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.

The universal ideal is all about actualizing the divinity within you. There is no one prescribed way but a multitude of them. However, in the end, they all point for you to go inward.


All beliefs, on which religions stem from, in their diverse names and forms, are simply manifestations of one Supreme Reality. It is hard to understand that fact of underlying unity when all that mankind sees is religion being quarrelsome, divisive and dogmatic. Intellectuals from time immemorial have looked at religion as infringing on their right of free and open thinking. Historically, this cannot be disputed. Religious authorities have always used censorship through indoctrination of their specific teachings as a means of control over the masses. A famous example of such censorship is that of the physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher Galileo Galilei. His support of the heliocentric view of the world was considered heresy in 1633 by the Vatican. The Inquisition forced Galileo Galilei to recant his ideas and was put under house arrest. The world now knows that Galileo Galilei was right in his scientific ideas and is a perfect example of how religion can contradict reality.


Contradictions in religion are the result of mankind’s ignorance and inability to articulate the Supreme Truth. Religions simply touch upon that Supreme Truth without ever immersing itself into it and try to manifest that small encounter into ritualistic thought and actions. If religion was to go back to its pure source, the Supreme Consciousness, there would be no contradictions or mistakes. There would not even be the need to defend religion. Religion would no longer be religion in the conventional sense, it would become philosophy. It is only in philosophy that the free thinking process itself becomes conducive for eliminating any division in the matters of the spirit. Philosophy integrates through affirmation of the universal ideal of all-pervading divinity. It is the result of the uninhibited intellect, which is the closest faculty to the Supreme Consciousness (refer to The Total Field of Human Experience for more details). The doubting, analytical, and logical tendencies of the intellect, that so many religions try to suppress, is in actuality the very thing that needs to blossom in order to turn inward to realize the universal ideal.


This process of turning inwards maybe new to many but it has existed beyond the reach of memory, record and tradition. Those early seekers may not have had religion in today’s sense to be discontented with but understood that the constant flux of the physical world itself did not provide with absolute certainty joy and peace of mind. The world was seen as impermanent through the neti, neti, process. This process is simply translated as “not this, not this”, and is known as the process of negation. The early seekers used negation and concluded neti for the whole physical world. For them, there simply had to be an unchanging base from which a continually changing existence can be projected from. Since that permanence could not be found externally in the physical and material world, the early seekers turned inward. By turning inwards these seekers became subjective scientists. While the discoveries of the laws of nature remained in the hands of objective scientists, the subjective scientists began to probe the inner world of the spirit.


Through meditations by subjective scientists, the universal common denominator, the Supreme Consciousness, was revealed. That Supreme Consciousness, whose essence will be discussed in Chapter 3- The Nature of God, was understood as all pervading by the seers, “those that see”. With the Supreme Consciousness being all-pervading, the subjective scientists discovered the universal ideal: If the divine Supreme Consciousness permeates the universe, it permeates me and therefore I am the divine Supreme Consciousness.


It is from this declaration that the everlasting life principle of Sanatana Dharma radiates. Generally translated, Sanatana Dharma means “eternal essence”. This principle is beautifully expressed by Rene Guenon, father of the 20th century school of perennial philosophy:

“It dharma is, so to speak, the essential nature of a being, comprising the sum of its particular qualities or characteristics, and determining, by virtue of the tendencies or dispositions it implies, the manner in which this being will conduct itself, either in a general way or in relation to each particular circumstance. The same idea may be applied, not only to a single being, but also to an organized collectivity, to a species, to all the beings included in a cosmic cycle or state of existence, or even to the whole order of the Universe; it then, at one level or another, signifies conformity with the essential nature of beings… (from Guenon’s “Introduction to the Study of Hindu Doctrines”).”


