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What Is Bliss?
Mark: Dear Ram, there is a beautiful Sanskrit verse I lost along with the exact meaning. It goes something like “…out of fullness comes something, but fullness always remains…”
I “saw” or knew this when I was a child: the sun is God and the rays are the individual that goes through evolution and various experiences, but when they bring these experiences back to the sun/fullness/atma, it never comes back anymore through these experiences. Later I found that analogy in my studies of the self/atma.
Please tell me more about bliss, since the word seems to have the meaning of ultimate fun, but I feel it’s more the “seeing space,” seeing the whole functioning of Mark’s mind I experienced two days ago. Bliss seems also being part of the whole mind structure (meaning the experiencer). Thanks for your time!!!!
Ram: Hi, Mark. The verse is “Om purnamadah purnamidam purnaat purnamaduchyate purnasya purnamadaya purnameva vasishyate.” It means:
This (the creation, maya) is full. That (the self) is full
If you subtract the creation from the self – fullness remains
If you add the creation to the self – fullness remains
So the meaning is that there is no difference between the self and the manifest universe. You would naturally include yourself in the creation, so in a non-dual creation you would be fullness. It is not possible to have both incompleteness and fullness in reality. If it seems that you are incomplete, you are wrong and you can let go of this view of yourself.
Another Upanishad verse relates to this: “What you worship there (i.e. the self) is what you see here (i.e. yourself and this visible world).”
Mark: Please tell me more about bliss, since the word seems to have the meaning of ultimate fun, but I feel it’s more the “seeing space,” seeing the whole functioning of Mark’s mind.
Ram: Purna, fullness, is the vision of the Veda. The verse is talking about bliss because the word “purna,” which means whole, complete, full, is a synonym for bliss. Bliss is not an experience nor is bliss an experiential word. Bliss is not a happy state. Happiness, which is what people seek, is the result of the confluence of conducive subjective and objective factors.
Bliss is the understanding that this is a non-dual reality, that nothing is missing anywhere. When you understand this fact, it translates into the emotional, experiential level as peace or contentment. Bliss is more subtle than happiness, which can disappear. Bliss is the recognition that you are the total, that nothing is different from you or apart from you.
Bliss is not an emotion that stands opposite to the unpleasant emotions, therefore longing for or striving for bliss is not going to bear fruit. It is something that is always with you because it is you. You cannot get what you already have by doing anything, only by knowing that you have it. If you are experiencing an unpleasant emotion, the best way out is to look for the bliss that is underlying the emotion. It is beneath the emotion because it is the self and the self is always present. Another name for bliss is sat. Sat means “what is.” There is nothing more satisfying than knowing that you are bliss. This is so because bliss is eternal. When you know that you
are eternal, you are completely relaxed. You don’t care what happens in the world. It is all the same to you. You know that you will always be, so all the anxiety that people who take the body and mind to be real experience does not come to you. You don’t change or die.
I think your view of “seeing the functioning of Mark’s mind” is related to this idea. The one who sees is the self. So when you are identified with the self, you see “Mark’s mind.” Mark’s mind is just a bunch of thoughts and feelings arising and falling in the light of awareness, the seer/self. Actually, none of the emotions or thoughts belong to “Mark” at all. They are just impersonal, subconscious tendencies outpicturing. That you are not Mark is indicated by the fact that you know Mark – but Mark doesn’t know you. Mark may have heard about you, read some books about you, had a glimpse or two of you, but Mark doesn’t know who you are. Or put it this way, Mark thinks he isn’t you.
When you said that you felt ashamed of yourself when you came down from sublime meditative heights and got identified with the greedy ice-cream-eater, I had the sense that you felt that this was a mistake, that you somehow “blew it.” I may be wrong and if I am, please disregard this. But if this is true, let me offer another way to see this situation. After all, this is the perhaps the most common situation for spiritual types. A spiritual person is someone who has great conviction in the existence of the self based on experience.
But this conviction is usually accompanied with the belief that the self needs to be permanently experienced or a permanent experience. Yet when the self is experienced, at the end of the day the experience fades and the person comes back to earth to get caught up in the vasanas. And he or she gets fed up with life in the body-mind and goes back to his or her practice (meditation, prayer, satsang, self-inquiry, etc.) so he or she can dis-identify with the vasanas and (hopefully) start experiencing the self again.
