Dr. Vijai S Shankar MD.PhD.
Many people who speak the English language know the word spirituality. This may also be the case amongst those who speak different languages, each language having its own word to signify spirituality. There are different meanings to the word spirituality within the same language. Add to this the different meanings of all the languages and there could very well be an encyclopedia on spirituality. The story of spirituality is more complicated than this because the meaning and meanings of spirituality keep changing as a result of interpretations.
Accumulated knowledge of spirituality gives rise to interpretations and interpretations further increase the knowledge, which in turn gives birth to more interpretations. A vicious, never-ending cycle is set in motion and the meaning of the word spirituality keeps on changing. Therefore, the real meaning of the word spirituality, which is universal, could never be arrived at! Until every man knows that universal meaning there are bound to be discussions, disagreements, debates and divisions between human beings.
Why is spirituality so attractive to some and not to others? It is attractive primarily because it gives man the feeling of ‘I am holier than thou’. Man always wishes to be someone important - and what could be more important than being spiritual: God’s right hand man? It is like having connections at the highest place. Man has yet to understand that he is not who he says he is, but he is who he says he is not! As God is everywhere, man could only be an appearance of God. Any identity is therefore an illusion. If who he says he is, is an illusion, then to think or proclaim to be spiritual must also be an illusion!
But what is spirituality? Could spirituality have a meaning or is it beyond meaning? If spirituality is beyond meaning, could it be reduced to a word? If spirituality did have a meaning, would not the meaning be related to its opposite, which has to be omitted? Every word derives its meaning from its opposite, and this is the only way the mind can function. How could man omit a meaning, which is within the mind? It will always be there within the mind. If man is the thinker, why cannot man just think what is spiritual? Why cannot man stop thoughts which are not spiritual? Would it be possible for man to know what is spiritual if he did not know what is not spiritual? Therefore, both types of thoughts are required - spiritual and non-spiritual – in order to generate knowledge of spirituality.
If spirituality is to know ONLY a set of beliefs that are considered divine, it is not possible, because that set of divine beliefs will have their opposite (non-divine) known to the mind. A mind will have both the divine and the non-divine beliefs within it. Would such a mind meet the criterion of being spiritual? If spirituality is to know what is divine and also what is not divine, who is to decide what is divine and what is not divine?
If God has manifested this world, would He have manifested anything that is non-divine? If God has manifested something non-divine, would that make him God? The universe is nothing but energy. This energy is light. Light is pure intelligence. Light is God. Since God is ‘Light’, would God know anything that is divine or non-divine? If God does know, then God would have to have a mind. If God knows, then God would be in duality and not in non-duality. If God has a mind, then God is no different from man and God himself would be attracted by spirituality just as man is. God is not a person. God is just godliness! A person is just an appearance of God. A person is just a godliness of God!
God is beyond divine or non-divine. God is beyond both because both can only be known through words, and God is a silent state wherein words do not exist as words. God is beyond duality. Since God has not manifested either the divine or the non-divine (because God is beyond words), could there be anything really divine or really non-divine in this manifested, illusory world? If God had manifested something that is non-divine, would it be possible for man to go beyond it? Life is neither divine nor non-divine: it is just a play of light and sound. That which is known as divine or non-divine are just thoughts, and these thoughts make up the known.
Life appears real because of thoughts and actions. Thoughts and actions are the two basic phenomena in life that create an individual. Man believes that thoughts execute, control, shape and influence actions. The wise one understands that thoughts and actions are one and the same, and thoughts do not execute, control, shape and influence actions. That thoughts (the known) and actions are an illusion will be explained below.
The word by which the majority of modern men know God is in the language with which they are familiar. Similarly, primitive man would have known about God in some rudimentary language or in some non-verbal manner. Even the atheist uses the word God in his denial of God. Hence, the word God is more or less universally known in some verbal or non-verbal format. In every language the image of God changes. Who is then to decide which image of God is real? God can never be who the mind imagines God to be. From primitive times to the present age knowledge about God has been increasing within the mind of man. One might say that the range of knowledge ‘about’ God is wide. Some men may know a little ‘about’ God and some more: it is just a matter of collecting information about God. If one has a tremendous amount of knowledge about God, it does not make one spiritual - it just makes the person a scholar on the subject of God. If to know God is spiritual, then all are spiritual, for all know God to some extent. It is only a matter of degrees in knowledge.
