How to Use Meditation for Inner Peace, Intuitive Guidance, and Greater Awareness
by Swami Kriyananda
Chapter One—Superconsciousness: The Central Reality
Consciousness, in its pure state, is absolute: more absolute than the speed of light, which slows on entering a material medium such as the earth's atmosphere; more absolute than the existence of matter, which is only a manifestation of energy; more absolute than energy, which is itself a vibration of consciousness.
We've been taught to think of consciousness as the product of brain activity. To Descartes, this activity was the final proof of existence. "I think," he wrote, "therefore I am." He was mistaken. It isn't thought that produces awareness. It is awareness that produces thought. It takes consciousness to think. We are not less aware when we aren't thinking, nor more aware when our brains are very active. Many people have experienced moments of intense awareness, and have discovered at those times that their minds were more than ordinarily still. I can't imagine this degree of awareness in a restless mind.
It is possible to increase the frequency and intensity of this experience, which gives us glimpses of a potential we all have within us: a state of heightened awareness known as superconsciousness. The method for achieving this state will be the subject of this book. As we proceed, you will learn how to become wholly free of thought, yet more fully aware than you've ever been. You will learn, with awareness of your higher Self, how to achieve perfect love, ineffable joy, and calm, self-expansive wisdom.
Descartes's explanation was the product of an essentially Western bias: that rational thought is the best, if not the only, key to understanding. Since the time of the Greeks this bias has been firmly entrenched. And because of it, it is not surprising that scientists nowadays view computers, and the similarities between them and the way the brain works, as evidence that consciousness itself is the product of computer-like activity in the brain. They define thought as a pattern of electrons, merely, moving through a circuit of brain cells. Materialists—their own electrons moving smugly through this particular circuitry—fasten in grim triumph on that word, "merely." How, they ask, proud of their objectivity, can one avoid the conclusion that no one is really conscious at all? As a KGB interrogator is said to have told a young woman he was torturing for information, "You are no more conscious than that concrete wall over there."
Suppose a computer were asked to reproduce, by a random selection of words, some great work of literature, such as the Bible. Conceivably, after a few billion, trillion, or zillion tries it might get all of the words right, and in the right sequence. But the result would have no more literary value than random patterns of clouds in the sky, which may fleetingly resemble mountain ranges, houses, or human faces before moving on to assume other shapes. Because there would be no conscious person directing the computer's selection of words, the process would continue haphazardly, losing in an instant its brief resemblance to scripture.
The only way for this process to become meaningful would be for someone consciously to recognize what the computer had done and to stop the process in time.
Consciousness, in other words, is not the product of brain activity: It is the fundamental reality without which thinking as a conscious activity could never take place.
Potentiality vs. Actuality
There is another approach to this question of consciousness as a phenomenon that exists outside the physical brain. If a thing is potentially real, that potentiality must be considered in its own way actual also. Nothing could appear in actuality that didn't exist already as a potential. No melody could be written that wasn't there already to be written. No mountain could be climbed if the potential didn't already exist in the human body to accomplish that feat. And life itself could not have appeared on this planet were life not a potential from the planet's very beginnings.
Science speaks of two kinds of energy: potential and kinetic. Were it not for the potential energy in a pendulum, for example,
prior to its downward swing, there would be no downward swing, and therefore no kinetic energy. A lizard, similarly, could never
write a Shakespearean drama, nor a cow act the role of Juliet: They simply haven't the potential.
The fact that consciousness ever appeared on the stage of time means that it was there backstage, awaiting its cue, from the very beginning, when galactic gases were still coalescing and forming molten rock. The same must be said of life: The fact that life appeared means that it always had the potential to appear, which is one way of saying that, in some form, it always existed.
Biologists have gone to great lengths to show that life and consciousness evolved by a process of purely random, accidental, and purposeless selection. What can one call their patient labor but a most impressive exercise in futility? The very appearance of life and consciousness means that both must have been present in latent form even before the Big Bang, or whatever it was that raised the curtain on the cosmic drama.
Materialism posits matter as the ultimate reality. Physicists demolished this concept early in the twentieth century when they
discovered that matter is only a manifestation of energy. But materialists soon recovered from that seeming deathblow to their philosophy.
They simply re-named the ultimate reality "energy." Anything, for them, would fit the bill as long as it didn't demolish their claim
that consciousness is the product, not the cause, of material manifestation.
Physicists, meanwhile, have been joining the metaphysicians in growing numbers in their belief that consciousness is not the product of anything, but is itself the Ultimate Cause.
Consciousness works through the brain, but doesn't require a brain to exist. It was, indeed, consciousness that produced the brain, as it did everything else in existence—even the apparently insensate rocks.
J. C. Bose, the great Indian scientist, in testing the response of living and "non-living" matter to a wide variety of stimuli, demonstrated early in the twentieth century that there is essentially no difference in response between nerve tissues and metals. Other tests were conducted decades later, with virtually identical results, by the great German physicist Karl Bonhoefer.
These demonstrations suggest only two possible alternatives: Either nothing is conscious (an absurdity, considering our interest in the subject), or consciousness is inherent in all things.
Consciousness requires a material medium, such as the brain, to bring it into material manifestation, but it requires no such medium, to exist. The outward manifestation of consciousness was a potential from the beginning of creation. That this is not an inference, but an actual fact, can be experienced in superconsciousness by anyone who attains deep states of meditation. As the Bhagavad Gita, India's best-known scripture, states, that essential consciousness exists everywhere, but is forever unaffected by anything.
