The Mother Divine
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By Dr. Nalini Kanta Brhma
(Originally published in The Mother, August 1960)

It is difficult to understand the real significance of spiritual experience. Does it mean the experience of the spirit or does it mean the experience by the spirit? Is there any difference between the two conceptions or do both of them mean the same thing? The term 'spiritual experience' is loosely used and is generally intended to stand for anything that is even remotely connected with religion. Purely physical phenomena, such as the holding of the breath for a short  period, or even much more elementary bodily processes such as different postures of the body commonly known as asanas and mudras, are very often regarded as belonging to the realm of spiritual experience. It is really strange that an experience which belongs to the body and not to the spirit should be regarded as spiritual.

If we consider carefully how much of what is ordinarily regarded as spiritual experience really belongs to the spirit, we are sure to be disillusioned within a very short time and to find that the major part, if not almost the whole, of what is generally taken as spiritual experience, is not at all spiritual and does not pertain to the spirit. Whether by spiritual experience, we mean the experience of the spirit or by the spirit, we come almost to the same conclusion. If by the spirit we mean the pure spirit, which has not the least touch of matter in it and which has no association with anything material, if we leave behind the body, the sense-organs, the mind and the Buddhi in order to reach the pure spirit, the naked spirit that has no element of matter in it and that does not associate itself with anything material, we find that the spirit, the pure cit, shines in its own glory, and at this stage there is no distinction between the subject and the object, between the seer and the seen, between the drasta and the drisya. The pure spirit, the pure cit alone can exprience the naked spirit that is free from touch of matter; so, at this stage there is no difference between experience of the spirit and experience by the spirit. If we limit the meaning of spiritual experience to experience of the pure spirit, we shall have to exclude from it most of the phenomena which go by the name of spiritual experience. The movements of the different limbs of the body, the flow of tears from the eyes, the choking of the voice, the controlled breath, which are found in the sadhakas or aspirants to spiritual experience, may be all accompaniments of rich and sublime feelings, but are far removed from experience of the pure spirit. The body is connected with the mind. When the mind works at its high levels, the sattvic bodily states accompany those mental processes.   But when the sadhaka goes beyond the mind and the Buddhi, there are no bodily processes corresponding to the working at the stage of the spirit. The pure spirit is akarta, non-doer. It does nothing; it cannot be said to work; there is nothing like any process at this stage. It is the stage of silence; but it is not the silence that is opposed to dynamis. It is beyond the opposition of silence and Dynamis. It is the silence beyond silence. It is parama avyakta, the Absolute unmanifested that is beyond the opposition of the manifested and the unmanifested.   The atman or the pure spirit is santa, perfect stillness, perfect peace, perfect harmony, nirdosham samam. There is neither any increase nor any decrease, na vardhate na kariyan, no process, no working, no motion, no loss, no expenditure. It is beyond the opposition of Motion and Rest, beyond even the equilibrium or Harmony: beyond not only rajas and tamas, but also beyond sattva. The yogic feats,  the difficult asanas or postures of the body or even remaining covered under the earth for several days or weeks through control of breath, the marvels which look like magical performances may not have any connection with anything like spiritual experience and may not reach up to the spirit at all. The rich emotions and  sublime sentiments even may not reach up to the pure spirit and may not have any touch of the stage where the seer and the seen become one, where the bodily reference is altogether out of place, where it is the flight of the 'Alone to the Alone’. It is difficult to breathe in the rarefied air of the realm of the pure spirit for ordinary mortals. It is an arduous path, an inaccessible region, a very high peak to climb. It cannot be comprehended because of its absence of connection with anything material, with anything which the mind and the intellect can deal with. It is free from all adjuncts, all upadhis. It is the Absolute, the nirupadhic Brahma of the Vedanta. So long as upadhis or adjuncts remain, the pure spirit is not reached. The upadhis are all derived from matter. They cannot have any inherent connection with the spirit, which is absolutely immaterial, which has not and cannot have any connection with matter. Matter must be in space and the spirit cannot have any habitation in space. We must have to go beyond matter in order to reach the spirit. Sankaracaryya, the great sage of India, proclaimed this in the clearest terms. The spirit cannot have any inherent connection with matter. We must learn to distinguish between matter and spirit, between the perishable and imperishable, between the permanent and the impermanent. Jesus Christ also teaches to distinguish between the flesh and the spirit, between Mammon and God. If religion is the search for Truth which is Eternal, for the abiding spirit, the spirit that is Absolute and Pure, we must search for it — beyond the region of  Matter, beyond  the  region of the perishable, and enter into the realm of the Pure spirit which has not the least connection with Matter and anything material.

The clear analysis of the term 'Spiritual Experience' would take us to the philosophy of the Vedanta, the rich treasure and glory of the Hindus, the highest achievement of India. There can be no sectarianism, no religious fanaticism, no tyranny and oppression, no crusade in the name of religion, if we try to understand what the spirit really means and what true spiritual experience signifies. It is for this that Sankaracaryya declared that he had no opposition or Virodha with any school. He was speaking about the Pure spirit where there is no room for controversy. All controversy is with regard to things material. Where there is no Matter or anything material, controversy must cease.