The human ego is always geared towards self-fulfillment. It seeks enhancement in some form or the other. Its ultimate objective is to be something or have something more so that it feels one up of the other.
Before discussing oneness, let’s understand that every human being is different and uniquely programmed based on past conditioning.
Therefore, duality, which is the appearance or manifestation, is the dream of “one”. There may be similarities, but no two programmed psychophysical organisms can be identical. Even in the case of twins, they may have similar physical traits, but their thinking, life choices, and destiny will be entirely different.
Though we use the word “oneness,” there is no way to describe what it is except that it is that which makes life possible as we know it. It is the “Nothingness” or emptiness from which the world of names and forms comes about.
To understand it, think of how a seed forms into a tree. The seed, by itself, does not contain the roots, shoots, branches, leaves, and fruits inside of it. If you cut open the seed, you won’t find the tree condensed and packed into it. What the seed contains is the potential (the genetic blueprint) for the tree. Therefore, from one seed, we get the entire tree containing fruits and their respective seeds that further contain exactly the same blueprint.
Where did the first seed come from? It came from the unmanifest. For the tree, seed is the material cause, for the first seed, the unmanifest is the primal cause. But that is how it appears to our minds. The unmanifest, by itself, is the cause and effect of everything, including the big bang.
If you still want to conceptualize further, think of it as the unmanifest or potential that veils and projects itself as the actual (consciousness), stillness that gives rise to movement as the dreamlike waking reality, noumenon that manifests as the phenomenon, or in simple words – the one eternal awareness or unicity that projects itself as multiplicity, as the world of names and forms.
What we perceive as reality in the waking and dream states of consciousness is nothing but the dream of the unmanifest.
Oneness or pure consciousness is our true essence. We are the “one.” How? Because the entire world appears in our consciousness. In deep sleep there is no world of multicity because there’s no person (or individual), but the one resting in it’s own grace and glory.
Realization of oneness or self-realization is not merely an intellectual understanding. If you intellectually convince yourself that there is one, you’ll be disappointed. You see, intellect is the function of ego, and the oneness transcends the ego and the intellect.
It is the creator of the ego; therefore, it’s not possible for the ego or any of its instruments to figure out what oneness is or how it functions.
Even in the dream, the individual’s finite mind sees itself as multiple minds shifting awareness from one object to another. You see this in your dreams, where your mind creates multiple objects of experience, and the subject keeps shifting awareness from one object to another.
You see yourself as various characters in the dream: sometimes you become a man, sometimes a woman, and some other times an animal or an unknown creature. Haven’t you had this experience?
Therefore, convincing yourself of oneness is not going to work. If you sit in a lion’s cage and say, “I’m one with the universe, so it doesn’t matter what happens,” you’ll be eaten alive. With human beings, you have to be even more careful. Some people are always ready to eat some part of you if you’re careless.
That said, your true nature is beyond the physical and the psychological. It is indestructible. It is both beginningless and endless. You’re the witness of your body and mind that resides in it’s own bliss beyond any appearances.
However, for the mind, you’re finite and the fear of death of this limited entity creates most suffering in the world. The idea of death is in reality the thought of separation between you and the oneness. It brings up the notion that you have a limited time of this planet, therefore, you must do everything in your capacity to live well and leave behind your legacy.
While there’s nothing wrong with living a decent live, but the ideas of wellness born out of fear create suffering for oneself and others. The thought that comes out of love is, “I must live well and help others to do the same,” while the thought that originates from fear goes something like, “I must live well and accumulate as much as possible.”
While the former is a conscious way of thinking that benefits the collective, the later is a fear-driven unconsciousness thought to amass resources for oneself at the expense of others. While we cannot be prefect, we certainly can be more conscious.
Awakened human beings see separation at the level of physicality but know that it is the same impersonal energy that manifests as separate mind and body. Therefore, you’ll notice awakened people to be reclusive and introverted. They don’t hate or condemn people, but they do exercise caution when dealing with them.
You can understand the concept of oneness at an intellectual level, but the answer lies in the heart. Till the mind is overshadowing the heart, unification with the universal oneness or yoga is not possible. Unfortunately, this is the case with most people as we have become so immersed in duality.
The happiness that we seek in the world of duality or phenomenality is purely conditional. When things happen according to what we like, we feel happy. And when things don’t go according to our plans, we become restless and angry. It is a predicament of duality that one can’t escape. Therefore, the peace or bliss that I talk about is not based on worldly conditions.
What Prevents Us From Seeing The Oneness?
