I drove past a church today and saw their slogan for the week: It is not material things but enjoying that brings happiness. Oh dear! If it had read, it is not material things but love that brings happiness I would have applauded them. Love is the natural state of the soul, the living entity, the eternal being inside this body. But they have not realized that something need not be made out of atoms to be material. There are states of consciousness which are material. Enjoyment of matter, either gross or subtle, is still a material activity. A sense of enjoyment may be engendered by a new car (a gross material thing) or by an activity such as surfing the waves or something more subtle like listening to music – which is still material – sound waves are matter of a more subtle type.
And even if one enjoys on a still more subtle plane, on the mental level, this is also material. A person may be playing with mathematics in their mind, or enjoying a sense of achievement, or humor, or power over others and so on. All these things are enjoyments in the mind and the mind is material. It is not spiritual and it is not you. This very fact is well described in the knowledge pages from Jagad Guru’s website in the “Who are you” section. It also further puts light on discovering the real identity.
This fact is sometimes a little difficult to grasp. In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna defines matter as being made up of gross elements, earth, water, fire, air, and ether, and then the 3 subtle elements, of mind, intelligence and false ego (or the idea that I am something I am not).
We can see the difference between our self and our flesh and blood body, which is made up of the gross elements, relatively easily. Even if we don’t have an out of the body experience; or a near death experience where we get to watch the doctors resuscitate our body; or like a friend of mine, walk through the hospital corridors, wondering why the nurses are ignoring me, and then on going back to the hospital bed see my body lying there, we can hear about such experiences. Also science and logic tell us that as all the cells and molecules in the body change over the period of around 5 years, then this current body is a different lump of flesh from the one we wore 5 years ago. We remember being there 5 years ago, we recall we existed then, but that body no longer exists. See this lovely example from Jagad Guru in this self discovery video and you can also go through the enlightening transcript below the video. Jagad Guru is the founder of the science of identity foundation – this organization is dedicated to share spiritual wisdom in a down to earth, scientific and philosophical manner. People from all over the world will find this presentation of wisdom as a first of its kinds.
As that body is gone, while we still exist, therefore we cannot be that body. And if we are not the body of 5 years ago, we are also not the body of today. Grasping the difference between my mind and me is more difficult. The mind is not made up of recognizable atoms and molecules, and we cannot step out of our mind, go on a little walk and come back, as astral travelers do when they step out of their gross body. In fact even at death our mind goes with us, when we leave the gross body. None-the-less I can, by using a technique known as silent witness meditation, watch my mind and appreciate that I am the observer of my mind. I do this as if watching a stream flowing past, while sitting on a rock in the middle of the stream, not following the thoughts, images and emotions as they surface and float by, just noticing them come and go. If I do this I can begin to experience a distance between myself and my thoughts and emotions. It is as if the mind is a movie screen which I am watching.
And the fact that I say, “I changed my mind” and that I need to control my mind when I want to study or work, also indicates the difference between my body and my mind. The mind is, as described by Krishna, and by all the yogis of the past, a subtle material energy.
The point I am aiming at, is that that mind is a material thing, and that enjoying mentally is also trying to use a material thing to bring happiness. And no material thing will make you happy, no matter how subtle it is. The fact is trying to enjoy is not our natural position. We are not the natural enjoyers at all.
Let’s analyze this in more detail. If someone owns a car, they are the ones who are expected to enjoy it, right? You can’t just go and jump in the neighbor’s car and take it for a joy ride, at least not without being a criminal, with all the anxiety and eventual sad results that come from that. You have to have ownership of the car, which means you have the right to control it, and thus you can use it to enjoy it. Or so you think!
In fact, if we look even more deeply, we will see that we don’t own anything, we also don’t control anything and that this is an indication that it is not our natural position trying to enjoy anything. And if it is not our natural position it will always be a misfit and therefore will not make us truly content, peaceful, satisfied, and happy. This very idea that we are not material in essence but rather an eternal spark of life comes from a correct understanding of the spiritual nature of ourselves. Know more about this from this small video on spiritual life.
This is a lot to take on board in one short article but let me attempt to illustrate it: Do you own your body? You might think so, but did you make it grow in your mother’s womb? Did you conceive it? And how do you maintain it? By eating right? But where does the food come from? Do you make it possible to grow a crop, and not have it destroyed by locusts, for instance, or grasshoppers, as is happening with my silver beet as we speak? Do you provide the sunlight to provide the photosynthesis so that the food can be produced to keep your body alive?
And you think you can control your body, yeah? But what if you get Guillain–Barré syndrome, which progressively paralyses your body from the feet and hands inwards and upwards, and was often a death sentence before the days of artificial respiration? Or what if you get MS, or ALS/Lou Gehrig’s disease, or any number of diseases in which you progressively lose control over your body? What about common garden old age? All these situations make it clear we do not have ultimate control over our bodies. What control we have is limited and temporary, and it is not up to us whether we have such control or not. You cannot just say “No!” when paralysis hits you. And let me try to control my body after I’ve been kicked out of it at death. I cannot do it! It lies there on the floor, with the doctors thumping on the chest, and unless I’m allowed back in, I have no control over it at all. And are you controlling your body during your sleep? If it snores you don’t even know, and pity your poor wife if you have para-somnia, physically acting out your dreams, often violently.
It can be said that that we are not our body and our control over our own body is imaginary, or at the very least temporary and made possible by some outside cause. And no one sane thinks they can control the traffic lights, the weather, or the economy. While listing things we can’t control let’s also acknowledge our boss, and our wife or husband, our kids and pets, and the cockroaches in the walls. What small control we think we have, once analyzed deeply, is seen to be only possible due to outside circumstance. Try controlling your pet dog if his body has been invaded by the rabies virus, for instance.
Once we start to analyze more deeply we can see that we are not the owners and controllers of anything. As the song goes “I am the King of Nothing.” From this understanding we can begin to appreciate that this indicates that we are also not the natural enjoyers of anything. Maybe we get to have a joy ride once in a while, but to really be the enjoyer of the car, we must be the owner and controller of it. This is why trying to enjoy matter brings such anxiety. Deep down we know we only have limited and temporary control. We may have a multi-million dollar fortune, but we don’t know when the next GFC will arrive. We may enjoy power, or our mental prowess, or our physical strength, or a material relationship, but we know they are temporary and that our enjoyment, such as it is, will end. Thus there is never peace. Trying to be the enjoyer, even on a subtle level, is not where we will find our natural happiness.
So to see a church, which is supposed to be built around profound spiritual ideals, encouraging people to develop the mentality of an enjoyer, telling them this will make them happy, is discouraging. Ideally such an organization would be made up of people who recognize that the Supreme Person is the actual owner, controller and enjoyer. They may never have read the Original Vedas, but they would recognize the reality described in mantra one of the Sri Isopanisad. “Everything animate or inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord.”
We will only be happy when we fit in with that reality. In that situation we look after the belongings of the owner, taking what we need for a healthy life, and understanding that the real owner is the Supreme Person, and that, as such, He is the central enjoyer. Our joy is in relation with our personal relationship with Him, loving Him, wanting Him to be happy. That is our natural position. In that pure state we have the greatest joy, in loving Him, relating with Him, serving Him, playing with Him. Anything else is material enjoyment which will not bring the true happiness that we need.