We can’t see God with our human eyes because the senses have a very limited potential. All of us have a vast reality that is cosmic and eternal, but it’s been funneled down into a little ego that’s afraid of losing its life, that’s afraid of losing its possessions because it doesn’t remember that it owns the entire universe.
The senses are a big lie!
We can’t see God with our human eyes because the eyes, the senses, are a big lie! Their purpose is to keep us caught in the delusion that the physical world we see around us is real and all that exists. The Bhagavad Gita describes this world as “sukadukadam”—a world of pleasure and pain, a world of suffering. But we don’t really suffer.
It’s like being caught up in a movie. We go through a little ersatz exhilaration with the hero and a kind of suffering due to the villain, and we experience these emotions as entertainment. Why? Because we know the movie isn’t real.
Because we can’t see that the world isn’t real, we get caught up in “sukadukadam,” pleasure and pain. Rather than being entertained, we suffer. But it’s only the ego—the soul’s false identification with this little body and personality, that suffers. The soul never suffers.
In one of his lectures, Yogananda asked, “How do you determine if a person is having an hallucination?” He answered, “Because the other people around him don’t see the same thing.” “But,” he asked, “What if everybody in the room is having the same hallucination? How then do you determine that it’s unreal?” Well, you can’t.
When the people all around you share the thought that they’re separate from God, and from one another, then you don’t perceive it as a delusion. But a master can come into the room and say, “You’re all asleep and dreaming.” He’s the only one in the whole room who isn’t sharing the delusion of separation from God.
From time to time great masters come into this world to give us this message. Usually people don’t accept the masters because they’re still enjoying the dream. They like to try to manipulate it for their own benefit—to get more piles of dream dollars, the nicest spouse, and the highest status. And when a master says, “It’s all a delusion,” we have a tendency to crucify him.
We were born into a prison of the ego and senses. Because it is large and varied, and we can wander around the corridors, we don’t think of it as a prison. But this prison—the ego—keeps us trapped in the delusion that we’re separate from one another and from God.
This world is like a movie
In The Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says to Arjuna, “By the power of yoga, I will free you to see the reality…” Yogananda said Krishna meant specifically the ability to see God’s pulsating show of creation and dissolution, beyond the ego and senses.
The whole universe is continuously being created and dissolved. But we don’t perceive it, just as, when we watch a movie, we don’t see that the scenes are being created and dissolved by little frames.
I’m old enough to remember watching test patterns on TV. The first time I saw one it was really interesting, but it soon paled because it was just that one picture. In a motion picture, the frames change fast enough to fool the mind into thinking that the movement is real.
If we went to a movie and only saw one frame, everybody would soon be looking up at the projection booth and crying out, “We want entertainment!” God knows we want entertainment, so He does exactly the same thing with this world. Through vibration He changes the frames so we can have a drama to like and dislike.
But if you can see behind the frames, beyond the world of the ego and senses, there’s a whole other reality. And that reality doesn’t contain death, ill health or any of the things that get us so caught up in the “sukadukadam” duality of this world.
Going beyond the cosmic delusion
How do we get beyond “sukadukadam?” As Patanjali says, “Now we come to the study of yoga.” Yoga could be summarized as a collection of techniques and attitudes that take you beyond the hallucinations of the senses. But we can’t go beyond the cosmic delusion so long as the mind is restless.
Most of us, when we try to meditate, have too much restless momentum in the mind and the senses. Instead of stilling the mind, we act as though we’re going to “think” our way to God. Or we expect to see God with our senses.
Yogananda said we should approach meditation as if we’re going into a “conscious sleep,” trying to be half awake and half asleep. In order to go to sleep you can’t have any thoughts or physical movements. These things block you from drifting off. But you go to sleep easily when you let go of your thoughts and just relax.
From a yogic standpoint what happens in a state of sleep is that the life force withdraws from the senses and the muscles into the deep spine, where it rejuvenates us. That’s why we wake up refreshed. Yogananda called sleep “counterfeit samadhi.” It’s “samadhi” because the life force is withdrawn, but it’s “counterfeit” because there’s no conscious awareness.
In meditation we’re trying to withdraw the life force—but in such a way that we are neither asleep nor awake in the usual sense, neither active nor passive, but both. To get a sense of this, Yogananda suggested that we practice going back and forth between states of wakefulness and sleep.
Practice as you go to sleep at night: drift off, then wake up and go into an aware state for a few minutes. Then drift off again, then wake up. Gradually train yourself to consciously move back and forth between being awake and asleep, awake and asleep.
In superconsciousness you see God
In meditation we withdraw the life force from that part of ourselves that perpetuates the outward lie of the ego and senses, but we stay alert while doing it. As we gain control over the life force, we can go in to the deeper stages of meditation, into a kind of relaxed concentration and absorption that takes you beyond the senses into superconsciousness.
In a superconscious state, Yogananda said you’re able to see the universe being created and dissolved. You see the little ego floating in a sea of bliss, but you no longer identify yourself with that little ego. In that state you dissolve the ego.
In that state—not with the eyes, not with the mind, you see God. You come into an intuitive knowing of your unity with that which is creating the bubble, the sea, the light, the dark, the dissolution and the creation. You aren’t even perceiving at that point. You’re just there. You’ve shifted your sense of identity from the most limited aspect of who you are to the most expanded.
This is what this path, this great gift of Yogananda’s to the world, is meant to do. The science of Kriya Yoga, the other techniques, the service, the satsang—have but one design: to help us release the ego, release our limitations and become absorbed in the great sea of Spirit from which we came, in which we now dwell, and in which we have always been.
From a February 22, 2004 talk at Ananda Village. Jyotish Novak is Spiritual Director of the Ananda Monastic order, worldwide.
Other Clarity articles by Jyotish Novak are listed under “Nayaswami Jyotish.”
Meditation Exercise: Join the Cosmic Choir
by Swami Kriyananda
Imagine a choir composed of every atom in the universe, each one an
individual, but all of them singing together in blissful harmony.
In your own mind, join that mighty choir, composed of all life.
Determine from today on to sing in harmony with the universe.
Don’t impose on the great anthem of life your little wishes of how you
want the music to sound. Unite your notes to the Infinite Sound.
The more you do so, the more deeply you will know yourself to be an
expression of the soaring anthem of Infinity.
From Awaken to Superconsciousness by Swami Kriyananda.