What I have been describing in this booklet, in modern terms, is the mystical understanding in the Vedantic teachings of the seed sound Om. One of the shortest and greatest Vedantic classics is the Mandukyo Upanishad. It consists of only 12 verses. Each of them deal with an aspect of Om, the universal sound that represents the totality of all states of consciousness and experience, and what lies beyond.
As a symbol, the Om encompasses all possible universes, the physical, the subtle and the causal universes, and their underlying all-inclusive basis which is the unchanging reality of pure beingness. The Upanishad dissects the Om into its component parts. What we previously referred to as the three states of consciousness are represented by the three Sanskrit vowel sounds A U and M. A represents the physical gross state of the day-time serial dream, U represents the subtle mental state of the night-time ephemeral dream, and M represents the causal dreamless state of quiescent consciousness. Each is seen as a limb of the one Divinity. Behind and underneath these three, there is what it calls the fourth, the omnipresent transcendent reality, represented by the deep silence, which is the true Om.
In the seeming play of separation, the one eternal Self plays all these different parts represented by A U M. In the three states of consciousness it plays as maya. In the fourth, it leaves off all play and remains as itself alone. In other words, the Self plays as the world and the embodied individual in the long serial-dream that we have mistakenly called the waking state. Similarly, the Self plays as a whole series of more ephemeral worlds and embodied individuals in the night-time dream state. And the Self plays at being veiled and ignorant and peaceful when it is in the deep dreamless state. To make it clear that all these states are just aspects of the one Self, the Upanishad gives each of the states the name of a divinity whose divine qualities are those of that state. But, in truth, the Self is always whole and beyond all qualities. When it gives up all play and relinquishes all the illusory states, it abides in itself as the ultimate truth, the one reality.
The dreamless state is a field of ignorance, a total lack of knowledge; but paradoxically, all illusions are embodied in it as seeds and arise from it. So, the dreamless state is also the mother of all worldly and supraworldly experiences, and therefore the source of all knowledge. In it all things originate and again disappear. The entire physical and super-physical universe is latent within it. It is maya, illusion, but it is also Ishvara, the God of the Universe, the controller of maya. It is the seat of the I-thought, the ego, but it is also the gateway to the fourth, the That, the Transcendental, the Ultimate, the unchanging truth of being.
To be conscious of the dreamless state and to experience it directly while in the serial dream state is to open the door to inviting the fourth to reveal itself. Like space, the dreamless state cannot be perceived directly; it can only be intuited or inferred. It is the lost, sweet moments from which all other moments emerge. Its nature is nonapprehension of reality. It is there between each thought and idea and sensual impression. The spiritual practice is to return constantly to this causal state from which everything perceived, externally or internally, has originated. That is dwelling on the original source of the I-thought. That is dwelling on God.
Dwell there with love in your heart. Give it your attention rather than giving attention to the misapprehensions of the dream states. Let the peace of the absence of misapprehensions envelop you. Let it beckon you thither, a sweet state free of all movement but filled with energy and all knowledge, potentially known but not apprehended or expressed. Then the fourth, the pure immortal Self, graciously reveals itself. The fourth stands alone as all there is. It is the one reality.
A very powerful spiritual exercise is to constantly separate the real from the non-real through the mental practice of discrimination. In Sanskrit this process of discernment is called viveka. When, in this way, we separate the illusion from its basis, the illusion disappears and the basis stands revealed. This is the gist of the snake and rope example. At first there appears only to be the snake. The rope is not seen. When we infer a separate rope and snake, then the snake disappears and only the rope remains.
But the exercise does not stop there. Since all there can ever truly be is the one reality, to hypothesize anything other than reality is itself illusion. There can be no non-reality. Even that which is being imagined is not separate from reality. Even the imagined snake is real because it is and always has been the rope. There is only reality. All is Brahman. The Sanskrit word vairagya means renunciation. This process of renouncing all concepts of illusion and non-reality, and seeing all as Brahman, is the true renunciation, the true vairagya. Viveka and vairagya are the two wings of the bird of liberation, which permit it to fly out of the cage of bondage that it has imagined itself to be in.
This is the deeper mystical message of the Upanishad, as beheld by the great Upanishadic seers and by Gaudapada and Shankara, the celebrated 5th and 6th century non-dualist interpreters of the Upanishads. Shankara spoke of these two wings of viveka and vairagya in this simple couplet: Sathyam Brahman, Jagath Mithyam. Jagath Brahman. Which means: God is real, world is illusion, world is God. In other words, first we separate out illusion from truth, and hold on to truth, namely, hold on to God, not the world. But then we realize that all there is, is God. What we have called world or illusion is nothing but changing names and forms of the one reality, namely, God.
The great Upanishadic seers considered the world of objects, perceived in what we call the waking state, as merely an idea, a modification of the mind. And this is just like the modification of the mind that appears to happen in the dream state. All ideas, projections and whatever seems to go on in dreams, are nothing but the one, pure, non-dual, unchanging cosmic mind, the pure consciousness, on which all dream stuff appears to be superimposed. In dreamless sleep in which all mentations disappear, that pure, unchanging cosmic mind is quiet. This mind which appears to be individualized, but is in truth the universal consciousness, is the pure witnessing awareness on which, through ignorance, the three states of consciousness seem to play their illusory game. This universal mind of pure consciousness is Brahman. It is all there is. There is nothing else. Over and over the Vedanta emphasizes: There can never be anything separate from Brahman. Brahman alone is.