In other words, all constituents of creation, whether looked at individually or as a whole have a divine essence that can be actualized through self-realization. Sanatana Dharma exists independent of what humans can perceive of it. Rejection or denial of the eternal life principle does not affect its presence and nor will it impose itself. It simply exists. Those who attain the highest through communion with the Supreme Consciousness have developed systems of philosophy on the eternal life principle. However, the gist can be understood through this general creed of Sanatana Dharma as follows:

I believe in the Supreme Consciousness, the Supreme Reality, the unity behind all diversity, the changeless Truth behind all appearances, at once imminent and transcendent in all the divine essence which permeates the universe.

I believe that the Supreme Consciousness manifests Itself as the creative and preserving power of the whole universe and unto Itself it returns. In short, the entire world of phenomenon rises, exists, dissolves and again re-rises in Itself.

I believe that this Supreme Consciousness assumes forms from time to time to bring the erring humanity back to the correct path. This form may be perceptible or imperceptible.

I believe that man is not this gross material body, nor yet the finer organ called mind or the intellect but is really something greater and more real than the apparent individual.

I believe that the soul is essentially divine and by nature, pure and perfect infinite in power and free. It was never created, nor will it ever die, but will pass from body to body on its journey to realization and perfection.

I believe in the Law of Karma– the law of causality in the spiritual world. I am the creator of my own destiny, that my present condition is due to my past thoughts, words, deeds, and conduct. My future state will depend directly on my past and present actions and thoughts.

I believe that the Srutis (Vedas) and the Smritis (Upanishads), the Sastras, the Bhagavad Gita and the Brahma Sutras contain the eternal truths.

The subjective scientists as mentioned earlier did create an intricate systemization of the profound wisdom generated through their intense meditations upon the Supreme Consciousness. The sacred wisdom was divided into two broad categories, the Srutis and the Smritis. The Srutis are considered to be “Consciousness-revealed” and the Smritis are considered as “man-realized”- or better “recapitulated by man” on what he/she has already heard from the Srutis ,“that which is heard”. The Srutis deal with eternal principles and hold good for all time, while the Smritis deal with the practical application of those eternal principles according to changing times. In fact there is a Srutis content and a Smritis content in every religion. In Sanatana Dharma thought the world Sruti stands for Vedas.


The four Vedas Rig, Yajurs, Sama and Atharva form the Srutis. The word Veda comes from the root “vid”- to know. The Vedas is literally the book of knowledge- knowledge of the changeless and Supreme Reality.


The principle characteristics of each of the four Vedas and what they deal with in general are given below (Refer to  Flow Chart 1.1: Classification  of Vedic Wisdom):

Rig Veda– The Rig Veda mainly consists of hymns of praise and is believed to be the most precious collection of knowledge of the Aryans of the day. It is believed to be the “oldest book” known to man.

Yajur Veda– The Yajur Veda generally deals with the sacrificial formulae and contains the special instructions and directions for the carrying out of rituals and ceremonies.

Sama Veda– This is the most voluminous of the four Vedas. It deals with the melodies and contains the songs to be chanted at the sacrifices with their correct modulations and intonations. It is a purely liturgical collection.

Atharva Veda– This mainly deals with magic formulae and the tantras and other forms of esoteric knowledge. It deals with yantra, tantra and mantra. Yantra which is the machine namely the human body, mantra the formulae and tantra the technique of applying the formulae in the machine to get the maximum results.


Each of the four Vedas stated above, consists of three sections namely:

The Samhitas or the mantra portion- hymns in praise of the supreme lord and the presiding deities.

The Brahmanas or the ritualistic portion- the practical application of the mantras in the rituals and directions for the conduct of rituals and;

The Aranyakaas of the contemplative portion.

The first two form what is called the “the karma kanda” and the third us known as “the jnana kanda” of the Vedas.


The Upanishads generally form the end of the Aranyakaas– there are few exceptions to this rule also, as there are a few Upanishads which occur even in the Samhita portion of the Vedas– and hence the philosophy obtaining therein is generally called Vedanta-meaning the “end of the Vedas”. The word Vedanta can be explained in three ways:

Veda anta: the end of the Vedas, which can mean either the concluding portion of the Vedas or the end or the goal pointed out by the Vedas.

