Maya, the Illusion of the Self
Samadhi is an ancient Sanskrit word, for which there is no modern equivalent. There is a fundamental challenge with making a film about Samadhi. Samadhi points to something that can’t be conveyed on the level of mind.
This film is simply the outer manifestation of my own inner journey. The intention is not to teach you about Samadhi, or provide information for your mind, but to inspire you to directly discover your true nature. Samadhi is relevant now more than ever. We are at a time in history where we have not only forgotten Samadhi, but we have forgotten what we forgot.
This forgetting is Maya, the illusion of the self.
As humans most of us live immersed in our daily lives, with little thought of who we are, why we are here, or where we’re going. Most of us have never realized the true self, the soul or what the Buddha called annata – that which is beyond name and form, beyond thinking. As a result we believe we are these limited bodies. We live in fear, either conscious or unconscious, that the limited self structure that we are identified with, will die.
In today’s world the vast majority of people who are engaged in religious or spiritual practices such as yoga, prayer, meditation, chanting or any kind of ritual, are practicing techniques which are conditioned. Which means they are just part of the ego construct. The seeking and the activity isn’t the problem- thinking you have found the answer in some external form is the problem.
Spirituality in its most common form is no different than the pathological thinking that is going on everywhere. It is a further agitation of the mind. More human doing, as opposed to human being. The ego construct wants more money, more power, more love, more of everything. Those on the so-called spiritual path desire to be more spiritual, more awake, more equanimous, more peaceful, more enlightened. The danger for you watching this film is that your mind will want to acquire Samadhi . Even more dangerous is that your mind might think it has acquired Samadhi. Whenever there is a desire to attain something you can be sure that it is the ego construct at work. Samadhi is not about attaining or adding anything to yourself.
To realize Samadhi is to learn to die before you die. Life and death are like yin and yang- an inseparable continuum. Endlessly unfolding, with no beginning and no end. When we push away death, we also push away life. When you experience the truth directly of who you are, there is no longer fear of life or death.
We are told who we are by our society and our culture, and at the same time we are slaves to the deeper unconscious biological craving and aversion that governs our choices. The ego construct is nothing more than the impulse to repeat. It is simply the path that energy once took and the tendency for the energy to take that path again, whether it is positive or negative for the organism.
There are endless levels of memory or mind, spirals within spirals. When your consciousness identifies with this mind or ego construct, it ties you to social conditioning, which you could call the matrix.
There are aspects of the ego that we can be conscious of, but it is the unconscious, the archaic wiring, the primal existential fears, that are actually driving the whole machine. Endless patterns of grasping towards pleasure and avoidance of pain are sublimated into pathological behaviors …. our work…. our relationships…. our beliefs, our very thoughts, and our whole way of living. Like cattle, most humans live and die in passive subjugation, feeding their lives to the matrix.
We live lives locked into narrow patterns. Lives often filled with great suffering, and it never occurs to us that we can actually become free. It is possible to let go of the life that has been inherited from the past, to live the one that is waiting to come forth through the inner world. We were all born into this world with biological conditioned structures, but without self-awareness. Often when you look into a young child’s eyes there is no trace of self, only luminous emptiness. The person one grows into is a mask worn over consciousness.
Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players”. In an awakened individual, consciousness shines through the personality, through the mask. When you are awake, you don’t become identified with your character. You don’t believe that you are the masks that you are wearing. But nor do you give up playing a role.
Twenty-four hundred years after Plato wrote the Republic, humanity is still making its way out of Plato’s cave. In fact we may be more transfixed by illusions than ever.
Plato had Socrates describe a group of people who lived chained in a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall. All they could see were shadows projected on the wall by the things passing in front of a fire which was behind them. This puppet show becomes their world. According to Socrates, the shadows were as close as the prisoners would ever get to seeing reality. Even after being told about the outside world they continued to believe that the shadows were all that is. Even if they suspected there was something more they were unwilling to leave what was familiar.
Humanity today is like the people who have only seen the shadows on the cave wall. The shadows are analogous to our thoughts. The world of thinking is the only world that we know. But there is another world that is beyond thinking. Beyond the dualistic mind. Are you willing to leave the cave, to leave all that you have known to find out the truth of who you are?
