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The Thumb-Sized Person in the Heart
Dave: Dear Ram, while waiting for work to materialize, I have been churning over all that’s been happening, i.e. reading, meditating. It’s been a very productive period. Following up on some suggestions I must have read somewhere, I was walking one day, asking, “Who am I?” and stilling the mind, when I became aware of this small being in my heart, shining, in a form. I thought no more about it, but it was a warm experience, and whenever I looked he was there. Then recently I was reading the Katha Upanishad and these words hit me like a tornado:
“The Person not larger than a thumb, the inner Self, is always settled in the heart of men. Let a man draw that Self forth from his body with steadiness, as one draws the pith from a reed. Let him know that Self as the Bright, as the Immortal; yes, as the Bright, as the Immortal.”
So I did that, and my nights have been transformed into a perpetual light show, with wonderous images and luminous dreams with golden people. It’s all very weird, as if some hidden gurus are coming in and giving knowledge. And I become full of light and see the pervasiveness of Being through everything.
I can find no more information in the scriptures on these events. If you have any comments, my love to you as always.
Ram: Hi, Dave. Well, damn! You have all the luck. I know a lot of spiritual people who would give their eye teeth to see the “thumb-sized Person in the heart.” Too bad we can’t figure out a way to sell it and solve your financial problem. It is a lovely verse, one that often springs to mind.
Asking if Ramji has comments on spiritual topics is like asking if bears poop in the woods.
First, you are obviously blessed with a mind that personifies. “Thumb-sized” doesn’t mean that the self is the size of a thumb, obviously. It is just a poetic device to separate it from the body which is full-sized. It could be taken to mean “subtle.” The Upanishad makes it clear that the little person is a personification, a symbol of the “inner self.” “Let a man draw that Self forth from his body with steadiness” means keeping one’s attention on the inner self; separate the self, awareness, from the body in your understanding.
“Steadiness” means that one should constantly meditate on the distinction between the body and the awareness in which the body is appearing until one gets it completely clear which is which. “As one draws pith from a reed” means that the pith, the self, is the essence of you and that the body is non-essential. “Wheat from chaff” is another common Vedic symbol. The idea is that the “reed” – the body – is to be discarded as not-real and one should keep the “pith” – the self – as real. Then it gives two descriptive words to aid the inquiry. It defines the self. “Bright” means awareness. “Immortal” means it never flickers and dies. This is to contrast it with the body, which is a symbol of everything transient. Now, what does “Self” mean? It means you are the awareness, not the body. The point of the meditation is to help you identify the “I” with awareness so that when the “I” thought arises, you understand it as awareness, not as Dave, a human being. To put it another way, you should see “I” thought in awareness, not the other way around.
The first thing that came to mind when I read this was, “To whom is this vision appearing?” The vision is an objectification of the fundamental truth of existence. The understanding the vision represents which I outlined above is undoubtedly not new to you. I’m sure it is quite obvious. Then why does the self feel the need to objectify it at this time? Probably because there is still some belief in you that you are Dave, some identification with the body, that needs to be destroyed. The anxiety you felt recently about the financial situation, the responsibility for “your” kids, was brought about by an identification with the body/emotions. So the self is dramatizing this understanding, making a point, so you won’t miss it.It is aiming at generating a hard and fast conviction that “I am whole and complete, actionless awareness, and not this body-mind entity.” If you are going around seeing the thumb-sized person twenty-four hours a day, then I will recommend Valium and a shrink. But you are not.
The subsequent visions and dreams, the “golden” people, the feeling of being guided by the rishis, etc. are an indication that the mind is extremely sattvic and is turned inwards – which is good. This imagery is not to be taken as significant in itself, although it will all indicate the same truth as the appearance of the thumb-sized person, to wit you are awareness, not the body-mind entity. The possible downside, and the yogic and Vedantic texts never tire of expressing it, is that one can get caught up in the wondrousness of it all. Once one has understood the meaning of the symbols, one should discard them and meditate only on the understanding they represent. When the knowledge is firm and there is absolutely no doubt who you are, the visions will dissolve into the clear light of awareness. All that will be left is ordinary awareness. The stage you are in is often called the “solar” phase because the visions are happening and they are tremendously energizing, like sunlight. As you point out, your nights have been transformed into a perpetual light show (enjoy!). But the “final” phase, which is not a phase, because there is nothing more, is sometimes referred to as the “lunar” phase, the cool phase. One’s consciousness is steady, like moonlight, free of modification. There is no need for it to modify again, because you have no doubt about your identity.
Although it is not the kiss of death, it is important not to think that one is “being guided” by gurus or rishis or extraterrestrials or anyone else. This is why the Upanishad calls it the “inner self.” “Inner” is actually incorrect. The self is neither “inner” nor “outer,” but the scripture uses the word “inner” because it is addressing a person who is in the inquiry stage – when the mind is turned inward. “Inward” means you are paying attention to what is happening in your heart/mind and not to what is going on in the world. One is not to succumb to the seduction of “guidance,” because that leaves you separate, small and incomplete, i.e. dualistic. And this is not the truth. Where this is all going is that you are going to have to see that you are everything that is, that there is no one else, there are no “other beings,” there are no “states,” etc.
Your last sentence shows what you have to work on: “And I become full of light and see the pervasiveness of Being through everything.” This, obviously, is nearly the end of your sadhana. But an analysis of the language makes me think that you and the light, you and the being, are taken to be two different things. The “final” realization is “I am the pervasiveness of Being. I am everything.” One doesn’t become “full of light,” because one is the fullness that is light, awareness. The “I” does not “become.” This would mean that it was something other than what is now. The scripture says that the self is beyond “becoming.” Becoming is experiential. The self is the awareness in which things “become” and cease to become.
In every experience, no matter how subtle, one factor is free of experience. It is the means of knowledge. All experiences are known. Who knows them? This “who” is awareness. So when subtle things like this happen, ask yourself, “Who knows it?” And you will immediately become aware – from the point of view of eternal awareness. You will not “become” eternal awareness, but the thought “Who knows it?” will cause you to dis-identify with the limited point of view and start seeing from the “absolute” point of view.
Anyway, that’s the best I can do with this for now. I hope it is helpful.
~ Love, Ram