Further Human Evolution - Accessing Sheaths 4 and 5
Humanity believes that we have evolved to the pinnacle of human evolution and reached heights in civilisation on a mass level, but spiritual personalities of human history show us that there is more to be achieved. This episode is the second in a documentary movie series that divulges the secrets of human existence as weaved into religious scripture, and hidden from the masses. Its secrets, when understood, explored and experienced, become the basis for an individual’s happiness, awareness, growth and thus further evolution. Join Unity Mama in an exploration of truth, down the fundamentals of your very existence. Transcript below or watch video here:
In the last episode, we tapped into Hindu Vedic philosophy. We learned that living beings are constituted of five sheaths. Within the five sheaths rests our eternal-self, encased by the sheaths, like a scabbard encases a sword. The physical body is only the first of the five sheaths. The second is the life-force which are the forces responsible for all movement and all change, having definite systems and purposes beyond that which is commonly known. The third sheath is the mind sheath or the mental sheath which includes sensory perception and the mind. The mind constructs the ego or the false belief that we are the body and mind - a tragic misunderstanding upon which many of our destructive reactions and decisions are based. In the mental sheath, our minds are described as being in the state of Ordinary Mind. We learned that we are not the body, not the life-force nor the ordinary mind, but that these sheaths do serve as tools for that self, within the world, tools to animate and protect the body, which is a vessel for our own evolution as well as the evolution of our families, societies, and world.
It may be obvious to you that the differences between man and beast are more than just physical but today we attempt to understand what those differences are in terms of spiritual philosophy. But more significantly, you will begin to understand the extent of your own potential and you will be provided with a basic plan as to how you can evolve beyond what is recognised as the ordinary human being.
Sri Sathya Sai Baba has revealed, "Whereas other beings can at best reach out to three sheaths, man can easily go to the fourth and even beyond if he makes the effort. This is what makes man so superior.” (1)
Thus the most significant evolutionary difference between those amongst mankind that have reached the heights of human evolution and the rest of the animal kingdom is our ability to access the fourth sheath and beyond.
What is your fourth sheath then? According to Vedic philosophy, as explained by Sai Baba, the fourth sheath is known as the wisdom sheath. It is also described as the intellectual sheath, the conscience, the intelligence sheath, or the sheath of intuition. These various names give us an indication of the nature of this sheath. But of course, the word intellect as used here, does not refer to worldly intellectualism, but rather, the power of intellect that allows one to understand things deeper and more subtle than what is presented to the senses by the world.
Operating within this sheath gives human beings the ability to discriminate between right and wrong, and between true and false. In other words, it gives us discernment, which also translates to heightened intuition or the ability to pick up on and correctly interpret the messages and clues that the universe places before us for the purpose of guiding and directing us back to ourselves.
From the Holy Quran: "Behold in the heavens as well as on earth there are indeed messages for all who (are willing to) believe. And in your own nature, and in (that of) all the animals which he scatters (over the earth) there are messages for people who are endowed with inner certainty. And in the succession of the night and day, and in the means of subsistence which God sends down from the skies, giving life thereby to the earth after it had been lifeless, and in the change of the winds: (in all this) there are messages for people who use their reason.” (The Qur’an, 42:2-5)
This extract from the Quran is telling us that everything in our lives, from the obvious to the most subtle, is a series of messages to us; but that these messages can only be deciphered by those who use reason, and this is that wisdom, that intellect, that intuition, that is found in our wisdom sheath.
There can be no progress on the spiritual path until we act in line with our ability to reason correctly and apply the messages of the conscience or the wisdom sheath. It is the very starting point of our further evolution and it is our guiding light throughout the spiritual journey. It may sound tiresome to some to have to follow the dictates of the conscience, but the ability to hear its wisdom and understand how to act upon it for the benefit of oneself and our societies is vital for any progress beyond that of the ordinary mind, and truly, only when we act in line with it can we ever enjoy lasting peace. And this is one of the reasons why every major religion emphasises strong moral and ethical principles over and over again.
These guidelines from religion are the voices of the inner consciences of the saints and sages of the past. But the wisdom sheath does not only dictate what is right from wrong, it also shows us what is true from false. It helps us to change our perception away from the delusion that fouls our sight and allows us to see clearly what we are and what our world truly is about. Thus, this wisdom shows us the truth.
But when the word truth is used, in this philosophy, its definition is not merely that of honesty as applied in our limited worldly situations, rather:
"Truth is that which is true and unchanging at all times past, present, and future.” Sathya Sai Baba (2)
And this truth is what we attempt to see by means of the wisdom sheath. Through it, we try to perceive and thus experience what is eternal - even within this transient world.
