Individuals in Wholeness

Individuals in Wholeness

Lone tree of padarn lake by Hefin Owen
Lone tree of padarn lake by Hefin Owen

On The Nature of Our Times, I commented that “Oh yes, each area has its own laws of nature. That leads to unique expressions of culture, language, etc. This is akin to the very awake – they develop even freedom of the personality and become very distinct individuals, rooted in wholeness.”

A reader asked me to write more about this.

First, I’ll note that many teachers in recent centuries have emphasized a renunciate approach that favours a denial of the individual. However, most of us are householders and need some sense of person to continue operating in the world.

If we totally lost any sense of personal self, we wouldn’t be able to function. We couldn’t distinguish the boundaries of our body. What is our foot vs the floor? How can you pick something up with undefined hands? This is stuff we learn early in life.

The trick is coming out from under individuality and ego identification as our sense of self. Keep the learning but let go the bindings. Through spiritual practice, we roast the asmita or possessive my-sense and let go of identification with the Ahamkara or I-sense.

Then we expand and become identified with the cosmic Self or Atman with Self Realization. Still later, we release the core identity and our universal nature becomes increasingly prominent.

Yet we keep a point value, continuing to experience through this body-mind mechanism. Our mix of laws of nature give us the qualities we experience through. The combination gives us our distinct perspective within wholeness.

It can be argued that our purpose here as a soul is to have a unique experience of the whole, adding that perspective to the whole.

Another way to frame this is that consciousness already knows itself globally. But for all the details to be unfolded, it has to express a world of appearance, unfolding as a sequence of events (time), and points of experience (us). In this way, it can fully know itself.

Consider the difference between a view of a city and walking the streets and exploring the shops. The view will give you a sense of it, but we know the details on the ground.

Back to the point, it’s not just consciousness that wakes up. Gradually, as we live awakening, all the layers of our being awaken – even the personality and eventually, the body.

The more dense the layer is, the longer it takes to transform. Consciousness wakes up in a moment. But it takes awhile for the mind to catch up, then emotions, and so forth.

“Individuality” comes to have a very different meaning, like as this point of seeing from our infinite eternal being. In Refined Unity, we can experience from other points, such as a tree, cat, or rock. But our default point remains here. When writing the first book, my editor discouraged me from using “here” as a personal pronoun. 🙂

We may come to experience the body as like a vehicle for our life to live through. Deeper though, we come to experience the entire body, mind, and sense of person in the same way. The driver becomes cosmic.

Through this process, any constraints on the person fall away, like the subtle “shoulds” and “musts” and self-expectations; although this is limited somewhat by what’s supported by the collective. For example, you don’t see yogic flyers or celestial weapons around much yet. But as Lorn Hoff observed, such people become like a law unto themselves.

The liberation of the person is often most noticeable after the Brahman shift. With nothing in the way, the laws of nature can more fully express through this form.

I’m reminded of a favourite verse from the end of the Rig Veda:

Go together, speak together, know your minds to be functioning together from a common source, in the same manner as the devas [celestial beings], in the beginning, remain together united near the source…
– Rig Veda 10.191.2


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    1. Hi Guru
      I wouldn’t call these the same things or levels. They’re results of growth of consciousness. Both are terms from Yoga.

      Viveka is discrimination. As Yoga Sutra 2.28 tells us “the light of knowledge leads to discriminative awareness.” This is knowing through direct experience. I call this the resolute intellect. When we’re established in being (Self Realization), the intellect becomes associated with being instead of the mind. Thus it becomes clear, stable, and finely discriminating. Its role evolves as we do and has a central role in Unity stage.

      Vairagya is non-attachment. By softening our identifications, the attachments release until even the attachment to our I-sense pops. YS 1.16: “The highest state of non-attachment is freedom from all change, which comes through knowledge of the Self.” In other words, when we know unchanging being, we’re liberated from attachment to what changes. This also evolves as we deepen in the process. For example, identification with Atman (Self) falls away with the Brahman shift. Yoga Sutra is focused on Self Realization.

      Both develop through samadhi (transcending the mind), which is in turn supported by the other limbs of yoga. This is why I emphasize the importance of an effortless meditation.

      With the loss of that understanding, we lose regular samadhi and the results don’t come. Modern Yoga has come to see effects of right practice as the practice itself. So people practice Viveka and Vairagya. However, then you have the mind trying to control the experience. The attached mind practicing non-attachment? This does not reliably lead to liberation.

      This is not to deny the value of studying these texts. Samadhi will soften our attachments but if we then reinforce them in activity, progress will be slow. Study of such texts can make the process more obvious and we can support it. But trying to control the process is the opposite.

      So yes, dharma operates on a personal, family, society, and universal levels. We retain our personal qualities while gaining infinity.

