Spirituality Studies 9-1 Spring 2023 17 Samuel Bendeck Sotillos seeing as all realms coexist in reality – but it must be remembered that our current temporal existence is subject to impermanence and countless vicissitudes. No matter how real the contents of the mind may appear, they are grounded in an order of reality that is individual and highly conditioned, rather than in the transpersonal. 6 Cognition and the Real Our cognition is instrumental in traversing the multifarious states of consciousness and can act as a support to the spiritual path when rooted in a sacred ambiance. This is attested to in the Ashtāvakra Gītā of the Hindu tradition: “You are what you think” (1990, 3); in a Buddhist text, the Dhammapada: “All that we are is the result of what we have thought” (1965, 3); in Jewish scripture: “As he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7); in the New Testament: “We… beholding… are changed into the same image” (2 Corinthians 3:18); and in the Islamic tradition: “You are your thought” (Rūmī 1983, 96). Both a horizontal and vertical understanding of existence are needed to fully grasp the nuances of the human psyche, yet mainstream psychology, for the most part, confines itself to a purely secular outlook. Without opening the “eye of the heart” (Lat. intellectus) we cannot discern the true nature of reality. According to the Bhagavad Gītā (2:16): “The unreal never is: the Real never is not. This truth indeed has been seen by those who can see the true.” In the same way that a Hindu proverb speaks of a “rope… mistaken for an illusory snake” (quoted in The Māndūkya Upanisad with Gaudapāda’s Kārikā and Śankara’s Commentary 1949, 71), human beings superimpose a separate ego onto the transpersonal Self, giving rise to a plethora of confusion and suffering. For this reason, discernment is essential for our mental health. Time and time again, spiritual traditions call us to “remember that thou goest in the midst of snares” (Ecclesiasticus 9:13). In Plato’s (429–347) allegory of the cave, people mistake shadows for the real world. The experience of being shackled in a cave can be likened to a psychosis of delusional thinking or hallucinations about the reality of the shadows in our minds. To face the real world beyond the “cave” requires entering a spiritual path, in order to restore true vision through the “eye of the heart.” From the aspect of ultimate reality, we need to “see through” the phenomenal world of fleeting appearances, so as to behold the transpersonal order (quoted in Osborne 1978, 91): It is like a cinema show. There is light on the screen and the shadows flitting across impress the audience as the acting of some story. Now suppose that in this film story an audience is also shown on the screen. The seer and the seen will then both be on the screen. Apply this to yourself. You are the screen, the Self has created the ego, the ego has its accretions of thoughts, which are displayed as the world, trees, plants, etc., about which you are asking. In reality all these are nothing but the Self. If you see the Self it will be found to be all, everywhere and always. Nothing but the Self exists. From this metaphysical perspective, we can understand the Buddha when he remarked “Our life is the creation of our mind” (1973, 35). The eighth-century Buddhist yogi, Saraha, observed that “Mind is the seed of everything, from which sprouts both [note: samsāra] and nirvāna” (quoted in Buddhist Scriptures 2004, 482). The Sage of Arunachala, Śrī Ramana Maharshi (1879–1950), explains: “You carry heaven and hell with you” (Maharshi 1996, 46). John Smith (1618–1652), one of the Cambridge Platonists, writes: “The foundation of heaven and hell is laid in men’s own souls” (1859, 151). Boethius (480–525) stated: “Nothing is miserable unless you think it so; and on the other hand, nothing brings happiness unless you are content with it” (2002, 24). Within the Jewish tradition, this insight is framed as “A man is shown in a dream only what is suggested by his own thoughts” (The Babylonian Talmud: Berakhot 1948, 341–342). The Persian poet Sanā’ī (d. 1131) expressed this thought as follows: “Your heaven and hell are within yourself: Look inside!” (quoted in Nasr 1987, 397). Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882) also proposed a similar view: “To different minds, the same world is a hell, and a heaven” (quoted in Gilman et al. 1961, 71). 7 Ordinary and Transpersonal Dimensions of Mind According to the diverse spiritual traditions of the world, there is a transpersonal dimension in human beings that is both transcendent and immanent. It lies beyond the compass of conventional ratiocination and integrates all the multi-faceted dimensions of a person – with all the epistemological consequences that this entails. Rabbi Israel of Ruzhin (1796–1850) points out: “Thought may be utilized for holy or unholy purposes. Should not a man’s intellect elevate his thoughts to the Supreme Mind?” (quoted in The Hasidic Anthology 1963, 91). The perspective of two minds, one ordinary and the other transpersonal, is captured in The Laws of Manu (1:14): “From himself he also drew forth the mind, which is both real and unreal.” Sri Ramakrishna (1836–1886) declares: