existential anguish






We are supposed to be upbeat and full of optimism about how wonderful this world can be once we are liberated from all outer and inner bondage. And it probably can indeed be wonderful, but is that the point? How can I be released from bondage if I am not ready to face reality?

So what is reality? First of all it is the fact of Eternity with a capital “E”. This has all been going on for millions and billions and quadrillions of time. It did not start and there is no way it can end. 

We are told by one who awakened to reality:

  1. From our perception of the world there follows acceptance of a unique First Principle possessing various powers. Pictures of name and form, the person who sees, the screen on which he sees, and the light by which he sees: he himself is all of these. (Ramana 40 Verses on Reality)

This means I perceive the world, so I have the power of perception, which is the power of shining, because it makes the world visible (perceptible). Actually I AM a power or energy that shines. “My being is shining clearly” said Ramana as his body lay completely lifeless for more than 30 minutes, making it clear that his/our being is NOT the body.

Chit-jada-granthi means chit = Consciousness, sentient / jada = inert, insentient / granthi = knot

This being that is bright clairity became attached/bonded to/velcroed onto insentient matter and mistakes itself to be the inert objects of which the world consists, including this psycho-physiological system we call “body”. From this mistaken identity, which can be seen as a kind of short-circuit in the energy structure of Existence, comes all suffering and anguish.

All of the experiences that I have in the world have the potential to awaken me to the fact that I am moving among inert objects, insentient objects, of which what I call “me” is one. All comes alive and seems to be more than inert and insentient only thanks to the power that I lend to them through my contact with them. I awake in the morning and infuse this body-mind system with the energy of bright clarity by putting my attention on it and affirming “I am this body”.

Through that affirmation I create the channel for this “unique First Principle” energy of bright clarity to enliven the inert object of my body-mind and give it the semblance of being “alive”. It is like the puppeteer putting her hand into the puppet and making it “come alive”.

Seen by the light of reality all interactions of this sort are anguish. It is the intelligent, wild and free energy of shining clearly caught up in confusion and blindness, crashing up against other blind and insentient forms in the belief that this crashing up against and creating friction with imaginary ‘other’ forms, seen as ‘beings’ is the reason for existence and the meaning of life.

“I am the unbounded deep

In whom all living things

Naturally arise,

Rush against each other playfully,

And then subside” (Ashtavakra Gita 2 – 25)

And so we are caught up in this delusion of all inert objects in the world being the object of our desires. We are all rushing around in the attempt to make sense of a situation that bases on a false assumption and that appears so real.

The connecting ‘cord’ between the bright clarity and the insentient objects is the ego – the sense of “I” that is transmitted to the body (an inert object) through the factor of identification. This factor is like a short circuit or a wrong connection. The sages call for us to cut that cord and sever the knot (granthi) between sentience (chit) and the inert and insentient physical body (jada).

Ramana Maharshi on Chit-Jada Granthi

“From the functional point of view the ego has one and only one characteristic. The ego functions as the knot between the Self which is pure consciousness (chit) and the physical body which is inert and insentient (jada) [When you say “I am the body”, the “I am” part is consciousness or chit and “the body” is the insentient part or jada]. The ego is therefore called the chit-jada granthi (the knot between consciousness and the inert body). In your investigation into the source of aham-vritti (‘I’-thought), you take the essential chit [consciousness] aspect of the ego. For this reason the enquiry must lead to the realization of the pure consciousness of the Self. 

“This inert body [jada] does not say ‘I’. Reality-Consciousness [chit] does not emerge. Between the two, and limited to the measure of the body, something emerges as ‘I’ (‘I’-thought). It is this that is known as Chit-jada-granthi (the knot between the Conscious and the inert), and also as bondage, soul, subtle-body, ego, samsara, mind, and so forth. 

