Have you ever wondered about all that mystery surrounding the words enlightenment and self-mastery? Wonder no more. Read on to find out. Every spiritual practice, either implicitly or explicitly, follows a model of creation. This article discusses an alternative model and demystifies what Self-Mastery and Enlightenment are based on this model. It also reconciles this model with the existing models based on Chakras and Kundalini.
Please follow the sanskrit transliteration scheme for the pronunciation of the sanskrit terms.
As you may have gathered by now, this site is dedicated to self-mastery and enlightenment. In this, rather long article (approximately 5,900 words), which is the key article for this site, I describe what it means to be the master of one’s self (i.e., to achieve self-mastery) and be enlightened.
Before we go on to answer this question we need to first introduce a few concepts, a model for describing the creation, and a definition of the self. This is because any path you choose follows a model whether that model is made implicit or explicit and various techniques are then designed based on that model. Human mind is such that it always wants an explanation of why a particular technique works—it requires reason and concreteness. Since we cannot beat the mind, we would rather use the mind to go beyond the mind. This sounds paradoxical, but we have no choice. This is the basis for all spiritual practices.
A Model Of Creation
In the articles, Hindu Views on Creationism and Evolution and in On gurus and Disciples, I discussed a model of creation, in brief. I will elaborate that model in this section to get a better understanding of that model and how we can use that model for self-mastery and enlightenment. The model described in this article, and in the aforementioned articles, is derived from vEdic scriptures and primarily siddhar tirumUlar‘s tirumandiram.
There is infinite void called brahman. Then, brahman contemplated itself. This contemplation gave rise to the primal vibration represented by Om or Aum giving rise to the Realm of Limitless Thought. This is the cosmic mind, a realm of unlimited creativity. I call this the “Om-Field.” The expression, “Limitless Thought,” means pure vibration, not restricted by any manifestation—it is the unmanifest, a zone of infinite possibilities. What we perceive, as voice, in our heads is the “Limited Thought”—thought limited to an embodiment. Limited thought is in the realm of sound close to matter.
Please refer to the flow chart of the model of creation in our discussion below.
The Infinite Void or brahman
The term “Infinite Void” is probably a misnomer and self-contradictory. However, I believe that it is the best expression the English language can offer to describe the undescribable, because it is infinite, eternal, and silent as if nothing is there, and yet it is everything.
This is also called brahman, sadASiva, parASiva or God. The word God is used here with the meaning of “the formless and the nameless” and not with the meaning of a deity. Figuratively, it is depicted as meditating Siva or vishnu in yOga nidra—the One contemplating on itself. This is also known as pure consciousness or witness consciousness. The word Siva is the reversal of the word Va-Si meaning “near” or “indwelling self.” The word vishnu is derived from the word vishu meaning the “infinite indwelling self.” Hence both words refer to the same brahman which is the pure formless being.
When the brahman contemplated itself, it gave rise to the realm of pure vibration. This is the realm of Limitless Thought is also the realm of the creative force parASakti or simply Sakti (which literally means “dynamic force”). This is where the infinite creativity resides. This Om-field devolves and lowers parts of itself to create the lower realms of light, sound and matter. Matter is the most compressed form of this energy. As described above, Om-field is the field of pure vibration and not limited by any form or manifestation. This is the realm of infinite possibilities. If you remember times when you had the “aha!” revelations, or moments of genius, your awareness was in this field, momentarily, which led you to your “instant genius!” 🙂
The Realm of Light
A part of the Om-field slows its vibratory rate to the frequency of Light (visible and invisible spectra). Here “invisible spectrum” spans also those frequencies undetectable by humans and other species, and by any equipment created to date.
In this zone, creation has already begun. Time and Space have come into existence. This realm has a very large frequency range. Of course, this is very small compared to the vastness of the Om-field frequencies. In this realm of creation, light beings, gods and goddesses (meaning various deities), and angels are created. They have bodies of light. They are still infinite beings compared to our physical existence on this planet. Feelings of lightness such as Joy and bliss belong to these two realms, because these feelings emit frequencies in this range.
