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13-Shadow and Self

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Kathopanishad-Page 13
p 161-167-171

Shadow and Self

[161] Pondering over stilling the mind, a question arises - why should we do that? This sort of question arises only when we think that we are the mind. The mind-process is like a suspense film, while it is running at full speed, we can't think anything else, but when this process is stopped, we discover that there is not one "Self" in us, there are two.

In Sanskrit they are called "Jeev" and "Purush". Jeev is the individual Ego - the whole bunch of Sanskaar (our personality). Yam says that this personality is not at all substantial, because personality is a process, the flow of consciousness, never the same at any two given moments. In spite of that we cling to it, as if it were solid and everlasting and we try to build our identity on such ever-shifting foundation.

If Jeev is the personality, then Purush is our Real-Self - another name for Aatmaa (soul). Personality is a mask worn by our Real-Self. People may find it impossible to believe, because they have never seen their real face.

These two Selves - Jeev and Purush, are like shadow and reality. A shadow does have a reality whose shadow it is. A physicist would say that shadow is only the absence of light. If we say that the personality is the shadow of the Real-Self, then Real-Self is the absence of personality - just as a shadow is produced by blocking the light; the Jeev is what we see when the light of the Purush is blocked by Self-will. This is the grand illusion that Hindu mysticism calls Maayaa - we take the shadow for reality, while our Purush, if we can guess it, seems shadowy and unreal.

Oddly enough, we pay attention only to this shadow or Jeev.

We believe in our Ego and it causes a lot of trouble, until it is extinguished, it is very real. When we come face to face with the Purush, then only our Ego actually disappears. Until then all our personal problems have to be resolved as if the Ego were a member of our club.

Yam says - "Both, Jeev and Purush, reside in our heart." What do they do? Taste and enjoy. Where do they work? At the fountain of life. Jeev is an impression taster. He samples experiences all day long and expresses his opinion about each one - "I like this", "I don't like that", etc, while Ego is happy with pleasure. When something interesting comes, Ego just sits and feasts his eyes on it for a long while. While Jeev rushes around to enjoy life according to his likes and dislikes, the Purush simply watches and enjoys. In fact, Jeev does not really enjoy anything fully because he is too busy rushing around. The Purush is a detached observer with a comment, "Oh Yes, this is good." While Jeev is enjoying something, his thoughts are running about. With this constant sampling Jeev becomes obese.

Purush on the other hand, has an elusive set of dimensions - smaller than the smallest, greater than the greatest. As long as we go on feeding Jeev, the Self seems so small that we cannot even see it. Fortunately Jeev can be put on a reducing diet. As we free ourselves from our likes and dislikes, our Ego gets slimmer and slimmer. He is not so rigid about his opinion, he is able to bend gracefully when it comes for the benefit of others. And finally he gets so slim that he can disappear leaving behind his fragrance. Then our Ego becomes Purush - greater than the greatest.

To discover this Self we have to take a journey towards inside our heart - regions of mind. If you have gone in a mountain cave, you might have noticed that only after a while you feel that light has never touched that place. As you go further in the cave, the pressure seems to rise, your eyes plays trick on you, and you seem to lose your sense of direction.

Descending into unconsciousness in meditation is very much the same. Only after some years it becomes clear that the light is increasing. Then, as Geetaa puts it - day seems to you as night, and you start living in the night. It is a great irony that the Real-Self is nearer to ourselves than the body, but is hidden away so far. As we approach nearer to Real-Self we see some signs, our security improves, we easily forgive, but if we move farther away, we become more irritable, we may develop stomach problems, hypertension, loneliness, depression. An upset mind and chronic disease tell us that we have lost our way.

The Tree of Life

[167] According to Yam, the whole modern world has been under the superstition that we are not what we are; and we are what we really are not. Yam explains this with an image of Tree of Life. Its branches, leaves and so on are the phenomenal world: matter and energy, space and time, body and mind. This is the world of process, characterized by continuous change. But the root of the tree is Purush itself - eternal, unchanged, unbroken, consciousness. Thus the root of everything is the Self.

In meditation, we learn to withdraw consciousness from the sensory level into the mind, then into the intellect and then into the pure sense of "I" in which only a shell of separation remains. Finally in the climax of meditation - Samaadhi, all separateness goes, we are back inside the seed - the Self.

Afterwards we learn to make this journey at will, until this Samaadhi becomes permanent and continuous. This is very satisfying state. No matter what we are doing, we are always in touch with the source of our being. All of life springs from the same root. The Self in each of us is one and the same. For this Self different names are given in different religions. Christian mystics call it the Christ within. When a person is able to identify himself with Self then they say, "He has become Christ Consciousness". Hindu mystics speak of Krishn-consciousness, or that the person has attained Moksh - complete freedom from conditioning of Time, space and circumstance. The Buddhists call it Nirvaan. Nir means out and Vaan means to blow. The Ego has been extinguished - there is no more shadow to be mistaken for the real - or Aatmaa with the Purush.

Jeev is a process, never the same. Similarly you and I are the same, although we wear separate clothes, speak different language, but the Self is only one - then what is the quarrel about? This has very practical implication for the law of Karm. There is no need to go back to people whom you have not seen for years. You may patch up that relationship with others also, because the same Self is in everybody.

Yam tells Nachiketaa - "Know one, know all". To know others, you do not have to go to others knocking on their doors. Once you have seen your own Self, you have seen others' Self also. It makes it easy to understand and to forgive and very difficult to quarrel with others.

Most Christmas cookies are made from the same dough but in different shapes, if somebody prefers a particular shape, it is absurd because all are same otherwise. In the same way we are also made with the same stuff, only the decoration is different. 

The natural state of Chitta is still one and unbroken, without any beginning or end, it extends through all.




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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/05
Updated on 06/09/11