Spirituality Versus Morality?
I am going to enter an area of discussion that is very dangerous here. It is a discussion about the difference between enlightenment which includes experiences of self-realization, and morality, which includes codes regarding eating, behaviors, and sexuality. There is nothing more controversial in our times that this topic other than politics with Trump as focus.
For discussion’s sake, I will define “Enlightenment” as interrelated experiences combined with an intuitive understanding of what those experiences mean. By intuitive understanding, I certainly do not mean conceptual understanding, but a conceptual understanding can flow out of an intuitive understanding. But you must understand that the intuitive understanding exists prior to being able to formulated into a conceptual understanding. The problem is, people reading spirituality or literature about morality often have not had the intuitive understanding experience prior to articulating either moral understanding or an understanding about self-realization of the manifest self, and then the realization that consciousness itself eventually collapses into nothingness in the end.
First and foremost I draw my understanding from two traditions: Robert Adams arepresenting a modern interpretation of Ramana Maharishi, and Jean Dunne, representing Nisargadatta, as well as Nisargadatta himself directly from the three books of translations by Robert Powell including The Ultimate Medicine, the experience of nothingness, and The Nectar of Immortality, and also the body of literature left by Nisargadatta’s teacher, Siddharameshwar. These provide the bedrock of my intuitive understanding, conceptual understanding, and are the explainers of my experiences generated through self-inquiry, self-abidance, meditation, and also following a Bhaktic/Tantric path for a period of six years.
You must understand that enlightenment in this grand tradition requires a dis-identification with the body, succeeded by a re-identification with the totality of consciousness as the Manifest Self. Later, there is a transcendence of experiential consciousness itself. One can “grasp,” or apprehend the totality of consciousness and experience it as an “other,” with “you” standing apart from consciousness, and you yourself, being unable to grasp that self which is apprehending the totality of consciousness. That is, you can only be that witness apprehending the totality of consciousness, and that totality does not include the witness, but it does include the body.
The experiences leading to this point are many. The most common is an intense explosion of light and intensification of consciousness within one sense of presence which permeates the body. The light and power arises out of one’s gut, flows upwards into and through one’s heart center, and continues upward into the head and brain and upwards beyond that into the space above. This light is intense, the light of 100 suns, but which is not hot or burning, and which is intensely white. Within it is an amazing and immense power, immense energy, and the experience of the presence of an other within, of such power, such energy, such purity, and such overwhelming love, that one cannot imagine it to be an experience of your own self within, because it appears to be so much more than you ever were. It is an experience of the divine, of God, appearing and flowing within your sense of presence. The sense of presence itself can be called Subtle Body, a body of energy, feelings, emotions, love, and Shakti, otherwise known as the life force. This final experience is called God realization, or realization of the Manifest Self, or the experiential self.
The intuitive understanding that comes with this is the experience of consciousness or pure spirit as being one’s own self, rather than the body, and that the body is merely the vehicle for spirit. One’s attention now is focused on consciousness, on spirit, and only secondarily on one’s own body and physical needs, such as food, wealth, sex, or even comfort. One is fascinated with one’s own self as Romana Maharishi describes the experience where he died to his body identification and was reborn with an entirely reflexive consciousness pointed at that godlike divinity within one’s own sense of presence, the life force or Shakti.
All kinds of philosophies are built around this experience, from kundalini yoga, to Tantric yogas, the Bhaktic yogas, to the healing theories of Reikei and Quantum Touch.
The next enlightenment stage is where you transcend the consciousness itself and find yourself to be the witness of consciousness, and that consciousness is alien to you, and you are totally unknowing as to your origin or reason to be. In this stage you want nothing, you know nothing, you experience nothing, and this can be both “experienced” and “apprehended” intuitively in different ways. The experience can be entered from ordinary awake consciousness by having one’s attention fall downward into the heart taking the energy out of the brain and focusing it inwards to the center of your heart which is at the center of your sense of presence, and then peacefully descending into nothingness, ever gradually more peaceful and more complete and resting.
The other way, is to enter the state of nothingness directly from deep sleep, and at that point being able to apprehend the various states of consciousness as they arise and pass, from the waking consciousness, to the dream state, to the deep sleep awareness. And with this, comes the recognition you are beyond all levels and states of consciousness. Coming at this state from the deep sleep state, one misses that sense of deep peace that arises when we entered the “witness” from the waking state in samadhi.
Follow me so far? Enlightenment is about self-realization, exploring all aspects of your being this, from raw sensory data, to one’s internal energies, subtle body energies, Shakti, bliss, identification, letting go of identifications, this identify with the body, re-identifying with consciousness, then dis-identifying with consciousness and becoming nothingness.
This is what I call the spirituality/enlightenment trajectory.