The Realm of Sound
From Light comes Sound. That is, a part of the realm of light further devolves into the realm of sound frequencies. Similar to the zone of light, this realm spans both frequencies audible/detectable and inaudible/undetectable by anything on this planet. Emotions or feelings of heaviness such as anger, jealousy, and sadness belong to this realm. These emotions emit frequencies that fall in this range. Further, the thoughts we have, as voices, in our heads are in the realm of sound.
The Realm of Matter
When the speed of vibration of sound slows down and coalesces, comes Matter. Realm of matter includes solid, liquid, gas or air, and plasma. Everything that is visible to the physical eye and touchable belongs in this zone. This covers the smallest range of frequencies compared to any of the above mentioned zones. Similar to Om-field, light and sound realms, this realm spans a range of frequencies, though these frequencies are much coarser.
Limited Self, Ego, Mind, Soul and Atman
Scriptures talk about two “Selves”—brahman (The Supreme Soul or Being) and Atman (The Individual Soul). This Atman is also called by several other names, “ego,” “mind,” “soul,” etc., in the scriptures. However, my understanding is that there is no such thing as Atman, ego, mind etc., separate from brahman. All there is this one first thought, called the “I-thought” (to use Sri Ramana Maharshi’s terminology) that originates from brahman. This then becomes the Narrow Sense of Self (NSS) or ego when it identifies itself with the body. It sets up boundaries around itself. When this I-thought breaks its bonds with the body and starts moving higher into zones of sound, light and Om-field, it then shifts and expands into these zones resulting in the Expanded Sense of Self (ESS). When this I-thought resides permanently in the Light zone and above, unity consciousness is experienced. We say there is a limited self, mind, ego, soul etc., because we experience many other thoughts due to I-thought identifying with them. So, mind or Atman is nothing but a bunch of thoughts experienced in your brain and there is no entity called limited self, Atman, ego or mind. There is only one brahman or pure consciousness.
Our Existence According to This Model
With respect to this model it is clear that we exist in all these realms, simultaneously, more in one plane than in the other, since we are a successive devolution of the Infinite Void. When we say “the manifest world,” we mean the worlds that we can see with our physical eyes and is the material universe.
The physical body, obviously, exists in the realm of matter. All the emotions—such as sadness, anger, jealousy—that weigh us down belong to the realm of sound. Considering these emotions as a unit we can call it the Emotional or Sound Body. Feelings of lightness—such as joy, bliss—belong to the realm of light and as a collective unit we can call it the Light Body. Space and Time belong to these three realms.
We, as awareness, dwell most of the time in these three realms. When we are mostly in the survival mode, we live in the realm of the matter, or in and as the Physical Body. Generally, people in the war torn and very poor countries live in this realm. Day to day survival is the most important thing. Fear is the most dominant here. However, most people who live in the developed and still developing countries live in and as the Sound or Emotional and the Physical bodies. When you are in this realm, you are usually weighed down by emotions. You may get irritated very easily, get angry, be jealous, attached to material possessions. You live a very stressful life when your awareness is in this realm most of the time. When you live mostly in the sound body, you will have a clear view of the physical world and you can perceive the nature of the physical world a bit better. For example, you may be able to know what is going on with the body at times. You will not have full control over it yet, since you are stuck in the emotional body and your emotions have direct effect on the body. You are mired in emotions and you have no control over them, they control you. When you successfully move out of the realm of sound into the realm of light, you have a clear picture of the realm of sound and matter. You will know what is going on there. Sometimes, when people were not telling the truth, you may have sensed an energy contradictory to the words you heard. It is because you were momentarily in the realm of light. You were able to clearly perceive the emotion behind the words. When you establish yourself in the realm of light you break the emotional bonds with your material and sound bodies, and you will be able to perceive the material world in anyway you please—as sound waves, light or pure matter. It is your choice. You will have full control. In the realm of light you experience vastness, lightness and oneness with the manifest universe. “Your body will be filled with light,” when you perceive your body as light. When you are in the zone of light, you transcend space.
