What is unreal? The world or our perception of the world?
“The world is unreal
Only Brahman is real
The World is Brahman”
Maya not really used until Shankara in Brahma Sutras, it is the foundation of Advaita.
Tantra tradition is in revival – world is not illusion but rather a blend of Shiva and Shakti.
Advaita approach is spitting it out (the world) vs Tantric approach is swallowing it down. [monk vs householder]
Pure awareness with disregard to the world vs to embody pure awareness in this living organism. Advaita approach is disassociative.
In Tantra, nothing that is not Shiva (opening sutra of Shiva Sutras) At its very core, all is pulsating Shakti, vibrating consciousness. The most developed form today is Kashmir Shaivism. This helped him understand Maharishi. [who was quite familiar with it]
Advaita: No one to enjoy Self Realization. It does not exist for the Self. It doesn’t need to realize itself. This only happens on the plane where contraction is being experienced.
Tantra: Parashakti, Chit shakti and kundalini shakti 1st is the Self, on with Shiva 2nd is that which is consciousness, that which gives birth to consciousness itself [liveliness & alertness] 3rd is consciousness on the level of individual expression, coiled into itself, hence “kundalini”.
But these 3 are never separate.
On the plane where we find ourself, it is that which undergoes expansion, that consciousness.
To say there is no one to enjoy enlightenment is a confusion of terms. We become ever blissful, sat chit ananda, the ground of consciousness itself – ever present, ever conscious, ever blissful. Bliss in the midst of pain and sorrow.
Everything has sat chit ananda as its ground. This expresses as will, knowledge and action – everything is created from this. Have to will to act, knowledge, then act. How it fulfils all its desires.
Qualitative shift that gives rise to experience itself.
Seer, seeing, and what is being seen. Take away one component and it collapses – the 3 modalities of consciousness are always at play. Samhita or unity of rishi, devatta and chhandas. Constant flux between.
Consciousness experiencing itself through this process – this is Lila. Always at work, regardless of what state of consciousness. Who’s in the drivers seat changes but the 3 remain.
Chhandas is the expression of bliss. Every object is bliss, everything you experience is for bliss to extract sweetness from it. Rishi, seer is expression of Sat. The carrier, devatta, the most dynamic, is Chit, being conscious.
This world was created for Consciousness to experience itself. Purpose. To experience the sweetness of existence. Not Maya to be disregarded. To be enjoyed. This needs to be the experience. It is the purpose of spiritual practice. Discovering the hidden potential because consciousness collapsed on itself. It is being lost to all modalities – seer, process, and object.
Every feeling, even God also an object of experience.
When that is fully cognized, every experience is bliss. This is a core recognition in the heart.
Distinction re: the ground of experience, bliss. It is no longer an experience. Whatever happens, it fails to extract that. It is never overshadowed.
One who has realized their oneness with Brahman does not fail to experience pain and suffering but does not confuse them. Not heartless. You don’t find bliss in experience, experience comes from bliss. Bad experience is not blissful, it is heartbreaking. Yet abiding it that state, it fails to overshadow that reality.
I know I am a man. If I’m grieving, I would not fall out of that and question if I am a woman. It’s a reality since manhood kicked in.
re: the Tony Parson exchange at SAND in Europe – disagree the universe is purposeless. The experience itself is not imbibed with bliss but its foundation is bliss. [to suggest the universe has no purpose is to have not yet seen]
Kundalini is the individual soul (para, chit, etc above)
Strange thing to dismiss kundalini. You can go straight to God. [Kundalini is useful to understand but is not in itself the technique but rather an effect of it. Directly pushing it can lead to a much rougher process]
Nadis – consciousness moves through subtle channels. There is physical anatomy, and a subtle anatomy, a tremendous network of channels. This is where prana moves, it is where awakened consciousness moves. It sustains this physiology.
All there is is Shakti. Senses awaken – then that which is said to limit becomes the very channels to give us the fullness of this experience of ever expanding consciousness.
Expresses itself as love at all times. Every tradition has worship in the core.
Ethics? Refinement of perception, we get in touch with these qualities on the internal level. Platonic values – gives rise to commandments, codes of conduct. They become ingrained within. Closer to the source, more refined. Celestial perception important to the process.
What really makes us a better individual.
The core of ourselves is divine. Not only because awareness is godhead but this evolutionary masterpiece, made in such a way to be capable of carrying life at that high level of development.
Platonic values not just structured in consciousness, but in physiology. Integral. Everything matters – how we entertain ourselves, quality of food. No need to ask if I should do this, it just acts itself in the right way.
What is trauma? The inability to process something, to digest an experience. Soldiers are not trained in, just in muscles, machines. First need inner peace. No experience in itself is negative or positive. Make the system capable of handling it. All experiences need to be transcended. Positive experiences can bind us too.
Ignorance is unprocessed experience. Once we can process it, we arrive at a different level.