This trajectory means you discover experiences and things in yourself you never dreamed of before you began practicing spirituality, things like becoming one with God, with the divine, and divine union, as part of the awakening of your intuition to the totality of your manifest consciousness.
On the other hand, much of spirituality, including all the common major religions, are focused on controlling behaviors, and labeling some behaviors as uplifting or positive, and others as negative or hurtful to one’s “spiritual” future. Here we talk about karma, or divine cause and effect for every one of one’s actions, so control is of one’s actions so as to build positive karma.
We find Judaism, Christianity, communism, and Hinduism, filled to the brim with judgments about almost every one of everyday actions from what is proper food, what is proper sex, with his proper livelihood, what are proper relational values.
All morality is relational, how we relate to others like ourselves and unlike ourselves, or with ourselves to the environment, with ourselves to food, or with ourselves strangers as opposed to family and friends.
You see, all of these regard your body and others as real, and is the fundamental relational matrices that guide all human and animal interrelations.
However, once you disidentify with the body, and reidentify with the totality of consciousness, you are no longer in a relational mindframe, and in large sense, morality no longer applies to you, because you do not see yourself in relation to other bodies, other minds, other souls, but they are all within you. You have gone beyond relations into the totality of consciousness where all things are contained as elements within consciousness, your consciousness, and thus all are within you.
What begins to happen at this point, is all that your human desires disappear because you are no longer so attached to the body. Your desire for food diminishes. Even the simplest food or the most complex food have no differences to you. Some taste better than others, some are saltier or sweeter. But you become indifferent to food, because you have transcended the physical. He/she also become relatively indifferent to sex because it is something that stimulates the body and not so much love. In fact, even the thought of sex may disgust you for a while as something gross and impure. But basically you have gone beyond rules about behaviors, rules about eating, rules about sexual morality, rules about social niceties, rules about respecting authority, rules about avoiding the painful or the pleasurable, and instead you live now in a new spontaneity without ever considering your courses of actions or your behaviors, because you are no longer the one in control. The totality is acting through you.
I know critics of such an attitude and they are legion will throw examples that you saying now you become utterly callous and potentially criminal mentality because you no longer follow common morality, proper and civil interactions with people. In fact, most that have reached this level try avoid crowds, and to avoid people, because they know that they will not be understood because of where they come from and where they are. Such people tend to either isolate themselves or live in ashrams or communities of like-minded people.
Here is where I make the statement is going to cause the most concern. Being vegetarian or being vegan is of very little benefit to one’s spiritual progress along the enlightenment/self-realization trajectory, because that trajectory is involved in understanding and experiencing oneself on all levels, and which results in an initial dis-identification with the body and lack of concern about the body. The same holds for sex. It does not matter if you have sex once a year or three times a day when it comes to passage along the in spiritual/self-realization trajectory, although having sex three times a day would be an external marker for someone who was still very attached to the body. But just ending sex as a forcible restraint in no way actually frees you from the body, because the desire is still there and will not die. The desire must be fulfilled and completed and only then can it be dropped, and that is by having rich and wholesome and satisfying experiences of sex, a beautiful meals, etc. in all aspects of life. One must have utterly experienced being loved by someone in a romantic sense. One must eat all kinds of foods, and if one feels guilt at eating meat recognize that fact that you caring a heavy weight of guilt when you are eating meat, eggs, milk, or cheese. You may choose then to end that guilt by ending that eating pattern, but this in no way is an aid to ending your identification with your body. As a matter of fact it is concentrating on the bodiy’s habits, such as dealing with desire for meat, or desire for sex, repressing one’s desire for meat, or repressing one’s desire for sex. Repression, forceful withholding, only buries the desire which will, come out later in the same or slightly modified form.
I fully embrace vegetarianism and veganism as a way of life. I fully embrace the concept of being very sparing of sex, and only if one is in love, because sex embroils you in relationships and in life, and one bent on self-realization has to leave that all behind. One has to outgrow these habits, not forcefully reject them. As a matter of education and insight, as well as responding in a compassionate and heartfelt way to others and to animals. Even as one transcends relationships, transcends the body, and even consciousness, one also transcends all moral codes, which are generally repressive external controls, or a borrowed from others as a religious code, or a concept like karma.
It is not that the enlightened one becomes an animal with uncontrolled lusts, desires, manipulation, and power. Just the opposite, that person is freed from the relational life of tit-for-tat, of an eye for an eye, of karma. He or she has entirely gone beyond relational meaning and become one with the totality of consciousness. Later he or she even frees him or herself from consciousness itself, and is thus the most harmless and useless of all beings for he or she has little to do with life or the earth, seeing it as the play of consciousness having nothing to do with him or her, it is something external and not real, and which he or she may or may not participate in depending on the spontaneity of the moment.