When you move out of light zone and move into the Om-Field, you transcend time. You will have complete control over the lower vibratory realms of light, sound and matter (and hence time and space). You will be able to manifest your desires instantly. When you are established in the Om-field, your desires would not be constrictive and possessive. Your manifestation of desires will be just for experience and for expanding yourself to have Infinitely Expanded Sense of Self. Whatever you manifest will be for greater good, since you are no longer bound to the lower realms. You can rearrange energy at your will, since you are parASakti, the creative force, and create your own reality. There is no good/bad, right/wrong; no duality; everything is, “as it is“. This is the secret to manifestation and creation—live as awareness in the Om-field. When your awareness completely moves into the infinite void you become parASiva and there is no creativity here. You become witness consciousness. Things happen just by your presence.
There is no judgment about these zones as being good or bad, when we say, “higher and lower.” The distinction of higher and lower is only in terms of the vibratory frequency experienced by us in each realm. Just because someone is perpetually abiding in the material and emotional bodies, it does not make them bad. It may be that they are very happy being caught up in the drama that goes on in these realms. It may be that they are not yet exhausted and fed up with the experiences in these realms to move higher in vibratory frequency. Therefore, if you are happy being solely the physical body, fine. If you want to move up in your awareness and vibratory frequency, fine. There is no judgment here. Everything is, “as it is.”
Moreover, there need not be any fear that just because you are living in the higher zones of awareness, you will not be able to function in the lower realms. In fact, you will be able to function in the lower zones much more efficiently and effortlessly without being weighed down or getting caught up in the drama in these zones.
Delivering Our Worldly Duties
As I mentioned above, after we establish ourselves in the Om-field, we will have full control over the lower zones of light, sound and matter. In fact, to interact with the manifest world we will have to come down to sound and/or matter zones on demand and go back into the Om-field after the interaction is completed. When established in the Om-field we do not have any bondages to the emotions about the objective world, since emotions are the ones that bind us. Therefore, we can deliver our worldly duties with much more efficiently without the attachments and expectations which otherwise weigh us down and make us inefficient. When in Om-field the realization that the whole universe is a play of energy comes and enables us to look at everything we do with detachment and as just a play in which we adorn different roles as son, daughter, father, mother, brother, sister, student, teacher, employer, employee and so on. While being in this state of higher awareness we will consciously take on these roles and play them very efficiently. Others who watch you may not know this, but they may notice, for example, how good a father you are, and they may want to imitate you. 🙂 So, in essence, our living becomes effortless, conscious and efficient. Whatever desire we want to manifest it will become reality very quickly and will align with the greater good as I mentioned earlier. Living in this way, as the divine, is the true secret to creation and manifestation.
I Am My Own Master
Now it is time to define the title of this blog based on the model discussed in this article.
- I Am—The Expanded or Infinte Sense of Self or Being or brahman
- My Own—The Narrow Sense of Self or the I-thought
- Master—True Teacher
In the sanskrit language this is also called, “svayamAcArya,” meaning,
- svayam—Infinite Indwelling Self
- AcArya—True Teacher
That is, “Infinite indwelling Self is the true teacher.”
Therefore, “I Am My Own Master” or svayamAcArya means,
The infinite indwelling Self, Being or brahman is the true teacher, training the narrow sense of self or the I-thought to expand, evolve and merge into brahman.
When this merger happens, “aham brahmasmi” or “I am brahman” is realized. This can be further expanded to the following definition of self-mastery, self-realization and enlightenment.
Self-Mastery, Self-Realization and Enlightenment With Respect to This Model
From the above discussion, we can define Self-Mastery as,
Attaining mastery over one’s limited sense of self, by expanding or evolving one’s awareness into higher realms, living effortlessly and consciously in the Om-field and beyond, detached from the manifest universes made up of light, sound and matter, being able to exert full control over these realms including time and space, creating one’s own reality and be the divine that one is.
According to this model, Enlightenment is synonymous with Self-Mastery.
Knowing Your Zone(s) of Awareness at Any Given Moment
You can know which zone of awareness—matter, sound, light, Om-field—you are in at any given moment by noticing how you are feeling and what your state of awareness is. If you believe that there is nothing to you beyond the physical body, or you are nothing but the physical body, then you are living in the zone of matter. If you are uncontrollably emotional, you are in the realm of sound or in the emotional body. If you are uncontrollably emotional and also have physical suffering, then your awareness is stuck in both matter and sound. If you are reasonably joyful and happy no matter what is happening around you, and you are clearly aware of your emotional and physical states, then you are in the zone of light or light body. If you can perceive your body as any of light, sound, and matter and you are able to be instantly creative, you are in the Om-field.
