Why Is It Important To Know My Essence?

In Parts 1 and 2 of What Is My Essence?, we discuss scriptural and practical evidence and also exercises to help us realize that we are neither the mind nor the body. Both the mind and body are made of material energy. But we are the spiritual self (atma) that inhabits the body for some time, then leaves it. The atma does not cease existing when the body is left behind. Rather, we continue on and take on a new body according to the condition of our consciousness.

Why is it important to know our essence?

Because who we know ourselves to be is the basis for all the choices we make in life.

If we mistakenly believe that we are the material body, then our entire life will be based upon this fallacy. We will look for happiness, love, meaning, and satisfaction based upon bodily identification and be continuously disappointed and unfulfilled – no matter how hard we try or how determined we may be or how many self-improvement classes we take or professional life coaches we hire. If we think that we are the body or the mind and this is our sole focus for improving our condition, we will discover time and time again that there is no lasting joy or actual satisfaction to be found there. We may find temporary or superficial happiness, but we will not find the deeply satisfying and lasting joy, purpose, peace, and love that we seek in our heart of hearts because it is simply not there on the material level. Material pleasures do not touch the soul, they only temporarily gratify the body and mind. Because we are the non-material self (spirit soul, atma) we can only be satisfied by that which is made of the same energy that we are – by that which is transcendental, or spiritual, in nature.

There are countless incidences of people throughout history with extraordinary material opulence (beauty, fame, power, wealth, etc.) that were extremely depressed and miserable – some even committed suicide. Even though they were successful on the material level, they were devoid of spiritual fulfillment, so they suffered intensely. And in today’s societies, even though many countries are far advanced in material opulence, the citizens are so empty inside that they are miserable, sick, depressed, anxious, addicted to legal and illegal intoxicants, engaging in violent behavior, destroying themselves, each other and the environment. Even people who put themselves forward as being “spiritually advanced,” if they are not actually understanding and applying the knowledge that they are not the material body, then they are still in misery trying to satisfy a thirst unquenchable through material means.

It is one’s actual condition of consciousness that determines whether a person is truly happy or truly miserable – truly full with joy or mostly anxious and fearful with intermittent, fleeting moments of pleasure. Again, who we know ourselves to be determines whether we pursue happiness through material means or through spiritual endeavor.

If we know ourselves by the mistaken belief that we are the body and mind, we will pursue happiness through the body and mind, even if we put a spiritual label on what we are doing.

If we know ourselves as eternal spirit souls only temporarily housed in the body and mind, we will automatically and naturally pursue happiness through actual spiritual endeavor, even if it appears to others that we are just ordinary persons living ordinary lives.

It is the consciousness of the person that makes the difference, not the externals, not the label.

This is why it is so very important to have a real understanding of who we are, of what our actual essence is. Even if we only have an intellectual understanding in the beginning, that is enough to start applying this knowledge to the choices we make.  And if we continue to apply this knowledge in ways which will deepen our understanding, we will then be able to go beyond an intellectual understanding to the level at which we are naturally living it, naturally and spontaneously making our choices from the solid platform of knowing ourselves as eternal spirit souls. This is obtainable by anyone for it is simply a realization of our own true nature – natural living is the truest sense of the words.

To make steady progress in this area, it is recommended to apply ourselves sincerely and humbly, following in the footsteps laid out by great self-realized, saintly persons and the instructions of bona fide scriptures.

In this day and age, the recommended path is very simple and anyone can begin simply by adding to their daily lives the practices of kirtan, japa yoga, and/or Gauranga Breathing. Because these meditations are so transcendentally potent, even a small amount of dedicated daily practice will enable a person to gradually realize their truest nature on the deepest levels and actually become happy and fulfilled.

What Is My Essence? (Part 2)

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In Part 1, we discussed practical, scientific, and scriptural evidence that you are not the physical body. The next question to ponder is, if you are not the physical body, then…

Are you the mind?

According to the Vedic scriptures, you are not the mind either. The mind is also a body you are wearing, but it is made out of subtle material energy so you are not able to see it under normal circumstances. The gross physical body is like outer clothes and the subtle mental body is like underclothes. In both cases, you are the person who is temporarily wearing these bodies. But unlike the physical body, the subtle body generally stays with you, continuing to cover you after you leave your physical body at death.

A simple and practical exercise to see that you are not the mind is called the Silent Witness Technique.

Begin this exercise by sitting comfortably in a chair or on a cushion on the floor, with your back supported if possible. Close your eyes. Touch your thumb and index finger together and place the backs of your hands on your knees, palms facing upward. This is position is called chin mudra and it helps to relax the body.

Become aware of how the body is breathing automatically. Do not try to force or control the breath in any way. Simply observe the body breathing in a detached way. Say to yourself, “I am watching my body breathe, I am not the body.”

Now do the same thing with your mind. Focus your attention on the river of thoughts flowing through your mind, but don’t attempt to control the thinking process by trying to think certain thoughts and not think others. Instead, just watch the thoughts in a detached way. In the same way you might sit on the bank of a river, watching leaves, sticks, and other debris floating down the river – just sit silently on the river bank of your mind and watch thoughts, emotions, images, desires, fears, etc. just float by like debris in the mind river. Watch your mind and become aware of how you are actually aloof from the thinking process. Say to yourself, “I am the silent witness. I make no effort to think, but thoughts come automatically. I am watching thoughts flow through my mind, but I am aloof from them. I am the silent witness to my mind’s activities.” In this way, you’ll be able to experience that you are separate from the mind.

