Illusion and Reality — Differentiation Changes Our World
* The following are excerpts from Transcendental Journeys – A Visionary Quest for Freedom, a book by Omananda
Don’t we all have an innate desire to understand the world around us and the reasons we were born? Gautama Buddha, who achieved one of the highest conscious states of any human being that ever walked this Earth, came up with practical teachings in which he instructed that reality is a system of essential laws that constitutes the natural order of all things. He advised us all to respect nature. According to the Buddha, developing an awareness of reality is an essential prerequisite to mental health and well-being. Knowing the difference between reality and illusion is crucial for the development of any person that truly wants to understand life in its fullness.
Meditation is a simple practice that the Buddha recommended to help polish the lens of subjective perception. The reward of prolonged and repeated meditation practice is a peaceful and lasting elevation of consciousness. Meditation can be extremely relaxing and it is relatively harmless. Apart from the slight possibility of achieving permanent enlightenment, the mind naturally tends towards sanity and unity.
The true meditative state that is void of illusion also produces a myriad of pleasant side effects, unlike the use of drugs. Anyone repeatedly practicing meditation over long periods of time tends to calm down and become more positive, less depressed, and healthier overall. Practicing meditation also sends ripples into future lifetimes, because it is cumulative and never too late, or early to start practicing it.
When I was in Thailand in 1991, I asked a Buddhist monk about reincarnation, since Buddhists apparently do not believe in the transmigration of a permanent soul into a new body as the Hindus do, apart from Tibetan Buddhists that do believe in the transmigration of special souls. This monk explained to me that rebirth happens to each of us constantly from moment to moment, stretching from the past, into the present and towards the future.
Mental patterns influence our very thoughts, words, and deeds in the present moment. Life gives us constant feedback to our responses, but once we close our eyes, quiet our minds and become still, we can observe what is happening within us. As we breathe slowly and consciously, we can liberate ourselves, breath by breath, from the paralyzing conditionings and illusions that can haunt us even in our dreams. The more grounded we become in our present moment awareness, the more freely we can choose to act on what we really want to see and do in this world. Instead of being reactionary, we can be proactive and consciously implement change in our lives, one breath at a time.
Meditation is not the only practice for realizing the Self, but it is certainly at the top of my list when it comes to the simplicity and effectiveness of dissolving the false notion of “I.” Although, it might take considerable time and dedication from each and every one of us to stabilize ourselves in knowing the difference between illusion and reality, when we do, the true “eye” sees everything as ONE.
The unhealthy, dysfunctional reasons why we, as a species, tend to inflict pain and suffering upon each other and the planet would likely be eradicated in a healthy and functional society where love and compassion are the pillars and principles that can be taught even, and especially to our children.
Knowing what is and what is not real to us, is always individually specific and dependent on many factors. Therefore, nobody can really transmit a complete worldview to anyone else, because life just has to be experienced to be fully understood. Deep in our heart we all know instinctively what “is” and what “is not” (real). Compassion is not an intellectual choice but an emotion that often arises in conjunction with feelings of empathy in which one understands and shares the experience of another. Compassion differs from empathy. It involves feeling the desire to help when being confronted with another’s suffering. Feeling empathy requires a sensitivity to our surroundings and meditation is truly a wonderful tool to empty the mind, which is a necessity to feeling connected with our environment.
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