Relationship of Spiritual Techniques to The Model
Now that the model is laid out, let us discuss how the various spiritual and yOga techniques relate to this model. All techniques rely on one principle,
If you want to know the ocean clearly, you need to be outside the ocean. To get outside the ocean start studying it bit by bit. So, study sound to get out of sound; study light to get out of light.
- Physical postures and exercises—By doing AsanAs or physical postures and exercises, your awareness of the body increases. By studying your body deeply, by studying every muscle and bone using your awareness, you can free yourself from bondage to the physical body or form. You essentially use your body to free yourself from your body.
- Breath control exercises—Breath is the bridge between the body and the higher realms of existence. By performing breathing exercises or prANAyAma techniques, by observing the breath we can break the bondage with the physical body. Some breathing techniques incorporate sound (mantra or chanting) and light visualization (dhyAna or meditation) steps which essentially combine the breaking away from physical, sound and light bodies. However, to perform such combined technique effectively one should be already having at least the glimpses of the higher realms.
- yOga for the sound body—Use of sound, sacred syllables, mantrAs, exists in every culture and religious tradition. These mantrAs are to be chanted with awareness of the sound, proper pitch, rhythm and intonation. By closely observing and being aware of the way sound propagates within your body and the way your body-mind complex is affected by it, you can become free from the zone of sound. Additionally, you can free yourself from this emotional or sound body by deeply observing your emotional states, being aware of them and being detached from them. By observing the sound body, you can move out of the sound body. This is also known as mantra yOga, laya yOga or shabda yOga. Each of the mantras have specific qualities. By properly chanting them you can awaken those qualities in you, by opening the corresponding centers in the frontal lobes of your brain.
- yOga for the light body—Use of visualizations, meditations on light and form of deities or symbols has been part of religious traditions for eons. By visualizing light, colors, multidimensional geometric art, religious symbols, forms of deities, and contemplation on abstract concepts like, “Who am I?” “What is the purpose of my life?”, you can free yourself from the light body and move into the Om-field. Study light to move out of light.
- yOga for moving into the Void—As far as I intellectually understand the part of moving from Om-field into the witness consciousness, the Void or brahman, all you can do at this point is to surrender and develop devotion and brahman itself will pull you in, when you are ready!
If you are able, you can use combinations of posture, breath, sound and light techniques to directly move from matter to Om-field. For example, techniques such as yOga nidra or yOgic rest can be used to move into Om-field directly from the zone of matter.
Relationship to kundalini and the chakra Model
In yOgic parlance, parASakti (the creative force of brahman) after creating the baby in the womb will retire to the base (sacrum) of that baby’s spine. This dormant energy is likened to serpent or snake, that coils around the sacrum three and a half times and goes to sleep. However, it is not completely asleep. A small portion of it is used to sustain the organism. When this potential energy is fully awakened, it moves up through the central psychic channel (sushumna nADi) coinciding with the spine, to meet her consort sadASiva located in the sahasrAra chakra (meaning thousand petalled or glowing with the light of thousand Suns) in the Fontanelle. It is said that there are seven (7) psychic centers or chakras (literally, “wheels”) of energy along the spine. There are thousands of such chakras throughout the etheric body, but most common are these seven along the spine, since the spinal cord is the connection between the brain and the rest of the body. In siddhar tirumUlar‘s tirumandiram, which discusses Siva yOgam, fourteen (14) chakras are given—seven along the spine in the back and seven in the complementary positions on the front of the body. You can imagine that fourteen chakras are obtained by splitting the seven. In the illustration, the root chakra is not shown split and the mouth of god chakra (at the base of the skull in the back) is not shown. Each chakra when fully awakened and balanced, introduces corresponding qualities in the individual. Bottom three chakras correspond to the matter (physical body) and sound (emotional body) zones and the upper three chakras relate to light (light body) and Om-fields. The seventh chakra as mentioned earlier corresponds to brahman, sadASiva, pure or witness consciousness. The chakra system will be elaborated in a later article.
