One of the key factors missing from a lot of modern spiritual dialog is the role of sattva. Without that progressive shift of energy from tamas (inertia) through rajas (fire of transformation) and into sattva (purity, clarity), there is a major limitation in our style of development.
However, it’s important to understand that the development of sattva is cumulative through lifetimes. Some people will be born with well-developed sattva and some will develop it more later through good spiritual practices and such. It’s a spectrum that’s not always clear to us because of karmic shadows and cycles in life that bring greater and lesser clarity.
Atman (consciousness) is also cumulative through prior development. If there is enough atman, awakening can arise irrespective of our refinement. But the dominant guna will have a major impact on how we experience this process. Less sattva will limit the depth and breadth of the shift and may create other issues like fundamentalism or a lot of fire
Further, it is a major limitation on the production of soma and the refinement of the physiology that brings refined perception and the awakening heart. Without that, little of the refined stages can unfold and no ParaBrahman.
This purity I describe is on the level of the gunas themselves. This isn’t about physical perfection, pure foods, avoiding negative people, and all that. It is about a deep inner shift that then gradually moves forward into all of our experience.
We can liken this to caring for a tree. We can go around and dust off each leaf or we can water the roots of the tree and nourish all the leaves.
The tendency to try to manage our lifestyle can ironically encourage control issues that impede refinement. Once again, how we are with the process is more important that the forms it takes.
That said, it is useful for us to develop reasonable lifestyle habits and a regular practice. But we should do so without strain and force.
Note that consciousness and clarity are not different things. We might describe the gunas as flows of consciousness, operating on a different level than pure consciousness. They bring qualities to our experience while consciousness is the experiencing itself.
When some value of consciousness is established within, we experience a “witness” or observer value and a subtle detachment from the contents of our experience. This really helps to let go of our old baggage.
The witness also creates an inner stability that is the perfect platform for refined perception to develop on. Think of it like looking through a microscope. If the table it’s on is constantly moving, we can’t focus on the fine details. But as the table becomes stable, much finer seeing becomes possible. Being rooted in unchanging being allows the fine gradations of perception to become clearer and clearer.
This also becomes a safe platform for the heart. Rooted in the safety of the unchanging, the surface dramas can come and go without taking us with them. Then the heart can flower without a burden.
It’s important to recognize that refined perception is quite diverse. The physical world is just one layer of creation. All the other layers can open to direct perception. This doesn’t necessarily mean seeing. Some people are more inclined to sound or feel.
These layers are both within us and right on the surface of the world around us. For example, we might look inside the body and notice how the energy moves and where it doesn’t. Or we might look at the surface of the body and notice the finer values surrounding it. We can tune into specific layers or look at it all together.
We may find that the layers inter-penetrate our physical perception, or the physical can seem like background, or the perception takes place as an adjunct to the physical. We can even perceive “transparent” flows.
As we develop through the stages, we also change the experiencer too. We come to see the world like a projection of consciousness on a screen of consciousness. Like going to a movie, we experience life like an audience in a movie theater watching the passing scenes. And yet we come to recognize we are the projector and the screen and the movie as well.
All of this has always been here. Now we can know it directly.