And thus, the greatest use of the wisdom sheath is that it allows us to begin to understand our own true, eternal nature, causing us to think and act in line with this nature and therefore, gradually, coming into experiencing that nature - experiencing who we truly are.
Sai Baba explains that it is in the wisdom sheath that we begin to go beyond the ordinary mind, to reach what is referred to as Super-Mind, which as the name suggests, is superior to the ordinary mind. This Super-Mind can also be described as transcendental consciousness. Therefore, the increasing of spiritual wisdom is an evolution in consciousness, also known as awareness.
An Islamic, or Arabic word for Wisdom is 'hikma'. The eminent Islamic philosopher, known as Mulla Sadra, of the 17th century, spoke of a wisdom that is transcendental in nature. Transcendental is that which is beyond what we know as the ordinary world and its ordinary physical laws. He termed the body of wisdom that he collected through his methods of logical reasoning, spiritual inspiration, and deep meditation on scripture, as, 'Transcendent Theosophy'. Mulla Sadra described 'hikma', meaning wisdom, as "coming to know the essence of beings as they really are."
Spiritual Wisdom was a pronounced concept of Christian theology at the beginnings of the religion’s growth. Early Christian traditions emphasised what was referred to as "Divine Wisdom", or 'Hagia Sophia' in Ancient Greek, with Sophia translating to Wisdom. The Hagia Sophia Church in Istanbul Turkey was built in the year 537, as an imposing reminder of the holiness of this aspect of Divinity - wisdom, an aspect critical to our individual spiritual growth. It was then the world’s largest interior space and remained the largest cathedral for nearly a thousand years. This sacred site continues the legacy of prayerful worship, by functioning today as a mosque.
So far, we have found that strengthening the wisdom sheath is the first step in the further spiritual evolution of humanity. But how do we strengthen this sheath? To grow spiritual wisdom, one needs to reduce the opposite of wisdom, which is ignorance or delusion - specifically, the ignorance that veils our inner consciousness. And one way ignorance can be reversed is by knowledge.
But not just any knowledge because this is not just any ignorance. The ignorance that veils our inner consciousness is the ignorance of the truth of ourselves and all else, and this ignorance must be off-set by the knowledge of our true Selves, and all else.
Sri Krishna, an Avatar of some 5000 years past, refers to this knowledge as Transcendental knowledge. He said, "In this world, there is nothing so sublime and pure as transcendental knowledge. Such knowledge is the mature fruit of all mysticism." Sri Krishna (Bhagavad Gita As It Is, 4:38)
When you study the world's religions, you see evidence of this knowledge having been received by those that have themselves evolved or accessed their higher consciousness. Throughout history and throughout the worlds societies, we see chinks in the walls that hide the knowledge from our view, and the light that comes through is passed around, but not always understood, and sometimes not passed very far - but it is there. And amongst those chinks in the wall of illusion and ignorance stand those who have fully understood and who have come into complete wisdom, and it is these rare and treasured souls that we must turn to for inspiration on our inner path.
Besides these beacons of light, God Himself or His angels, have come down to earth or communicated with us from time to time through Human history, as is recorded in the world's religions. And this was done to catalyse our growth by endowing us with this higher knowledge and a faith in and love for that higher, unifying power known as God so that we can derive from Him contentment and happiness.
Thus, words and works of knowledge can help to counter the ignorance that dims the consciousness within - helping to destroy the misconceptions about ourselves, our world, and God, and in so doing, reveal the most beautiful truths. Without the use of knowledge, the inner conscience is easily drowned out by the cacophony of now dominating thoughts created by the ego and senses. And sadly, the beautiful truths are then kept away from our perception longer than need be.
Sri Krishna said to Arjuna, "Even if you are considered to be the most sinful of all sinners, when you are situated in the boat of transcendental knowledge you will be able to cross over the ocean of miseries. As a blazing fire turns firewood to ashes, O Arjuna, so does the fire of knowledge burn to ashes all reactions to material activities." (Bhagavad Gita As It Is, 4:37)
Such is the power of the knowledge of the truth of ourselves and all else, and the wisdom that comes with it; that it can destroy even the results of past actions, that we once thought we were bound to forever. But alas, this knowledge has been hidden in parables and analogies for thousands of years, and it is only when coupled with wisdom that its true meanings can be deciphered and understood.