Vedaan tam: meaning the essence of the Vedas.

The philosophical truths revealed and established by and in the Vedas- especially in the concluding portions- the Upanishads.


While it is indisputable that the Upanishads contain the essence of the Vedic teachings, they are the foundation of which most of the later philosophies and religions of the east rest upon. There is no important form of Sanatana Dharmic thought- heterodox Buddhism included- which is not rooted in the Upanishads.


The word “Upanishad” is constituted of three syllables- Upa-ni-sad which together mean “near-below-sit”. This must denote the flow of knowledge from the higher to the lower level- from guru (teacher) to the disciples. The respectful attitude of the disciple who “sits, below, near” is implied in the title.


The Upanishads are computed at one thousand one hundred and seventy nine in number as shown below:

21 –Rig Veda

108- Yajur Veda

1000- Sama Veda

50- Atharva Veda


1179 Total


Tradition considers 108 of these as important and authoritative as mentioned in Mukthi Upanishad belonging to the Yajur Veda.


Of these eleven are considered to be the principal Upanishads and Archarya Sankara had written his commentaries on them.


The Upavedas form a class of writings subordinate to the Vedas. They are four in number, one attached to each Veda. They are:

Ayurveda: The science of health and longevity and consequently of medicine, attached to the Rig Veda. There are some who maintain this science is attached to Atharva Veda.

Dhanurveda: Military science attached to Yajur Veda.

Gandharvaveda: The art and science of music, attached to Sama Veda and;

Stapathya Sastra: The science of mechanics and constructions, attached to Atharva Veda.


A thorough study of these six branches of knowledge is considered essential for the understanding and assimilation of the techniques contained in the Vedas. (Refer to Flow Chart 1.2: Categories of Knowledge).


Next are the Veda Upangas or the six Darsaras. These are dealt with separately below, under philosophy (Refer to Flow Chart 1.1: Classification of Vedic Wisdom).


Next are the Smritis or the Dharma Sastras. Dharma Sastras are the works of individual sages, laying down the rules of conduct for a “Dharmic Life” (righteousness) to be observed by all during the entire span of life. Dharma Sastras of Manu is the most famous and authoritative and Manu Smriti forms the basis of Sanatana Dharmic law. While Manu Smriti is applicable to the entire Manwantara (a period of time reckoned on certain precise astronomical calculations-equivalent to 306,720,000 human terrestrial years) there are eighteen more Dharma Sastras written by different sages, said to be applicable to different periods of time written in the Manwantara.


The great seers and sages of the past in their profound wisdom knew very well that religion has to cater to every one, each in his or her level of mental and intellectual evolution from where he or she has to be picked up and put on the path leading to spiritual heights. So there are books written for classes as well as for the masses. While the Upanishads, Brahma Sutras, the Bhagavad Gita and the Dharma Sastra cater to advanced intellectuals. The Puranas and the Ithihasas (epics) are mainly directed to masses, who to begin with, need more of an emotional satisfaction from religion and philosophy, not that they do not contain anything for the intellectuals. They form harmonious food for the head and the heart at the same time, and as the seeker progresses he/she finds new and higher meanings in the same text which take them forward in their spiritual pursuits.


The Puranas and Ithihasas fall into this class of spiritual literature. While they prepare the seekers for an efficient, fruitful, ethical and dharmic life here, they show the way and lead them to the summum bonum of human birth and existence- identification and merging with the Great Beyond. They help to grow from Bhakti to Jhana and from there to Realization.


At this point, the basis from which Sanatana Dharmic ideology emerged has been introduced. Beginning with contemplation of the human experience, to then turning inward and realizing the universal ideal and finally culminating in the development of Sanatana Dharma, ones individual progress can be accelerated with the wisdom of learned masters. The next chapter discusses the multiple forces that make one’s worldly existence seem “real” and how to transcend the illusion.