The universality of consciousness helps to explain a scientific anomaly. Telepathy, so often demonstrated as to be held no longer in serious doubt, continues to baffle researchers because, unlike that of any other known phenomenon, the power of thought remains constant with increasing distance. Every other known force, including light, diminishes with distance, but a thought can be received as clearly on the other side of the earth as in the next room.
Superconsciousness takes human awareness outside the brain. We may say even that the brain is only a filter for superconsciousness. It can serve as a window onto superconsciousness, much as windows themselves reveal the scenery lying beyond them, but the brain can no more produce superconsciousness than a window can produce scenery.
That is why scientists encounter so much frustration in their efforts to subject higher levels of awareness to testing by the scientific method. The conscious mind cannot oblige superconsciousness to do its bidding, any more than Alice in Wonderland could oblige her croquet ball, which was a hedgehog, to remain wherever she placed it. The conscious mind, including the reasoning faculty, is subordinate to superconsciousness, not superior to it.
Consciousness existed before the appearance of matter—before the appearance even of time and space. In this context, Pure Consciousness is not really even omnipresent: It simply is. It was vibrations of that consciousness that produced energy, and then, through grosser vibrations of energy, produced matter. Without these movements of consciousness, time and space wouldn't exist. The very finitude of space, claimed as a fact by physicists, is acceptable to the mind only if one thinks of the universe as a vast idea. For thought alone can so circumscribe itself that nothing, literally, exists outside it.
Years ago in India I invited a great saint, Anandamoyee Ma, to visit America. "I am there already" was her reply. To her, in her state of superconscious awareness, material limitations were non-existent. She was as much conscious of being in America as in her own physical body in India.
My guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, put it to me this way: "It is an effort for me, in this superconscious state, to remember which body I am supposed to keep moving. I am present in all bodies!" One day he told someone, "You have a sour taste in your mouth, haven't you?" "How did you know?" the other asked in surprise. "Because I am as much in your body as I am in my own," the master replied.
As consciousness projects itself into the material universe, it takes on not only material forms, but also the qualities manifested by those forms. In the rocks, it becomes rocklike. In the flowers and trees, it takes on a limited degree of outward movement, and, with movement, a suggestion of dreamlike awareness. In the animals it expresses greater movement, and also greater awareness. In more highly evolved animals, it manifests a degree of intelligence, primarily instinctual.
The Human Potential
Only in mankind does consciousness reveal its potential for abandoning its material identity altogether. The fact that human beings seem to possess a capacity for increasing their awareness indefinitely suggests that they may even have the potential to continue that expansion to infinity.
Rational thought suggests, and the experience of great mystics—the "scientists" of the spiritual world—confirms, that human beings, with their more highly refined nervous system, have the potential to transcend ego-awareness altogether, and attain cosmic consciousness. For the purposes of this book I have called that universal state superconsciousness, though, to be exact, superconsciousness is but a rung on the ladder to cosmic consciousness.
Paramhansa Yogananda, in Autobiography of a Yogi, described divine vision as "center everywhere, circumference nowhere." As consciousness moves outward from its center into material manifestation, it takes on the appearance of material limitation.
In human beings, too, superconsciousness is filtered as if through heavy, smoked glass. It is not possible for people to achieve perfection outwardly, since any outward flow of energy and attention only continues the process of filtration. We can attain perfection only by reversing our flow of energy and consciousness from the objective world, as it is revealed to us by our senses, and directing it inward to our divine center.
This is the essence of all true spiritual teaching. Outer practices and beliefs are helpful only to the extent that they inspire us to seek our divine center within. This is what Jesus Christ meant by his statement "The kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21).
The secret of self-transcendence is daily, deep meditation.
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Plumb the depths of intuitive perception within you, at the calm center of your own heart. If any restless or disturbing feelings arise there, withdraw deeper still—to the very center of feeling, as if to the calm eye of a storm. As any period on this page might be reduced indefinitely in size, even to the point of becoming invisible under the strongest microscope, without ever ceasing to exist, so there is no limit to how deeply you can withdraw into the center of your being.
Try to find the innermost center of intuitive perception in your heart. If you experience the slightest disturbance, go deeper still. Finally you will enter a vast hall of calmness.
That center is the center of everything, everywhere. This, not intellectual analysis, is the way to attain perfect insight into people and events—into any difficulty that you face in life. This is the way of intuitive understanding. Your intuition must be cultivated—not abstractly, but with kindness toward all, with acceptance of whatever happens, and with perfect love for all life.
This is also the way to banish pain, both physical and emotional. Focus with calm feeling on your inner center, then project that center into the pain; visualize yourself at its center, and concentrate there. If you can penetrate deeply enough to its center, it will cease to exist. You will find, then, an ability to cope with any trauma. When you can understand everything from its center, you will find that you can turn even major setbacks in your life to good advantage.
Similarly, when faced with any problem in life, or when undertaking creative projects, or to help you attune yourself to countless situations: Seek your own heart center; then from that center visualize the center of the matter at hand. You will know, suddenly, exactly what to do.
It is more difficult to visualize the center of an abstraction, such as a problem. Think of your definitions of it, then, as layers to be peeled off and cast away. When no layers remain, you will find yourself at its center. To clarify your intuitive awareness at that center, hold that awareness up to superconsciousness.
By this practice, you will find everything you do to be increasingly appropriate, uniquely so for that moment, and always different from anything else you've ever done.