Seeing Beyond the Illusion
By Stephen Knapp
So what is the purpose of reading this book? To assist ourselves in seeing through the illusory nature of this material world. When you understand how this world is manifested and how it works, you have an easier means of recognizing the temporary nature of it and why we are here. The first thing to understand is that it is better not to try to see what is beyond the illusion, but to know how to recognize the illusory nature itself. Then the Truth beyond the veil will reveal itself.
Now, using the information we have learned in this volume, let us begin to see beyond the illusory nature and recognize the reality that exists behind it all. One of the first steps is to recognize that everything is but a display of the Lord's energies. So as you begin to see everything in this way, then you will also recognize how everything is but an expansion of God. Then you will reach that state of being wherein you will understand, as the sages ask, "What is not God?" You will see that God is everywhere. Then you will also see that you are never alone. God is here, there, everywhere, omniscient through His energy. Prahlada Maharaja was such a devotee who saw God everywhere, even in a stone pillar. And that is from where Lord Narasimha manifested when He appeared to protect Prahlada. God is already everywhere. Only our ignorance keeps us from seeing this.
Furthermore, you must recognize that everyone is a part of God. This is an impetus for our love and compassion toward all. After all, how can you say you love God if you do not love all His parts and parcels? Thus, as you rise above dualities, above seeing people and things in the designations of good and bad, pleasant and unpleasant, favorable or unfavorable, you will see spiritually that they are all the same. Only materially and superficially they may temporarily display what seems to be good or bad qualities, while the core of each person, the soul within the body, is completely spiritual, beyond all temporary designations.
So, as you look around this material existence, you can see how everyone is entrapped in various material bodies, through which they act out their many desires and goals. All these forms are but different packages filled with the same substances of material energy. If you strip away the packaging, or skin, you see the network of nerves, bones, blood, muscle, mucus, urine, etc. This is the mechanics of the bodily vehicle. Deeper within the gross physical body is also the subtle body of mind, intelligence, and false ego. In this way, these multidimensional bodies are most wondrous machines and tools for acting within and experiencing the material realm. What is entrapped in these bodies is the soul, the spark and cause of consciousness, which is the same in each body. It is this consciousness when mixed with the body, along with the many material circumstances in which it becomes involved, that produce the innumerable thoughts and feelings one has. Thus, your own thoughts are but temporary material emotions flowing through the mind like the wind. As long as these thoughts are focused on the innumerable varieties of material nature, they are but forms of maya. Getting free of these material thoughts is an essential part of any spiritual system, which, thus, allows you to get closer to perceiving what lies beyond the illusion.
While in these bodies, and while conditioned by materialistic consciousness, the living entities are pushed and pulled, or attracted and repulsed, by the various forms of maya. They are attracted to objects, sensations, as well as each other, in hopes of finding pleasure and happiness. In this attempt to acquire such happiness, they often merely go through the motions of social activities that they may not completely understand, but do so because of being entrapped in the hopes that they will find meaning and fulfillment. Therefore, this search is almost never ending because within the material energy, which is temporary in substance, they hanker for what they want and then lament for what they have lost. In this way, they often remain disappointed when all is said and done, and still searching for something more to make them feel fulfilled.
Actually, this feeling of being unfulfilled is natural because until the living being is living and acting on the spiritual platform, which is his normal state of being, he is living in an incompatible and foreign environment to his eternal spiritual condition. It is like a fish being out of water. Until the fish is back in the water, no matter what else he finds, he will not be happy. This situation can also be compared to a person in a desert with only a few drops of water to quench his thirst. A few drops of water in a desert is just not enough to satisfy anyone. So, being disappointed or even frustrated in one's attempt to find true happiness in the material world is not unusual. It is not that such happiness does not exist, it is simply that the material domain is the wrong place to look for it. So in order to be happy here, you often have to accept less than what you hoped for, or move on and work toward understanding your real spiritual identity and reach the spiritual platform. Then you can rise above the influence of what you thought you wanted.
Another aspect of rising above what you thought you wanted is that the closer you get to realizing your spiritual nature, the less inclined you are for that which is connected with the temporary body. Going further than this, the more you regain your relationship with the Supreme, which is always on the basis of eternal, transcendental love, the more you are automatically fulfilled. The more you will feel a completeness that is not available through any material facility. This is the point of really progressive material existence: To attain a state of realizing that willingly or unwillingly we are all servants of God related through spiritual love. We can realize this through knowledge and enlightenment, or by being humbled through suffering or the approach of death until we understand that ultimately God is in control and we are but servants. So we can serve Him directly and willingly, or serve Him indirectly through His energies, such as we find in maya. It is up to us. It is similar to being a servant of the state. We can be good and have our freedom by obeying the laws, or we can be bad or rebellious and be an unwilling servant confined in jail where we will be forcibly restrained from breaking the laws. While there, we may even be coerced to engage in various forms of service, such as making license plates or other labors for the state. Jail or freedom is our choice. In either case, we are but servants. In the same way, we can live in the spiritual world and serve the Lord directly, or be placed in the material worlds where we are servants of His energies or parts and parcels in the forms of wife, children, landlord, boss at work, etc. The easiest and most blissful way is to be a willing servant of God and follow His instructions. Everyone is a servant. This cannot be changed. This is our natural position. So we are either serving God directly, or we are serving Him indirectly through His various material energies. It is our choice.
