Will the real self please rise - how to break out of the conditioning and be yourself
Hey there U Community, although naturally interested in world affairs like politics, art, science, cryptocurrency, etc my main interest is consciousness. I began with a search for self-realization in my teens, reading books on psychology, but that led to more metaphysical interests like astrology and ultimately yoga and meditation techniques, as taught in the ancient Vedic Sanskrit texts of Indian pre-history.
There is of course an overlap in the fields of mind and of consciousness. The classic Sanskrit treatise on yoga and meditation, called Bhagavad Gita, is well known among scholars and yogis, for it gives advice which is timeless, since humans are intrinsically the same today as we were 5000 years ago or as we always were. We still have the identical brain and therefore mind and senses. The externals may have changed, and therefore the mindset along with it, but the fundamentals are the same. We all have a built-in propensity to be pleasure-seeking and the need to survive, which involves the basic desires for eating, sleeping, mating and defending.
Times have changed but all they have done is brought us a better way to light a fire, perhaps some slightly more polished ways to enjoy the five senses and satisfy the basic needs. Other than that, we still have the same parameters with which to perceive the external world as well as the inner world of consciousness. One may argue that times have changed considerably and that what was relevant 5000 years ago may not be relevant today, but I would question that. The brain has changed very little in such a short space of time compared to the eons of time that life has existed in the cosmos.
In Bhagavad Gita there are 700 verses describing the eternal nature of humankind. And besides some practical insights into moral qualities worth cultivating for personal well-being and social harmony, there are some technical perceptions that would impress scholars of psychology and ultimately even spiritual seekers and adepts alike. For example, we have the following:
ममैवांशो जीवलोके जीवभूतः सनातनः ।
मनःषष्ठानीन्द्रियाणि प्रकृतिस्थानि कर्षति ॥ १५.७ ॥
“The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind.” Bhagavad Gita as it is chapter 15:7 translated by Swami AC Bhaktivedanta
This is a cryptic verse alluding to the real living entity as an eternal fragment of the Absolute, of the source, the divinity, the original supreme personality of godhead. And this eternal living entity is in a condition of struggle. S/he is struggling with the mind and senses. The reference to six senses is a traditional way of categorising the mind as another of the five senses. All five senses feed into the brain and within the brain we find the mind and ego that identifies with the body and thoughts. This is natural but it is apparently illusory. You are not the body wherein you reside, and nor are you the mind that thinks up dialogue and commentary on life as it passes us by. The real self is labelled here in this verse as eternal but currently in a “conditioned” state.
We are not in our pure original state as a fragmental part and parcel of the godhead, the source. We are conditioned by the material energy which surrounds us in the form of the body and mind as well as the environment and other living entities. And as we identify with the modes and mood of the environment, as we are tinged by it, we adopt the qualities thereof. For example while basking in the sunshine, we will become hot, and in the snow we will become chilled. This is what it means to be conditioned. We become acclimatised to and by our environment. As a transcendent and eternal spirit soul, we are housed in the temporary material body and so we identify with it – we feel as if we are it, and therefore also feel temporary and subject to decay. As a result, we struggle very hard, not only with the environment and its influence on us but also with our own minds.
But just as we can subtly train our minds to be objective and to rise beyond the stressors that pummel our senses and sense of self, similarly we can rise above the virtual reality we find ourselves in. In ancient times and to a lesser degree in more modern history today still, though perhaps hidden in the mountains, there were yogis who were impervious to the climate around them. They were able to use what we might call today “biofeedback” to heat up the body in extreme cold and ultimately even slow the process of ageing by means of scientific yoga techniques like slowing the breathing, etc. It’s all in the mind. Monks of some traditions are for example able to sit immersed in icy rivers and still maintain their body temperature while in meditation.
This may all sound fantastic to us today, or mythic, but that is simply because we have forgotten these advanced scientific techniques of mind over matter and even more, spirit over mind, because even the mind can bewilder the self sometimes. We are seeing reality through contemporary eyes and conditioning. We are highly conditioned. I experienced this when going to India for six months and experiencing the heat there. It was intolerable, ultimately because I was too conditioned to the temperate climate of my upbringing. Similarly the eternal part and parcel of the divine becomes covered over by the mundane energy and adopts a body and mind, with ego. After a long time of being so conditioned, we identify with our circumstances and find it difficult to break out of the mental construct or Matrix we find ourselves in.
We see this also when we meet foreigners who are so conditioned by their upbringing that they seem alien to us in style, taste and culture. Nevertheless one can move abroad and adopt the conditioning of the locals until one passes for one of them having learned the language and style. One may even feel naturalised but originally we were a foreigner. The eternal soul is also capable of removing the conditioning that covers us while in the physical body and subtle mental body or personality. By cleansing these conditioned identifications with the externals, we can grow out of them. Someone who spends their life traveling can potentially more easily adapt to the new environments and fit in, as they don’t identify with any one culture or tribe. By the process of daily meditation on the divinity within and the practice of specific scientific yoga and meditation techniques, one can grow out of the conditioning and over-identification with the body, mind and culture to glimpse one’s eternal transcendent personality. Nationalism and tribalism are actually primitive and naïve, despite how we find ourselves thinking that we are one nationality or another. These are illusions based on conditioning. Underneath we are all humans with more in common than differences.
Similarly the identification with body and mind is actually an illusion based on conditioning by parents and tribe. It is silly to think there is any difference between you and any other person from another nation. You are definitely not the body or the culture that you were born into, but are actually transcendent beings, all of us, all from the same source. That’s what it means to be liberated. You no longer identify with your conditioned state. All of this is deeply investigated in the Bhagavad Gita. The mind is deconstructed and the illusion is pointed out for what it is. Then techniques are taught to lift consciousness from the lower levels of bodily identification so that the real person can remember their original pre-conditioned state, namely one of eternal bliss and full consciousness.
Keep this in mind next time you feel the need to break out of your illusory conditioning as a particular culture, tribe or any of those designations that are purely superficial or bodily or even mental. Drop those constructs and find yourself as a child of the universe in quality equal to all others, and in letting go of the illusion you find the true self observing while never identifying with any of the temporary and fleeting trivia that gets in the way of actual reality. As one wise author once wrote a few years ago: “Don’t sweat the small stuff – and it’s all small stuff.”