There are always a few who are not content to spend their lives indoors. Simply knowing there is something unknown beyond their reach makes them acutely restless. They have to see what lies outside – if only, as Mallory said of Everest, “because it’s there”.
This is true of adventurers of every kind, but especially of those who seek to explore not mountains or jungles but consciousness itself: whose real drive, we might say, is not so much to know the unknown as to know the knower.
The earliest books we know today that contain the experiences of these explorers of consciousness are the Upanishads, the Dhammapada and the Bhagavad Gita. Eknath Easwaran has delivered a terrific job in translating all three books for Western readers, not only translating, but also adding brief introductions to every chapter of the books.
The Upanishads are […] so varied that we feel some unknown collectors must have tossed into a jumble all the photos, postcards and letters from this world that they could find, without any regard for source or circumstance. […] they form a kind of ecstatic slideshow – snapshots of towering peaks of consciousness taken at various times by different observers.
The Dhammapada is a collection [of] sayings of the Buddha. If the Upanishads are like slides, the Dhammapada seems more like a field guide. [The author] urges us that it is our destiny as human beings to make this journey [of consciousness] ourselves. Everything else is secondary.
The Bhagavad Gita gives us a map and guidebook. It gives a systematic overview of the territory, shows various approaches to the summit with their benefits and pitfalls, offers recommendations, tells us what to pack and what to leave behind. It asks and answers the questions that you or I might ask – questions not about philosophy or mysticism, but about how to life effectively in a world of challenge and change.
The Upanishads, Dhammapada and Bhagavad Gita insist that the wider world of consciousness is our native land. We are meant to explore, to seek, to push the limits of our potential as human beings. The world of the senses is just a base camp: we are meant to be as much at home in consciousness as in the world of physical reality.
Do you take time to explore the world of consciousness?