Solomon’s ‘Book of Proverbs’, begins with a tribute to the wisdom needed to, "To understand a proverb and an enigma, The words of the wise and their riddles.” (Holy Bible, NKJV, The Book of Proverbs, 1:6, NKJV)
So wisdom is needed to interpret knowledge, while knowledge is needed for the development of wisdom. Is this a dilemma? No, it isn’t. It only means that a symbiotic relationship exists between wisdom and knowledge. And thus, there is certainly a place for logic and reasoning in spirituality, in fact - it is the very starting point of our growth, and we must allow ourselves to engage in this necessary self-enquiry for the sake of our evolution.
Jesus was asked by his disciples why He speaks to the crowds in parables, which are often cryptic analogies. Jesus only shared the meaning of these parables with His disciples and not with the crowds. Jesus explained: "For whoever has understanding, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have understanding, even what he has will be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand." (Matthew 13:12-13 NKJV)
In this Jesus speaks of the consequences of placing knowledge of the Kingdom of Heaven or transcendental knowledge, in the hands of those that are not ready to understand it; for by them misinterpreting that knowledge, they would lose even what sense they possessed to begin with because these false interpretations could cause more harm than good, more tragedy than relief, more sadness than joy. Jesus understood this danger.
He, therefore, used parables as a sort of assessment criteria, which allows only those with wisdom into the sanctums of its truths.
Mankind loves to cling to beliefs that support and promote what one already believes, and in the case of the ordinary person, this is likely to be beliefs that speak to the ego and a sense of separation. And we see evidence of this, as we see religious philosophy being used as a tool for hatred and division - due to this misinterpretation that serves the ego instead of God and the truth.
It is wisdom that can guard us against such false interpretations of knowledge and it is only then that we will be deemed fit to fully receive that knowledge and be led through the gateway into the sanctum of truth.
Jesus then went on to explain the Parable of the Sower in which he describes knowledge being given, much like a sower scatters seeds. Just as the success of the seeds relies on the various conditions of soil in which they fall, knowledge is assimilated differently by various people because of the differences in their condition of understanding. He ends the explanation with, " But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty." (Matthew 13:23 NKJV)
Jesus' parables of the Wise and Foolish Virgins and The Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:1-30) is also a description of how wisdom and understanding are required for one’s entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven and that understanding is such a thing that can grow like an investment.
Apart from knowledge, there is one other powerful tool needed for the evolution of mankind, that will be used in this philosophy, and that is that ultimate tool - focus on God. It is God that is the owner and creator of all true knowledge and wisdom; it is He that can guide us to the true knowledge and He can also automatically grant us true wisdom if we so earn His grace. But even in the path of focus on God, here again, a symbiotic relationship has to exist - this time between focus on God and knowledge, because without knowledge of God, how can we know that we are focusing on the right idea of what God truly is. Surely, focusing on God in the image of our own ego, or a false imagining of what He is like, is not worshiping God at all. What evolution can that bring us, but only a reinforcement of our own false ideas causing us to stagnate. And thus, knowledge must be used to give us an understanding of what God really is, and this coupled with a focus on God are dual weapons in the growth of the wisdom sheath. These are the two most powerful weapons for our own true evolution and ultimate emancipation.
Now we come to the final and fifth sheath of our structure, which is the sheath that comes closest to the true self. This final sheath is known as the bliss sheath, and as its name denotes, the experience of Divine bliss is characteristic of this sheath. Bliss, unlike mere worldly happiness, is peaceful in nature, and is independent of worldly stimulation or prompting, and thus can be tapped into just by an evolution in consciousness. This sheath is made up of our sub-conscious mind, or Chitta in Sanskrit, and what is known as "Pragna" meaning, 'constant integrated awareness' of God, as what He truly is, and therefore, it is the constant awareness of truth. "Prajna is the state of unchanging and permanent bliss described by the Upanishads’, the body of Hindu Vedic philosophy. (7)
In the bliss sheath, Sai Baba speaks of two further evolutions of mind: the first being the higher mind. The higher mind breaks the bondage of body consciousness and proceeds to thought consciousness. "Body consciousness is limited to the physical level, whereas thought consciousness has no such limits and can travel up to any distance. That is why thought consciousness is termed higher mind. Higher mind transcends the five elements." Sathya Sai Baba (3)
Breaking the barriers imposed by our identification with a body releases us to this higher mind - this thought mind, and this thought mind, Sai Baba says, is achieved through sincere, and unconditional love. This love is what breaks the barriers of perceived forms. This love is the basis of the conscience. But as you will perceive, as the knowledge of the truth is revealed, it is the basis of the entire creation. When you experience a feeling of oneness with the whole of creation, you will have cut a path for yourself to reach the higher mind.