As we continue to look at everyone wandering in the material world, we can also recognize that they are all, ultimately, looking for love: To love and be loved, this is the goal. In all the innumerable forms in which this need may appear, this is ultimately all people want. It is what makes the world go around. However, the only place where that loving propensity can be fulfilled completely is on the spiritual level, not the material. The material level offers only the chance to find the reflection of what we want, not the real thing that offers complete depth and continuity. And when the saintly, those who have perceived the Truth of this existence, see how people everywhere are searching in this way, they feel compassion and want to show the way to find this real love in the spiritual strata that can offer the ultimate fulfillment for which everyone is searching.
Once you can begin seeing through the facade of maya, or the candy coating attraction of these bodies and material existence in general, you will also understand that true love and concern for others actually takes the form of compassion. It is not simply a matter of working together in cooperation, or appreciating each other's talents, culture, etc. It is seeing that we are all bound by the influence of maya and need to be freed. And you cannot free others if you are also tied up. The best thing you can do to help free others from the illusion of maya is to make sure you are not one of those who are bound by it. You have to be free to free others. We also have to remember that compassion is the basis of the material universe. The cosmic manifestation is manifested by the compassion of God for the innumerable, materially conditioned living beings. All saintly people will feel this compassion in their view of those who are still enveloped in the drama of maya, stumbling in the darkness of ignorance, looking for love in any way they can find it, and not knowing the purpose of life or how to be free of their suffering.
In this way, compassion for the predicament of those lost in the illusory energy is the true expression of concern and goodwill. As explained earlier, the compassion of God is the basis of the material creation for the conditioned souls. Therefore, any spiritual leader must reflect this compassion of the Supreme, otherwise he or she cannot be a real representative of God. Such compassion is not merely a matter of helping people in their struggle with the forces of maya, such as with their finances, catastrophic storms, floods, or hunger, shelter, etc. Of course, such assistance should be given if you have been blessed by God to have no such problems and have the facility to help others. But such problems will always continue as long as we are bound in this material energy. This shows the importance of helping others to become disentangled from material conditioning and to be free spiritually. So you have to go beyond basic humanitarian assistance if you want to truly solve the problems of the living beings in a permanent way.
Of course, there will be those who feel they are fine, or are not interested in working toward freedom from material existence. But any spiritual assistance that can be given can make a difference and provide an eternal benefit to the individual. After all, the more you work to help others, the more you also help yourself. The benefit works both ways and affects all involved. That is the nature of spiritual work. And the highest spiritual work is to offer knowledge of one's spiritual identity and relationship with God, and the process for regaining that forgotten relationship. As Krishna explains in the Bhagavad-gita, He is most pleased by those who spread this knowledge. There is no higher service than that.
As you continue to develop your consciousness in this direction and consider everything you have learned about the process of creation from God, you will realize that the spiritual atmosphere pervades the material cosmos. The material creation is limited, like a cloud in the spiritual sky. However, the spiritual sky has no limitations and its energy spreads throughout the cosmic creation and manifests in various ways. It is unlimited, but our ability to perceive it is all that is limited. Actually, we have never left it, although we may think we have. We do not regain something that was never lost, like our relationship with God. We only have to remember it. That is the key to any spiritual process; how effective it is in helping us remember our spiritual identity and relationship with the Supreme. That is the meaning of being awakened. We have to awaken from this dream of forgetfulness.
So knowing that the spiritual dimension pervades the material realm, which universe are you in? The material or spiritual? It is only a matter of perception. If you think you are in the material worlds, and that your material body is what you are, then when did you begin thinking this way? In which lifetime? This shows how long our conditioning has been going on. It is this conditioning from which we must free ourselves.
If you think you are the material body, then you also will think that the life you lead, the temporary drama that you are in, is your reality. That is your world. And it is only a world of appearances. However, with a snap you can change your consciousness and your perception when you recognize that the spiritual dimension is everywhere, and that actually you are a spiritual being and a part of that spiritual dimension. It is this spiritual strata to which you belong. So although you may be functioning to a certain degree in this material dimension, you are actually a part of the eternal spiritual domain, which is everywhere. In this case, you are already home. Then you will see that in spite of the material energies around you, they are a development from the Supreme Being's spiritual energy, and you are actually in the spiritual universe which pervades the material worlds. Then you will also understand that the material aspect is only a temporary appearance, a charade. It is as if we are dressed in costumes and playing parts in a drama that is not based on who we really are. It is based on these temporary bodies, and not the reality of the soul. However, this can be changed when we realize that we are eternal spiritual beings simply having a temporary human experience at this time.
Once you rise above the bodily perception, your awareness is no longer limited to only what your senses and mind can pick up. You become aware of what is your true identity and potential, and that the spiritual dimension is all-pervading. So, once again I raise the question, what universe are you in, the spiritual or material?
