Illusion and Perception

The term ‘perception’ can be defined as judgment resulting from awareness or understanding. It is a process that takes place in the mind. One of the numerous definitions of the term ‘mind’ is that it is the organised conscious and unconscious adaptive mental activity of an organism. The mind processes the data collected through the senses and judges a situation. It could be called a solipsistic thought because whatever or whoever one thinks to exist or not exist, is merely what the mind perceives and therefore, logically speaking, everything that exists, exists merely in the mind. This thought could be interpreted in many ways, one of them being that there is nothing outside of the mind. It means that how you perceive something or a situation makes all the difference. The knowledge of this truth that some people have had has helped them create organised religions in which members are forced to completely surrender their mind to the smart few who run such cults. This crucial requirement of organised religions or cults that their members should not think for themselves or read about other ways of thinking and of living life, is usually enforced through doctrinal injunctions which legalise severe punishments for those who do not follow the laws of the cult or commit heretic acts such as something even as simple as asking questions let alone extreme cases in which members who dare to quit the cult are mercilessly and brutally executed.

Whereas on the other hand, the ancient Sanatana Dharma, which is a path shown by great people of the past, leads a seeker away from ignorance, confusion and delusion towards understanding what one is or rather, what one is not. The Sanskrit expression “Neti Neti”, which can be found in ancient scriptures such as the Brihadaaranyaka Upanishad, the Chandogya Upanishad, and the Avadhuta Gita, means “Not this, not that”, “Neither this nor that”, or simply, “Not this, not this.” It has been the great philosophy behind the twin repetition of the two-syllable word that has attracted even renowned western thinkers and philosophers towards Vedanta.

Here is Shloka 25 from the 1st chapter of the Avadhuta Gita also known as the Dattatreya Gita.

Avadhuta Gita or Dattatreya Gita 1:25

तत्त्वमस्यादिवाक्येन स्वात्मा हि प्रतिपादितः।
नेति नेति श्रुतिर्ब्रूयाद अनृतं पांचभौतिकम् ॥ १.२५॥

Our own Self is asserted through sentences such as “That thou art”. Of that which is untrue and composed of the five elements – the Shruti or the scripture says, “Not this, not this.”

After a lifelong voyage of discovery through the process of negation, one evolves intellectually as well as spiritually and tends to realise that finally whatever remains is the intangible, inconceivable and indefinable, Brahman and most importantly, that the ‘realiser’ and the ‘realised’ are one and the same all-pervading eternal Self. 

People undergo various stages of learning all through their life. Whether a particular learning experience is a pleasant one or a painful one totally depends on the way a person perceives it. People who are on the lower rungs of the ladder of spiritual advancement usually, tend to wish for a smooth and comfortable life and when they do not get what they want or when they face challenges in life, they cast the blame on others, on their upbringing, on god, or on their fate. It would not take beyond a person with a fair amount of intelligence to grasp that if a person’s life were truly so smooth and uneventful as they wished or prayed for, it could be excruciatingly boring and unbelievably insipid. A truly rich and fulfilling life is one with multifarious experiences and certainly not one of an extremely opulent person who neither has anything to do nor wishes to experience and learn about life.

Your state of mind is the only thing that you fully have under your control, and if you wished and strived for, you could always have it under your control. That is what wise and spiritually evolved people always do. Why would a sane person like you want to give the only power you have with you to something or to someone else? It should be you who decides whether or not you want to be happy and not some other person. There is no doubt that when someone says or does something unpleasant during one of your moments of great emotion, mental weakness, or any other situation in which you are not fully exercising the power you have on your own mind, you might tend to feel disturbed or might sense that your pride is hurt. In such situations, a simple trick that could help you would be to COME TO TERMS with the disturbing situation, at least temporarily. This will give you more time to thoroughly and intelligently analyse the inputs you receive through your senses, and process them in a saner and wiser manner. Once you have bought yourself some time by temporarily ‘COMING TO TERMS’ with the situation, and have perceived the entire scenario more pragmatically, you will be surprised to realise that had you reacted relying on your initial perception, things could have turned catastrophic for you. You will see that although the situation continues to remain the same, the difference in the way you perceived it has changed everything and that it does not disturb you the way it did earlier.