In order to experience Samadhi it is necessary to turn attention away from the shadows, away from the thoughts towards the light. When a person is only used to darkness then they must gradually become accustomed to the light. Like acclimatizing to any new paradigm it takes time and effort, and a willingness to explore the new, as well as shed the old. The mind can be likened to a trap for consciousness, a labyrinth or a prison. It is not that you are in prison, you are the prison.
The prison is an illusion. If you are identified with an illusory self, then you are asleep. Once you are aware of the prison, if you fight to get out of the illusion, then you are treating the illusion as if it is real and you still remain asleep, except now the dream becomes a nightmare. You will be chasing and running from shadows forever. Samadhi is awakening from the dream of the separate self or the egoic construct. Samadhi is awakening from identification with the prison that I call me. You can never actually be free, because wherever you go your prison is there.
Awakening is not about get rid of the mind or the matrix, on the contrary; when you are not identified with it, then you can experience the play of life more fully, enjoying the show as it is, without craving or fear. In the ancient teachings this was called the divine game of Leila: the game of playing in duality.
Human consciousness is a continuum. On one extreme, humans are identified with the material self. On the other extreme is Samadhi, the cessation of self. Every step we take on the continuum towards Samadhi, brings less suffering. Less suffering does not mean life is free from pain. Samadhi is beyond the duality of pain and pleasure. What it means is that there is less mind, less self creating resistance to whatever unfolds and that resistance is what creates suffering. Realizing Samadhi even once allows you to see what is at the other end of the continuum. To see that there is something other than the material world and self interest. When there is an actual cessation of the self structure in Samadhi there is no egoic thought, no self, no duality yet there is still the I am, annata or no self. In that emptiness is the dawn of prajna or wisdom- the understanding that the immanent self is far beyond the play of duality, beyond the entire continuum.
The immanent self is timeless, unchanging, always now. Enlightenment is the merging of the primordial spiral, the ever-changing manifested world or lotus in which time unfolds, with your timeless being. Your inner wiring grows like an ever-unfolding flower as you disidentify with the self, becoming a living bridge between the world of time and the timeless.
Merely realizing the immanent self is only the beginning of one’s path. Most people will have to experience and lose Samadhi countless times in meditation before they are able to integrate it into other facets of life. It is not unusual to have profound insights into the nature of your being during meditation or self inquiry, only to find yourself once again falling back into old patterns, forgetting the truth of who you are.
To realize that stillness or emptiness in every facet of life, every facet of one’s self, is to become emptiness dancing as all things.
Stillness is not something separate from movement. It is not opposite to movement. In Samadhi stillness is recognized to be identical with movement, form is identical to emptiness. This is nonsensical to the mind because mind is the coming into being of duality.
Rene Descartes, the father of western philosophy, is famous for the saying “I think therefore I am”. No other phrase more clearly encapsulates the fall of civilisation and the full scale identification with the shadows on the cave wall. Descartes’ error, like the error of almost all humans, was the equating of fundamental being with thinking.
At the beginning of his most famous treatise, Descartes wrote that almost everything can be called into doubt; he can doubt his senses, and even his thoughts. Likewise in the Kalama Sutra the Buddha said that in order to ascertain the truth, one must doubt all traditions, scriptures, teachings and all of the content of one’s mind and senses. Both of these men started with great scepticism, but the difference was that Descartes stopped inquiring at the level of thinking, while the Buddha went deeper- he penetrated beyond the deepest levels of the mind. Maybe if Descartes had gone beyond his thinking mind, he would have realized his true nature and Western consciousness would be very different today.
Instead, Descartes described the possibility of an evil demon that could be keeping us under a veil of illusion. Descartes did not recognize this evil demon for what it was. As in the movie the Matrix, we could all be hooked up to some elaborate program feeding us an illusory dream world. In the movie, humans lived out their lives in the matrix, while on another level they were merely batteries, feeding their life force to the machines which used their energy for their own agenda.
People always want to blame something outside of themselves for the state of the world or for their own unhappiness. Whether it is a person, a particular group or country, religion or some kind of controlling Illuminati like Descartes’ evil demon, or the sentient machines in the Matrix. Ironically,
the demon that Descartes envisioned was the very thing that he defined himself by. When you realize Samadhi, it becomes clear that there is a controller, there is a machine, and evil demon leaching your life day after day. The machine is you.