      Those things driven by attachment and unmet needs fall away. Those things driven by our deeper nature and our specific blend of laws of nature remain.

  1. Narada

    “If we totally lost any sense of personal self, we wouldn’t be able to function. We couldn’t distinguish the boundaries of our body. What is our foot vs the floor? How can you pick something up with undefined hands? This is stuff we learn early in life.”

    This myth persists for several reasons. One, it is consoling to those reflexively defending their separate-self-sense from the threat of Only God…it takes the heat off the implication of emptiness in the moment to moment illusion maintenance. It allows the great relief of imagining a both/and scenario. And second, most initial Brahma realizations are starkly separate from phenomenal existence, because many remaining world-seeds have been sailed over in the falling into that emptiness, so their gravity eventually pulls awareness to some now expanded sense of these “things” here. One could simply retain the not-knowing-a-thing of Brahma, even returning to things without missing the toilet when peeing, but generally a sense of self over and against Brahma returns to some extent until all those sankaras are offered into the fire of Now. And that self tends to see itself as a real extant and necessary, as every world-root was not offered to the Eternal One. Understandable of course, but let’s at least not reestablish a self-serving metaphysic on the basis of a presumed substantiality of any degree of me-ness. Why not simply remain in not-knowing and bow in devotion to that Brahma now and now. This would mean immediately feeling the world-seeds begin to shake and quake, as they arise in consciousness. To do otherwise is to indefinitely postpone Reality for another time story, however exalted. There are examples of this Parabrahman in the world in The Tripura Rahasya and The Vimilakirti Nirdesa Sutra. Most teachers short of mahasiddhahood are no longer devoted to moment to moment offering up of experience to the One, so relieved are they at the relative openness of awakened self-awareness, and responding to the many to whom they appear of divinity.

    1. Hi Narada
      I fully agree there are people out there adopting spiritual concepts while still very much ego-identified. And there people who have an initial shift into Self Realization but fall back in the mind for a time, much as you describe. However, this is not what I mean by this article.

      I’m not sure what you mean by “Brahma realizations”. Brahma is the deva of creation. If it’s an actual realization or becoming, there would be just one.

      As I mention, “Individuality” comes to have a very different meaning. It is the jiva or point value expressing through this form. It is not experienced as ‘who we are’ and it is certainly not a “me-ness” but rather a vehicle we’re experiencing through as mentioned. We wouldn’t consider this individuality myself any more than we’d consider our car ourselves. Yet the car remains as a distinct entity in it’s field of expression. It’s not other.

      As I’ve written elsewhere, some do experience an ego-death with that first shift. That arose here. Later it became clear the ego still remained as a function but was no longer identified with. What had died was the identification.

      Again, we experience through these senses. To suggest otherwise is to deny a large part of our experience as “illusion”. Shankara himself clarified seeing the world as illusion indicates dominant rajas guna. When sattva becomes dominant, the world becomes Lila, the Divine play. As he also put it “Brahman is the world”.

      Emptiness is a quality of unexpressed self-aware consciousness. It is not a quality of Brahman. Brahman stage is beyond that.

      The sense of time, including Now, is an effect of the process of experience in consciousness. Brahman stage is beyond that. Yet at the same time, Brahman is a person living that through a life. It’s not something separate.

      This is not a “self-serving metaphysic” but what the sages of old have described. It is a bringing it all together in one wholeness. No denial, nothing excluded. If something is excluded, you no longer have advaita.

  2. Guru

    You are living yoga sutras and Vedas are in you. I am happy that I get so much from you. But it is not collecting concepts to build spiritual ego! Knowing where I stand or where I am stuck. Thank you.

    1. You’re welcome, Guru. I would not saying I’m living Yoga Sutra as a whole yet. Much is yet to unfold. They cover a lot of territory. I certainly understand them much better now though. As for Veda, they reside in all of us. We’re structured from Veda as it is the blueprint of creation and its unfolding.

  3. Guru

    I am shameless when it comes to asking questions. If I had no access to you, I (akshara purusha) would have died ignorantly! I used to see light when I closed eyes. was it purusha seeing sattva? You only can confirm this as you have gone through all possible stages.

    1. Hi Guru
      The knowledge comes when we’re ready. If not here, it would have come from somewhere else. And no, it’s still unfolding here.

      There’s a variety of reasons we might see light when closing the eyes. It can be afterglow from the senses, feedback effects from the body, and then all the layers can be lit. Some see emotions or the tone of the mind as colours, for example. The gunas have colour. Finest relative and creation becoming are lit up and consciousness itself is effulgent. Even the cells in the body have light receptors (aka see).

      But the important part is not the content of the senses but rather what is experiencing that. The experiencer is the doorway for purusha to recognize itself and the beginning of unfolding to itself. Knowing that, all things can be known. 🙂

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