From here, our evolution continues even within the bliss sheath to reach a level known as illumination mind, and this occurs when our thoughts are now redirected back to the source of it all. This state of mind, or consciousness, is achieved by having full control over our worldly thoughts.
And so, we proceed, from super-mind, in the wisdom sheath which gives us the discernment to know which thoughts we are meant to be rid of or to keep, and then to the higher mind where we propagate loving and unifying thoughts, which evolves us further still to illumination mind, where our thoughts are now completely under control.
"Illumination mind will go around the world. It has no specific name and form. It has no physical nature. Illumination mind has nothing to do with lust, greed, anger, and avarice. Through illumination mind, we begin to travel from the point of thoughts." Sathya Sai Baba (4) Does this mean out-of-body travel? I suppose we’ll know for sure when we reach this state. But what we do know, from Sai Baba's teachings, is that this is a state of equanimity, which, in spiritual parlance, is known as samadhi. This state of mind results in changes in the body too, including increased current within the body, as was experienced by the sages of yore. "The moment it (the body) comes close to illumination mind, it gets transformed.” Sathya Sai Baba (4). Thus, while our further evolution is centred around a progression in consciousness, or levels of mind, it does not exclude positive knock-on effects in the physical body.
But there is more, that is even beyond these states of mind. I have said that our true, eternal selves is what lies beyond the five sheaths and, although the bliss sheath is closest to the true self, it is not it itself. The bliss sheath is merely a reflection of the true self, like the moon reflects the light of the sun, and although we can derive bliss from the bliss sheath, it is not the full extent of what we could have. When we get to experience the true self, says Sai Baba, it is then that we come into Total bliss - an experience and a joy that is said to eclipse all others by far! In it, we experience that stage of mind known as over-mind. "When once one reaches this state of over-mind, we reach that state of totality" (5)
This is also known as our Super-causal Body. "The Super-causal Body which is also known as the Overmind is self-resplendent, self-luminous, and self-radiant.” Sathya Sai Baba (6)
This means that the wonderful attributes of the true self are dependent only on the existence of that self, and not on anything outside of it - not any deed, nor any purchase, not dependent on the love of another, descendants, possessions, food, or comfort, but dependent completely on being one’s true self.
“This is a state of complete ineffable Bliss in which the Universal Consciousness alone is experienced. It is beyond description." Sathya Sai Baba (7)
And this is why we need to know who we truly are and why we need to strive to experience that truth.
From what I understand of it, through Sai Baba's discourses Super Mind to Over Mind is a progression in the development of love, a progression in the development of the sense of unity, and a progression in the understanding and experience of who we really are. From these, we also benefit from the progression in our Divine bliss which is the ultimate goal of life.
In the mystic body of religious practices within Islam, known as Sufism, there is also a philosophy that describes the progression of human consciousness. In the Sufi philosophy, reference is made to Lataif, directly translated to subtleties, but meaning subtle levels within a human being - their awakening leading to progressive levels of consciousness which are only directly experienced by human beings that have undergone spiritual evolution.
It was Mulla Sadra that said,
"Know that the human is the most noble of beings; but he was at the beginning of his generation in the very limits of baseness and imperfection that arise out of the nature of the elements and components (that formed him) like all other species of animals… except that he had in his essence a faculty of progression to the very limit of perfection and progress to the lights of the transcendent Origin and the active Sustainer, stripped of evil and calamity, becoming one of the inhabitants of the world of light, bestowed with the bounty of the afterlife and with bliss; it does not behove divine providence to allow him (the human) to wallow in the grazing grounds of the passions like insects and worms... For it is known that everything has a perfection that is specific to it, for which it was created, and an act that completes it that is appropriate (to it)” Mulla Sadra, I:2-3 (8)
Within Buddhist philosophy is what is known as the three practices. At face value, these three practices may be misinterpreted to be commonplace, but this Buddhist philosophy is nothing short of a pointer to achieving the climax of evolution as the Buddha did. These practices, in essence, mirror the progress of human consciousness described here. The first of these three practices is Sila, meaning moral virtues, which reminds us of the functioning of the wisdom sheath, our first stepping stone in the progressive process. Next comes Samadhi, which is the state achieved in the bliss sheath, in the illumination mind - a state of equanimity, achieved when the thoughts come fully under our control. The next practice is Prajna, which is the state of constant integrated awareness of truth which was also described as an attribute of the bliss sheath. Therefore, the three practices of Buddhism, describe aspects of the fourth and fifth sheaths of Hindu Vedic philosophy.