Your self structure is made up of many little conditioned sub-programs or little bosses. One little boss that craves food, another craves money, another status, position, power, sex, intimacy. Another wants consciousness or attention from others. The desires are literally endless and can never be satisfied.
We spend a lot of our time and energy decorating our prisons, succumbing to pressures to improve our masks, and feeding the little bosses, making them more powerful. Like drug addicts, the more we try to satisfy the little bosses, the more we end up craving. The path to freedom is not self
improvement, or somehow satisfying the self’s agenda, but it’s a dropping of the self’s agenda altogether.
Some people fear that awakening their true nature will mean that they lose their individuality and enjoyment of life. Actually, the opposite is true; the unique individuation of the soul can only be expressed when the conditioned self is overcome.
Because we remain asleep in the matrix most of us never find out what the soul actually wants to express.
The path to Samadhi involves meditation, which is both observing the conditioned self; that which changes, and realizing your true nature; that which does not change. When you come to your still point, the source of your being, then you await further instructions without any insistence on how your outer world has to change. Not my will, but higher will be done.
If the mind only tries to change the outer world to conform with some idea of what you think the path should be, it is like trying to change the image in a mirror by manipulating the reflection. To make the image in a mirror smile you obviously can’t manipulate the reflection, you have to realize the you that is the authentic source of the reflection.
Once you realize the authentic self, it doesn’t mean that anything on the outside necessarily needs to change. What changes is the conscious, intelligent, inner energy or prana which is freed from conditioned patterns and becomes available to be directed by the soul. You can only become aware of the soul’s purpose when you are able to watch the conditioned self and its endless pursuits, and let them go.
In Greek mythology, it was said that the gods condemned Sisyphus to repeat a meaningless task for all eternity. His task was to endlessly push a boulder up a mountain, only to have it roll down again. The French existentialist and Nobel Prize winning author, Albert Camus, saw the situation of Sisyphus as a metaphor for humanity. He asked the question, ‘How can we find meaning in this absurd existence?’.
As humans we are toiling endlessly, building for a tomorrow that never arrives, and then we die. If we truly realize this truth then we will either go mad if we are identified with our egoic personas, or we will awaken and become free. We can never succeed in the outer struggle, because it is just a reflection of our inner world. The cosmic joke, the absurdity of the situation becomes clear when there is a complete and utter failure of the egoic self to awaken through its futile pursuits.
In Zen there is a saying, “Before enlightenment chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment chop wood, carry water”. Before enlightenment one must roll the ball up the hill, after enlightenment one must also roll the ball up the hill. What has changed? The inner resistance to what is. The struggle has been dropped, or rather the one who struggles has been realized to be illusory. The individual will or individual mind and divine will, or higher mind, are aligned.
Samadhi is ultimately a dropping of all inner resistance – to all changing phenomena, without exception. The one who is able to realize inner peace, irrespective of circumstance has attained true Samadhi. You drop resistance not because you condone one thing or another, but so that your inner freedom is not contingent on the outer.
It’s important to note that when we accept reality as it is, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we stop taking action in the world, or we become meditating pacifists. Actually the opposite can be true; when we’re free to act without being driven by unconscious motives, then it is possible to act in alignment with the Tao, with the full force of our inner energy behind us.
Many will argue that in order to change the world and bring about peace we need to fight harder against our perceived enemies. Fighting for peace is like shouting for silence; it just creates more of what you don’t want. These days there is a war against everything: a war against terror, a war against disease, a war against hunger. Every war is actually a war against ourselves.
The fight is part of a collective delusion. We say that we want peace, but we continue to elect leaders who engage in war. We lie to ourselves saying that we are for human rights, but continue to buy products made in sweatshops. We say we want clean air, but we continue to pollute. We want science to cure us of cancer but won’t change our self-destructive habitual behaviours that make us more likely to be sick. We delude ourselves that we are promoting a better life. We don’t want to see our hidden parts that are condoning suffering and death.
The belief that we can win a war against cancer, hunger, terror, or any enemy that was created by our own thinking and behaviour, actually lets us continue to delude ourselves that we don’t have to change the way that we operate on this planet.
The inner world is where the revolution must first take place. Only when we can directly feel the spiral of life within will the outer world come into alignment with the Tao. Until then, anything we do will add to the chaos already created by the mind.