It is what I call the “firefly” state. You blink on and off, on and off. Eventually you lose heart because you can’t seem to make the “on” blink permanent. When you’re “on” you know that it isn’t going to last, so you can’t enjoy it completely, and when you are off you are struggling to turn the “off” blink into the “on” blink, so you don’t enjoy yourself in the body-mind complex either.
I think the problem here is the supposition that the “you” that was experiencing the bliss should have the sense not to come down and get caught up in the greedy experience of ice-cream-bliss, as if sense pleasure was somehow incompatible with self-experience.
But are there two types of pleasure? I don’t think so. When ice cream is being eaten, it is just the self eating the self in the form of ice cream and the pleasure that is felt is just the self enjoying itself.
From reading your description of your two states of mind, what I found interesting is that the self was there as the seer (I think your “seeing space” is your way of speaking of you as the self) of your high state and the self was also there as the seer of the ego pigging out on ice cream. So it seems to me that the only way to permanently correct this situation is to understand what the self is and identify with it. If you believe that Mark is somehow going to gain control of his experience and just experience the self all the time and not experience those wicked sense pleasures, you have a problem.
Because there is actually no Mark. There is no person in charge of anything.There is no person going from one state to another, although it seems so. What’s actually happening is called “aviveka,” lack of discrimination. There is a belief that self experience is a special type of experience and that sense experience, ice cream, is a different kind of experience.Discrimination means that you know that, as the verse above says, “What you worship (experience) there (the self) is what you see here (ice cream).” So the problem is not one of experience, it is one of understanding.
Now, all this may sound terribly intellectual and logical, and you might argue that what is actually needed is some big experience of enlightenment to wipe out your identity as Mark. But there is a major problem with this argument: experience does not alter thinking patterns. Isn’t it a fact that when you experience yourself as limitless peace, light and bliss, and the experience stops, you find that you are not left over with the notion that you are limitless light, peace and bliss. Quite the contrary. You come back to thinking of yourself as a limited, incomplete person, one who has just been robbed of wholeness and bliss.
If that is true, then what changes thinking patterns? And before I answer that, I’m talking about the one thinking pattern that is responsible for all the others, and that is the notion that the “I” is incomplete, limited and inadequate. What changes thinking patterns? New thinking patterns. For example, if you think of yourself as a smoker you will find it very difficult to quit. But if you start jogging and begin think of yourself as a jogger you will before long quit thinking of yourself as a smoker. The jogger identity will crowd out the smoker identity because health is a lot more pleasurable than non-health. And when you do, you will find quitting smoking easy. So the thinking pattern that is keeping people from enlightenment is the notion that the “I” is incomplete.It is not that you will get enlightenment when you change your thinking. Why? Because you already are enlightened. All that will happen is that the thought that is obscuring this fact from you will be removed when it is neutralized by the truth. The truth being this: “I am whole and complete, actionless awareness,” the “seeing space,” as you put it. This thought is a very happy thought. It is not difficult to pack it around in your mind, unlike its opposite, the thought that “I am incomplete.” Therefore this thought can easily become permanent. And in the process of becoming permanent it cleans the mind like nothing else. In the Gita Krishna says, “There is no purifier like knowledge.” The thought “I am complete, actionless awareness” is knowledge. The thought that “something is lacking in me or the world around” is not knowledge. It is a belief or an opinion, and can be profitably dismissed.
Mark: But fullness always remains… that was what I “saw,” knew, when I was a child.
Ram: Yes. When Mark was there as the child the “I” knew that fullness is. It wasn’t the child that knew it, although it looked like that. It was the self that knew it. Childhood is in many ways like a pure mind. There is no ego there to get in the way, so the self just sees itself everywhere. But the knowledge doesn’t get recorded in the intellect, so the person stays ignorant.
Mark: Bliss seems also being part of the whole mind structure (meaning the experiencer).
Ram: This is absolutely correct. There is no place where it isn’t. It is the mind structure. Or put it this way: it illumines the mind structure. Without it the mind structure can’t experience, think and feel. The only difference between the self and the mind structure is that the mind structure is the self apparently moving. Other than that, they are identical. Obviously, the operative word here is “apparently.” Or put it this way: the mind is you, but you are not the mind.