We live and experience life in two dimensions at the same time; two worlds if you like, an outer world and an inner world. Although they are both there, for the most part we are experiencing only one of them at any one moment. We are either awake or asleep, and the other is unknown to us. When we are awake we live in the outer world; when asleep we are in the inner world, but most of the time completely unaware of it. The exception is meditation.
There is a kind of trade-off between these two worlds – inner and the outer. They are like trading nations, but with no real understanding of each other’s culture, beliefs and motivating forces. The dimension of experience is different in each. Sometimes communication breaks down, relations get fraught, ambassadors are recalled and there is conflict for some time. Thinking they are separate, sometimes we are just not at peace with ourselves.
If we consider the outer and inner worlds together and the relationship between them, you can see that there is nevertheless something constant to both of them, along with the differences. Recognizing this helps us in meditation practice, and some of the experiences it brings.
What is constant between the two?
Although they are described as two worlds, they are of course both different parts of the same individual nature - the one to whom all experience comes, leaves an impression, and passes. Though we may seem like and feel like different people at different times, our true nature is never divided. Although this has far-reaching implications, because we don’t really know this as an experience, and because the two are hardly ever evident at the same time, we may not care to think about it that much. But the relationship between them is always there, and they both have a strong influence on each other. Nearly everyone knows this to some extent. If we think about our dreams we can see how different they are in relation to outer life – so, it was only a dream – and yet we have an inkling of the power of the unknown forces that produce these dreams, which have a powerful influence over everything we experience.
Accepting that we are only ever one, we can look at the differences between the inner and outer and see how that indicates a reassessment of our relationship with our mind in meditation practice.
It may be obvious but the fundamental difference is not that the mind itself changes between outer and inner, but that the mind in the outer negotiates everything in time and space through the senses, while the inner is not dependent on the senses and is beyond the limitations of time and space.
The capacity of mind in the outer world has been phenomenally successful for the most part. It’s what nature intended as a tool of survival, and the outrageous success of humanity as a species is the result. All our knowledge, from first steps on two legs to driving a car, first words to quantum mechanics, the world of the arts, falls in this category from the mundane to the exceptional. The mind is the knower of nature in this context. But this is really not the full extent of nature, only one dimension of it, and the mind being fully immersed in its own winning knowledge may not have picked up on this.
In the inner world, however, the same mind need not be subject to time and space and their limitations. It all becomes elastic and adjustable so that time and space become irrelevant as containing forces. Mind has no limit in this context and has the potential to go…. anywhere, and experience…. anything - the complete experience of the mind, the mind that could know itself in fact.
The imperial mind
But the mind we do know, the outer mind, is an imperialist. With the best of intentions, it will still attempt to go places, any place, even where it has no real jurisdiction, with a logic and philosophy based on its relatively limited experience. The mind in action in the outer world is not qualified to negotiate in the inner world, but like an imperialist that is what we go in with and this is what it does. It attempts to lay down rules and laws to subjugate and keep the inner world in order, without having the capacity or even the will to keep the bigger picture in view.
An analogy - and it’s meant as analogy not history - is like the British in India. The British (rational external mind) were imperialistic in their thinking and design, and gradually the ambition of imperialism expanded to take over and rule a people and a culture (inner world) it did not comprehend or understand. In the end the imperialistic rational material power can become very strong and its control extensive, so where would the power to loosen that control lie?
Mahatma Gandhi had the answer – through the power of a kind of active passivity, which was vastly underestimated at the time. In the movie “Gandhi” there is a moment where he meets the Viceroy and one of his aides exclaims, “You mean that the British Empire is just going to pack up its bags and walk out?” and Gandhi said “Yes that’s exactly what I think you will do.”
In the analogy Gandhi is the awareness, which has the capacity to know its own essential nature. The “passivity” (what he called satyagraha), which is an actually an active principle, is the act of observing, and fully experiencing, but without an opposing reaction. And it is strange how, by simply not acknowledging, philosophically and actively, the strength of the usurping power, that power loses its authority, its security and eventually its hold outside its rightful jurisdiction, because it has no real right to be there in the first place.
For Part 2 of this article - go here