We don’t know what we want. We are simply chasing things that we have seen others do. We act like programmed robots that are the replicas of the earlier robots that programmed us. There is no universal idea of happiness, fulfillment, or contentment.
Each one of us has our own definition of the above concepts. We find happiness through the accumulation of either material concepts or gaining knowledge. Anything that is gained is just an enhancement of the fictional self.
Many people believe consciously or subconsciously that gaining knowledge by reading and intellectually understanding spiritual scriptures will lead them to liberation. However, it is the same ego shapeshifting and showing another side. Ego’s very nature is deception.
Many western philosophers mistake using intellect to find a solution to the “hard problem of consciousness.” In the former statement, there is an implicit assumption that consciousness is a problem that needs a solution, and that itself is a mistake.
You see, intellect is a product of Maya (illusion), so how will it ever support the cause of its destruction? A great yogi once said, “don’t try to prove that the world is an illusion, but cut down the illusion.”
I see a lot of westerners trying to find proof of oneness or all-encompassing consciousness, and I ask them, “who is it that wants to prove or disprove the oneness? Who are you trying to convince?”
It’s the ego. And ego itself is the created object of the divine consciousness, so how can it ever know its creator. It’s like a wave trying to the know the ocean. How can it do that? It is the ocean.
I’m by no means trying to denigrate the intellect. Intellectual understanding is the first step towards self-realization. Without the intellect, it’s impossible to do any self-inquiry, but the awakening happens only when the intellect gives up and the ego dissolves.
The process of dissolution of ego is a painful one. The ego wants to hold on to whatever it can to survive. Therefore, self-realization happens when we give up the resistance.
People in the east are in a much dire situation than in the west. At least, westerners know how to use the intellect to arrive at a conclusion, whatever it may be. They’re willing to use critical thinking to explore and widen their understanding.
The eastern minds are fixated on the ancient tribal beliefs and rituals, despite having a wealth of knowledge readily accessible. You see, no amount of knowledge can change cultural conditioning and influence. Only an open mind willing to explore has the possibility of self-realization.
The thing is that you seek a master to find a solution to your problems. A real master will never stroke your ego but challenge it. They will make you uncomfortable but in a compassionate manner. They will make you think rather than tell you what to do or not do. They will help you dissolve your identification with the thinking mind without giving you a method.
We seek gurus and make them our savior because, on the inside, we believe ourselves to be inadequate, lacking the knowledge to attain liberation. But the ego is really not interested in liberation. It wants a prescription, a method to end all pain and suffering, which is nothing other than its own creation.
Therefore, you get swayed by flowery talk and grandiose claims by these so-called spiritual gurus. You put them on a pedestal, believing that their grace will free you from the bondage of pain. When that doesn’t happen, you’re quick to push them off the pedestal and move on to another guru.
One of the worst things people do to themselves is getting attached to their own sob stories of victimhood. I’m not trying to demean anyone for being a victim or invalidate any traumatic experience that they underwent. Instead, what I’m saying is that if you don’t release the painful feelings of the past, you’ll remain stuck forever.
I know it sounds insensitive, but that’s what the ego wants. Whatever you hold on to also holds you in the same manner. In the case of animals, the suffering is only physical, but humans suffer their own minds. Not only do we feel bad, but we also feel bad about feeling bad. It’s a trap of the ego.
The ego knows how to keep you occupied, so it gives you a lot of content to consume – a thousand ways to feel worse about yourself and ensures that the structures on which it survives remain intact. So the structures like, “why did it happen to me,” “what did I do to deserve this,” “why is god so unkind to me,” etc., etc., remain intact.
You keep blaming the world for diverting attention from the inner-void (resulting from the egoic structures) formed and growing within you. You seek a prescription to treat the symptoms, but your ego is not interested in identifying the root cause of your ailment. That’s why there is a never-ending pain.
Whatever the ego holds on to, it makes you believe that it is you. When you feel sad, the ego makes you believe that you are a sad person, and when you’re happy, it makes you believe that you’re a happy person. It keeps you flip-flopping between happiness and unhappiness.
Therefore, what you perceive as happiness is nothing but unhappiness because the moment conditions change and the object of your happiness disappears, you become unhappy. In other words, the happiness you’re chasing is conditional and not in your control.
The “me” in you keeps resurfacing and complains about everything wrong with the world. The external world that we see outside is an image of the internal world that we’ve created in us.
The oneness that you seek is not going to solve your worldly problems. Those problems are self-created – an illusion that has no concrete existence. Once you open your mind to the infinite consciousness, all your personal problems become insignificant. It’s not that you become insensitive. You become life-sensitive as opposed to ego-sensitive.