As you begin to see the spiritual reality all around you, you become more attached to God and less concerned with material necessities. When you experience the bliss of God consciousness, you automatically become more detached from your surroundings, regardless of whether they are pleasant or unpleasant, such as nice house, nice clothes, etc. You become completely fulfilled through your attachment and longing for God. Attachment to guru and God is the culmination of spiritual life, no matter where you are. The more attached you are to God, the more detached and forgetful you become to things of the world. Seeing God everywhere is also a form of meditation of the highest caliber. Such a meditation will remove the veil of illusion and bring you to the spiritual dimension after, or even before, you leave your body.
Now let us perform an experiment. Go to your local mall or shopping center (which is where I am writing this), or wherever there is a lot of people. This is the testing ground to see how much or how little you are affected by the illusory energy. Have a seat. Now look around. Do not be judgmental about the forms and bodies you see, or the construction of the buildings and the content of the stores. Are some stores enticing you to enter? See them as different manifestations of the Lord's energy. See the people. Are you attracted to some or repulsed by others? You must see beyond that.
The bodies are merely containers. They are sparked into action and alive only because of the spirit soul within, and motivated by the modes of nature. The people become motivated as the pure inclinations of the soul become filtered through the polluted desires of the materially conditioned mind and senses. Thus, instead of acting for the pleasure of God and the soul, they engage in the shallow attempt to satisfy their mind and senses.
However, the more spiritual you become, the more you can perceive that which is beyond the bodily limitations. The more you will see how the spiritual dimension is all around us and is the essential network that keeps everything together. This spiritual aspect, which is our real eternal identity, is what motivates us to search for love and happiness. The reason for this is that the soul is sat-chit-ananda, eternal, full of bliss and knowledge. That bliss is essentially based on loving relationships. So that is what we always want and need. Everything is but a reflection of that need.
As you continue to develop spiritually, you will see as the sages do. As a sage sees the natural spiritual reality, you can also perceive the living being within the body. You can see beyond the imperfect form and ego to see the spirit soul within. You see beyond the drama of actions and reactions of the living beings in this material world. You know you may be in the drama but are not of it. In such a case, it is as if you are watching a movie or play. You look and may be amused by what you see, may even enjoy the experience, but never become involved. In this way, you stand apart from it, even if it is all around you. You know it is separate from the reality of the real you. Thus, you can always remain detached from the activities that go on in this play on the stage of maya, the illusory world. You can be compared to a tourist, someone who is but a transient, traveling through this world, observing but detached, and never enticed by the attractions or aversions that others take so seriously. In this way, you can be the master of your mind, not the slave of it. Thus, you can go about giving words of wisdom to those who are sincerely seeking the knowledge that you can deliver. Otherwise, you may feel that there is little else in this world that is more worthwhile to accomplish.
So, when we begin to see beyond the illusion, we first recognize:
1. That everything is but a manifestation of the Lord's energy. The Supreme Absolute is the point and center of all creation, both spiritual and material. The energies of matter and spirit vibrate at different frequencies and manifest on different levels. Yet they both originate from the same source, which is the pure consciousness of the Supreme Being. Thus, the material strata is subservient to, and pervaded by, the unlimited spiritual energy. It is the spiritual energy which is the foundation of the material realm and interacts with it in all phases, however unbeknownst to those who are spiritually unaware.
2. Then we see the spiritual sparks in all bodies, and that each soul as a tiny part of God, practically dormant, waiting to regain its spiritual identity and activities, in spite of all the material affairs in which the body is engaged. It is the bodily concept of life that cages the real person within and tends to keep him from remembering his true identity. It is only the light of spiritual knowledge that can open this cage to reveal the reality of our true identity.
3. Also, we should recognize the presence of the Supersoul inside everyone. It is by the power of the Supreme that the jiva soul has the ability of movement, intellect, speech, etc., while in the container of the material body.
4. In the midst of all this, the sage sees that spiritual love is the only relationship for which anyone really hankers and searches. It is this loving relationship which is the ultimate motivator and reason for living. However, we often only find its reflection in the material realm. Nonetheless, it is the loving relationship with God that gives the highest bliss that, in our forgetfulness in material existence, impels our need to find it in whatever form or reflection that we can. Once we have a taste of the happiness attained on the spiritual level, and in the bliss of love of God, nothing in the material realm ever looks the same. It simply loses its appeal and its thrill.
5. Meanwhile, the sage sees the people are but wearing different dresses (bodies) as participants in the temporary drama on this stage called planet Earth. And this planet is merely but one amongst innumerable others that orbit in this universe, while this universe is among countless others that manifest from the immeasurable form of Maha-Vishnu, who is lying in the Karana Ocean. This Karana Ocean, which holds all of the material energies, is but like a cloud in a corner of the infinite spiritual sky, and this spiritual sky is filled with innumerable and gigantic spiritual planets where the true reality of life exists eternally without limitations.
When you can begin to see like this, which is only a portion of what the spiritually developed sage can observe, you are starting to see beyond the illusory energy.
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