Finding The True Self: The Science of Identity - Part 2 Position


ACHARYA DAS: Thank you very much and welcome again to the second talk in this 3-part series titled, “Who am I”.


So last week we had mentioned that in examining this question of “Who am I?” that a person should look at things and answer three questions. Basically, “What is my essence? What is my position?” or, “Where do I fit in relation to things?” and of course lastly, “What is the most natural for me to do? What is my natural function?”

We are dealing with the second part today, “Where do i fit in the big picture?” I find myself in a universe and there are lots of other living beings and it is kind like, “Where do I actually fit?”

Last week we had discussed how we are not actually the material body or the mind; that we are a spiritual spark of God. We are a unique individual. This is part of our essence. I do not die when my body dies; I simply move on.

In relation to the bigger picture of where we actually fit it is good to consider this in relation to, of course, to other living beings, as we said, in the universe. But not only that. Also in relation to my own body and mind. What is the relationship here between all of these different things?

If I want to exist in a harmonious condition, then it is really important for me to find out and really understand where this harmony is going to come from. The harmony is going to come from by me living according to my true spiritual nature. Discovering that and fitting in with that. If I do not understand this, then i will find my life is actually filled with disharmony and for many people it this way throughout most of their life. They cannot really discover why we are so “ill at ease” if i can put it that way.

If we are living in disharmony - we don't really know what our real position is, spiritual position - then we will find that we will experience misfortune. This quest, or this journey of self-discovery is really looking to find, “What is this fortunate place for me where I can live in harmony and peacefulness?”

So, of course, the attempts to understand these things will, well let’s say, not the attempts—Currently, the way in which we live, we have probably assumed a lot of things and the assumptions that we have made direct us in our decision-making and our goals that we set and how we are going to live. It is important to understand the world, the bigger picture, from what I will call the yoga perspective.

I am probably going to end up saying quite a few things here that some people are not going to like. I am sorry for disappointing you if I say something that you don’t like. But I am compelled to speak what is the truth and it is important for people to actually come to understand the truth so that their life, the quality of their life, their existence, can improve immeasurably.

So first point. Life in the material world, life within this body in the material world is fundamentally a struggle. You will experience inevitably in life far more suffering than you will experience happiness. And unless you really radically alter the way that you are looking about things and what you are running after, then that is not going to go away. You can attempt to cover it up, you can attempt to put on a cheerful face and take some positive thinking classes and espouse all those positive things, but it doesn’t fundamentally change reality very much.

It is also important to understand the concept of karma; karma and, of course, reincarnation. The word “karma” means, of course, action. So depending upon the nature of our desires and what we see as the purpose and goal in life, we will be constantly urged to act. In different ways we will act. When we act then there will always be a reaction. There will always be a result to all of our actions. It is because of this constant chain of action and reaction on the material plane that the living being is forced to take on new bodies. When you die it doesn’t end anything. You will take another body according to the nature of the desires that you have cultivated.

So this kind of like opens up a whole pretty intense subject and that subject is to do with the nature of material desire. If I am always acting on the basis of material desire - material desire meaning something the material senses ask me to do. Eat this. Smell this. Touch this. Taste this. Experience that. Or my mind is directing me - if this is my pursuit in life, then it becomes endless. It is not like you get to try and live out this life and so-called enjoy it, and get everything going for yourself and everything’s going to be a-okay.

No. If you begin this, this chain reaction of activity and the reactions that will come from them, it will lead to continuous rebirth in the material world and then you will have to simply accept the consequences of that. The consequences are not terribly brilliant. Unfortunately they are mediocre to a little bit of a bummer.

One of the wonderful Vedic scriptures, it is called the Srimad Bhagavatam, also known as the Bhagavata Purana, it says that:

“The human form of body is meant for understanding the self and the Supreme Self, or the Supreme Spirit. Both of whom are transcendentally situated.”
Srimad Bhagavatam 7.15.40

It is fundamentally stating—I mean, the difference between animal life and human life is not that humans can do things in a more sophisticated way than animals but it is because we have the capacity in this particular form of life to ask this question, “Who am I? Why am I here? What is this really all about?” The actual goal of human life is to cultivate this understanding and full realization.

So in going back to consider the question of harmony, “Where do I fit then in relation to everything?” if I look at my body and my mind--we have gone through the fact that you are not your body and the mind. But if I am simply always submitting myself to the desires and whims of my senses, of my mind, then I, I am not free but rather I am becoming enslaved. Now this is going to, you know, be a radical thought for people because there are these ideas that freedom means the freedom to act on your impulses; the freedom to act on desires.

