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Individuality True and False

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by Sangharakshita


Lecture 85: Individuality, True and False. Friends, The Universe is one gigantic process; we may say that it is a process of becoming, a process of attaining new and ever new levels of existence and of organisation. In other words, the Universe is an evolution. And in this process, in this evolution, man too is included, man too evolves. We may say that man has evolved, we can say that man will evolve or rather, that he can evolve if he makes the effort.

Biologically speaking, man has evolved from lower, simpler forms of life. Anthropologically speaking, he has evolved from savagery and barbarism to civilization and culture, while psychologically, he has evolved from unconsciousness to what we term simple consciousness, and from simple consciousness to the rudiments at least of what we term self consciousness. By simple consciousness we mean bare perceptual awareness, that is to say awareness of sensations experienced through the sense organs as a result of contact with the external world. By self consciousness we mean that one not only experiences sensations, experiences feelings, emotions, thoughts, volitions and so on, but is also, above that, conscious of oneself as experiencing them.

Now this whole process, this process of human evolution biological, anthropological, psychological, all this has taken many, many, millions of years. And altogether, taking it as one process, it constitutes what we call the lower evolution. And this part of the process we know is collective.

The future evolution of man will be mainly, if not exclusively, psychological and spiritual. We say future, but the process has in fact already begun. The Higher Evolution, at least to some extent, perhaps even a considerable extent, has been achieved by a few outstanding figures of the past: for instance by founders of religions, by great artistic geniuses and so on. But we have to pass from our rudimentary self consciousness to perfect self consciousness, so far as the majority still is concerned. We have, we may say, to pass from self consciousness also to at least the beginnings of transcendental consciousness. And these are the immediate goals. Eventually we have to pass from transcendental consciousness to Absolute Consciousness, or, as we also call it, Universal Consciousness, And this, we have to emphasize, can be done within the limits of a single human life-time. This constitutes the Higher Evolution of man, and this part of the evolutionary process is an individual affair. Nature, as it were, carries us a very long way, Nature carries us for millions of years, carries us up to the very limits of the lower evolution, endows us with the rudiments of self consciousness, and then Nature leaves us on our own, From now onwards our progress depends on our own individual conscious effort. Not that any of us have to make this effort: we are free to make it or not to make it, just as we choose.

And the majority, of course, do not choose to make it at all, the majority, perhaps we can say, are not even aware of the possibility of choice. The effort is made by the minority, the effort is made by the few.

Some of you may have heard the name of that famous Indian text; it's a Hindu text called the Bhagavad Gita.

Some of you may even have read it. And in the Bhagavad Gita there is a verse where Sri Krisna is represented as saying, (speaking as the embodiment here of Absolute Consciousness), is represented as asking that out of a thousand men, out of a thousand human beings, 'only one' he says, 'seeks me.' that is to say seeks truth, seeks Absolute Consciousness. And he also goes on to say that out of a thousand that seek, one perhaps finds. So this gives us one in a million of human beings who seeks and who finds. And if we think over it we probably conclude that this is perhaps a rather generous estimate, one in a million, It illustrates, we may say, this verse illustrates, the difficulty of the whole process of the Higher Evolution.

And then, in the Dhammapada there is another verse, a verse attributed to the Buddha, where the Buddha says, 'It is difficult to attain the human state, mortal life itself is difficult. It is difficult to hear the real truth; the Arising of an Enlightened One', that is to say, One who has realised Absolute Consciousness, 'is difficult.' This is what the Buddha says in the Dhammapada. And we can even paraphrase that in more contemporary language, more in the terminology of these talks, these lectures, and we could say: it is difficult really to be a human being, really and truly to be a human being. It is difficult to develop self consciousness. It is still more difficult to develop transcendental consciousness. It is difficult to be an individual. It is difficult to go on making an effort. It is difficult not to sink back into unawareness and to stagnate. All this is difficult. But difficult as it is, we should not allow ourselves to be discouraged. So long as we realize, so long as we really see, that the whole process of the Higher Evolution, the whole process of passing from simple consciousness to self consciousness, self consciousness to transcendental consciousness and so on - so long as we realize that this whole process is difficult, so long as we see it as difficult and take that difficulty seriously - then there is some hope of success. The danger, we may say, lies in thinking that it's all easy, or at least that it is not very difficult.

Now the whole process of what we call the Higher Evolution is difficult partly because as we try to develop self consciousness and transcendental consciousness various problems arise; problems we had not perhaps anticipated, we might have anticipated some problems, might even have had some idea of what they were likely to be, but that's all before we actually embarked on this process of the Higher Evolution. Once we make a start, once we really try to develop self consciousness, to be aware, to be mindful, to get a glimpse of the transcendental consciousness, then all sorts of difficulties, all sorts of problems arise, which are totally unexpected. And although we might have read quite widely before-hand, our reading does not give us any help in the solution of these difficulties, and the solution of these problems. Incidentally I say 'difficulty', and I also say 'problem'. By 'problem', I mean a difficulty that can be solved or rather resolved, only by rising to a higher level of being and consciousness, it cannot be solved on its own level. If it can be solved on its own level by a little tinkering here, or a little adjustment there, then we call it just a difficulty, For example, our immediate goal is the development of perfect self consciousness, development of awareness. But we may well find the problem arising in connection with awareness itself. We may even develop the wrong kind of awareness. We may develop what I have termed 'alienated awareness'. By alienated awareness we mean a state of awareness in which we are aware of ourselves without actually experiencing ourselves - especially without experiencing our feelings and our emotions, And we fail to experience ourselves fully, perfectly, for a variety of reasons.

Partly, it's due to the very nature of the times in which we live. We live in an age of transition, an age in which values are constantly changing in which there are no stable, universally accepted values to which we can adhere, upon which we can base our lives, in accordance with which we can order our actions. So this means that our sense of identity tends to be weakened. There are also other factors.

When we are young we are conditioned into refusing to accept bodily sensations, especially sensations connected with sex. And, in the same way, we are conditioned into repressing negative emotions. And we are also told, again especially when we are young, that we feel what in fact we do not feel, because that's what we ought to feel, and that we do not feel what actually we feel, because it's wrong for us to feel that particular way. And for all these reasons we end up unable, even unwilling, to experience ourselves, and therefore develop alienated awareness.

And this already deplorable situation is sometimes aggravated by a wrong understanding of Eastern spiritual teachings, of teachings, for example, which tell you that you have in fact no self, or at least which appear to tell you this, which appear to tell you that the self is an illusion, that it just isn't there. Or by teachings again which tell you that you are not the body, that you are not the feelings, not the emotions, not the mind - that you are in fact God, without parts, without passions. And sometimes the situation is aggravated still further by Eastern teachers without an understanding of the Western mind and its difficulties, True awareness, which we call integrated awareness or integral awareness, is developed by learning again to experience ourselves, to experience our physical body, to experience our repressed feelings and emotions, and so on. And there are several ways in which we can do this. And here, as we know, our communication exercises which some of us will be doing tomorrow and the next day, help very much. Now all this, all that I have said so far this evening, is familiar ground to most of you, to nearly all of you. It represents the jist of the last two lectures.

We are just briefly recapitulating to refresh our minds.

Tonight we come to a problem which is, if anything, even more important, even more crucial than that of alienated awareness, and that is the problem of individuality, of individuality true or false. And with this problem, when we come to this problem, when we encounter this problem, we at once find ourselves in the midst of great, not to say dire, confusion. In fact, we find ourselves in the midst ...

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