“You must distinguish between the ‘I’, pure in itself, and the ‘I’-thought. The latter, being merely a thought, sees subject and object, sleeps, wakes up, eats and thinks, dies and is reborn. But the pure ‘I’ is the pure being, eternal existence, free from ignorance and thought-illusion. If you stay as the ‘I’, your being alone, without thought, the ‘I’-thought will disappear and the delusion will vanish forever. In a cinema show you can see pictures only in a very dim light or in darkness. But when all the lights are switched on, the pictures disappear. So also in the floodlight of the supreme atman all objects disappear.”

Living in a state in which it seems natural to believe that “I” am sentient and that this includes the body we are like sleep-walkers with no chance to wake up. All of our actions in every aspect of our daily life are deeply absurd. This has all been going on for millions and billions and quadrillions of time. It did not start and there is no way it can end. When this came to my awareness, stark and naked, I was plunged into existential anguish and despair. Is there no way out? No hope?

Actually, running smack dab up against this brick wall of reality was the beginning of deeper insight (as so often is the case.) Something shifted in the way my perception works. I couldn’t believe that I had spent all these years in earnest enquiry about what is reality and what is the truth of this existence without seeing what was in front of my face: bright clarity is our being and it has no form, no attribute of quality or quantity with which all objects of nature are endowed. Now, all of the sudden there was an opening for me to see clearly that all I can perceive are inert objects that APPEAR alive and sentient due to the peculiarity of the “identification effect”.


“Identification of ego with reflected consciousness is like a glowing hot iron ball.  Due to identification of ego with that (reflection) the body gains sentience” (Drig-Drishya Viveka, verse 7).

When an iron ball is placed in fire, the heat of the fire is superimposed on the iron ball, and the iron ball glows like a fire ball.  Similarly, the experiences are superimposed on ego and the ego also identifies with the experiences.  By this superimposition, the ego feels that, ‘I have this experience’.  When ahankara (mind modification of the sense of ‘I’ or ego) identifies with the body, the body gains sentience.

Pervading the entire universe outwardly and inwardly the Supreme Reality shines of Itself like the fire that permeates a red hot iron ball and glows by itself. (Shankaracharya – Atma Bodha 62.)

We continually superimpose the Bright Clarity of aliveness and sentience onto all of these inert objects. Ramana gives three criteria for what is real: unchanging, eternal and self-shining. It stands to reason that none of our world is real.

Having spent the better part of four decades in this endeavor I know how involved it is to reach this understanding purely through higher-reason, without the aid of a “flash of enlightenment”, whether chemically induced or spontaneous. Looking out at the world right here where I am in this intentional community (as well as through the “news media” through cyberspace), I am acutely aware of the suffering that this avidya (ignorance) state causes. Not knowing that the root cause of all pain, despair and anguish is simply a wrong connection between the power and “energy of pure seeing” (the Bright Clarity) and the “seen” (all the objects of perception), people are doomed to stumble about on the basis of man-made concepts – constructs that never hit the mark.

Non-Violent Communication (NVC) and so many other views as to how we can live peaceably together as humans, (as helpful as they are), never hit the nerve that would lead to a completely and effortless orderly life. They require constant effort and vigilance. When the avidya state ceases I find myself in a state of natural, effortless relationships at peace with myself and all others.

“How is it possible then to be completely at peace within ourselves and in all our relationships with others? After all, life is a movement in relationship, otherwise there is no life at all, and if that life is based on an abstraction, an idea, or a speculative assumption, then such abstract living must inevitably bring about a relationship which becomes a battlefield. 

“So is it at all possible for man to live a completely orderly inward life without any form of compulsion, imitation, suppression or sublimation? Can he bring about such order within himself that it is a living quality not held within the framework of ideas – an inward tranquillity which knows no disturbance at any moment – not in some fantastic mythical abstract world but in the daily life of the home and the office?” (Krishnamurti, Freedom from the Known Ch 7)

This brings me to the conclusion of this string of thoughts. I will see where this new, open consciousness takes me. I see the traps of the mind that all base on this one false perception of the seer believing to be the seen. I have been made aware that consciousness itself will tell me all I need to know to continue into deeper understanding.




One thought on “existential anguish

  1. Pingback: the urge to see | New Earth Heartbeat

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