Recently a friend and I had this casual conversation. The questions we raised are proceeded by the answers, which I've put in italics for clarity.
1. One concept that I can’t seem to grasp at all is “we are all ONE. Everything is good. We are a perfect spirit.” Does that imply a non-existing difference between right and wrong? What about morality? Isn’t conscience the development of morality and care for yourself and others? Also, if someone engages in wrongdoings against other beings, isn’t that person in violation of morality, natural law, higher self, higher will, etc? Isn’t there an internal contradiction and conflict in humans? Aren’t we supposed to be imperfect and learning through real life experiences in a real tangible world? What about accountability for our actions? Are we accountable to ourselves and others if we believe we are deep down a perfect spirit? I mean, who would want to change or grow?
Coming from the mind which views itself as separate and deals in concepts, seeing ONE where there are so many is hard to grasp. But think of a dream. So many events and characters take place all in your own mind, multiplicity coming from unity. Or a candle. An eternal flame, from which other candles are lit, without taking away from that candle. Manifestations of one, in many. Sometimes those analogies help. Or in meditation or deep sleep. Without thought, even consciousness of the body, what is there left? Oneness. Absolute reality (which many religions call God) has as its defining feature the fact that it is always the same, everywhere. What fits this description? The underlying consciousness that I AM. It is with you wherever you go. God seeing through your eyes.
Yes, in the dream, right and wrong, morality are “characters.” But they are relative. One person’s good is another man’s evil. And they only apply to the dream. The other night I dreamt a friend had a seizure. It seemed perfectly logical in the dream to put his head in a plaster cast to stabilize his shakes. So we did it. Then I woke up and saw how nonsensical that was. You must allow that all these notions, concepts, morality, which we take as logical may not be so in the grander sense, once we wake up. They are just part of the dream, which is going on in a blip in eternity. What you are is out of time, and can access this by going beyond thought.
Yes there is an inner voice that if you listen to can act as a guide. But this can be a subtle manifestation of the ego, trying to have its way. Best to come from love and let that be your guide. As Christ taught: love God above all and your neighbor as yourself. Yes, at the human level, we are born, grow, have drama, improve, take a step back, and die. But who you really are is beyond human. You go to the movies and vicariously experience thrills through the character. You never for a minute believe you are the character. It is the same with the body. Though harder, because society has taught us to identify with the body, giving us a name etc. We even refer to ourselves as I. There is no change or growth at the level of the spirit. Like the air in a glass. Whatever happens to the glass, it is dirtied, stained, broken, carries wine or water, the space is the same. If you really think about it, what is it that throughout your life has always been the same. Just the consciousness in which life’s events happen. Who were you before you were born? If you believe you existed before birth, presumably as spirit, then you surely weren’t the person you identify with currently. Then who? This raises the question of identity. Your true nature is beyond name and form.
2. What about feelings like anger, shame, and guilt? How are they viewed by you and people who profess a similar belief system? Do you work through those feelings or how do you use what is happening to your advantage and growth? What about love? Is love a universal force, projected to everyone and no one at the same time? How does love transpire in close relationships?
These feelings arise at the level of the self, ego-based personality, mind that wants things and sees itself as separate. When you remain fixed in perfect spirit you can watch what is going on without those feelings. Do you feel shame when another person does something silly? No, because you see them as “not you.” Just so, your body and personality is “not the true you” though you are associated with it. And once your remain fixed in perfect spirit, your actions and thoughts change, and these consequent emotions do not arise.
Our nature is love. At the individual level, it is conditional, manifested as self-love, love for family (an extension of self). But at the level of the higher self, all is love, and all is one. There is no distinction. Perhaps a reason for this universe is for the ONE to become many and for love, its true nature, to have an object. For love to be expressed. But the universe can be its own purpose, or exist for the enjoyment of the Self/God, out of whom it evolves, and then the Self enters into it in the heart of each individual to experience itself. Heady concepts, these. Love in close relationships can be a double-edged sword, if it is given at the exclusion of giving it to others, which closes a person off. But if it is enjoyed as yet another expression of love – romantic love, love for family, humanitarian love, love for nature, etc. – then it adds to the variety.
3. What happens when you reach a state of bliss and discover your true self? Do people stop from engaging in the tragic yet beautiful life around them, and get absorbed in the “feel good”, comfort and convenience of realizing that they are self-fulfilled and innately perfect?
I think that most holy persons, even philosophers, live lives of seclusion and are generally not married nor do they have kids. They take little interest in the affairs of the world. It’s like a game. One you see the game for what it is, you may not wish to play it. It is those who take life seriously, mistake it for ultimate reality, that are so engaged by it. Other sages and philosophers have gotten married and had kids before becoming realized and either continue in these functions or go off and leave home, as did the Buddha. Once you remain fixed in the Self, it doesn’t matter what you do, sit in meditation, raise a family, travel the world. But you may not want to do much. Ask yourself before engaging in any activity, why am I doing this? If there is no good answer, if not for you enjoyment or of necessity, then you’ll find yourself doing less. And just being. There is a great comfort in just being. One sage compared it to the person who toils on a hot day and stays out of the shade. That is the individual personality fighting through life. The realized individual stays fixed in the shade of the self. He can still be active, but the business of life is less strenuous.
4. What about teachers that can be encountered throughout our lives? I personally think anyone can be a teacher, but also some people only care to deceive and exploit others. It is the manifestation of good and evil in the world, in my opinion.
One sage said if a teacher charges, he is not a teacher. Of course people need to earn their living and if they are helping others awaken from the dream and/or be better people then should they get paid for this, the ultimate service? It’s a question I’ve often wondered about. I don’t consider myself a teacher but have written books dealing with issues I find interesting and make them available for cheap, though few care to read them. But yes the self-help movement is tricky territory and there certainly can be predators preying on the minds of the impressionable or lost.
These are all just concepts. The trick is to go beyond them and be. But if discussing issues turn the mind in on itself and away from external phenomena that so seduce our attention, then these words and books etc have served a purpose. But remember: You - not your name or personality or who society has led you to take as yourself, but the witnessing consciousness that gives this you life, and is the same consciousness lighting my eyes and seated in my heart as Love - is the ultimate purpose.