Q: According to the scriptures, after knowing Brahman we become one with Brahman. I don’t understand what this means or how this is possible.

A: You believe in whatever you know and for you that is the only reality. Your concepts of pleasure and pain, loss and gain, bondage and freedom are confined to the objects in your field of knowing. In this tiny, illusory world you fashion your self-image: you find yourself poorer than someone else, richer than someone else, and so forth. Further, if you identify yourself as a merchant, you will derive delight from becoming richer than other merchants, and you will conceptualize heaven as a place where you can enjoy the riches you couldn’t attain on earth. Or, to cite another example, for those who live in the desert, heaven is an oasis and hell has no water.

For those who live in the desert, heaven is an oasis and hell has no water.

In other words, concepts of heaven and hell, bondage and freedom correspond to your self-image, which is a reflection of the circumstances in your little world. In this little world, you either love your self-image or you hate it. But either way you are afraid of losing it because you believe your self-image is you, the dearest thing you possess. Those with a superiority or inferiority complex either appreciate or denigrate themselves, but in the final analysis they do not want to lose what they are.

As circumstances change, your self-image changes in spite of all your efforts to preserve it. This engenders insecurity and fear—it is like undergoing a continuous form of death, before the actual death of your body.

Because of the simple law that you are whatever you know yourself to be, the knower of Brahman (all-pervading, eternal, absolute consciousness) becomes that all-pervading, eternal consciousness. The moment you know you are inseparable from universal consciousness you become that consciousness. As your faith in universal consciousness grows, your self-image is transformed. You no longer feel you are better or worse than anyone else. You become free of all complexes, for all complexes and diversities find their rightful place in you and become an integral part of you. Their diverse and seemingly contradictory appearances enrich and beautify your unified awareness. You understand that you are not part of collective consciousness; rather, you are collective consciousness.

Changes that take place within the realm of consciousness do not affect the eternity of consciousness. For example, a forest contains ferns, shrubs, vines, animals, insects, rocks, and lichens. If we look at everything that exists in that forest individually, we will not see the forest as such, although we can’t deny the forest exists. You may feel sad when a magnificent tree is destroyed, but from the perspective of the forest, destruction is an aspect of growth. Even if the entire forest burns down, it still exists because the potential for regeneration remains. The forest as such never dies when its individual components are destroyed.

Once you identify yourself with universal consciousness, you become fearless.

Once you identify yourself with universal consciousness, you experience oneness with everything and find delight in witnessing changes taking place in the external world as well as within yourself. Your fear of destruction and death vanishes. You become fearless. You love all and reject none for you know that everyone and everything in the universe is simply an elaboration of yourself. In this state, love is your spontaneous expression, because that has become your nature.

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Inner Quest: Seeker’s Q&A