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Living the Yoga Life: The Atman/Self

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The fundamental reality of each one of us is our own eternal Self. From that Self all things have come. The world is the thought of God, held in the mind of God. And our personal world is the same, held in both the mind of God and ourselves. The Divine Dreamer is dreaming of universes and creation cycles without number, and we in him are dreaming our countless lives as we move upward to conscious union with and within him. This being so, every one of our incarnations originates within us and is an expression of our will, just as we create worlds every night in dream and populate them with our mental projections. Yoga is the means of awakening from our dream state and living truly and consciously within God as gods.

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All kinds of ways have been sought to put an end to immersion in the ocean of samsara. But there is only one true way: awakening into the Self. For at the core of our Self is God, the Self of our Self, since we are a part of God and draw our eternal existence from God. That is why the German mystic Angelus Silesius said that if he ceased to exist, God would also cease to exist. We are inseparable from God, for there is only ONE. Therefore our meditation should be directed inwardly to the jivatman, within which we shall realize the Paramatman. First is Self-realization, and then God-realization follows automatically.

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As the boat is in the water but is not the water, so the Atman-Self is not part of samsara, but is only in samsara temporarily. Just as the boat originates outside the water and can be taken from the water, in the same way the Atman seems to come from Brahman into samsara and eventually return to Brahman, since Brahman is the essence of its being. But only when the eternal nature of the Self is revealed does that become evident and the Self becomes freed from the experience of samsara.

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The Self is untouched by actions or laws. But the not-self is touched by nothing else. So we must decide whether we will live in the samsara of the not-self or in the freedom of the Self. If we decide for freedom then we will have to purify the not-self and transmute our consciousness into that of the Self alone.

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The Self is not a material entity, nor is it really ever a part of relative existence, though it experiences the illusion of relative existence. The Self is the Experiencer, the Witness, and never is an object of observation, for it is the Observer. The Self is consciousness for whom all else is an object while it is the eternal subject.

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The entire world-experience is experience of the most superficial aspect of a person, the outer appearance. Our life in this world is only a life of externals, even our mental states being external to our witnessing Self. Therefore our evaluation of this life should be according to its minimal significance, and we must seek the reality which it hides: the Self and the Supreme Self.

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The world “around” us is really within us. That is, our sense experiences are nothing more than neurological interpretations conveyed to and interpreted by our brains. Certainly, something is “out there” but that which we consider external reality is really only our internal imaging of it. The cosmos is a dream of Ishwara, of God, and we, our Selfs, are dreaming inside that dream. Therefore, to know the world as it is we must know the Self.

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The Self never acts and never determines anything. Therefore positive and negative exist only in relative existence, never in the spirit which transcends relativity. Our true nature, the Spirit-Self, cannot be affected in any way by action because the Self exists beyond the realm of action and reaction.

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The Atman-Self cannot be changed in any manner whatsoever. Therefore the Gita says: “This Self by weapons is cut not; this Self by fire is burnt not; this Self by water is wet not; and this Self is by wind dried not. This Self cannot be cut, burnt, wetted, nor dried. This primeval Self is eternal, all-pervading, and immovable. Unmanifest, unthinkable, this Self is called unchangeable” (2:23-25).

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Our Self never changes, but it seems to undergo change because the mind projects the illusory images of change on the screen of our consciousness and we mistakenly identify with them. It is all a dream in which we have vivid experiences, but when we awaken into the consciousness of our Self we will know they were only dreams, that from the highest perspective nothing at all has really happened. It is all the play of maya, of illusion/delusion. “Do not say: ‘God gave us this delusion.’ You dream you are the doer, you dream that action is done, you dream that action bears fruit. It is your ignorance, it is the world’s delusion that gives you these dreams” (Bhagavad Gita 5:14; Prabhavananda translation).

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The wise fix their attention and purpose on the Self that is their true essence, their true heart. They do not mistake the container for the contents, and they purify and transmute through yoga the container in order to reveal and manifest the contents. The outer is little, but the inner is great.

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The truly awakened realize the need to live in Spirit-Self awareness and the necessity of ordering their life according to what hinders and what reveals that awareness. This is much higher than mere good and bad, virtuous and evil, as viewed by the wandering, ever-changing mind. The essence of all things, the reality behind mere appearance, is the focus of their mind and life. They penetrate into immortality and leave death behind.

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The wealth of the yogi is the knowledge and possession of his own divine Self within him. This is the secret treasure he has been carrying within himself from the moment he entered into relativity and began evolving in the universe, climbing the ladder of evolution, striving upward to possess Divine Consciousness.

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The Self is stable, the material is ever-changing, so those who are intent on the Self are firm in mind, and those who are immersed in externals are unstable and unreliable.

***

My friend, Saguna Hejmadi, a cousin of Swami (“Papa”) Ramdas of Anandashram, was once at the Anandamayi Ashram in New Delhi (Kalkaji) when Ma Anandamayi was there. Somehow an ignoramus standing nearby learned that she did a great deal of meditation.

“Why are you wasting your time with all that?” the man asked. “Women cannot attain liberation; only men can attain liberation.” Mistakenly she began arguing with the man. In the midst of this altercation, Anandamayi Ma came walking through the room. “MA!” called out Saguna, “Is it true that women cannot attain liberation?”

Still walking on, Ma nodded and answered: “That is true. Women cannot attain liberation.”

Saguna stood there completely thunderstruck as the man smiled and chuckled at his “triumph.”

After standing and stewing for nearly half an hour, Saguna saw Ma returning. Ma came right up to her, said: “And men do not attain liberation either!” and walked on and out of the room.

Then Saguna understood: only those who transcend body identity and “live in the spirit” can attain liberation.

