This article explains your spiritual journey from the perspective of the ancient spiritual science called Vedanta.
The word ‘journey’ implies a starting point and a destination. As spiritual beings having a human experience, we are journeying back to our source.
Brahman, the Ultimate Source of Everything
Vedanta explains that there is only one ultimate Source. It is a changeless, conscious, infinite presence called Brahman.
Brahman means “The Big” in the ancient language of Sanskrit.
It is “The Big” because it encompasses and supports…
- all that ever existed in the past,
- all that exists now,
- and all that will ever exist in the future, for evermore.
All of creation emerges from it, exists in it and merges back into it at the end of the cycle of creation.
Creation of the world
Once, a ray of Brahman emerged and assumed two aspects—spirit and matter.
The coming together of spirit and matter resulted in the manifestation of creation. The innumerable planets, moons, stars, entire solar systems, galaxies, universes and all things and beings came into being. You and I too are made up of spirit and matter.
Characteristics of spirit:
- It is Identical to Brahman and shares all its qualities—changeless, conscious, and infinite.
- It expresses as life and consciousness.
Characteristics of matter:
- It is an aspect of Brahman that appears to be totally opposite to it and does not share its qualities.
- It is constantly changing, inert (without life and consciousness) and finite.
Spirit and matter expressing in you
Spirit is your essential, unchanging identity.
Your apparent identity is made up of matter. It comprises the physical, emotional and intellectual aspects of your personality.
These three matter aspects are constantly changing: Your body changes from childhood, youth to old age, your emotions change throughout the day, and your thoughts change from second to second.
Your body, emotions and thoughts cannot, and do not function on their own. They are merely the apparatus through which spirit functions.
The body, emotions and thoughts are not the real you
How can you tell that spirit is your real nature?
You are always aware of your body, emotions and thoughts. You know them as something different from you. This is clear when you say, “my” body, “my” emotions, “my” thoughts. You consider them as yours; therefore, they cannot be you.
You are spirit—the changeless, conscious factor that makes your personality appear to have life and consciousness.
If spirit is who we really are, why is it that we don’t know it or experience it?
A strange phenomenon occurred when we were born—our essential nature as Spirit was kept hidden from us. We didn’t see or experience it at all. Instead, all we could see and experience were the matter aspects of our personalities.
Tragically, we began to think ourselves to be the limited body and the mind. We began to feel different and separated from every thing and everyone else.
This notion of separation is a cosmic illusion. There is only one spirit. The differences that we experience between us are not intrinsically real.
This cosmic illusion is created by the mysterious power inherent in Brahman called Maya.
Maya makes us believe that we are what we are not – i.e. finite and limited human beings.
The word “Maya” means “that which is not” in Sanskrit.
Maya is what veils the Truth from us and causes us to see the limitations of matter instead.
Why, Why, Why??
Now, why, you ask, would this occur? Why would we want to forget who we really are? Why did Brahman manifest spirit and matter in the first place?
As much as we would all like to know the answer, there really isn’t one. Brahman is merely expressing its potential through its creative power called maya.
There are some things that we just have to accept for what they are. For example, Why does light travels in straight lines? Why is a gas lighter than a solid? Why does the sun shine? etc.
What’s more important is to know how to end the illusion. This example will illustrate why…
Imagine that you have fallen into a deep, dark and cold pond. You thrash about desperately trying to get out. At that time, do you ask, “Why was the moss covering this pond?” “Who pushed me in?” “Why can’t I swim out?” No. All you care about is getting out.
Purpose and Goal of life
How do we end the illusion? —By rediscovering our true nature as spirit.**
It’s just as though you are in a dream and don’t know that you are dreaming. As a dreamer, you want to know why there is so much confusion, sorrow and hatred, along with the beauty and joys in your (dream) world.
The only answer and remedy is to wake up and rediscover that you were never the dreamer in the first place. You were and always have been the waker.
Having forgotten your real waking identity, you got sucked into your own dream world and suffered and enjoyed your own mental projections.
Only when we wake up to our real identity will we finally put an end to all our sorrows, and gain permanent peace and happiness.
A Game of Hide-and-Seek
The spiritual journey is like playing a game of hide-and-seek. Spirit ‘hides’ while we seek it.
It’s tough, and you never guess that spirit is present, right here and now. You search everywhere outside of yourself, until totally exhausted, you decide to try a different strategy and search for it within yourself.
When you finally find it, you realize a strange thing – the personality “you” never existed. You are spirit, and the only one there.
**The means to rediscovering your true nature as spirit is called spiritual growth. Read how to do this through these two, and other articles on this website: How to begin your spiritual journey & How to use your everyday actions to grow spiritually.