But if we understand that these desires and impulses, the desires and impulses of the living being, of the soul itself, the jiva, and the desires and impulses of the body and mind, they are completely different. The body and mind, they are dead matter, they are material energy. By virtue of this coming into contact with the living being, it is as if the body and the mind takes on a life and it begins acting or seems to be acting independently. I mean, your mind is just filled with all these different thoughts and ideas. And if we kind of like fall into this trap, you know, of going with the flow - whatever feels good do it. That was a saying that was very common amongst pop psychology, you know, or psychologists, probably one and a half or two decades ago. Whatever feels good do it. You know, if it feels good, do it. This idea of just going along with the flow, in terms of the consequences or the result of choosing that path, is one of serious misfortune.

So I will read another quote from the Srimad Bhagavatam also in relation to the mind and it says that:

“This uncontrolled mind is the greatest enemy of the living entity. If one neglects it or gives it a chance, it will grow more and more powerful and will become victorious. And although it is not factual, it is very strong and it covers the constitutional position of the self or the atma.
Srimad Bhagavatam 5.11.17

So let’s just consider what’s being stated here.

You know it is said that the mind is not factual and what it means, it doesn’t mean that it’s an illusion. The mind is real. But it is temporary. It is not permanently assigned to the living being. In a state of complete enlightenment and spiritual realization one has become totally free from the influence of the mind. The mind serves a particular purpose. It entangles the living being and perpetuates our entanglement in the material world. And if it is left, the word that was used here, if one neglects it. So neglect here doesn’t mean like you are not paying it attention in the sense of catering to it. But if one neglects to watch it. You know, in the process of yoga it is really about bringing the mind under control. And that means observing and watching it and trying to make it function for you, for your spiritual benefit.

So the nature of the mind, it is very strong and the living being can completely lose the plot. All you’ve got to do is look at some crazy person wandering the streets. I mean most big cities, all over the world, they have them. And whether it’s due to a mental illness or whether it’s due to—it’s the result of taking particularly methamphetamines, you know, heavy psychotropic substances. And when somebody’s just completely lost the plot and they’re just screaming out to the sky and talking to people although there’s no one there, or you know, and just—like, you look at somebody in this condition, and even though you try to speak to them with kindness they often cannot respond. They treat you like some kind of crazy enemy or something. And when we look at someone in this condition from the yoga perspective, we can understand that a person has been so severely victimized by their mind. They’ve lost their ability to exercise any control over it whatsoever. And it’s just completely run amok. And whatever is going on in the mind is considered a reality.

So this control of the mind and control of the senses is actually a very important part. It is an important part of the process towards my actual liberation. When we use the word “liberation” it’s kind of like, if you don’t think that you are in a situation that’s undesirable then liberation is like, “What? Why would I want that?” But if people think this way it is often due to being less experienced in life and not being very practical and looking at things in a very realistic way.

So again another quote from the Srimad Bhagavatam, it is from the end of this book. This book has 18,000 verses. It’s monumental work. It’s quite astonishing. And in it we have a description, and there is a very long description about what is desirable, what is undesirable, what is good, what is considered misfortune. And amongst this list there is this one verse that says;

“One who is enriched with good qualities is actually said to be rich, and one who is unsatisfied is actually poor. A wretched person is one who cannot control his senses, whereas one who is not attached to sensual gratification is a real controller. One who attaches himself to sense gratification is the opposite. He is a slave. “
Srimad Bhagavatam 11.19.44

So this is actually what happens, that when a person becomes overly preoccupied with trying to fulfill the desires of the body and the mind it becomes highly, actually addictive. And people suffer from this. Inside it’s like burning, wanting, wanting to find that peace; wanting to find that happiness. And they start heading down a path of sensual involvement thinking that, “This will satisfy the desires of my heart. It will calm me down. It will pacify me.” But what one ends up doing, it’s like you have a fire and you want to put the fire out and so you pour gasoline on it. And the gasoline just makes the fire burn hotter.

So this is what happens when one goes down this route. And that’s why it is said that if you want to actually exist in harmony with your body and mind, it actually entails you exercising control over both of these things. Because the body and mind are not acting, are not acting for your benefit—and when I say your benefit I’m talking about the spiritual being inside.

So another verse which clearly lays out how a person can conceptualise things and understand things:

“Transcendentalists who are advanced in knowledge, they compare the body, which is made by the order of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, to a chariot. The senses are like horses; the mind, which is the master of the senses, is like the reins; the objects of the senses are the destinations; and intelligence is the chariot driver; and consciousness which spreads throughout the body is the cause of bondage in the material world.”
Srimad Bhagavatam 7.15.41

Now I’ll just talk about that a little bit. You know, depending on the nature of your consciousness—you know they have this saying, “One man’s food is another man’s poison?” You know, and it’s like so true. Some people can really think something is such a wonderful thing. And a person who has a different sense of style, or appreciation, or taste, or affinity for things find it completely repulsive. So depending on your state of consciousness you will be directed by your consciousness to engage in activity that will bind you to this world and life after life of experience within this world. Or if you have a different type of consciousness, if you are approaching your original consciousness, it can lead completely to your liberation.

