14. “world of appearances”

…although the spiritual world is within us, it is also outside us. Just as it was enough to learn within ourselves in order to discover this world, so it is enough to learn how to outside ourselves in order to perceive the spiritual world behind the world of appearances.

– Pierre Hadot: ‘Plotinus Or the Simplicity of Vision’, 1963

Actions with attachments bind us to the world of appearances; to the continual doing of more actions. But there is another way of performing action, and this is without desire and without fear. The doer of the non-attached actions is the most conscientious of men. Freed from desire and fear, he offers everything he does as a sacrament of devotion to his duty (surrenders all his actions to the Lord). All work becomes equally and vitally important. It is only toward the results of work – success or failure, praise or blame – that he remains indifferent. When action is done in this spirit, Krishna teaches, it will lead to the knowledge of what is behind action, behind all life; the ultimate Reality. And, with the growth of this knowledge, the need for further action will gradually fall away from us. We shall realize our true nature, which is God, sat-chit-ananda.

– Bhagavad Gita: ‘Yoga of the Despondency of Arjuna’

Thus also, on account of the existence of the former (qualities), (admitted) owing to reference and so on, there is absence of contradiction, (as) Bâdarâyana (thinks). Thus also, i.e. although it be admitted that intelligence only constitutes the true nature of the Self, also the former nature, i.e. lordly power like that of Brahman, which is intimated by reference and the rest, is – with a view to the world of appearances – not rejected; and hence there is no contradiction. This is the opinion of the teacher Bâdarâyana.

– The Vedanta Sutras of Bâdarâyana, Commentary by Sankara, tr. by George Thibaut, 1896


15. “sense attractions”

The downward spiral to one’s ruin consists of the following process: Brooding on (or merely thinking about) worldly attractions develops attachments to them. From attachments to sense objects come selfish desires. Thwarted desires cause anger to erupt. From anger arises delusion. This causes confusion of the mind and makes one forget the lessons of experience. Forgotten lessons of experience cloud the reason, which results in loss of discrimination (between Truth and non-Truth, Real and not-Real). Finally, losing the faculty of discrimination makes one veer from life’s only purpose, achieving union with the Divinity within. Then, unfortunately, one’s life itself is wasted. But when you can move about in a world that surrounds you with sense attractions, and yet be free of either attachment or aversion to them, tranquility comes and sits in your heart – and you are absorbed in the peace and wisdom of the Self within. Serenity, Arjuna, is the point at which all sorrow ends!

– Bhagavad Gita: ‘The Path of Knowledge’

If one sits motionless but with one’s mind ever thinking of sense attractions, that too is engaging in action. If you think that merely being motionless is being actionless, you are being a hypocrite and deluding yourself.

– Bhagavad Gita: ‘The Path of Action’

54. “the plane of theory”

Hence, the Will by itself is manifestation of the Essence and other existents have been created through its means. We don’t however intend to give here the proof of this sublime matter. The devotee who understands this matter on the plane of theory and metaphysical proof, knows that his own being, as well as his worship, knowledge, will, heart, the actions of his heart, and his inward and outward being all of them are present before His Sanctity or, rather, they are presence itself. Should the pen of his intellect inscribe this truth on the tablet of his heart and should the heart attain conviction in this certain, axiomatic premise by the means of theoretical and practical exercises, he will obtain attention of the heart to the revelations on the plane of faith.

– Imam al-Nawawi: ‘Forty Hadith, An Exposition – Twenty-Seventh Hadith: Prayer And Concentration, Attention To The Worshipped One’

My internal contradictions were resolving themselves out, but still only on the plane of theory, not of practice: not for lack of good-will, but  because I was still completely fettered by my sins and my attachments.

– Thomas Merton: ‘The Seven Storey Mountain’, 1948