The infinite, unbounded, full of joy is our native state. When we express a desire to engage with the world, we fall from our native state. We come into being with a sense of void and expect the manifested world to fulfil this void. We assume an identity limited to our name, form and gender. The sense of separateness also known as ego, or ahamkara, propels us to perform actions to fulfil our desires. We expect to experience a sense of fulfilment as and when our desires get fulfilled.
The actions we perform to fulfil our desires create our destiny. And as is our desire, so is our destiny. However, in the process of fulfilling our destiny we make demands on life which it cannot fulfil. This causes a sense of desperation and we try to chase every possible joy, over lifetimes that the manifested world (samsara) has to offer to us. We hope that yielding to these temptations of the world will make us feel completely fulfilled but the finite nature of its joys leaves us feeling frustrated.
Having realised that the finite things cannot appease our infinite hunger, we turn towards knowledge, which promises the certitude of something vastly greater than the world offers. This seeking of knowledge for that ‘source’, which will cut through the illusion of separateness and help us transcend individuality, is the highest pursuit of all mankind. ‘Atha ato Brahma jijnasa’ – which means ‘Now there is a sincere desire for knowledge of the Ultimate’. ‘Now’ (atha) is of course different for everyone.
According to the Upanishads, there are two kinds of knowledge – higher (para) and lower (apara). The words para and apara literally mean transcendent and non- transcendent knowledge, respectively.
Apara (lower knowledge) consists of skills necessary for the study of the Vedas, linguistics, Astrology and all the arts.
The higher knowledge (para) is that which leads to self-realisation. There are four non-intellectual pre-requisites for para knowledge.
D. An irrepressible hankering after the realisation of truth.
Para knowledge helps us go beyond the duality of the manifested world to a state where we do not see multiplicity but one indivisible self. This state cannot be achieved by intellect but by spiritual Osmosis, where the mind, senses and intellect are stilled. This is the highest state of the wise; known as Yoga. In this state one enters the intuitive state – never to separate again. It is beyond the duality of subject and object where one sees themselves in all and all in them.
The goal of human life is to enter this unitive state, realise one’s true nature and go beyond death. Since death is also “being” (existing) in a non-physical form.
Everything created must someday be dissolved. The realisation of our true nature causes us to go beyond the bodied or embodied self to the uncreated self. A state that can at best be defined as that of plentitude (completeness or purnata) rather than the incessant void (emptiness or shunyata) that we feel in the manifested world.