So the body is considered like a chariot. The senses are what’s like the horses pulling the chariot. The mind is likened to the reins which are used to control or you can slack them off and just let the horses run. The person that is driving the chariot is the intelligence or what’s called buddhi. Buddhi means the finer understanding of my self as being actually separate from this body. And I can use my intelligence to direct my mind to rein in my senses and determine where I’m going. It is described here that the objects of the senses are the destination. You know, whether you are contemplating on this experience or that experience, that’s where you are heading, that’s where you are going.

So based on this understanding one can act either for further entanglement, which also means suffering in this world or one can engage in activity that leads to enlightenment or liberation. So on one hand you will have what’s the product of actual harmonious existence with the body and the other one is disharmony. Now a person may go, “Well, God! It’s just so hard to control my mind and senses.” Yeah, in the beginning of this spiritual endeavor, of course it is going to be difficult. It is going to be a little bit of a struggle. There are going to be things that need to be done to get us focused in another direction and to begin to calm down a little bit and refocus and repurpose our life and our existence.

So real harmony will come from not just letting go and being dragged. I mean I don’t know if you have—I always have this flashback to Ben Hur. I think it’s coming out again. You know the chariot start coming apart and the chariot race, the wheels are coming off and somebody’s holding on to the reins and being dragged along the ground, you know. And the horses are just really galloping. Dust everywhere, you know. (laughs) This is what happens. This is the nature of material existence. When the mind and the senses are just racing the living being is actually being dragged. Yes, there’s all kinds of sensual stimulation, and flashes, and experiences, and orgasms, and all kinds of stuff. But nothing lasts. And at the end of the day you find yourself in a rather sad and lonely position. And that is, really comes into a greatest focus when one lies upon their death bed.

So, if we’re looking now at the world on which we live, this amazing construct is an amazing thing. It is—where will I find harmony in this world? And how many in this world will come from certain understandings? Number one; this world is not my home. It is not my home. And seeking to make a home here will result in unhappiness, sadness. It is not my shelter.

You know, somebody walks into the house at night after work or whatever. They’ve come in and nobody is in the house. What do people do? You know, they kind of go to the fridge, open the fridge, stand there and just kind of like look in there to see if there’s something that I can get. Or they phone out. They start texting someone or hitting Facebook, checking something out. Or they going to call someone or turn on the TV. You know, we just, we feel this emptiness. We feel this need for something to fill a void. And we inevitably take shelter within this world and things of this world. But they cannot, they can only distract us. They cannot provide the shelter that we actually desire.

The other thing is that, I actually cannot, in reality, own anything here. If I look at this world as something I can possess and exploit, it will not work very well for us. Maybe for some time we think things work but things will not. The reality is that everything here, all the material energy that exists was here before I showed up in this particular body. It exists while I am in this body and when I leave this body everything will still be here. The idea that I can lay claim to it is illusory.

There’s a beautiful verse in one of the Upanishads, the Isopanisad, where it describes in the first mantra that;

“Everything animate or inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord. One should therefore accept only those things necessary for himself which are set aside as his quota and one should not accept other things, knowing well to Who they belong.”
Sri Isopanisad, Mantra 1

So this is the first point is that laying claim, as opposed to the idea of stewardship where you are taking care of somebody else’s property; the idea that I can utilize and exploit it will never work out well for me.

Within the material world there are two fundamental types of energy as we mentioned before. One is, of course, the material energy; and Krishna, He describes in the Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna that there are actually these two energies, the material energy and the spiritual energy which is the living beings. He says;

”Besides the material energy, O mighty armed Arjuna, there is another, superior energy of Mine, which comprises the living entities who are exploiting the resources of this material, inferior nature.”
Bhagavad-gita 7.5

So this is actually quite amazing. The living being, the atma, the spiritual being, is superior to dull matter, this dull material energy. It is actually superior, yet, when the living being comes into close proximity, into contact with material energy, the material energy overwhelms the living being. You lose the plot. You start taking on this—you know, you become completely convinced that this body is me. I mean, totally convinced that this is me. And you become, you become dominated in so many ways.

