I Do Not Know
The contemporary Jesuit mystic Anthony de Mello used a simple scenario to explain a subtle form of ego found in most of us. He wrote:
The Master once exposed his disciples by means of the following advice: He gave each of them a sheet of paper and asked them to write down the length of the hall they were in.
Almost everyone gave flat figures like fifty feet. Two or three added the word “approximately.”
Said the Master, “No one has given the right answer.”
“What is the right answer?” they asked.
“The right answer is I DO NOT KNOW,” said the Master.
One Minute Nonsense
In the case of many satsangis our education and upbringing have groomed us to pretend we know everything. We even feel ashamed if we do not know something. How often do we say “I know” when someone tells us something? Isn’t it fascinating that either we feel we have to know everything or we pretend we know everything? The Great Master said: “When we do not know a thing, it is absurd to make others believe that we know it.”
We seem to associate our knowledge with what and who we are. We also associate our name, our religion, even the language we speak, the way we dress, our jobs, our homes with our personality. We define ourselves and others by meaningless social criteria and material things and consequently we suppress the real identity of who we truly are. We identify with materialism because we connect with the creation through our only means of perception, our physical senses. And because we can perceive only physical matter, our entire world is confined to the physical. Unless we can see, feel, touch, hear, smell or taste something, we do not believe it exists.
But is there anything beyond the physical? Do we know? The answer to this question depends on the tests we apply. If we use the barometer of our physical senses, the answer will be “nothing”, because we have already limited ourselves to the domain of the physical plane. It is like saying that no sound exists outside the frequency range of the human ear. But if we use an instrument that perceives sound outside our frequency range, we realize the ignorance of limiting ourselves to the senses.
If we want to know whether anything exists beyond the physical, we have to rise above the physical plane by developing a sense that perceives beyond the physical. But do we have such a sense? Consider what happens when we dream. We know that we perceive and experience everything in a dream as if it is real and physically happening to us. Only when we wake up do we discover it is a dream. This means that we can perceive and experience things beyond the physical through a sense of perception other than the physical senses. The concept of our soul works the same way. We may believe that we have a soul but are unaware of its existence. However, the fact that we cannot perceive our soul with our physical senses does not mean that it doesn’t exist – we simply do not know!
So what is beyond the physical world and how can we access and experience it for ourselves? How can we know? The Masters explain that there are several vast planes or regions that exist above the physical plane. These broadly include the astral plane, the causal plane and the spiritual plane. Now, just as a deep-sea diver needs specially designed diving gear to explore the depths of the ocean, we need special bodies to explore these planes. Of course, unless we are in tune with these bodies, which are all within us, and can access and use them, we don’t know of their existence either.
So how do we tune into them? Well, we access the dream state by being still during sleep and allowing our consciousness to drop to the lower levels of consciousness. Similarly, we can access the astral, causal and spiritual planes by being still and by raising our consciousness to the eye centre. This is where the inward journey begins, taking us to higher levels of consciousness. The key difference is that the dream state is accessed involuntarily during sleep, whereas travelling to the higher planes is voluntary and within our control. The Masters teach us that to travel this journey is to raise our consciousness by the practice of meditation, which focuses our attention inward and upward.
The greatest barrier preventing entry to these planes is, in fact, the very entity that will assist us in getting there: our very own mind. The Master tells us that if the mind is used properly there can be no better friend. But if the mind is used negatively, there can be no worse enemy. We need to befriend the mind by using it properly, so that the purpose of this human birth is realized – which is to know our soul.
Currently the mind dominates the soul, obscuring its light and brilliance and thereby concealing the soul’s identity, which is why we are unconscious of the soul. In its place, the mind projects its own identity so that we think we are the mind; we identify with mind instead of with our soul. The mind has become our individuality, our character and our personality. The qualities of the mind have shaped who we are, while the quality of the soul, which is pure love, lies dormant. But we can reverse this identity crisis through our meditation practice.
Now that we know this, can we undertake the journey by ourselves? Most will agree that we cannot because we don’t know how. To undertake this journey we need an adept such as the living Master. The Masters have perfected the art of spiritual or mystic transport, and have become permanent residents of the highest spiritual planes while being in the physical body. They can therefore teach us the method, and guide us around any pitfalls and obstacles we may encounter on the way.
If we truly desire it and work hard for it, we too can accomplish what the Master has achieved. Then we will never again be concerned about always knowing all the answers. Then the answer “I do not know” will become part of our vocabulary, because we will realize the depths of our ignorance and helplessness. Then we can relax and let the Master do his work.
All through eternity
Beauty unveils His exquisite form
in the solitude of nothingness;
He holds a mirror to His Face
and beholds His own beauty.
he is the knower and the known,
the seer and the seen;
No eye but His own
has ever looked upon this Universe.