According to Ramana Maharshi, the mind has three characteristics: tamas (inertia), rajas (activated), and sattva (pure and restful). Therefore, in order to realize the true self, one must bring the mind to sattva.
One can do it through meditation, devotion (bhakti), prayer, Japa (chanting), or through complete immersion in art. It doesn’t matter what path you choose for self-realization. The idea is to lose the individual and rest in the grace of love, impersonal awareness, or oneness, and become the witness of what happens.
Realization of Oneness Through Self-Inquiry
What lies between the one and the individual? It’s an illusory concept that the individual is the doer of their actions. Many people struggle to understand this concept because we have a mechanism in the human body that prevents the individual from seeing its mechanistically programmed nature.
Therefore, this creates an illusion of the individual doer. Self-inquiry is the observation, contemplation, and questioning of who is this “self” or “me” that believes itself to be the doer of its actions. It starts with an intellectual inquiry into the subtlest mind processes, and finally, the answer comes in the heart.
Even an intellectual understanding gives tremendous relief, but the message of “non-doership” has to go deep within your being for final realization.
You can truly understand who you are by understanding who or what you’re not. Nisargadatta Maharaj had said that you attach “I am” or the sense of your being with body, thoughts, feelings, emotions, possessions, and more. These are misleading self-identifications that cause pain and misery.
You, the subject, experiences an object; that is your thought. You see, if you were really your thoughts, you would never know what thinking is. The subject cannot know itself in any way without reducing it to an object of sense perception.
This is precisely the reason why we cannot know anything in this world. You can tell me everything about a subatomic particle: how it works, what impact it has on the atomic structure, its attributes like color, mass, rotation speed, etc., but you can never tell “what it is” in its entirety. You can’t. That’s because the reality that creates it is unmanifest; it’s nothing but an appearance in the light of one universal consciousness.
So the body, thoughts, feelings, emotions, and remembrance are all the objects of your experience, and you, as the subject, are the experiencer of these. While the body and its processes are the gross objects, thoughts, feelings, and other psychological processes are the subtle object of your experience, but none of these are you.
Watching your mind with a non-reactive awareness is the key to oneness realization. When the individual ego, which thinks itself to be the doer of all actions, disappears, the oneness is spontaneously realized.
In other words, the disappearing wave merges into the ocean and wakes up to discover that it IS, has always BEEN, and will always continue to BE the ocean and not the limited individual wave it believed itself to be.
We become so identified with the thinking mind that it becomes impossible for us to rest in pure awareness. The mind keeps jumping from one thought to another – just like a monkey that eats half a fruit and jumps to another branch of the tree in search of another fruit without finishing the first one.
That’s why our mind is called the monkey mind. It never wishes to stay in the present moment and keeps chasing after ideas in a never-ending search for happiness.
The whole idea of mindfulness is to teach the mind to stay in the present moment. In the present moment, there’s just one thought, the “I AM,” and that’s where you reside to understand oneness.
Spiritual awakening cannot be forced; it happens. It’s difficult for the priest or a man of knowledge to awaken because the knowledge in the form of beliefs is acquired, and knowledge, in and of itself, becomes a barrier to their awakening.
They spend their entire lives learning and interpreting scriptures and performing rituals without understanding the true meaning of the teachings. All teachings point to oneness, and they’re quite clear about it. Yet, the minds interprets them according to their own conditionings.
And in the process, these people unknowingly get too identified with their teachings, roles, and personalities. They feel the need to distinguish themselves from regular people by following a specific code of conduct like renouncing the worldly life and its pleasures to be in service of God. They don’t realize when God himself becomes an object of their desire. They exchange one set of identifications with another rather than loosening their grip on them.
It gives rise to one of the worst forms of ego, known as the spiritual ego. In that, the individual’s views are not much different from the worldly materialistic views; instead of seeking material possessions, their ego diverts their attention towards seeking God or “an idea of God”. So they create a personal God, which is nothing more than a creation of their ego. They make a god not to help people but to serve their own interests.
It’s easy to become a monk, renunciate the world, and run off to caves for meditation, but it’s extremely difficult to renunciate the mind; and that’s where the true essence of the teaching lies. For teaching to be effective, one has to learn to live in the material world and accept it for what it is. Merely wearing robes and growing a long beard does not make you an awakened soul.
Meditators who get attached to meditation will never be able to liberate themselves. Only when one rests in the bliss of impersonal awareness (even for a few seconds) do they awaken to their true nature and achieve oneness with the universe. At that point, the individual ego realizes that all actions that happen through the mind and body are not its own.
The above article is a sample from my e-book on non-duality – The End of “Me & My Story.“