The universal ideal for the uninitiated may seem like a remote, unattainable state of being. How can it be possible for such perfection to exist in all of us when our day to day existence shows us otherwise? The answer lies in the incomplete way humanity experiences and perceives the universe.

Firstly, it is important to know that the physical world is a projection of the Supreme Consciousness. Humans are entities of the physical world and are also projections of the Supreme Consciousness. Humans are, however, not simply the body but a combination of four unique faculties with specific functions. The interplay of the four faculties in relation to the Supreme Consciousness reveals why the universal ideal seems elusive to the ordinary person.

Sanatana Dharmic thought on the projection of consciousness is illustrated in figure 2.1. From the wide infinite base of the Supreme Consciousness, the faculty of intelligence is projected outward. From intelligence comes the faculty of the ego. The mind emerges next from the ego and finally from the mind, the senses are projected.

Moving Outward, Away From The Supreme Consciousness


At every projected level we move farther away from the true reality, the Supreme Consciousness. As shown in figure 2.1, with each projection the next faculty becomes narrower and narrower, finally culminating with limited sense perception. This process is referred to as Adhyasa. Adhyasa is superimposition of the innermost Reality as awareness is projected outward. With each step outward, we forget who we really are. The ignorance or veiling of our true identity with each projection is a process called Avidya. The combination of both Adhyasa and Avidya, finally emerges as the physical world, with layer after layer, superimposed on the true Reality. To us, we recognize only our human sheath as real and living. The dynamic life force that sustains our existence is veiled as shown in figure 2.1 with each layer and “ignored” because of our awareness has gone afar.

Each sheath can be looked at individually to paint a better picture of the many forces acting on our existence:

The Supreme Consciousness: The all-pervading, infinite, unchanging, Supreme Intelligence that sustains the entire universe. The true Reality that simply exists, absolutely secure, eternally blissful and serene.

Intelligence, Buddhi: Without any identity, this level is simply pure knowing. It holds the power of discrimination and the ability to recognize the all-pervading Spirit. However, once veiling is activated the intellect “forgets” the Supreme Consciousness and begins to develop an identity of the ego structure.

Ego, Ahamkara: This projection creates the illusion of “I am”. This initial declaration sets up for the acceptance of many false identities that will come through pleasurable and painful experiences. The intellect becomes so absorbed in the “I am” declaration; its rationality now functions to fulfill the desires of this false identity. The ego in its purest form is simply the “I” thought. It is considered a true thought to say “I am. I exist”. It labels the Self but it is not necessary as one can exist without this thought. “I” does not need to be declared in order to be. However, the veiling of the ego’s pure intention distorts it function and now the ego believes it has desires.  The next projection will work to affirm the “I am” declaration by providing the mechanism to fulfill its desires.

Mind, Manas: The mind has forgotten the Supreme Consciousness, the pure intellect and the pure ego and now works to serve the desires of the perverted ego. Through false mental constructs, the mind further strengthens the “I am” thought and falls victim to painful and pleasurable experiences. It is divisive as dualities are given importance. Good vs. evil, pain vs. pleasure, light vs. dark, etc… are pronounced and made to seem real. The mind seeks that which fulfills the desires of the ego and experience is no longer in totality but limited and narrow.

Senses, Indriyas: The culmination of multiple layers ends with sensory perception and action. The senses become physical expressions of false mental processes that seek to fulfill an unreal “I” identity. The result is “me” acting out in a physical world.

It is clear to see that each subtle layer is veiled and it pure nature is misguided causing another projection to be created. The powerful effect of Adhyasa and Avidya buries the universal ideal and puts forth an incredible challenge of receding back to the pure source.

The Journey Back

A systematic approach can be taken to reverse the effects of each projection. Understanding each level is crucial in attaining the final goal of actualizing the universal ideal. The inward journey back to the Supreme Consciousness is untying the knots created at each subtle level. Adhyasa and Avidya complicates the process through pseudo- experiences of purity and joy but that can be overcome through meticulous and stead-fast awareness. There are many practices and disciplines for each level but ultimately they involve stopping any further projections (Adhyasa) and allowing the veils of ignorance (Avidya) to recede back to original source.

The motives and thoughts behind the reversal of Adhyasa and Avidya are further discussed as follows:

The Physical World: Since the human form is a constituent of the physical world, the body must be disciplined and put under control. The body should be taken care of and put in healthy parameters. The actions of the body should follow codes of conduct that reflect the universal ideal. Harmony with the physical world is the goal. Frustrations and conflicts with the external world keeps the subtle levels drawn outward and does not provide the clarity needed to take the next step inward.