War and peace arise together in an endless dance; they are one continuum. One half cannot exist without the other. Just as light cannot exist without dark, and up cannot exist without down. The world seems to want light without darkness, fullness without emptiness, happiness without sadness. The more the mind gets involved, the more fragmented the world becomes. Every solution that comes from the egoic mind is driven by the
idea that there is a problem, and the solution becomes an even greater problem than what it was trying to solve. What you resist persists.
Human ingenuity creates new antibiotics only to find nature getting more cunning as bacteria gets stronger. Despite our best efforts in the ongoing fight, the prevalence of cancer is actually increasing, the number of hungry people in the world steadily grows, the number of terrorist attacks worldwide continues to rise.
What’s wrong with our approach? Like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice from Goethe’s poem, we have taken hold of a great power, but do not have the wisdom to wield it. The problem is that we do not understand the tool that we are using. We do not understand the human mind and its proper role and purpose.
The crisis is born of the limited conditioned way in which we think, the way we feel and experience life. Our rationalism has robbed us of our ability to recognize and experience the wisdom of many ancient cultures. Our egoic thinking has robbed us of the ability to feel the depth and profound sacredness of life, the luminosity of life, and to realize entirely different levels of consciousness, which are now almost lost to humanity. In the ancient Egyptian tradition, Neters were archetypal forms whose characteristics could be embodied by those who purified their physical and spiritual bodies in such a way that they were fit to house higher consciousnesses. The original Neter, or the divine principle of this wisdom was known as Thoth or Tehuti. Often depicted as a scribe with the head of a bird or Ibis, and represented the origin of all knowledge and wisdom. Thoth could be described as the cosmic principle of thinking or thought. Thoth gave us language, concepts, writing, mathematics, and all the arts and manifestations of the mind. Only those who had gone through special training were allowed to access Thoth’s sacred knowledge.
The book of Thoth is not a physical book, but is the wisdom of the akashic or etheric realm. Legend tells that Thoth’s knowledge was deeply hidden in a secret place within every human being, and was protected by a golden serpent. The archetypal or perennial myth of the serpent or dragon guarding a treasure is one that permeates many cultures and has been called by names such as kundalini shakti, chi, holy spirit, and inner energy. The golden serpent is the egoic construct which is bound in the inner energies and until it is mastered and overcome, the soul will never be able to attain true wisdom. It was said that the book of Thoth brought nothing but suffering to any individual who read it, even though they would find the secrets of the gods themselves and all that is hidden within the stars. What must be understood is that the book brought suffering to any individual who read it, any ego that tried to control it. In the Egyptian tradition awakened consciousness was represented by Osiris.
Without this awakened consciousness, any knowledge or understanding obtained by the limited self would be dangerous, disconnected from higher wisdom. The eye of Horus had to be open. The esoteric meaning that we find here is similar to the more familiar story of “the fall” in the garden of Eden. The book of Thoth parallels the book of knowledge of good and evil whose fruit Adam and Eve were tempted to eat. Humanity of course has already eaten the forbidden fruit, already opened the book of Thoth, and has been cast out of the garden. The serpent is a metaphor for the primordial spiral that extends from the microcosm to the macrocosm. Today the serpent is living as you. It is the egoic mind expressed as the manifested world. We have never before had access to so much knowledge. We have gone deep into the material world, even finding the so-called God particle, but we have never been more limited, more ignorant of who we are, how to live, and we do not understand the mechanism by which we create suffering.
Our thinking has created the world as it is now. Whenever we label something as good or bad, or create preference in our mind it is due to the coming into being of egoic structures or self interests. The solution is not to fight for peace or conquer nature, but to simply recognize the truth; that the very existence of the ego structure creates duality, a split between self and other, mine and yours, man and nature, inner and outer. The ego is violence; it requires a barrier, a boundary from the other in order to be.
Without ego there is no war against anything. There is no hubris, there is no overreaching nature to create profit. These external crises in our world reflect a serious inner crises; we don’t know who we are. We are completely identified with our egoic identities, consumed by fears and are cut off from our true nature.
Races, religions, countries, political affiliations, any group that we belong to, all reinforce our egoic identities. Almost every group that exists on the planet today wants to claim its perspective as true and correct, as we do on an individual level. By claiming the truth as its own, the group perpetuates its own existence in the same way that an ego or self structure defines itself against other.
