The Foundation of Enlightenment | Science of Identity Foundation presents “The Foundation of Enlightenment”..
“What is the foundation for enlightenment?”
This is the question yoga philosophy and meditation expert Acharya Das poses to his listeners in his live-streamed video about Enlightenment..
Before you can comprehend the effect of enlightenment on your life, teaches Acharya Das, you must first completely understand that you are spiritual in essence, and that you, the spirit soul, are simply occupying the physical body. Without this understanding, you will not be able to even begin to grasp the concept of enlightenment.
So, you must ask yourself now, “Who am I?”
“This is the foundation of all spiritual inquiry,” says Acharya Das. “In the attempt to answer that question, one must consider what is my essence, what is my position, what is my function?”
To understand something, you must ask:
- What is it made of?
- Where does it fit in relation to its surroundings?
- What function does it perform?
“When I answer these questions in relation to the question ‘Who am I?’ then I will have a complete picture. This will actually be full self-realization,” claims Acharya Das. “But if I consider these three questions – my essence, my position, my function – in relation to a part of a spiritual journey, it will lead to three different experiences of self-realization.”
Acharya Das explains that these three realizations are not self-contained, but that the realization of my position and my function contain within them the realization of both the other and the realization of my essence. These realizations do not take place in isolation. Having said that, the first realization – that of my essence – does not contain within it the realization of position or function.
“So, from that point of view,” he says, “we will see that while all spiritual realizations of the self are transcendental and considered perfect, we have degrees of perfection or increasing perfection.”
Where do the mind and body fit into the journey of enlightenment?
“In relation to my essence, the reality is that I am spirit. I am not this body,” says Acharya Das. “The body is constantly changing, it is temporary, it has a beginning and it will have an end. I, the spiritual being within, have no beginning and I will have no end. I am by nature eternal.”
Acharya Das also says that we have a similar relationship to the mind. Because you can change your mind or try to control it, i.e. you can manipulate your mind, it shows that you must be separate from the mind.
To highlight this point, Acharya Das quotes the Vedas with a verse from the Bhagavat Purana:
Whenever a person experiences by self-realization that both the gross and the subtle bodies have nothing to do with the purer self, at that time he sees himself as well as the Lord, or the Highest Spiritual Truth.
And then in this verse, it says:
Just as a fire, which burns and illuminates, is different from the firewood which is to be burned to give illumination, similarly the seer within the body, the self-enlightened spirit soul, is different from the material body which is to be illuminated by consciousness. Thus, the spirit soul and the body possess different characteristics and are separate entities.
And the third verse quoted by Acharya Das:
One who is enlightened in self-realization, although living within the material body, sees himself as transcendental to the body, just as one who has arisen from a dream gives up identification with anybody who is in that dream. A foolish person, however, although not identical with his material body but transcendental to it, thinks himself to be situated in the body just as one who is dreaming sees himself as situated in an imaginary body.”
What sometimes happens, particularly in the mystic yoga practice, is that a yogi will attain the Brahman realization wherein they “leave their body and merge into a vast ocean of spiritual light.”
“This is realization of one’s essence,” says Acharya Das. “But there are further things to be considered in relation to the question of position: What is my position? Where do I fit in relation to others? Where do I fit in relation to this world?”
Acharya Das teaches that understanding this question of position will determine your level of happiness.
But there is a problematic phenomenon happening right now, he says. The problem is that there are all of these people thinking that they can “will” things to happen for them if they just “keep a positive outlook.” Like, if they concentrate really hard on visualizing an open parking space during their drive to the city, an open space will appear right in front of the place they are going.
People think they can make things happen, that they can dominate the world in this way. But this is a foolish thought, says Acharya Das, “The reality is that I am dominated. I am dominated by the laws of nature.”
You are not the Lord, you are not Supreme, and you will not be able to gain Godliness through positive thinking. You are not the center of everything. “If we go down this route, we will simply experience frustration in our life.”
“We are by nature subordinate, we are not the lord of everything,” says Acharya Das.
So, then, if our function is not to serve ourselves, what is our natural function? “What is the most natural function of the soul itself?” asks Acharya Das. “This is a really important part of the path of enlightenment and self-realization. Our natural function is primarily to love and to serve.”
This deep desire to love and to serve comes directly from the spirit soul. The problem, explains Acharya Das, is that our original desire becomes mired by “material misconception,” and therefore we direct our love toward other physical beings. We want to feel that spark of love. But true love, he says, “cannot be fulfilled on the material plane. It is a spiritual need and must be experienced in a spiritual way.”
Acharya Das continues, “The other thing that is part of our eternal function is to serve, and it’s kind of like this weird conflict. We exist in this kind of strange, actually polluted consciousness where we’re trying to be like mini Gods.” We see ourselves as the center of everything, and we think this body is me and that we can claim our spouses, our children, our homes, as ours, and so on. And yet, at the same time, we feel compelled to serve others.
We take our children to soup kitchens and shelters and have them perform acts of kindness in the community. We take in pets and we care for them. “We are serving,” he says. “We are trying to do nice things.”
Why do we enjoy and get satisfaction out of serving others?
“Because,” says Acharya Das, “it is a small glimpse into part of our spiritual identity, part of our spiritual nature.
“I am a spiritual being. I have eternal spiritual essence. I have a natural position where I fit in relation to others. I am not Supreme. I am dominated and my natural function is to both love and to serve. This is the function of the soul itself, and the more I am living in harmony with those spiritual truths, the happier I will be.”
To end the lecture, Acharya Das chants the mantra “Haribol” and “Nitai-Gaur,” and he reminds us that Kirtan meditation is one of the most important tools one will use to “come to the highest platform of full realization, spiritual realization and experience.” This is the way to true spiritual enlightenment.
Acharya Das is a disciple of Jagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda and Srila AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and has studied the Bhagavad-Gita for over 40 years. He is a respected teacher of Vedic and yogic philosophy, meditation and kirtan, and a practitioner of the transcendental science of Bhakti Yoga, the process by which a person can come to know and love the Supreme Soul.