Senses, Indriyas: The reversal stage for the senses now focuses on the body in relation to its own sense of self rather than in the context of the whole physical world. Self-training practices allows the senses to be observed and understood in totality. Realization soon follows that the senses are inadequate and are mere projections of something deeper.

Mind, Manas: Once the senses have no influence on the field of experience of the individual, the breath is used as a reference point. The smoothness of breath eventually allows for transcendence of that sub-stage and brings forth the workings of the mind. The mind is understood in its totality by being a mere observer. This observation reveals that the mind, like the level before, as a superimposition and the veil disappears.

Ego, Ahmakara: The projection of the ego is a significant stage in the journey back. The “I am” declaration is experienced in the purest form. The realization that this declaration is not necessary for existence follows. Before coming to this conclusion, the process may seem ambiguous as distinction between the mind and the ego has not been fully achieved. It is important to see the difference and move forward completely from level before.

Intelligence, Buddhi: Isolating the intellect in its complete form is the next stage. This subtle level provides tremendous satisfaction if known in its entirety. However, it is not the be all and end all. The realization that it too is a projection is be the final step in this simple yet difficult journey back.

The Supreme Consciousness: Oneness is attained when the individual is completely absorbed back into the source. He or she is self-realized. Not one sense of duality is felt and all identities cease to exist. The goal is achieved, the universal ideal is manifested.

The entire process may have been summarized in a page but it fails to highlight the many inherent obstacles that will be faced along the way. There will be many pseudo-realizations that trick aspirant to believe that he or she has attained the final goal. However, vigilant awareness is key in not allowing outward projections to be reconstructed. The created should not interfere with the creator.

The Law of Karma

           Thus far, the universal ideal has been introduced; its remoteness to mankind has been explained through the processes of projections and veiling and finally, how the universal ideal can be actualized through the reversal of these outward projections and veiling. The discussion has been up till now has been oversimplified. There are other factors that complicate our attempts to return to the Supreme Consciousness. It is not enough that one has the desire to realize his or her true identity.

Like natural laws that govern the physical world, there are laws that transcend the phenomenal world and govern the whole entire universe. The greatest of these is the law of karma, also known as the law of causation. This law or principle of causality holds that for every motive, thought and action, there is an equal reaction. In other words, karma is reflection. Anything that emanates from one’s sense of being produces an effect in the universe which then needs to be justified.  Many have studied Newton’s Laws of Motion and have come across his idea that “For every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction.” However, this law transcends just mechanical motion but affects the workings of the universe at all planes and levels.

Said simply, reflectance is a property of the universe. Therefore, life reflects what one project. This principle of reflectance or karma states that life reflects your beliefs, emotions, and actions. The stronger these are, the more apparent it becomes that life is a mirror of whatever you project.

Whatever is reflected sooner or later is manifested in ones life. One has the free will to change what is manifested by changing motives, thoughts, and actions. The mirroring effect is not instantaneous but the new reality is held like a pressure within the aura of your body’s magnetic field (Refer to The Astral Body). One then can walk around in life, surrounded by this magnetic potential, your “karmic pattern”, as it influences your circumstances to adapt into a form where the new reality will be able to manifest and operate. One will begin to notice that his/her surroundings become conducive to make the desired changes.

The nature of the law of karma is that it is automatic. There is no judge or person that suffocates you for your imaginary sins. Karma is not fate. One has the power to initiate change. As the doer, he/she is only person who can take the first step to create the desired reaction.

If joy is sought, the mirror of life will sparkle back with joy. It can only happen once the person decides for that to happen. There are inherent circumstances that will be faced regardless of what one feels towards them, but how one reacts to these circumstances is the decisive factor in creating a life that is favored. The circumstances themselves are intrinsically neutral. Humans are the ones that assign negative and positive attributes to these situations and scenarios. How one responds to these challenges is where the value lies. Responding to the circumstances with thorough understanding and rationality, one can change the impressions of what’s faced by them.

The Astral Body

             It is quite evident that humans come from many different walks of life. From diverse socio-economic situations, cultures, values, to political and educational distinctions, people are not all given the same opportunities. If the universe is run by a law of causation that acts to justify everything, even down to every thought, how can life seem so cruel for some and reassuring for others? The answer lies in the workings of the astral body.

The astral body is the spiritual, etheric body which subtly exists alongside the physical body. It acts as a vehicle for the atma, or soul (Refer to the Nature of the Supreme Consciousness for in depth discussion of atma). As the vehicle for higher consciousness, the all motives, thoughts and actions are reflected and imprinted on this astral body. Since each person is a small projection of the Supreme Consciousness, which is their individual soul, any motive, thought or action committed is reflected back to the atma contained in the astral body. In other words, the astral body is a blue print of karmic imprints and unfulfilled desires which act collectively to produce circumstances to reflect the reactionary responses of karma and also to fulfill desires.

