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17-Death and Immortality

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Kathopanishad-Page 17
p 200-210

Waking Up

[200] We have almost reached the end of our journey. Of the regions of consciousness that surround the Self - body, senses, mind, intellect, Ego all but the last have been crossed. We are just standing outside the lamp with just one pane of clouded glass between us and the light - we are ready to wake up.

There are two worlds - one is the ever-changing phenomena, of birth and death, cause and effect - the world of duality which all of us believe as our real home, while it is not;  because our home is beyond these, it is very source of light of life, beyond all change, and therefore beyond death. Only one individual lives here - the Self. That is the second world.

From all traditions we know that there is a place where Death cannot reach. In more scientific language, there is a state of consciousness in which nothing is identified by physical body, no imprisonment in the mind and ego, but only life. There is no distinction between mine and yours, his and hers. When we enter this world, we do not leave the physical world behind. We live in the state our mind is in and as long as our thinking process is active. We may pass our lives here without even suspecting that there is any other place. When the mind is completely still, we see all life as whole.

We do continue to live the physical world - we eat, we sleep, we laugh, work, talk, etc, but our consciousness is utterly transformed. We are a changed person and see the world differently. Thus we can live in both worlds, yet we never forget who we are and where we really live. But this world of duality cannot take us to that land. The senses go with us for a distance but then soon pass out because of lack of stimulation. The mind can still go further, but it cannot live without change any more. As we are close to frontier, it also lies down and goes to sleep.

The frontier is the border. When we look across, we see no change, no separateness, no time, no cause and effect there. The intellect gets terrified and runs away, but the Ego stays. Actually it, along with its army (senses and Sanskaar), had been fighting all way long, but now it is fighting for his own life. In this fight Geetaa says - "We have only one ally - our Will; and one enemy - our Self-will. If the Will has won, we have entered the other side at that time, as the mystics say - the individual Will has lost to the Divine Will.

In every human being, this border in consciousness is present. It shows itself in a divided will and the multiplicity of desires, in the inability to concentrate and maintain a relationship. Everywhere it means conflict - between two desires, two people, a hope and fear. Its positive side is that we have a choice. Without conflict, the selfish person will continue to be selfish, but when there is a conflict, means a choice, there is a hope. It is the conflict between selfish and selfish-less; or a struggle between two Selves - a higher (permanent Self) and a lower Self (impermanent Self); or in physicist's language a war between light and darkness; or in metaphysical language wisdom versus ignorance. But whatever the language unifying this split is a battle. The human personality can be called Armageddon where the battle continues for years together, or rather for lives together.

Where this battle ends, the Saadhanaa starts. Grace comes naturally. Grace is not an external power but a tremendous force in the depths of consciousness which begins to shape our lives.

This happens very quietly. This does not depend on education, gender, social status, race or any other external characteristic. It is a moment when it happens and before that nothing would happen. Often this awakening moment comes in great crisis. Normally most storms in life come and go and most people continue their life as before, but only a rare human being may respond to these storms differently. This personal crisis shakes the consciousness to its very depth. This shake brings great suffering physically, emotionally and spiritually and changes their lives.

It is like fishing business. You wait for a fish for a long time and go home empty-handed. Of a thousand fish in the sea, Yam says, only a few will see the bait; of a thousand that see it, only one will nibble; of a thousand nibblers, only one will bite it. But as we bite it we are caught.

The fish is the Ego and the resistance and turmoil and agitation that so often come in the first half of Saadhanaa are all part of spiritual growth. The desire to change the direction of your life is one of the surest signs of grace. In the beginning, you may not know the direction you are going, but soon you will know that you are going in a wrong direction. And this is the moment you will start looking for someone who can guide you. This desire is the Self keeping a watch on you.

The early stage of Saadhanaa needs a hard constant labor. Saint Teresa compares these stages of Saadhanaa to water a garden planted on steps in mountain area. As the girls living in mountain areas go down to bring water, then come up again to water their plants. But then after a while a time comes when you can trade this labor with a Persian wheel by which you can bring several buckets of water together without much labor. Finally at the end of Saadhanaa, Grace comes like a steady rain. You are no longer making rounds to water the plants, nor you are using Spanish wheel but is constantly coming in a continuous stream, you just need to channel it wherever you wish to take it.

Dedication is required and tested on spiritual path. We do not see the results immediately but changes are continuously taking place within us. And one day we see something concrete, then only we know that our labor has resulted in fruits. This is Self's approval, but Ego is still stubborn. Thus for success we need sustained dedication and continuous effort.

The surest mark of grace is marvelous, almost unimaginable - the desire to go against our selfish desires. You cannot believe it is possible until this happens. It is not repressing it, but it is being free. This is the turning point in transformation.

The mind is like a garden, and there is a lot going on beneath the soil. Thoughts are seeds and desires are their fruits (here we are talking all about negative thoughts, not the positive ones) but if there is any positive thought, we must water it, care for it. And this is the purpose of meditation. In meditation we try to sow the seeds of positive desires, water them and care for them.  Its fruitful signs often come in dreams. The author gives two examples here - one, of a lady who had to forgo her ice cream as it fell down on the floor in her dream; two, of another lady who forgot her purse so she had to come back hungry. But this can happen in daytime also. Sometimes you may start to fulfill your one desire, but you find that your heart is not in it - it is the sign of grace. This situation can help you a good deal to draw yourself from fulfilling that desire, or you may find reluctance to do some conditioned action, this will also slow you down on that path, and it has to be encouraged. Thus our personality is being transformed gradually.



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