Another nature of this material energy is while on that subtle but powerful level, it controls me. Just living here I am going to be—look, can anybody defy the law of gravity? No. You know there are so many laws; so many restrictions and controls. I can’t just do what I want. You can’t even get in your car and just drive down the street at any speed that you want. You know, going through red lights. We all know what’s going to happen. You decide not to pay your taxes and see what happens to you. You know, socially and in terms of the material energy, there are so many laws that we are constantly subjected to.

And so we’ve really got to get it through our head that while we are superior beings to the material energy, when we exist within this world we are constantly subject to control. And you may try as hard as you want to will all of that away and think that you can dominate and control everything, but it is simply a fallacy.

So in the Bhagavad-gita there’s a nice verse where it says;

“The person who has given up all desires for sense gratification, who lives free from material desires, and who has given up all sense of proprietorship or ownership, and is also devoid of falsely seeing the body as the self - he alone can attain real peace.”
Bhagavad-gita 2.71

So this is like, “Oh my God, this is completely opposite to what we have learned and what we aspire for, what we discussed.” We think that by dominating this world, we think that by owning this world, we think that by simply giving into and constantly following our desires for sensual stimulation and gratification, we can find peace. Sorry, it’s not even a possibility. Not even a possibility. So we can see that the attempts to find true joy, true purpose and meaning will require quite a radical altering of how we see things.

The final category of looking at things in terms of, “Where do I fit?“ is in relation to other living beings. And just quite briefly I will state: an enlightened person sees all other living beings as his spiritual brothers or sisters. The idea of wanting to dominate or control and by doing that to exploit and enjoy others will never result in a peaceful and happy heart. It will never result in joyfulness. While you are caught in that realm, that dimension, it can get pretty, pretty chronically bad. And I’ll give you some examples of that.

You know, I mean, you look at somebody like a dictator. And I’ll use Gaddafi as an example or Saddam Hussein, you know, in recent times, where they were absolute rulers in their time. And there were anything they said, anything they decide, it happened. They were constantly exploiting. I mean they found out that Gaddafi had these room set up in a university and he would look through a one-way mirror and pick out young women. And they would be just snatched and taken into a room and physically examined and everything. And if they were up to scratch, you know, all kinds of things happened.

I mean we’re talking about people that are actually monsters. And, you know, when they become so overwhelmed by this desire to enjoy and to dominate others and this quest for fulfillment in this realm; yet when you see their downfall at the end, you know, where Saddam Hussein is taken out of this little hole and he looks like a crazy man off the street. You know, with the beard and all dirty and just wild-eyed. Or you see the great misfortune of Gaddafi being beaten and killed by, you know, people that he subjugated. You know, these are not, these are, they are not exaggerations. They just point out this reality that if you’re going to go down this road of trying to dominate, control, exploit and enjoy others for your own benefit, you will not be able to find peace and happiness.

But it doesn’t—there’s another thing we need to just quickly look at here. Amongst other living beings, and if I ask, “Where I fit?” and I see all other living beings as my brother and sister, is that kind of like the end of things? The answer is no.

There are two categories of living beings. The general living beings are called jivas or jiva atmas. There is one other type of living being. That living being is a Supreme Being. The living being, the jiva, they have the same quality as the Supreme Being but quantitatively there is a huge difference. The example is given like a drop of water from the ocean; it has all the same qualities as the ocean if you test it in the lab but qualitatively there is a vast difference. You can't float a large ship, container ship or have sharks swimming around in a drop of water. It's an impossibility. There is a huge difference.

In the Brhad-aranyaka Upanishad, it says:

"As tiny sparks fly from a fire, so all the individual souls have come from the Supreme."
Brhad-aranyaka Upanishad 2.2.20

So what is the nature of that Supreme Being? In two Upanishads, both the Katha Upanishad and the Shvetashvatara Upanishad, they have, in two mantras, half of the mantra, the first half of the mantra is exactly the same and in Sanskrit it is “nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam” and basically what it says is:

“Amongst all the eternal, conscious beings, there is one Supreme Eternal Conscious Being who supplies the needs of everyone else. The wise souls who worship Him in His abode attain everlasting peace and others cannot.”
Katha Upanishad 2.2.13

So at this point somebody’s going to go, “I thought we’re all just one. You know there is no God and me. I am God.” That is actually a false understanding; it is an incomplete and imperfect understanding.