The astral body can be broken down further by looking at it constituent parts. The mind, intellect, ego and the illuminating aspect, the conditioned consciousness (citta) are exclusively made up of thoughts. These thoughts exhibit functional differences. The four components of the subtle astral body are merely functional designations, not separate organs. Organs have both structure and function; however, these four have no structure, just function only.

Known as Antahkarana, these four-fold inner instruments or structure-less organs are explained as follows:

Mind: When a stimulus from the external world enters a person through the organs of perception, it causes a disturbance in thought. Thought in this condition of disturbance is called the mind. It is understood as just a bundle of thoughts. Constant and alert vigilance over these thoughts and the resultant actions is necessary to transcend the karmic imprints generated through these thoughts.

Intellect: Once the disturbance created in the mind has settle, a decision is generated. The decisions produced here are the thoughts of the intellect.

Ego: A disturbance and a decision are related to each other only if they belong to a single individual. When both of them reside in a person he/she is aware of the disturbance and the decision are his/hers. The awareness of that an individual possesses a given thought, such as a decision, is yet another thought, and its functional name is ego. The ego exists in reference to the past. A sense of ego develops in us on a foundation built of memories of certain facts of life already experienced.

Conditioned Consciousness (citta): This is the illuminating aspect in our thought that makes us aware of the other function. Through this function we become aware of our mind and intellect and know that any thought we entertain is our own pure consciousness unconditioned by any type of human equipment. However when pure consciousness functions through mind, intellect, and the ego, it becomes as though conditioned by these types of equipment. This is citta or memory bank. When the conditioning is eliminated, the conditioned consciousness merges back into pure consciousness.

Another way to visualize the functions of the inner organs is to see consciousness conditioned into a thought bed consisting of 4 types of thoughts. Thought as emotion is related to the mind. Thoughts as ideas or decisions are of the intellect. Finally, “I” and “me” -identifying thoughts are from the ego. Registered memories are the thoughts of the conditioned consciousness. Collectively, these varying types of thoughts are responsible for our present actions and past karmic imprints. By eliminating these four, one overcomes future imprints and thereby becoming self-realized.

Maya, Illusion

Collectively, the projections and the accompanying sheaths create maya, illusion. The entanglement of karma, false physical, mental, and intellectual realities veils the Supreme Consciousness. To know what is real is to know the Supreme Consciousness. Therefore, everything else is only relative to the real and is an illusion.

Maya exists as a veiling agent, at all gross and subtle levels. When the “I”, “me” or “mine” declaration is present, maya is active. Maya imposes its limitations on the Supreme Reality. All desires, fears, identities, personhoods, dreams, fantasies, and attachments are linked with maya. Everything from memories, perceptions, cognition to logic is grounded in maya. The physical world is fundamentally governed by maya. Laws of nature, though intricate, complex and orderly, are still subject to maya. Maya’s power is to make the physical world or creation to seem real and keep awareness projected outward.

Nature also referred to as prakriti, is made up of the interplay of three tendencies known as sattva, rajas, tamas (Refer to Flow Chart 2.2 Maya). These qualities exist in all projections, animate and inanimate, in different degrees and combinations. The three gunas:

sattva- purity

rajas- passion

tamas- inertia

can be said to be the very substance of maya. This trinity has rajas and tamas with opposing characteristics, while sattva balances the two. Rajas can be understood as energy, which is responsible for the primal flow of activity. It is rajas that allows the universe to move. Tamas is inertia, lethargy, dullness, and ignorance. Sattva is typified as harmony and purity or dynamic balance. It produces spiritual virtues such as tranquility, self-control and contentment.

The Supreme Consciousness is independent of maya and the three gunas. It is diametrically opposite the ever changing prakriti or nature. However, maya is always subject to the Supreme Consciousness. It can never be independent to it.

Maya, as a creative force, should not be looked upon harshly and blamed for one’s ignorance of the Supreme Reality. Though, maya creates false identities, the needed faculties to return to the source has also been created. To the pierce the veil of all illusion, diligence and constant awareness is needed. It is a choice to exercise that awareness. If one chooses otherwise, there is no one to blame but oneself for choosing to remain in the darkness of ignorance.

With self- realization, maya is no longer a force that needs to be battled against. The wisdom of oneness of Reality shows that maya is merely a reflection of the Supreme Consciousness. This creative power is a celebration of the majesty of the Changeless.

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