Plutarch is believed to have said nearly two millennia ago, “What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality”. Another highly popular old saying is, “Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.” Organised religions are spread by manipulating the power of perception of the masses.

The various stories of people converted into foreign cults and religions are truly distressing. The perception of people who are brainwashed and converted into foreign cults, changes overnight and they suddenly start treating their own people as miserable sinners. The love they had for their family members and close friends suddenly turns into hatred merely because they have begun to PERCEIVE things differently and therefore see them as transgressors and infidels.  

Any organised religion that says that it is the only way, and that its members have to surrender their power of PERCEPTION to the governing authorities of the cult, should be avoided like the plague. As against what happens in organised religions, Krishna, towards the end of his discourse to Arjuna in the Srimad Bhagavad Gita, says:

इति ते ज्ञानमाख्यातं गुह्याद्गुह्यतरं मया | 
विमृश्यैतदशेषेण यथेच्छसि तथा कुरु || १८ ६३ ||

“यथेच्छसि तथा कुरु’ Do what you wish to do

Krishna says to Arjuna: I have taught you the secret wisdom which is deeper than all that is confidential and profound. Reflect fully on what I have declared to you and do what you wish to do.

This means that the Bhagavad Gita is clearly not a book of commandments as is the case with books of organised religions. Krishna’s teachings enlighten a seeker about the general principles of nature, of universal Oneness, of the supreme knowledge of the Self in all living beings, and above all, of the natural law of cause and effect.

Organised religions exist as political tools whereas the natural way of life of the Sanatana Dharma has evolved from an extremely enormous collection of ancient writings, ideas, thoughts and experiences of great geniuses that can help people save tremendous amounts of time and effort and help them in their path towards Self realisation. 

The path towards Self-Realisation can be broadly divided into three stages:

  1. God is great (Dvaita or dualism)
  2. I am a part of the Great God.(Vishishta Advaita or nondualism with special attributes)
  3. My SELF (not my Ego) is the same as God. (Advaita or nondualism)

The main task in the three major stages of this path, primarily, is to gain mastery over your mind and to arrest it from deluding you into perceiving that your SELF, that your Ego or your feeling of “I” makes you believe to be restricted to the space within the boundary of your skin, is different and separate from the rest. As against organised religions that hijack the minds of their followers, the Sanatana Dharma encourages people to ask questions, to introspect, to discover, to share their knowledge with others, and above all, to respect the whole of nature of which all living beings are straight-out the all-pervading SELF residing in physical containers called bodies.

Shri Ramana Maharshi once said, “Your own Self-Realization is the greatest service you can render the world.” Once a person reaches the third stage of realising universal oneness, they find no need for deities, rituals, or anything else that their society normally expects its members to do.

Here is Shloka 34 from the 1st chapter of the Avadhuta Gita:

वेदा न लोका न सुरा न यज्ञा वर्णाश्रमो नैव कुलं न जातिः ।
न धूममार्गो न च दीप्तिमार्गो ब्रह्मैकरूपं परमार्थतत्त्वम् ।। 

There are no Vedas, no worlds, no gods, no sacrifices. There is certainly no caste, no stage in life, no family, no birth. There is neither the path of smoke nor the path of light. There is only the highest Truth, the eternal Brahman.