***

Since all sentient beings have a divine Self as the essence of their being, none can be disregarded. We must not just value the Self in us, we must extend that respect to the Self in others.

All around us we see people sunk in ignorance and many in moral degradation. Just as a person can see a leper and shudder and turn away from the sight, in the same way we may inwardly shudder and turn away from those darkened and deformed by ignorance and evil, but what we are seeing is just a veneer. Beneath that appearance is a pure, perfect and divine Self, just as much as in Krishna, Buddha or Jesus. When we see such persons we must send them vibrations of kindness and good will, inwardly acknowledging their true value. Sometimes kind words and deeds are needed, also, but the inner blessing is the most important. Let me give you an example.

Luther McKinnie, a friend of mine, came from the standard background of unawareness that grips the world. But in time he became a yogi, intensely dedicated to the search for God-realization. His little meditation room (really a kind of storage area accessed through a tiny door you had to crawl through) was one of the holiest places I have ever entered, even though it was in the midst of Harlem, surrounded by all kinds of social and spiritual ills.

Luther was very close to Dr. Lewis, Yogananda’s first American disciple. Just a few years after becoming a yogi, Dr. Lewis told him, “Luther, you have purified your heart, and from now on you will purify others.” Luther doubted Doctorji’s words, but they were nonetheless proven true.

Luther was a guard in the New York City subway, complete with a gun, but Luther was an angel of peace. Once two drunk women, holding on to each other, staggered over to him and began to speak with him in the rambling manner of drunks. Luther conversed with them for some minutes, and then they shambled on. This was repeated several times. Then one day only one of the women came shuffling up alone and demanded: “What did you do to my friend?” When Luther asked her to explain, she told him: “As long as I have known her, Evelyn has been an alcoholic. But now she is completely cured and never touches a drop. And she tells everyone that you cured her!”

Luther was as amazed as she was, but Dr. Lewis, who had by that time left his body, would not have been. And knowing Luther, neither was I when I learned about it. Through Luther God’s Light had healed that soul. And we should do our best to become and do the same.

***

The Self is that which draws us upward into our Source, the Supreme Self. Behind the seeming life of the body is the real life that is the Spirit-Self. One is the machine and the other is the worker of the machine. We have to get them both in perspective. Then alone will we have real peace.

Next in Living the Yoga Life: Bhakti and Jnana

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About to Living the Yoga Life–Perspectives on Yoga

Living the Yoga Life–Perspectives on Yoga

Living the Yoga Life–Perspectives on Yoga: Introduction

    1. Living the Yoga Life: Climbing the Ladder of Consciousness
    2. Living the Yoga Life: Sanatana Dharma, Sanatana Yoga
    3. Living the Yoga Life: The Atman/Self
    4. Living the Yoga Life: Bhakti and Jnana
    5. Living the Yoga Life: Brahman
    6. Living the Yoga Life: Ishwara
    7. Living the Yoga Life: Breath
    8. Living the Yoga Life: India and Sanatana Dharma
    9. Living the Yoga Life: The Importance of Independence
    10. Living the Yoga Life: The Intelligent Path
    11. Living the Yoga Life: The Internal Life
    12. Living the Yoga Life: Japa and Sound (Shabda)
    13. Living the Yoga Life: Japa with the Breath
    14. Living the Yoga Life: Jnana
    15. Living the Yoga Life: The Jnani
    16. Living the Yoga Life: Karma and Karma Yoga
    17. Living the Yoga Life: Kundalini
    18. Living the Yoga Life: Liberation
    19. Living the Yoga Life: It Is All Up To Us
    20. Living the Yoga Life: Madness, Divine and Worldly
    21. Living the Yoga Life: Manas (Mind) and Buddhi (Intelligence/Intellect)
    22. Living the Yoga Life: Buddhi Yoga
    23. Living the Yoga Life: True Masters (And Not)
    24. Living the Yoga Life: Maya
    25. Living the Yoga Life: Meditation
    26. Living the Yoga Life: Prana
    27. Living the Yoga Life: Raja Yoga
    28. Living the Yoga Life: Reincarnation
    29. Living the Yoga Life: Religion
    30. Living the Yoga Life: Samadhi
    31. Living the Yoga Life: Sadhana
    32. Living the Yoga Life: Dedication to Spiritual Life
    33. Living the Yoga Life: Self-realization
    34. Living the Yoga Life: Shivashakti
    35. Living the Yoga Life: Spiritual Experience
    36. Living the Yoga Life: The Spiritual Teacher
    37. Living the Yoga Life: Subtle Anatomy
    38. Living the Yoga Life: The World
    39. Living the Yoga Life: Worship
    40. Living the Yoga Life: Yoga, the Body and the World
    41. Living the Yoga Life: Dharma and Adharma
    42. Living the Yoga Life: Yoga–The Supreme Dharma
    43. Living the Yoga Life: Yoga Nidra
    44. Living the Yoga Life: The Yogi
    45. Living the Yoga Life: Some Advice to Yogis
    46. Living the Yoga Life: Qualities of a Yogi
    47. Living the Yoga Life: This and That
    48. Living the Yoga Life: Touch Not
    49. Living the Yoga Life: The Gita Speaks To The Yogi
    50. Living the Yoga Life: How It Is Done
    51. Living the Yoga Life: Use your mind
    52. Living the Yoga Life: Some things it is wise to avoid
    53. Living the Yoga Life: Things you should definitely do and have in your life
    54. Living the Yoga Life: Spiritual Reading
    55. Living the Yoga Life: Gorakhnath Speaks To The Yogi
    56. Living the Yoga Life: And A Final Word From Me
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