Shirley J. Nicholson – USA
There is a peace that passes understanding.
It abides in the hearts of those who live in the eternal.
We live in an illusory world. Mountains, buildings, trees and flowers, even our own bodies seem substantial and real. Yet the Ancient Wisdom teaches that they are not. They are maya, illusion created by the quality of our minds that turns changing phantasmagoria into seemingly solid and lasting objects. Physics discovered that what seems solid rests on a reality of unimaginably small, constantly moving particles of electricity. But the illusion goes deeper than just physical objects. The familiar self that we know so well is also an illusion. We are surprised when we hear that our own minds have this seemingly magical power of creating a self. Yet sages throughout history have reported that our sense of being a separate, self-contained self is not ultimately valid. Our minds manufacture a self with individual likes and dislikes, particular views, a fund of information, all that makes us the apparent individual we think we are.
An illusory world
The truth is that at bottom we are a field of pure consciousness. Our varied experience and ordinary perception colors this basically colorless consciousness. Our conditioned minds lead us to believe that our sense experience and the experience of our thoughts and emotions happen to a consistent and steady self. But introspection does not capture that constant, independent self. We can experience only the flux of changing thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. Our so-called personality is part of the phantasmagoria in which we live. We cannot nail down an abiding self in the flow.
Yet sages throughout history have attested to something permanent, unchanging, and Real, though subtle and hard to perceive. It might be glimpsed in stillness within when the mind and emotions are very quiet. Or it might be perceived in looking at something deeply. A rose is real to our senses--its glowing colors, its fragrance, even the pain the thorns can cause us. Yet we know that it is a passing phenomenon. The petals will wither and fall. Its fragrance will turn to the odor of decay. Yet there is something eternal in the rose. Its harmony of shape and contours and colors embody a beauty that resonates deeply within us. Even a magnificent work of art, like the Michelangelo's oversized statue of David, startles us to perceive an eternal archetype captured in stone.
Such experiences are momentary and subtle. However, there is a way of life that leads to living in state where the eternal is the constant background of our consciousness. This experience will eventually come to us all. It begins with developing two qualities noted in The Voice of the Silence and recognized by many traditions as essential for enlightenment--Viveka, discriminating wisdom, and Vairagya, non-attachment to the unreal.
Viveka is the ability to discriminate between the Real and the unreal, to sense the essence of things within the outer form. At The Feet of the Master, the little book of instructions from a Master to Krishnamurti as a young boy, says to learn to discriminate the God in everyone and everything. Annie Besant, in her famous invocation, calls on the "hidden life vibrant in every atom." The Master's reference to "God" and Besant's "hidden life" in atoms are but expression of the Real, the eternal
If we honestly examine the things that we want, we will find that most of them feed our ego, our sense of being a separate individual, our false self. Such things have little value in the larger view of life. As we see more and more deeply, desire for the fleeting and impermanent drops away, and we are drawn to eternal values such as pure love that does not enhance our sense of self.
Viveka, true discernment, is the basis for freedom from the unreal and establishment in the Real. Vairagya, non-attachment to worldly things, sustains and encourages Viveka. Non-attachment is not indifference, not being cold and uncaring. Rather it reveals the true value of each event in the larger scheme of things. It does not imply withdrawal from an active life but actively living in the world without attachment to it.
Viveka and Vairagya together can bring us to that place of peace that passes understanding where we are not shaken by passing events. We become established in pure consciousness, always anchored in the background Reality behind life's whirl. We learn to live in the eternal, in the Real.