Likewise, Jesus harped upon living by the conscience in His gospel. "For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:20 NKJV).
"Only in an individual who is morally strong does the human personality find its best expression. Jesus was one such personality who manifested the perfection man is capable of; he was an example of the highest expression of human excellence. The term personality can be applied only to one who manifests the hidden, unmanifested Divinity within him by his conduct. Mere human form does not make one a human personality. It is the behaviour that counts. Only those who lead well-regulated lives can be regarded as real human beings manifesting their true Divine nature.” Sathya Sai Baba (9)
Jesus hailed love for God and for all others as the most important commandments given to mankind and this attribute of unconditional love is what is needed for the entry into the Higher mind of the Bliss sheath.
Jesus' focus on, and faith in God, is characteristic of what is expected in the illumination mind, when our thoughts must go back to the source - which is God. The goal of spiritual evolution is described by Jesus as the Kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven. Its marvels, we will only fully understand, when we reach to its heights.
Looking at Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, and Christianity, we can assume that this system of human evolution is a part of many, if not all religions, although described in various ways. But this path also exists independently of any religion because it is independent of any constructs and language that attempts to confine within a set of parameters and words, this amazing phenomenon, that is the pinnacle of human evolution.
But what is clear from all these philosophies is that Happiness is a function of our inner being and not a function of the external world. The bliss sheath derives its light of happiness from the glow of the true self, just as the moon derives its light from the sun. In fact, all of the five sheaths take their power and intelligence from the true self. It is the self that animates all of this - without the true Self, the five sheaths would be inanimate. It is this true Self that we are and it is in experiencing this true self that we come into total bliss.
In the next episode, I will begin to reveal that Transcendental knowledge beginning with the answer to the question, “What lies within the five sheaths as the true self?”
Humanity rightly applauds spiritual evolution above all, with our societies having revolved around the spiritual giants of history. Recognising spiritual progress is justified - it is a nod to our next step of evolution, but more than just recognition, we need to enquire what the nature of those who attained this evolution was and ourselves turn towards the path of the greats.
Created by Natasha Subbiah
Transcribed by Wesley Subbiah
Edited by Jay Perumal
Next Episode: Our True Identity as Hidden into Religious Scripture.
1 - Sathya Sai Baba discourse, ‘God is the only True Friend.’, 20 May 2000, Summer Course 2000, Brindavan, as recorded in Summer Showers 2000 - available on Sai Speaks app
2 - Sathya Sai Baba discourse, 19, ‘Man Mind and the Cosmos,’ 21 May 1993, Summer Course 1993, Brindavan, Sri Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol 26 (1993) - available on Sai Speaks app
3 - Sathya Sai Baba discourse, ’19. God incarnates to Serve Mankind’, delivered on 20 November 2000, inaugural discourse of the 7th world conference of Sri Sathya Sai Seva organisations, Prashanti Nilayam, as recorded in Sri Sathya Sai Speaks, Volume 33(2000). - available on Sai Speaks app
4 - From the audio of the Sathya Sai Baba discourse, available on Sai Speaks app, 19. God incarnates to serve mankind, 20 November 2000, Inaugural Discourse of 7th World Conference
5 - Sathya Sai Baba discourse available on Sai Speaks app: 19. God incarnates to serve mankind, 20 November 2000, inaugural discourse of 7th World Wonference, Sri Sathya Sai Speaks vol 33
6 - Sathya Sai Baba discourse, available on Sai Speaks app: 22. From the mind to the Overmind, 24 May 1993, Summer course 1993, Brindavan, Sri Sathya Sai Speaks , Vol 26, (1993)
7 - Sathya Sai Baba discourse, available on Sai Speaks app: Pranavopaasana, 01 October 1987, Dasara, Vijayadasami, Prasanthi Nilayam, Sri Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol 20 (1987)
8 - Mulla Sadra 1987, I:2-3, accessed from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/mulla-sadra/#Wor on 27 July 2022)
9 - Be like Jesus, The Good news of Jesus in the words of Sri Sathya Sai Baba, Chapter 9, Page 61
Happiness Through Spirituality
When you need to make sense of your world and how you fit into it, when your happiness becomes your priority, Unity Mama can assist you with a philosophy that stitches together the pieces of the puzzle, from several major religions of our world - to map the highest path to the highest goal - happiness!