Step 1: Understanding Our Identity
I can perceive my existence. I can feel positively that I, as an individual, exist. And I cannot imagine not existing in the future. This should be meditated upon.
If someone were to ask me who I am, what would I say? Am I a student? Yes. But was I always a student? Will I always be a student? Then that must not be me. Actually, everything that I identify myself with can be changed in one way or another. My name can be changed, my face can be changed through plastic surgery, and even my gender can be changed. If I really want to understand my identity, I have to stop thinking in terms of temporary designations.
All of these are mater-ial designations. Thinking that I am an American, or a student, or a twenty-one-year-old, or even thinking that I am black or white. They are all limitations on my consciousness. You can’t put a square block into a circular hole. It just doesn’t fit.
So if these designations are temporary, why should I identify myself with them in the first place? Why put myself through the troubles and limitations of attachment? This should be meditated upon.
“He may not feel it very abruptly, but by using a little intelligence he can feel that he is not the body. He can feel that the hand, the leg, the head, the hair, and the limbs are all his bodily parts and parcels, but as such the hand, the leg, the head, etc., cannot be identified with his self. Therefore just by using intelligence he can distinguish and separate his self from other things that he sees. So the natural conclusion is that the living being, either human or beast, is the seer, and he sees besides himself all other things. So there is a difference between the seer and the seen.” [Srimad-Bhaga-vatam 2.2.35]
This first step is required to give us a starting point to work on transcending material conditions. We have to realize first our separate identity from the body.
Step 2: Realizing Our Dependence
Everything I have is a gift. A short twenty-some years ago and I was crying, naked and unaware of the world which I was born into. I had nothing. Not even any knowledge or understanding. This is a subject for deep meditation.
The way living entities gather knowledge is through their senses. If someone gives me a glass of milk, I can see that it’s white, I can smell whether it’s sour, taste it, feel if it’s cold, and hear of its origins. These are my five gross senses, and I also have five acting senses (hands, legs, voice, genitals, and anus), and three subtle senses (mind, intelligence, and ego). Everything that I know and perceive is nothing but the products of the inexhaustible permutations and combinations of the forms taken in through these thirteen senses. In this way my situation is carved by my surroundings and my dependence is revealed in the frustration I feel when it all comes to an end.
By nature each of us is dependent. Because we place our dependence in the temporary things of this world, we become attached and bewildered. We should not depend on matter. We should not depend on our money to save us, nor our friends, relatives or countrymen. Because our identity is separate from matter, we should not depend on it to help us.
Step 3: Realizing the Distinctions between Matter and Spirit
Now that I have realized my identity as separate from matter as the seer and I have understood my frustration with dependence on matter . . . there must be another nature of which I am made.
In this material world we find that everything is temporary. It comes into being, stays for some time, produces some by-products, dwindles, and then vanishes. That is the law of the material world, whether we use as an example this body or a piece of fruit or anything else. But beyond this temporary world there is another world of which we have information. That world consists of spirit, which is eternal.
I should meditate on the existence of spirit. It is unborn, eternal, always existing and ever changing. Spirit is the active principle which manipulates matter.
If I see an airplane far in the distance, flying in the sky, I cannot conclude that this mechanism is flying itself. There cannot be an airplane flying in the sky without a pilot. Without the active spiritual principle, matter cannot be moved or manipulated. Whether it be an airplane or our human body, as soon as the spirit leaves, the matter is useless.
We undoubtedly feel our existence being conditioned by nature’s energy, and we conclude that he who sees is spirit and that the senses as well as the objects of perception are material. The spiritual quality of the seer is manifest in our dissatisfaction with the limited state of materially conditioned existence. That is the difference between spirit and matter. This should be meditated upon.
Step 4: Accepting Personal Guidance
Because of my frustration with material dependence, my tendency is to reject all kinds of authority, thinking them to be material. If I sit down to take lunch and the food is spoiled, I should not throw away my plate and utensils, only the food. Otherwise I will lose my opportunity to eat somewhere else.
Due to association with material energy, it is dangerous to take guidance in this world, just as it is dangerous to put anything in front of my eyes while I am driving a car. But if the qualification is there — if I put my glasses in front of my eyes while I am driving — it is much safer. This should be meditated upon.
“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth.” [Bhagavad-gita 4.34]
I have realized the differences between matter and spirit, but without proper guidance, I cannot understand the identity of spirit. There is spiritual form, spiritual activity, and other spiritual varieties. To approach this realm I must meditate on my spiritual master.
Step 5: Reinstatement in Spiritual Bliss
Transcending matter does not only mean going beyond temporary duality, but it entails absorption in spiritual variegation. This kind of meditation involves more than just deep contemplation. It means giving oneself fully to engaging the senses in spiritual activity. The very causes of my entanglement, the material senses, can free me when engaged under the guidance of a realized soul.
Among all our senses, our ears are the most potent for transcendence. Because I don’t use my ears for properly receiving the spiritual message but instead hear and contemplate all kinds of mundane subject matters, I become entangled more and more. It then becomes more and more difficult to gain release from all the attachments.
However, if I am able to dovetail that same principle in nicely hearing the transcendental vibration of Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, then success is guaranteed.
It is our practical experience in the Krishna consciousness movement all over the world that many millions of people are coming to the spiritual stage of life simply by chanting the Hare -Krishna maha-mantra regularly, according to the prescribed principles.
“One who chants the Hare Krishna mantra develops bhava, ecstasy, which is the point at which revelation begins. It is the preliminary stage in developing one’s original love for God. . . . A sincere student aurally receives the mantra from the spiritual master, and after being initiated he follows the regulative principles given by the spiritual master. When the mantra is properly served in this way, automatically the spiritual nature of the mantra spreads; in other words, the devotee becomes qualified in properly chanting the mantra. . . . Thus the disciple of such a spiritual master increases in attachment for Krishna, and therefore he sometimes cries, sometimes laughs, sometimes dances, and sometimes chants. These symptoms are very prominently manifest in the body of a pure devotee.” [Sri Caitanya Caritamrita Adi 7.33]