What could the known be? Is the known something real? Does the known have any meaning that could be real? Close examination reveals that every form of the known with its meaning is only a label. There is nothing in this world that could definitely be known as a reality. Every form of the known, when traced to its nature, is only energy and nothing else. And nothing definitive could be said about energy either. There is nothing in this universe that could be known as a certainty! A known is just a label, and a label is just a sound! Therefore, a thought is an illusion: it does not exist as something real. This makes the mind also an illusion, and it makes everything that is known just an illusion.
What is the known? The known could be a thought, an idea, a belief, a vision, an image, an experience, a word or words either spoken or written. It could also be the many actions of daily life, including religious actions such as rituals, praying, singing and recitation, spiritual practices such as meditation, various spiritual techniques (which keep increasing as the demand for spirituality increases), even wars - in short, any form of action. All these forms of the known are dual in nature and they exist in time - past, present or future. The belief that the known reveals the past, present and future is very convincing, but it is nevertheless an illusion. The known is always in the past; the present and the future are also the past. The present and the future are merely the projected past. The past, when it is rearranged and polished according to likes and dislikes, appears new, but it is nevertheless the old.
The mind can never say anything about the present or the future for the mind is always in the past. The mind does not exist in the present. Whatever the mind says is happening or will happen is, in both instances, only what has happened. And what has happened too is just sounds and not anything actual. Therefore, all forms of the known, which is only the past, are just sounds. The past is dead and so also is the known. Could the dead be spiritual? Is it possible for the past (the known) to make anyone in the timeless ‘now’ spiritual? This is just an illusion, for man is made to believe that the mind is present in the ‘present’, which is not the case.
The known (spiritual or any other known) never changes the quality of man. The known only increases the quantity of words in the mind. Man remains the same. Anger, doubt, jealousy, hate, fear, hope and time continue to operate within the mind. An understanding that reveals knowledge to be an illusion is wisdom.
Words are gross sounds in life and subtle sounds in the mind. Therefore, words are absent in life as well as in the mind, and so the known is an illusion and not a reality. The understanding has yet to happen to man that every word in any vocabulary that signifies good or bad, right or wrong, sinful or virtuous, etc. is non-existent. Duality itself is an illusion. Sound creates an illusion of words and meanings to enact a drama within the mind! This drama is sometimes spiritual too!
So, in life, there could never be any form of the known, which is really spiritual. All that is known to be spiritual is just an illusion. Divine names or spiritual names too are just sounds. If sound is spiritual, then any name should be spiritual. This is the realization of an enlightened one, for all sounds come from a spiritual source – the soul!
What is an action? Is there a real action in life? What could be a spiritual action? An action is a cause and effect phenomenon. It is believed that every action has a cause and an effect. For the cause and effect phenomenon to be functional there has to be an interval of time between the two, but life is a timeless phenomenon. There is no time in life: it is a spontaneous transformation of energy from one form to another. When there is no time, how could there be any cause or any effect? The cause of a cause is an effect. The effect of an effect is a cause. Since there is no cause and no effect, there could never be an action as an actuality in life. An action is merely a thought in the mind, and the mind is nothing but sound.
Life is faster than the mind. Life is a happening; meaning that nothing could be perceived in the timeless now, for all that is happening in life is a continuous transformation of energy. This transformation appears as the various forms in constant motion - a movement that has no beginning and no end. This singular movement is light. As with the known, actions (be they spiritual or otherwise) do not change man qualitatively. Man continues to be the same.
In this movement of light and sound, there is only an appearance of birth and death. Birth and death are an appearance of transforming energy at certain points in the flow of life. The mind is an illusion, so too is an action! It is impossible to see an action or a total act in life. Therefore, neither man nor God is the doer, speaker or thinker!
