The macrocosmos and the microcosmos, the Universal and the individual, all arise from the one truth. They are manifestations and emergents of that truth which is not affected by either. That truth is known as Formless God. When this unmodifiable, transcendent, and immanent Formless God, instead of just "being", decides on "becoming", that consciousness is best designated as "God", "Iswara" or "Almighty". The Divine ground of everything that is, is the spiritual Absolute called Paramatman, or Overself. It is also the ground, the base, the core, the reality of man.
But in spite of "becoming", which is only an illusion imposing multiplicity on the One Being, it remains one. So long as inquiry is postponed, only the multiplicity is known. The multiplicity is neither real nor unreal. it is relatively real, temporarily real, pragmatically real, mithya, - a combination of truth and falsehood, apparently real but fundamentally unreal, real for most practical purposes, but unreal when the basic nature is unraveled. Mithya is the mixture of truth and falsehood, the knowledge of the serpent which is negated when the knowledge of the rope is won (i.e. a rope seen in darkness appears to be a snake until the light reveals it to be unreal).
The clouds appear to be stuck to the sky; so, too, maya (the tendency to conclude that what the senses tell us is true, or to project our preferences and prejudices on to the world around us) gives us an untrue picture of the Formless God. It makes us believe that the world is real. Its impact warps our reasoning process, our sensory impressions, and our views on God, on creation, and on man. It spreads before us a diversity which tantalizes and deceives.
The basic truth upon which primal illusion projects its kaleidoscope is described by seers as the Omnipresent Universal Consciousness (Sath-Chith-Ananda). This does not mean that the Formless God has three attributes: namely, It exists beyond time and space, It knows and can be known, and It is the source and acme of bliss. They are not three distinct characteristics; they indicate the One, of which the three can be grasped by experience - not by words, for words can only recoil before that Godhead. We cannot assert that the Formless God belongs to a class or genus, nor can it be defined by the three basic qualities. It cannot be described as performing any specific activity, for It is ever motionless. Nor can it be explained in terms of relationship with other entities, for It is One, without a second.
Illusion is only the Divine Will that inaugurated the manifestation of the cosmos - "I am one; I will to become many". Illusion is inherent in every being and every activity of that being; it has three aspects of achievement through the three modes and moods of that Will - the calm, contented, equanimous mood; the potent, passionate mood; and the inert, slothful, sluggish mood (called the three gunas of Sathvic, Rajasic, and Tamasic qualities). When illusion prompts us into the calm, wholesome mood of that Will, we become progressive seekers of the higher wisdom that reveals the unity. When we are overwhelmed by the passionate quality of that Will, we are deluded into the pursuit of worldly victories and ephemeral wealth and renown. The inert nature of that will seeks the quickest and easiest ways of happy living. These are the reflections in our minds of the basic modes of that Will that the Formless God assumes when It is moved by the primal urge to express Itself. The facets of that Will are called wisdom, yearning, and action.
The three modes affect beings and things in various proportions and orders, and so we have all the variety and diversity of the objective world. God, individualized or universalized, is One only. The individual soul and the Universal Cosmic Soul are one and indivisible.
The philosophers of all lands and all times have sought to discover the truth about God, the objective world, and man as well as their mutual relationship. Illusion is the will that causes all three. It is a clear flawless mirror. When the calm nature is reflected in that mirror, God results; when the passionate nature is reflected, the individual soul or individualized self results. It is ever anxious to grow, to grasp, to survive, and to be secure. When inert nature is reflected, matter (the objective world) is the result. All three are the Universal Soul, but they derive their reality as Its reflections. When undergoing reflection, they attain different forms and combinations of characteristics. The One becomes many; every one of the many is real only because of the One in it. Illusion too is a component of the One; by the emphasis on that component, the One transforms itself into the many.
We know that the illusion is like a mirror. The mirror reflects within itself all that is before it. The convexity or concavity of the mirror or the covering of dust that might have settled on it will certainly blur the reflected image, but it cannot distort the objects themselves. God, world of matter, and individual soul, all three are images of the Universal Soul reflected in the mirror of illusion and warped by the human characteristics that tarnish the surface of the mirror. It is the mirror that pictures the One as many. But the One is ever One.