The Vedas clearly delineate and even if we look to the Yoga-sutra of Patanjali, in the first pada, there are a few verses where he is—Patanjali has already described how the being himself, the being or herself, is spiritual in nature and is being called a purusha. This word “purusha” literally means a person but it also connotes the idea of looking for joy. So in speaking about this purusha, he now talks about another purusha and he was speaking about an alternative process in the yoga system involving Ishvara. Ishvara literally means controller or God and he says that Ishvara is a special purusha unlike other purushas. So the Sanskrit word is Vishesha, it can mean different but it specifically here means special. So Ishvara or God is a special Purusha unlike other purushas, untouched by any afflictions or material activity and is not bound by the fruit of actions or latent impressions or material desires. In Him the seed of omniscience is unpassed, it’s unsurpassed, it’s infinite. He is also the teacher of all ancient teachers or sages being not limited by time. The transcendental sound representing him is OM.

So this is a little bit of a reality that we really need to come to grips with. If I cannot get my head around where I actually fit in the universe, in the bigger picture, the whole material and transcendental reality, then if I develop wrong types of thinking, I’m going to head down, take a course of action that’s not going to work well for me.

The idea that God or the Supreme or the Supreme Spirit exists only as an impersonal energy is not a proper understanding, it is not a complete understanding. Again, in the Sri Isopanishad, there’s a verse that says,

“O my Lord, sustainer of all that lives. Your real face is covered by Your dazzling effulgence. Kindly remove that covering and exhibit Yourself to Your pure devotee.“
Sri Isopanishad Mantra 15

The reality is is this vast ocean of light known as the brahmajyoti is only one feature of the Absolute Truth. There are actually two other features or two other ways in which the Absolute Truth manifests.

In the Srimad Bhagavatam, there is a verse that states

“Learned transcendentalists who know the Absolute Truth call this nondual substance Brahman, Paramatma or Bhagavan.”
Srimad Bhagavatam 1.2.11

So these three features do exist. It is not simply that the ultimate, the end of everything is the brahmajyoti or this ocean of light. No. That is the eternal feature or manifestation of the Absolute Truth but the Absolute Truth also exists within the heart of every living being and this is called the Paramatma. The living being is called the atma and alongside him is the form of the Lord known as the Paramatma.

So you’ll see in Sanskrit terminology you have this atma and Paramatma. They are two different links, Param means supreme, the Supreme Atma or you have brahman and you have Parambrahman or you have purusha and you have the Parampurusha.

So it’s really important for a person to, in understanding their position—and this is a really huge subject and is quite difficult for me to deal with in the limited time that we have but it is important to really understand that if I am going to see myself in my position in relation to everything as being the center - I am the center of my world. I am the center of my universe. I am the center of everything that’s happening around me and it’s all about me - it is impossible for me to live actually in harmony at all and to find a condition of complete, not just peacefulness, but unlimited transcendental joy.

When the living being is on the mentality that I can, for instance, challenge the existence of some Supreme Being or that I desire to be that Supreme Being by being at the center of everything. You know we see it with athletes. What’s the finger all about? I’m number one. Sorry, you know. Come back and tell me that in forty years or fifty years. We’ll see how you’re doing then. You know, for maybe one very brief moment in time you’ve surpassed other people in that very brief, little tiny slice of time but you will pass through it, and your body will degrade and you will not be number one any longer.

So if I want to find what is my true position, and we don’t have sufficient time as I said to get into discussing all of the details of this, but I should understand, I am a spiritual spark of God. I am his part and parcel. My material body and mind are not me and they should not be my masters. I should not lay claim to this world and although I am superior to it, I am forced to obey all of the laws of nature. All living beings, all jiva atmas are my brothers and sisters and I am not their lord or master and should not be seeking to control, to dominate or to exploit them. And amongst all the living beings there is one who is actually Supreme and I am not nor can I ever become that Supreme Soul or Supreme Being. I will always be subservient to him.

So this delineates what is our actual position in relation to things and I know that there may be some people, because they may not have heard some of these ideas or they’ve heard ideas that are contrary to these profound Vedic truths, they may want to argue the point and perhaps we can entertain questions at some later time but what I’ve laid out to you is actually a very important part of this question of Who am I? Where do I fit in relation to everything else? What is my, what is my position?

So with that, I would like to thank you very much for taking the time to attend and to hear this conversation and what we’d like to do now is end with a little bit of kirtan and as we have mentioned before, the use of this transcendental sound is one of the most effective means or processes of meditation in this day and age and it is performed by someone leading and chanting these sounds, this mantra and then everybody else responds to that and then they sit and listen as the leader again recites or sings the mantra and they repeat.

So again we’ll be using the well-known mahamantra. It will appear on the screen below so you can follow along. You are invited to please join.

Thank you very much for joining us and invite you back next week when we complete the third talk in this series. It deals with something that is actually very wonderful and it is what is our very natural function. What is it that when we do, we will feel complete, whole, at peace and experience endless joy? Thank you very much. Namaste.