In kundalini yOga, the goal is to purify the chakra system and awaken kundalini to move up the sushumna nADi up to the seventh chakra. Note that this is a model that was created to explain what a yOgi experiences when his pure potential is awakened. Also, this prompts our mind to generate devotion and surrender of the ego.
In the next section, we discuss the physiological links to the spirituality. This is required because only through the body we can go beyond the body. This also discusses, what happens to the body as your awareness shifts and raises in frequency.
Role of the Brain and the Endocrine Glands
As you may have understood from this discussion that when we practice any technique or walk on any path, we do so through our conscious choice. This means you are in control of your body and brain. Let’s see what happens to your body as you move up in your level of awareness.
We know that the pituitary gland is the command gland of the body. This gland is located at the center of the head in the saddle of the sphenoid bone. Hormones secreted by this gland command the rest of the glands that regulate body’s systems. Ancients had known this and associated with the Agnya chakra (Agnya means command) or the brow chakra with this gland. Traditionally, this chakra has been shown to be at the center of the forehead, and associated with the pineal gland. However, the Agnya chakra, the command center is to be associated with the command gland, the pituitary. The pineal gland is located near the back of the head. The chakra associated with this gland, I believe, is the mouth of god chakra described by siddhar tirumUlar. Each of the six chakras (not considering sahasrAra) correspond to endocrine gland(s) and organs in the region of the particular chakra. We know that brain has centers corresponding to each of our body parts. Research has also shown that human brain cannot distinguish between what is perceived as outside reality and what is being visualized under closed eyes. By just imagining that you are moving your limbs, without actually moving them, brain can be made to think that the limbs are moving. This means that by creating specific exercises brain can be made to perceive anything. Through carefully crafted (spiritual) practices body-brain duo can be fully activated to hold the higher level of awareness that you (as the ego) are expanding into.
As our awareness shifts and our vibratory level increases, more of the pituitary opens up and we (as awareness) come into full control of it. This means that we get full control over the rest of the glands, our brains and bodies. As more of the brain opens up our perception of the world changes and becomes more expansive and inclusive.
Coming to the brain itself, it acts as an antenna that picks up vibrations in the Om-field (zone of limitless possibilities), magnifies and changes them when we use those thoughts, and releases those modified thoughts back into the consciousness stream. This is the reason sometimes we feel that we read others’ thoughts. Remember, we are existing in all zones of awareness, simultaneously, and are a continuous devolution of one infinite consciousness. If our awareness is limited, then we reject most of these higher vibrations and limit ourselves to the lower vibrations, and use only a small portion of our brains. We know that we use less than 10% of our brain’s capacity. What is brain’s full capacity anyway? I don’t think anybody knows a correct answer to this.
It is known that frontal lobes of the brain are key to creativity and genius. As we practice spiritual techniques to open up our pituitary and other glands, more of our brain opens up. This means more electrical current is generated by our brain, and body should be refined enough to handle this increased higher vibratory electric currents, and hence the yOgAsanAs. As more brain centers open up, we get the ability to perceive our world as we want, based on which brain center we want to use at any particular moment, making us masters of our own selves, and lead an enlightened, effortless life.
I would like to conclude this article by reiterating the definition stated in the beginning of this article,
Attaining mastery over one’s limited sense of self, by expanding and evolving one’s awareness into higher realms, living effortlessly and consciously in the Om-field and beyond, detached from the manifest universes made up of light, sound and matter, being able to exert full control over these realms including time and space, creating one’s own reality and be the divine that one is.
- This article appeared in Meditation, Yoga & Spiritual Growth Carnival- Edition #11 hosted by Anmol Mehta. He praises this article as,
The flagship article for Desika Nadadurâ€™s Self-Mastery Blog. Once in a while there comes an article which can change your view of Reality and elevate your consciousness to a new level. This article is of that caliber.
- This article appeared in Carnival of Truth #6 hosted by Andrea Hess. Thanks Andrea!