Through this exercise, you can experience that you are not the material mind or any of the thoughts and desires that flow in the mind. Rather, you are the self, the one who sits beside the constantly flowing mind-river – you are next to it, but separate from it.

You, the self, are actually made of a different type of energy than the body and the mind. According to the Vedas, there are two types of energy that make up everything in existence. One type is material energy. Material energy is dead matter. The other type of energy is life or spiritual energy. Life energy is always alive. Material energy is always dead. But when the two energies come together in a living organism, the material body inhabited by the life particle temporarily takes on characteristics of life. It appears to be alive, but that is only because the life particle or atma (self, soul) is occupying it and infusing its qualities throughout the material structure of the body. As soon as the atma leaves the material body, the body resumes its natural condition, which is that of dead matter. At this time, the physical body decomposes very fast and reverts back to the simpler elements from which it was constructed. We can observe this in all life organisms – plants, animals, humans, etc. – and so we can know that the atma inhabits all these organisms for some time, then leaves.

From the above information you can understand that your essence is life energy, or spiritual energy. Life energy is always alive and so, you, too, are always alive. You exist eternally. Your material body will at some point become useless to you and when you leave it, it will revert back to its original characteristics – that of dead matter. But you will continue on – usually in your subtle material body – and take on a new body in accordance with the condition of your consciousness.

Now that we know – intellectually, at least – that our essence is life or spiritual energy, how can this help us in our quest to experience our true nature?

To be continued in Why Is It Important To Know Our Essence?

 

My Own Quest to Live Naturally

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Although living naturally has always been my true goal, it was not the focus of my life for much of my life. For most of my life, I did not even think about what is the goal of my life. I lived primarily by the directives of my mind and body, and by the ideas about life I formed through my own personal experiences and what I learned from others. It was not that it was all bad, but taken altogether, it made for a life that was fraught with misery and struggle – especially in my adult years. From deep in my heart, I felt I was being guided to something better, but I was so confused and bewildered by my experiences, that I continually felt off balance, anxious, and unclear about what I was to do and why I was doing it. It was like being lost at sea with no land in sight. I intuitively knew land was there somewhere, but had no idea how to find it.

Until around age thirty or so, mostly I was focused on changing my external environment to try to find the harmony and happiness I sought inside. Then I was introduced to introspection and the idea that it was not the external environment that was the problem, rather, it was how I was relating from the inside to my external situations that was causing so much misery and disharmony in my life. I stopped trying to change everyone and everything outside of me, and instead started paying attention to what was going on inside. When I became aware that I was experiencing some kind of mental/emotional suffering, I would apply different techniques to try to change my mind so that I would at least be at peace with whatever was going on. I had some measure of success with this, and was happy in comparison to the misery of before, but still felt generally confused and bewildered by my experiences, off balance, anxious, unclear about what I was to do and why I was doing it. I knew I was heading in a better direction than before, but was still pretty lost.

Then I had the extreme good fortune to come in contact with kirtan and bhakti yoga – and this is where I began to understand where I had gone so far off track and how to begin the trek back to recovering my natural state of being.

Purifying the Body, Mind, and Heart

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When we talk about purification, oftentimes people think first of purifying of the body. This is helpful – for we live in the body, it is our vehicle and if it is clogged up with junk, pollution, we certainly will be plagued with problems.

But there is also the mind – there is no harmony in a healthy body if there is pollution in the mind. Yes, purifying the body will support purification of the mind as they are intimately connected, but purifying the body alone will not purify the mind. So any system of purification aimed at recovering one’s natural state of being, must include purification of the mind.

And what about the heart? The peace, joy, and harmony of our true nature cannot be experienced when the heart is filled with miseries and misgivings, with selfishness, greed, and envy. In yoga philosophy these hardnesses of the heart are known as “anarthas” and are very difficult to remove. To live naturally, we must certainly address all these areas, however anarthas of the heart – which affect both our mind and body health – are the root cause of the suffering condition. Removing these anarthas must be the central focus of an effective purification process, as our heart is the center of our consciousness and we will not be free to experience the natural joy of our being without this level of purification.

Fortunately, there are methods accessible to everyone and freely available that address all these areas. In fact, one such purification system, the Vedic yoga system, has existed since time immemorial and has assisted countless hundreds of thousands of people throughout the ages to realize their natural state of harmony, joy, and peace. The yoga system is far more expansive and comprehensive than most people are aware of. Yoga is not simply a system of physical exercise (asana). Yoga is, in fact, a complete system for realizing and living one’s true natural state of being. Because the yoga system was designed to be applicable to people throughout vast spans of time, called “yugas,” different applications of it were recommended for specific ages. The current age we are living in is called “Kali Yuga.” In the next few articles, we will begin to discuss the yogic process recommended for the Age of Kali and why it is so appropriate and accessible to people of this day and age.

Why Natural Living?

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The focus of this blog is Natural Living. Seeking to live naturally is very popular these days, but why?

When we talk about living naturally, we are talking about recovering a state of being which is natural to us. When something comes natural to us, it is free and easy, harmonious, relaxing, spontaneous, and joyful from the very core of our being. We know intuitively that this is how our life should be – that, as living beings, living should come naturally to us.

But it does not. We struggle through this life, trying to find happiness, trying to find peace and harmony, but the happiness and peace we find is fleeting at best. So, what are we doing wrong and how how can we change the way we are living so that we can be living naturally. How can we purify our lives of that which is unnatural so that we can recover our natural state of being, our natural state of peace, joy, freedom, balance, and harmony?

This is the quest of those who seek to live naturally. To live naturally, we must understand what about our lives is currently unnatural and simultaneously engage in a process which frees us from this artificiality.