Then what could be the various spiritual actions that are preached, practised and performed by spiritualists? What could be spiritual celebrations? In such instances, bodies are just moving as a result of transforming energy, a movement of light, where energy is nothing but light. The spiritualists do not know that their bodies are just moving, while their minds are thinking in terms of spiritual actions being performed by themselves or others! There is no action in life, and so there cannot be any spiritual action, as a reality, in life. When there is no action in life, how could there be any experience, practice or celebration that is real in life? The wise one understands that an action is an optical illusion.
The wise one understands that when a man says he is doing something spiritual or others are doing something spiritual, both he and the others are not doing anything spiritual: only their bodies are moving, and the thinking of the moving as doing something spiritual is happening to them. The ultimate illusion of action is sex. Even an act that is sexual in nature is an illusion. Spiritualists or anyone who denounce sex have merely not understood the illusion of an act or action. If you denounce, you denounce God. The wise one understands that life is a singular movement. There is no coming or going. There is only moving.
All spiritual experiences are also just thoughts in the mind, thoughts which are sounds. All spiritual actions such as giving enlightenment, meditation, transferring energies, performing rituals, and various spiritual techniques do not exist as a reality. They are just thoughts within the mind of those concerned. Any man who claims a spiritual experience is merely having a spiritual dream! Life is very intelligent: it makes the illusion appear real. Every moment has both the real and the illusion within it. When the focus is on the known, then the illusion appears real. When the focus is on the sound and movements of forms, the illusion is understood and the unknown reveals itself! This unknown is life. This thoughtless life is spiritual – this thoughtless life is enlightenment. When man understands that any form of the known is an illusion, he is no longer a man. He becomes a mystic, an enlightened one - a living being and not a thinking man!
Life is very intelligent. One merely has to look around to realize how intelligent life is. The various forms, shapes, colours, information, etc. are a function of light: the manifested world is an optical illusion. Therefore, the illusion is very intelligent. Spirituality may appear convincingly real, but it is nevertheless an illusion, because there is nothing that could be known as real in this world, nor is there any time for any action to exist as an actuality in life.
The distinguishing feature of spirituality is enlightenment, and enlightenment is a thoughtless state. No spiritual thought, however attractive it may sound or appear, can render a thoughtless state. Man will keep on roaming within the mind, hoping one day that he will become thoughtless - enlightened. That day will never come. The outcome of thinking is just old age and eventually so-called death.
There is no need to become spiritual, for man is already immersed in a thoughtless state. There is no thought in the timeless now. Life is a thoughtless state and everything in it is, therefore, spiritual. It is wise to understand that spirituality is not something to know or something to be done or get done! Such thoughts are manifested within the mind by life and not by man, so that an understanding could happen that to know, to do or to get done is an illusion.
Life helps man to understand this illusory, waking state in various ways. The concepts of spirituality is one of them.
The enlightened ones have said that the world is an illusion. The world that man knows is in the waking state, so that everything in the waking state must be an illusion, including science! Every form of spirituality is within this waking state and, therefore, must be an illusion waiting to be understood. Those who are immersed in the various activities of spirituality (so-called avatars, so-called gurus, teachers, disciples and devotees) are not bringing them about by themselves. They think that they are doing it, while their bodies are just moving. Even the thinking that they are doing something spiritual is happening to them and they do not know it, for an understanding of the illusion of action has not yet happened to them. The known is in focus for them and understanding has not yet happened. The ego is active and enlightenment is dormant.
Man can only know the known. The known is an illusion. The enlightened lives the unknown. The unknown is pure life without the known in it. This life is the same for all. Every appearance in life is spiritual, while only something known is spiritual within the mind and this something is an illusion. The really spiritual man is he or she who realizes that there is no act in life nor is there a word in the mind or in life.
Life is just a phenomenon of light and sound. This understanding is spirituality!
© Copyright V.S. Shankar, 2006