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Epiphanies and Self-Realization
Seeker: Hi, Arlindo. Would you care to comment on what is the difference between an epiphany and self-realization? Thanks.
Arlindo: Yes, my friend, an epiphany is an experience, and for experience to occur you need two factors: a subject and an object, i.e. duality. Spiritual or mystical experiences are but projections produced by a sattvic mind in meditation/contemplation or sometimes out of the blue due to one’s karma, an epiphany-vasana cultivated in previous lives that unexpectedly fructifies.
But all mental projections are made of the same raw material called mind, and mind is subtle matter. A sattvic mind is an ideal platform on which many abnormal/mystical projections are reflected. You see, during our dream sleep state we all experience a similar phenomenon: mind from time to time projects a world made up of dream objects and experiences, which is a manifestation of one’s causal memory, or vasanas in their causal formations.
All projections are distortions of reality, superimpositions on consciousness. Imagine a lake on a full moon night without the slightest breeze in the air. The still surface of the lake will reflect the stars and the moon just like a high-quality mirror does, with no distortions. Now, bring the breeze into the picture and the lake will develop ripples. The lake in this case no longer reflects the true reality of the night sky, but instead it will project a distorted view of it.
It’s the same with the mind; when it is agitated (rajasic) it distorts one’s views and interpretation of reality. But when it is predominantly sattvic and contemplative, meditating on the self, it tends to project a very subtle distortion we call mystical epiphanies. These mental subtle projections are objects (mithya) reflected in a sattvic mind. What is the difference then between the mind that reflects epiphanies from the one that reflects the non-dual self?
The difference we find in mind’s degree of pure reflectivity. In mediation/contemplation, a mind seeking for enlightenment still requires rajoguna. This very subtle rajoguna energy will create a subtle mental ripple and produce a subtle distortion, a mystical object of experience that can easily be taken for the self or enlightenment. But since the self cannot be experienced due to its non-dual nature, what the seeker experiences is actually a subtle projected object, which is but an idea or symbol of the self. The seeker often develops an affinity for such objects, and if he is not in close contact with Vedanta he may easily develop a vasana for that pleasurable object of experience.
Self-realization, on the other hand, is not an experience in duality, and it requires an instant of pure mental reflectivity. A single moment of pure sattva guna, with no influences of rajoguna or tamoguna. Those are the “aha” moments, the “click” moments Ramji sometimes refers to. The mind is so deeply calm, free from any subtle extroversion, desiring or fearing nothing, that it reflects the most obvious factor: the true eternal seer of all previous distortions of reality. Is self-realization an experience? No, in the sense that all experiences are dependable on objects, and yes because for the first time the jiva realizes that he has always being the self, and “experiences” himself as the self. We may call it an experience of identity – the jiva knowing and experiencing from a new platform, from his own very subjectivity as the only seer there is, limitless awareness.
Self-realization is only possible by the means of knowledge because if the knowledge of Vedanta is not well-planted in the mind of the seeker, those moments of pure sattva guna may be easily wasted and the jiva will slide into nirvikalpa samadhi, the subtlest object of experience there is, the absence of objects the yogis like to refer to as “emptiness” or nothingness – not much different from deep sleep. It was lovely to talk to you.