The Tree of Knowledge


The Tree of Knowledge

Mystic Cosmology

Either to the eldest son or a worthy disciple, who hath lived long with his Master

May mystic knowledge be imparted, but to no one else. Not even a treasure that may fill the whole sea-girt earth would be price enough for giving mystic knowledge.
— Chhandogya Upanishad Mystic initiation is meant only for the deserving; all and sundry cannot aspire to have access into transcendent realms, for it requires a great sacrifice. We have to sacrifice the whole world, nay even our own self, before we can have a glimpse of the inner truth and absolute reality. This sacrifice or renunciation, however, is not physical but of the mind. Gross and worldly minded, we are unfit for transcendent flights; thoughts of personal gain and hollow honour fill our minds, and all sorts of earthly sordid desires pollute our hearts. Most people become slaves of mammon and pass all their days hoarding riches and going from door to door for the sake of money, but you cannot serve God and mammon both.

Just as a mirror cleansed of its impurities becometh lustrous and reflecteth a bright image, even thus doth the mystic behold himself at the height of his spiritual transport and attain the goal of his endeavour.

— Shvetashvatara Upanishad

The tablet of the mind must be cleansed of all impurities before it can become fit to receive truths of absolute transcendence; the rust of materialism must be scratched off the mind to enable the soul to shine in its own resplendence.

With sensual desires of many lives is this mind rusty; and by the company of mystics alone is it cleansed.
— Guru Ram Das, Adi Granth

Before we aspire to experience transport into transcendent realms, our mind must first be purified by the elevating company and discourses of mystics. Conventional religions will not do. Ordinary religions will satisfy those people who look upon spiritual enquiry as a secondary thing, who are content with this present life without bothering about the past or caring for the future, and who are too much taken up with the activities of this world to think of the next. They are carried along by the current of events; they lead a blind life, neither knowing nor endeavouring to know what they are and where they are going. Mysticism is not for such people.

True devotees of thine, (O Lord), are only a few; with others it is sheer routine.
— Guru Arjun, Adi Granth

Hardly one in millions, O Nanak, Findeth the mystic path to the Lord.
— Guru Tegh Bahadur, Adi Granth

There are others, however, who are not satisfied with phenomena, but want to probe deeper into reality. They feel they are in the dark and therefore seek light; they find misery and evil in this world and hence search for true happiness. They know they have to die one day and consequently want to be prepared for it beforehand. They are eminently fitted for mystic training. They do not want to be led by the nose, like dumb driven cattle, or to grope in the dark like one who is blind; they desire to have their eyes opened and their ears unsealed so that they may see spiritual sights and hear heavenly harmony.
For those who would look before they leap and think before they act, mysticism is indispensable. For them, before taking a plunge into the bustle of life, their first concern is to open their eyes. Although it is not easy to do the mystic practice, yet it is worth our while attempting it, for it gives us light, it opens our inner eyes and it shows us the reality behind appearances. It is only by mystic transport that we can cross the threshold of death during this lifetime and, with our own eyes, see what is happening on the other side. Therefore, we should gird up our loins to follow the mystic path of true realization.

Go thou into the forests of reality like a lion; why hast thou turned into a wolf, a fox and a hyena?
— Rumi, Divan-I Shams-I Tabriz, P.401

Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.
— Bible – I Corinthians 16:13

Planes of consciousness: Waking consciousness is not the highest; several superconscious states exist above and beyond the waking condition. We may call these states stages or planes ofconsciousness; in Hindi, they are called avastha. If we start from the lowest rung of this ladder of graded consciousness, we should begin with:

a. Sound sleep, sushupti avastha -This is a state of sound sleep in which there is no consciousness at all. This is the bottom of the scale of consciousness. Moving upwards we first come to swapan.

b. Dream state, swapan avastha – In the swapan or dream state we have a very dim, vague and foggy consciousness. In this there is hardly any thinking; the mind is hurriedly carried through a vast mass of confused ideas which appear to be a disorderly and disjointed series of undefined perceptions. This is so because dream consciousness is characterised by the absence of the restraining and controlling power of the will. When we wake up, we remember only a part of our dreams, and that too very vaguely and dimly. Further, various items of our dreams do not fit well together, for they are sometimes opposed to one another. We can hardly make head or tail of our dream consciousness. Neither clear, nor stable, nor reliable, it is always shifting its focus and moving from place to place in a most unsystematic and haphazard manner. The next stage or plane is jaagrat avastha.

c. Waking state, jaagrat avastha – In this waking state, consciousness is much clearer and brighter than in dreams. Here we can think and reason logically, for although we are still carried by the current of events, it is not to the same extent as in dreams. In the waking condition our experiences are systematic and consistent and our perceptions clearer and more stable. Here we know where we stand, although our knowledge is confined to appearance or phenomena. Regarding reality, we are still in the dark. However, in respect of clearer consciousness, greater permanence and stability, and less confusion and contradiction, this plane is much superior to dreamland.

But this too is not satisfactory. Intellect, the highest faculty on this plane, is unreliable. At the level of the senses and intellect we are blind and ignorant; we cannot know transcendent truth. Our perceptions are confined to physical things, and our intellect struggles in vain for absolute knowledge, which it cannot achieve and which can be had only at a higher plane of consciousness.Going upwards from the waking state and leaving some minor stages inbetween, we reach the plane of turiya avastha.

d. Subtle consciousness, turiya avastha and aboveTuriya is the consciousness of the astral plane, where all things are subtle and astral, nothing is gross or physical. As compared with waking consciousness, the clearer, higher and more intense consciousness of this plane is as waking is to dreaming. When the soul of a person reaches this stage, the brain and physical organs cease to work, just as in sleep or trance, and only the spiritual and astral faculties work. The consciousness of this plane is superhuman, for it pierces the veil of phenomena and knows reality in its astral form. Being subtle, the astral cannot be seen with the physical eyes, perceived with any other of the five senses, or known with the intellect. Therefore, this stage and those above it, which are still subtler and there are several such – are open to mystic transport alone.

Neither by word of mouth, nor by the mind, nor by the eyes is it possible to realize God.
— Katha Upanishad Ii:3:9

Seeing without eyes, hearing without ears, walking without feet, working without hands, speaking without tongue. Thus die while living, O Nanak, by knowing His will you shall find the Beloved.
— Guru Angad, Adi Granth, P.139

Only when by the clearness of illumination and after meditation a perfect catharsis of the whole moral being takes place is one able to realize the immaculate God; for neither by sight, nor by word of mouth, nor by any other sense, nor by penance, nor by any actions whatsoever can he be attained.
— Mundaka Upanishad Iii.

Access to these higher planes is possible during one’s lifetime by mystic practices performed under the guidance of a perfect adept, but before we come to the practices which take us into those subtle spiritual planes, we may have to understnd the plan of creation as realized and stated by the mystics of the highest order…

Extracts from ‘Mysticism: The Spiritual Path’ by Lekh Raj Puri

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