THE FOLLOWING QUOTE appears in a new book of sayings by Paramhansa Yogananda, Conversations with Yogananda, on the subject of physical suffering:

“Man’s greatest problem is his ego—his consciousness of individuality. Whatever happens to him, he thinks it affects him personally. Why be affected? You are not this body. You are He! Everything is He: All is Spirit.

Unfortunately, mankind sees everything as separate and individual. The Lord had to create that appearance. Ask yourself, however, Why? Why is this a tree, and you, a human being? The answer is simple: Without that variety, there would be no play! It wouldn’t interest you. If people saw that there was only one essence in everything—painting all the scenes, directing all the action, and acting all the parts—they would quickly tire of it. For ‘the show to go on’ there has to be activity, interest. It all has to seem real. Hence this appearance of individuality.”

Visualize two molluscs, side by side underwater. Each is dimly conscious, but of what? Neither can imagine itself to be the other—each is self-conscious, if only vaguely so. Were one of them to be stimulated in some way while standing open, it would “clam up,” or close. The other mollusc, if also open, would remain so. A mollusc’s consciousness is individual, not—as it were—tribal. Each knows, dimly, that it exists.

Jagadish Chandra Bose, the great Bengali physicist, demonstrated early in the twentieth century that even objects that seem “inanimate” display some of the reactions of animate creatures. Consciousness does not require a brain to exist. Its outward expression gains greater clarity, however, by a physical instrument such as the complex network of nerves in the brain, which channels and coordinates countless millions of functions simultaneously.

When we see waves on the sea, we see numerous separate manifestations of the same one body of water. Those waves all seem different and, in that way, individual. Yet we know they are not. If we watch long enough, each of them, one by one, yields its individuality to other waves. No wave, in itself, is real.

The same is true of the human ego. The Infinite Spirit had nothing to create with or from, except its own oceanic consciousness. Our reality as egos is evanescent. As the Indian Scriptures declare: “Aham Brahmasmi: I am Brahma!”

We hear much about “giving up the ego;” “dissolving the ego;” “suppressing the ego.” Nothing is lost in attaining God! The ego isn’t destroyed. Self-identity is simply expanded to include everything!

Indeed, the enlightened yogi discovers that the entire universe is a manifestation of his own, one Self. Consciousness, ultimately, is Self-consciousness. “Self” and “consciousness” belong together; they are inextricable.

Conversations with Yogananda, by Swami Kriyananda, will be published in The United States in late 2004.

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