We Are Not What We See
When we look at a person, what do we see? Since we are aware only of our physical sight we perceive only the physical aspects of others: their body, size, shape, gender, race and other features that are relevant to us. Once we find out more about a person such as where they live, what work they do, what language they speak and so on, we categorize them. We do this according to our assessment of them, and we generally develop an affinity or dislike towards them based on our prejudices.
However, do the physical attributes and our distinctions of a person really matter? While we would like to answer “no,” the truth is that because of our habit of differentiating, discerning and even judging, we automatically evaluate people according to both their physical attributes and our social categorizations.
But is there another way in which we can see or perceive others? Are there other dimensions to people that we are not aware of? And if there are, what are they and how can we become aware of them? To be able to know and perceive this possibility we first need to understand what people are really made up of.
At this gross level we are all familiar with the physical body as perceived through our physical senses. For most of us this physical body is our only reality. It shapes our entire existence, and therefore most of our focus and attention revolves around it.
Second, we also know that we have a mind, which is not tangible and therefore cannot be perceived with any of our senses. Our perception of the mind is through its ability to think. Although we are familiar with the thoughts generated by our own mind, we know very little else about the mind itself and the much greater function it performs.
The mind is subtle and very manipulative. It can be highly beneficial or extremely destructive – depending on the thoughts it generates and what it persuades the body to act upon. When the mind is pure and noble in its thoughts it can be considered a friend, and is often called the higher mind. However, when the same mind is impure in its thoughts it is considered an enemy, and we refer to it as the lower mind. The challenge we all have is to tame or control the mind – to ensure that it manifests goodness in its habits and avoids debasing thoughts.
The third and most critical element of human beings is the soul. If we think that the mind is subtle, then the soul is finer, purer, far more subtle, and even more difficult to perceive. Its subtlety is such that even though the soul enlivens or animates the mind and body, many people deny its existence. And of those who do acknowledge the soul, very few have any clue as to what it is, where it can be found and how it can be experienced.
Let’s imagine for a moment that we each had that faculty to see, experience and perceive beyond the physical realm. Then, when we looked at another person, wouldn’t we be able to perceive their mind and their thoughts and know everything about them – their past, present and future? If this faculty of perception went beyond the astral and causal realms, would we be able to then perceive the soul? Yes, we would know what the soul is, how it functions and what its relationship to the mind and body is.
Wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to transcend the physical world with its billions of galaxies, and travel through the subtle realms of the astral and causal worlds? Imagine the joy of going beyond these worlds to the spiritual world of pure light, enchanting sound, eternal bliss and permanent peace and happiness.
But how do we even know that all this exists on those ethereal levels? Is it fiction, a dream or a fantasy? Only those who have transcended the physical, astral and causal realms, who have achieved an inner state of pure bliss and peace, know of its reality. These are the spiritual Masters and they can teach us how it can be reached.
But why should we believe them? Well, they have all spoken the same truth irrespective of the time they existed, the language they spoke, the religion they were born into, their caste, race or gender. Unfortunately the reality is that when these Masters are alive, few people accept the truths they come to share with us. The majority seek to persecute them for fear of their own beliefs and convictions being challenged.
Very few people are willing to explore beyond the comfort of their own beliefs and seek the real truth. At a superficial or perhaps even intellectual level, we all profess to want to know the truth, but how many of us are prepared to accept it – especially if it challenges our own beliefs and traditions? So the question for us is: Can we handle the truth? Perhaps it’s not as easy as we may think. When the truth in any way contradicts us – our beliefs, our way of life, our identity – we get upset and offended, and immediately react to preserve our self-image and our ego.
How can we know that these Masters have achieved the heights of spirituality they speak of and that it isn’t a figment of their imagination? There are two ways to corroborate these spiritual truths. The first is at an intellectual level, where we can compare the teachings and experiences of spiritual Masters from different eras. They can be thousands of years apart; from different parts of the world where they couldn’t possibly share their experiences with each other; and from religious backgrounds that are so different that they couldn’t possibly produce the same experiences.
And yet the teachings and experiences of all true Masters are the same, namely that we should seek God within us. If we seek God in external places and worship him through external observances, rites and rituals, conflict and discord are often the result.
The second and best method of corroborating these spiritual truths is to experience and verify them for ourselves. Living Masters practise and teach what their Masters taught them, therefore the same unchanged message and technique is taught by all living Masters. The message has consistently been love for God. As simple as this may sound it is perhaps the most difficult to practise, because we first need to understand what love is.
The love we are familiar with is a worldly love. It entails emotions or feelings of fondness for someone, and often this form of worldly love is conditional – it must be reciprocal and of some benefit to us. Most relationships in the world are based on this form of love. But real love is unconditional. In fact, in perfect love the lover doesn’t exist, only the beloved exists. Maharaj Charan Singh beautifully expresses this phenomenon in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I: “Love means that the other one exists – you don’t exist at all.”
When we cease to exist and only the Lord exists, we experience this love, which is God. As Saint Dadu Dayal is quoted in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II: “Love is the Lord’s essence; love is his nature; love is his form, love is his colour.”
This love requires that we eliminate the “I,” the ego, the individuality that causes our separateness from God. And we can experience this, but only if we are prepared to do exactly as the Masters did. They followed their Masters’ instructions without question, without hesitation, and without compromise. And they live a lifestyle of love, where every thought, word and deed is based on their pure love for the Lord, and respect for the entire creation, with total obedience and submission.
In one of his last satsangs the Great Master said, “Everybody desires to become Christ, everybody wants to realize Truth, to become a prophet, but very few, if any, are ready to pay the price.”
Could the same be said of us? Are we prepared to pay the price?