Now more than ever different realities and polarized belief systems are co-existing on earth. It is possible for different people to experience completely different thoughts and emotional reactions to the very same external phenomena. In the same way, samsara and nirvana, heaven and hell, are two different dimensions occupying the very same world. An event that may appear apocalyptic to one person, could be seen as a blessing to another. So what is becoming obvious is that your external circumstances don’t have to affect your inner world in any particular way. To realize Samadhi is to become a self-propelled wheel, to become autonomous, a universe unto oneself. Your experience of life is not contingent on changing phenomena.
An analogy can be made with Metatron’s cube. Metatron is mentioned in various ancient Christian, Islamic and Jewish texts, and is archetypally related to the Egyptian Neter Thoth, as well as Hermes Trismegistus of Greece. Metatron is intimately connected with the tetragrammaton. The tetragrammaton is the fundamental geometric pattern, the template or primordial emanation of physical reality, which has been called the word of God or Logos. Here we see a two dimensional representation of the figure, but if you look a certain way, you see a three D cube. When you see the cube, nothing has changed in the figure, but your mind has added a new dimension to your seeing.
Dimensionality or one’s perspective is simply a matter of becoming habituated to a new way of perceiving the world. Upon realizing Samadhi we become free of perspective, or free to create new perspectives, because there is no self invested in or attached to a particular viewpoint.
The greatest minds in human history have often pointed to levels of thought beyond the limited self structure. Einstein said “The true measure of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and sense in which he has attained liberation from the self.”
So it’s not that thinking and the existence of the self is bad, thinking is a wonderful tool when the mind is in service to the heart. In Vedanta it is said that the mind makes a good servant but a poor master.
The ego perpetually filters reality through language and labels, and is constantly judging. Preferring one thing over another. When the mind and senses are your master, they will create endless suffering, endless craving and aversion, locking us into the matrix of thinking. If you want to realize Samadhi, do not judge your thoughts as good or bad, but find out who you are prior to thought, prior to the senses. When all labels are dropped then it is possible to see things as they are. The moment a child is told what a bird is, if they believe what they’re told then they never see a bird again. They only see their thoughts.
Most people think that they are free, conscious and awake. If you believe you are already awake, then why would you do the difficult work to attain what you believe you already have? Before it becomes possible to awaken, it is necessary to accept that you are asleep, living in the matrix.
Examine your life honestly, without lying to yourself. Are you able to stop your robotic, repetitive life patterns if you want to? Can you stop seeking pleasure and avoiding pain, are you addicted to certain foods, activities, pastimes? Are you constantly judging, blaming, criticizing yourself and others? Does your mind incessantly seek out stimulus, or are you completely fulfilled just being in silence? Do you react to how people think about you? Are you seeking approval, positive reinforcement? Do you somehow sabotage situations in your life?
Most people will experience their lives the same way today as they will tomorrow and a year from now, and ten years from now. When you begin to observe your robot-like nature you become more awake. You begin to recognize the depth of the problem. You are completely and utterly asleep, lost in a dream. Like the inhabitants of Plato’s cave, most who hear this truth will not be willing or capable of changing their lives because they are attached to their familiar patterns.
We go to great lengths justifying our patterns, burying our heads in the sand rather than facing the truth. We want our saviours, but we are not willing to get up on the cross ourselves. What are you willing to pay to be free? Realize that if you change your inner world, you must be prepared to change the outer life. Your old structure and your old identity must become the dead soil out of which new growth comes.
The first step to awakening is to realize that we are identified with the matrix of the human mind, with the mask. Something within us must hear this truth and be roused from its slumber. There is a part of you, something timeless, that has always known the truth. The matrix of the mind distracts us, entertains us, keeps us endlessly doing, consuming, grasping, in a cycle of craving and aversion with constantly changing forms, keeping us from the flowering of our consciousness, from our evolutionary birthright which is Samadhi.
Pathological thinking is what passes for normal life. Your divine essence has become enslaved, identified with the limited self structure. The great wisdom, the truth of who you are is buried deep within your being. J. Krishnamurti said, “It is no measure of one’s health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” Identification with the egoic mind is the sickness and Samadhi is the cure.