Neither the personalized God, nor the individualized self, nor even the objective world can ever succeed in discovering the beginning of the illusion which brought them into existence and started the chain of "act - consequence - act". Nevertheless, one can succeed in knowing when the illusion will end! When will it end? When the objective world is ignored, set aside, denied, or discovered to be inherent in the Divine, then the individual soul is no more. When the individual soul is no more, the Creator is also superfluous and disappears. And when the Creator has faded out, the Formless God alone is. Where there is no child, how can a mother exist? It is a word with no significance. When a personalized God (1), a personality separate from the rest called soul (2), and the mental creation of that soul called the objective world (3) are nonexistent in the developed consciousness of man; illusion, the forefather of all three, cannot persist.
When space is enclosed in a pot, it appears limited and small. But once released from the container, it again merges with the infinite sky. The sky is not reduced or transformed in shape or quality by being held in the container. So, too, the One Universal Soul that is pervading the bodies and lives of billions of beings is not affected by the container (body) to which it adheres for some time.
Many are affected by the problem of what caused the cosmos. How did it come into being? They advance various ideas and lay down many opposing hypotheses. But there is no need for seekers to beat about the bush so much. Just as a dream results when one is cut off from reality while in a state of sleep, the cosmos is a result of being cut off from reality by illusions while in a state of ignorance. The cosmos is as ephemeral and vagarious as a dream. It is difficult to discover laws that explain or govern its infinite mysteries. More profitable than inquiring into the mysteries is the inquiry into possible ways of benefiting by them and learning from them. It is mostly a waste of time to probe into the origin of the cosmos or to determine how it will end. You are a part of creation, so try to understand yourself and keep your goal in view.
The individual has emotional, passionate, and active qualities in his composition. The quality that is inferior is the inert quality; that which is superior is the calm quality. The Creator is the wholesome reflection of the Formless God. Therefore, man must strive to rise higher into the wholesome, good realm. He must be ever vigilant not to slide down into the lower realm - the inert realm of matter and material pursuits. The teacher has to hold this ideal before the pupil and guide him towards it. He must encourage the pupil to become aware of the God within man. The word "spiritual" is used often by aspirants and instructors. What exactly is implied by "spiritual"? Is devotional singing or congregational prayer spiritual? Or does it involve repeating the Lord's name or meditation? Or does it denote religious rituals and ceremonies? Or does it extend to pilgrimages and holy places? No. These are only beneficial acts. Spiritual in its real sense relates to two progressive achievements or at least to sincere attempts towards those two achievements: elimination of the animal traits still clinging to man and unification with the Divine.
Consider how far man has succeeded in overcoming the animal inheritance of lust, greed, and hate when he spends time, money, and energy in these so called spiritual exercises. What progress does he make by listening to exponents of texts? Has man become any less bestial? This is the inquiry, this is the assessment for man to be engaged in, though this is the very task ignored by him at present.
Embodiments of the Divine Atma (God within)!
In truth, man is the encased Atman (God in flesh). He is the repository of the Infinite, Ever-full, One, Indivisible Atman (Spirit). Man, at best, remains man, satisfied with the desire to bring about goals dominant in him. Many are content with their dealings with the objective, pleasure-seeking world. Their ideal is only to amass material wealth and satisfy material needs. Examine yourselves and discover at which level you are by analyzing your desires and activities. In this way, you can yourselves redirect your thoughts and urges.
Your revised urges must have a beneficial impact on your activities, for it is through activity that human characteristics are given up or gained. Activity causes birth and death and fills up the years of one's life. It supports good and evil, joy and grief.
However, man is willfully unaware of the activities that will lighten the burden of his life and also illumine the God within. It is the inner God that illumines all, but man is in the dark about its existence. Just as everything sweet is sweet because of the sugar it contains, all things and objects are cognized because the God within is behind the cognition. It is the Universal Witness. It is the sun that activates all but never gets activated itself. You, too, must establish yourself in the position of a witness.
Fulfillment consists in rooting out the animal that lurks in man and reaching out to the Divinity that is his essence.
We find individuals and groups trudging from one sacred place to another in search of peace and prosperity. Have they rid themselves of even a few of their animal propensities? That is the test; that is their justification for the money and time they have spent and the troubles they have undergone.
When the animal is conquered and Godhead is felt within reach, man can assert that all these pilgrimages are within him. He then has no need to travel from temple to temple. And without achieving this victory you have no right to claim that you are a devotee of Rama, or Krishna, or of any other incarnation of the Lord.
This is real spiritual progress.
Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol X - July 9, 1979