We had a great discussion today about identifying with the Higher Self vs the lower self. The Higher Self is nothing more than the pure all-encompassing Soul. We agree that the Soul is everywhere, outside the body as well as inside. It doesn’t need a body. We understand that the body is nothing more than a clay pot, a temporary covering, donned for the purpose of working out one’s karma.
But here’s the question. If the Soul is pure, then why would it acquire good and bad karma or have the need to work it out? Yogananda’s interpretation of the Gita, which we are now reading, provides a perfect explanation, which has to do with the corrupting influence of the body and the mind.
In the human brain, the Soul is still apparently in its perfect state of supreme consciousness. Seated in the thousand-petalled lotus in the medulla, it silently witnesses the modifications of the body and mind. But as the Soul spreads from the brain down the seven chakras along the spine, as it radiates from the spine into all the nerve channels within the body, empowering us to work and move and think and feel through the organs of action and perception, it generates a new and dangerous force. The Ego.
The ego, which is the individual sense of feeling, thinking and doing, born only because of the soul’s energy infused into the body and mind, a mere reflection of the supreme consciousness that pervades all things, raises its tiny head and says, “Me! I am the doer.”
Forgetting its source and the fact that it has only appeared because of a false sense of identification with the processes of the mind and body, the ego once generated, begins to grow rapidly and take over. “I am Jyothi,” it claims. “I am a woman, I am intelligent, I have a temper, I am spiritual, I am hungry, I am happy. I have a husband, I have a son.”
The ego is wholly tied to the physical and mental faculties and the senses. Ego breeds attachment to one’s body and to all those beings and possessions that the mind desires. It’s hard to fathom that the mind and the intellect, in which we normally take so much pride, are also temporary faculties. They will also disappear, along with the temporary body in which they reside.
So if even our mind and intellect dissolve, then what’s left when we die and move along to the next life and the next body? Do we start from scratch with a clean slate? Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on what we have done in the past, the answer is no. The sheath, created by our actions and our thoughts in this life and the countless lives that came before it, goes with us. Our likes and dislikes, our cravings and our passions, our dreams and our desires, created by the ego and the mind through several lifetimes of identifying with the body, build a thick layer that surrounds the pure soul, masking it from view. We carry that sheath with us to the next body and compelled by the nature of our individual sheath, we act and are born again and again.
Then how do we escape this sheath and the cycle of birth and death? How do we merge back into pure soul? We can begin by controlling the ego, becoming aware of it and not giving in to its constant call. We can step back and become observers of its dance, which keeps us unaware of our true nature. Anything which we can observe with dispassion soon loses its power over us.
In meditation, we are taught to raise the kundalini, the part of the soul which has traveled to the base of the spine and sits coiled there asleep. By stilling our mind, even for a brief period, and identifying with the soul and not the body, we focus on awakening the sleeping energy and lifting it back up through the centers all the way to the top of the head, where the Soul waits in all its splendor. When the individual kundalini merges with the Universal Soul then there is no more sense of difference or duality. There is no more individual ego that ties us to the body and the mind. The sheath with all its burdens from countless lives dissolves and we are free.
All the more reason to meditate.