There are no concepts of belief or obedience in the Sanatana Dharma, unless it is some strange subsect started by someone like a ‘godman’ or ‘god woman’. One who lives life based on the principles and teachings of the Sanatana Dharma, is not forced to believe in something or obey any authority. Belief and obedience which are two most essential requirements in organised religions do not exist in the Dharmic path of seeking or rather, of discovering the path towards Universal Oneness. All that a person who wishes to evolve Karmically needs to do is to be a modest seeker. Rather than living the life of a slave in man-made cults and being bound by traditions, cultural differences, and the ‘holier than thou’ mentality; it is that highest state of bliss that comes with self-realisation that one should be aiming for. However, some people who are into religious rackets and are good at oration and one-upmanship, make a killing out of the common man’s innate desire to be told or taught what to do, and they create their own large groups of sycophantic followers thereby contributing towards the weakening of the ancient Dharmic society.

The quick and easy way to learn to master your own mind and to protect yourself from soul vultures would be to read, study and understand the Srimad Bhagavad Gita. Here is a list of the important takeaways of reading, studying and comprehending the philosophy taught in the Srimad Bhagavad Gita:

  1. that God is not some separate spirit or being up there. This understanding is easily achievable by internalising the nondualistic understanding of God taught in the scripture.
  2. that all beings are equal.
  3. that the three Gunas are the ones that cause all action. If you feel you did something wrong in the past, don’t torment yourself with thoughts of guilt. It was not you but it was your Gunas that caused those actions. Work on changing your attitude and general nature, and all will be fine.
  4. that every action has a reaction and that your past, present and future are interrelated parts of an infinite continuum. The way to influence the future would be through action and when the attitude of a person, which is basically formed by their Gunas is noble, their actions too would be noble. As per the natural law of cause and effect, noble actions get noble results.
  5. that right action is known as Nishkaama Karma which means action done with no attachment to the result of the action or to the reward that might come along with it.
  6. that love and respect for nature, and practising social responsibility are the easiest ways to follow Dharma.
  7. that shedding ego and surrendering all your thoughts, words and deeds to the Supreme all-pervading Krishna or Brahman or whatever you may call that all-pervading truth which you cannot truly define, can free you of all Karmic bondage.
  8. that the sanest way to being at peace all the time is to be prepared for anything anytime.
  9. that fate and destiny are certainly true but they can always be influenced through righteous or unrighteous thoughts. words, and deeds.

Consciousness is everywhere and in order to explain this, we could take the analogy of an earthen pot as taught in the Avadhuta Gita. When the pot is broken, the space that was there within the pot cannot be differentiated anymore from the rest of the space that the unbroken pot existed in. Similarly, just like the all-pervading space that was there in the pot before it broke, we could say that what makes living beings including humans, is a small ‘amount’ of the all-pervading consciousness or Divine Self that exists in physical bodies which are in fact ‘containers’ or ‘pots’ made of bones and flesh, and are ‘packaged’ in an epidermal material called the skin. 

The mind that most of the time pretends to be the master is merely what we may call an interface between the Divine Self and the body with all its organs and functions. People who look for happiness outside of themselves are in fact, trying to get an external source of power to control the state of their own mind when the truth is that whatever or whoever the external object of happiness might be, it is purely the way one perceives it that changes the state of their mind. Sad or painful events of the past cause sadness only when you think about them. It is in the exact same way that when you think of pleasant things, you feel happy. 

Of what use is all your education, experience and the vast amounts of practical knowledge you have gained in your life if you believed that the power to create your happiness was with someone else or it depended on something that you felt should take place in your life? To feel happy or not from any situation always rests with the way you perceive it. 

The Ultimate Truth is that the all-pervading Self or consciousness in your person makes you Divine. YOU are it. Indeed, YOU are that. Tat Tvam Asi – and just as a sculptor reveals a beautiful piece of art hidden in a rock, your spiritual journey as a whole, is your enlightening and adventurous path towards uncovering or realising your True Divine Self that has been concealed under ego and ignorance caused by that two-faced trickster-cohabitant of yours in your  body, that you refer to as your mind.

Master your own mind and the art of perception, and the world will be yours.

Stay blessed. 

Jai Shri Krishna



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