In our present stage the body and the mind have impinged themselves so hard upon our Spirit that they seem to have squeezed it out of existence. So if you are asked, Don’t you think you are the immortal Spirit?’ you become very thoughtful at least you try to look thoughtful, to become thoughtful is a big job and you say, I don’t feel any kind of Spirit. Body I can feel and also a little of the mind. Spirit? No. Well, how can you feel it? It has been squeezed out. You are in such an awful state under the pressure of the body and the mind that it is very difficult for you to think rightly. Meditation, when it has developed, when it has become established within you, pushes this body away from your being. You feel as though the walls of the room have at last moved back and are now standing in the right position; you feel separate from the walls and not so pressed by them just exactly like that, you feel the body has moved away.
That is not the last word, of course, but there comes a definite experience like this. And such a state is always accompanied by a change in the mind; I cannot have an ordinary mind and at the same time feel the body has gone from me and is not really imposing itself upon me. Our thought determines what the body does to us and by the same token, what the outside world does to us. Only when your mind has become free from the domination of the sense world of which the body and the outside world are important elements will you begin to feel that the body has released you; you have become free from its domination.
I remember long ago I read a novel by Victor Hugo in which a man who, because he stole a loaf of bread, was imprisoned for many years, and after he came out he was like a brute. Then through the influence of a Catholic bishop, he became a changed man. Many years later, some bandits got hold of him and in order to make him confess something put some irons in a brazier and threatened to burn his body. And he said to them, Oh, you want to frighten me?’ Then he took one of those red-hot irons and put it on his flesh without flinching in the slightest. That is a true-to-life story. You see, this man, under the influence of the bishop, had become so transformed that he had become exceedingly unselfish; he never sought anything for himself. And because of his own suffering in the prison and afterwards, he felt that he should try to help others; he had no desire for his own happiness. His self was gone to a great extent; so what difference did it make to him if somebody burned his body? He would not cry out in horror or in agony. Literally it happens so. If I do not want any pleasures of this body, whatever may happen to it will not make me restless. Anything may happen to the body; I shall remain calm, because I am really separate from it. When I want this body, want to enjoy through it, I become mixed up with it. So you see, this change must necessarily take place in the mind: our mind should give up the things of this world.
Now, if you look at it from another point of view, where do you think this ultimate Reality is? Is it somewhere outside of you? There is nothing outside of you. Do you know that? Of course, if you have not thought about this fact or experienced it, you won’t recognize it. There is nothing outside of you. Everything is in consciousness. If you say, Why, there is the San Francisco Bay, there are the mountains, here is the city; all those things are outside of me!’ But where do you perceive them? You perceive them in your consciousness. What is perceiving? To perceive is to be conscious of, isn’t it? When you say, I perceive this, you mean, I am conscious of it. Can you think of any perception without consciousness? Of course, we have been fooling ourselves, stupid that we are, in trying to explain how we perceive the outside world, forgetting all the time that there is no such animal as the outside world. There is no such thing at all, except as a convention, a strong convention, which we cannot shake off. Actually, everything is in our consciousness. There is a wonderful philosophical poem by the great Shankara, in the very first verse of which he writes, visvam darpana-drsyamdna-nagaritulyam nijantargatam3 this universe is within me. How? Just as we see a city reflected in a mirror within our own room and forget it is really a reflected image and think it is outside. Actually speaking, nijantargatam the universe is included within me, because it is really projected by my own consciousness. But you would not appreciate this idea or be able to test it, unless the sense that you are the body has gone from you.