One unbounded ocean of consciousness

Dr. Tony Nader


The Beginning

“The purpose of life is the expansion of happiness,” he said, before adding, “Life is bliss and suffering is not necessary.”

The civil war raging around me, the suffering I met in the emergency room, the conflicts between people fighting or even killing each other for ideas, beliefs, political and economic convictions, and myriad other things spoke against what he was saying. Yet, he radiated through the television screen something genuine and credible. His demeanor and his speech were inspiring. I felt drawn to watch and listen more.

During 11 years at a French Jesuit school in my primary and secondary education, I had developed keen interest in theology and philosophy. Pleasure, joy, suffering, remorse, and guilt were dominant topics of discussion. Innately, no one desires to suffer. At every level of wealth and education, in every culture and tradition, across all races, gender, and belief, throughout time people want more happiness, more love, more security, more pleasing sounds to hear, more tasty food to eat, more power, more money, more beauty and charm. Whatever their achievements however, most people end up one day or another not fully content with what they do have. Is it greed or a natural force of evolution that pushes us toward more and more fulfillment? Our discriminating intellect can certainly take us toward higher values, the spiritual, and the divine. We can surpass our basic instincts and rise above pain and suffering, even embrace sacrifice for a higher good, but we certainly prefer that suffering would never be necessary.

In the first year of my premedical studies at the American University in Beirut, a terrible and devastating civil war broke out between Muslims and Christians. Various ideological, political, racial, and economic underpinnings were at play. It lasted 15 years with an estimated 120,000 fatalities and untold suffering in this small country of less than 4 million inhabitants. I had decided to study medicine to alleviate suffering, but also hoping to uncover through science the secrets of how the human mind and body function to guide people’s behavior.

“Life is bliss” was far from being my understanding and experience on all individual, national, and international levels.

Fullness, wholeness, unperturbed peace, unconditional love, unbounded compassion, unfailing fairness, and unwavering perfection seemed to be ideals that did not belong to our normal human lot. Are those ideals only reserved for the afterlife in some heavenly sphere? There are rare individuals who after great trials and tribulations have had fleeting moments or a glimpse of wholeness and bliss. A few, after experiencing a spiritual rapture, spent the rest of their lives in seclusion as a recluse seeking divine communion. Some went on to become saints within various religions and belief systems.

And here was someone on a TV show almost normalizing in my eyes the gigantic, rare achievements I had dreamed of but never felt were in my reach. He was not only saying that everyone can experience and live these ideals, but that it was easy, natural, and even the birth right of everyone. A reclusive life was not necessary. I did not have to abandon my beliefs or my devotion to God in the way I knew him. I could still pursue my passion for knowledge, science and medicine in my desire to live a worthy life and make a difference where I could. No sacrifice, no suffering, no pain was necessary.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the speaker I saw on television, was an Indian physicist, who became a monk in the Himalayas under the tutelage of the most revered representative and highest authority on Veda and the Vedic Tradition- the ancient knowledge from where yoga, meditation, Ayurveda and many other disciplines come- Shankaracharya Brahmananda Saraswati. Maharishi spoke about his teacher with great devotion and respect calling him ‘Guru Dev’, which means divine teacher. The more I looked at Maharishi the more I felt intrigued. He spoke about consciousness in ways I never heard before- Pure consciousness, inner deep consciousness, and higher states of consciousness. He said, “Pure consciousness is an infinite reservoir of creativity and intelligence” and “is the ultimate unified level of being which is the true self of everything and everyone.”

What I knew about consciousness was three major states: sleep, dream, and waking as well as “altered states” that people have with drugs, injury, or disease. He was certainly not talking about drug induced hallucinations, self-suggestion, or a hypnotic trance. Maharishi described his method of experiencing and living pure consciousness as a natural, simple, and do-it-yourself mental technique that settles all activity of the mind giving very deep rest while one remains awake and alert. He said that you transcend all activity of the mind and go deep within your inner self. This is where you experience peace, happiness, and freedom from limitations.

In various talks I heard later, there were reports from successful leaders in many fields describing their experience of transcending and its effects in creating balance in mind, body, and behavior. Several world-famous celebrities gave testimonials describing the many ways it improved their lives. Consciousness is surely central to our life since all we plan, think, feel, and experience happens in our awareness—our consciousness. I never imagined, however, that without any medicines or drugs, consciousness could be enlivened or transformed, or the development of consciousness itself could improve the human mind, body and behavior. What was the nature of consciousness and how could it lead to such results? How was it possible to be conscious without any thoughts?

As a doctoral student at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) , Robert Keith Wallace had at the time described in his peer-reviewed published research and in his PhD thesis, a fourth major state of consciousness different from sleep, dream and waking. This fourth state was characterized by physiological, electro-encephalographic, and mental changes different from those of sleep, dream, and waking. Wallace described it as a state of ‘restful awareness’ or ‘hypometabolic wakefulness.’ He and others found this union of deep rest and alertness, obtained through the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique as taught by Maharishi, had long-term benefits. Some of those included: reduction of biological aging, reduction in hospital admissions, normalization of blood pressure, decreased anxiety and marked reduction in mental and physical stress with improved overall health outcomes.

A few months before the TV encounter with Maharishi, I read an article describing the discovery by physicists Weinberg, Glashow and Salam in 1968 of a level of nature that shows how apparently different forces such as electricity, magnetism, and the force responsible for radioactive decay are, in reality, unified at their basis. The article stated that physicists now suggest that all we observe on the surface level of manifestation seems to come from one unified field. All objects, minerals, organ

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