Realizing Being

Realizing Being

Dennis Bradford

389 Posts



Realizing Being is the ultimate value. Nothing is more important. [Click here for the important Being / Becoming distinction.]

It has astounded me for half a century that the wise have been stating this great truth in various ways at least since the beginning of the Axial Age [click here for more on the Axial Age]. In my extreme youth I was used to thinking in terms of how much better our lives are than the lives of our ancestors were. Not!

To think that way is to think only about beings while ignoring Being, only about forms while ignoring the Formless, only about the temporal while ignoring the eternal.

Isn’t that, though, exactly what we still tend to do in our daily lives? We become so preoccupied with forms that we forget the Formless. We become so preoccupied with changing forms that we forget the changeless. We become so preoccupied with time that we forget the eternal.

We make the critical mistake of attending to self while failing to attend to Self. That mistake makes realizing Being impossible.

“[T]he ego and the Self dwell in the same body.” [Mundaka Upanishad. All translations in this post are by E. Easwaram.] The Self dwells in every self; Being dwells in every being. Ignoring that truth or failing to realize it don’t make it false.

The Upanishads are the oldest spiritual literature in human history.

(Just as there is a difference between mere fiction and literature, so there is a difference between spiritual writing and spiritual literature. Fiction and spiritual writings come from the self, whereas [any kind of] literature comes from the Self.)

The Upanishads repeatedly tell us that “the supreme goal of life” is realizing Self, realizing Being. Again, realizing Being is the ultimate value.

“The Self is one, though it appears to be many.” [Chandogya Upanishad.] Being is one, though beings are many. Let go of the many to realize the One.

Language, which is restricted to Becoming, is inadequate for talking about Being. All spiritual talk can do is to provide words as signposts that should not be mistaken for what they point towards. A finger pointing at the moon is not the moon.

“As long as we think we are the ego, / We feel attached and fall into sorrow.” [Mundaka Upanishad.] It is only when we become detached from ego that we identify with Being and abiding joy replaces perpetual sorrow. This is The Way of Realizing Being. “The illumined sage is lost in the Self.”

“The wisdom sheath is made of detachment.” [Taittiriya Upanishad.] How do we detach from self or ego? How do we become detached enough to become wise? How is realizing Being possible?


The unitive Self is revealed through complete stillness. It is not a matter of doing or achieving something; it is not a matter of having or gaining something. It is a matter of dropping all egoic attachments, of fully accepting reality just as it is in the present moment, of letting go of all separation.

No meditation, no detachment.  No detachment, no wisdom.

Being foolish is the only alternative to being wise.

Is realizing Being really possible in the midst of beings? Is realizing Formlessness really possible in the midst of forms? Is realizing Self really possible in the midst of selves?

If not now, when? If not here, where?

Even if it’s true that “The Self is the source of abiding joy,” this cannot be known by the thinking mind, by “the mere scholar who knows not the Self.” [Taittiriya Upanisahd.]

If so, realizing Being is not anti-intellectual but nonintellectual. After all, if we didn’t have the thought that there is Being to be realized, why would we meditate and do what is required? It’s just that doing what is required is not a conceptual task. Realizing Being is going “beyond the various sheaths of being / To realize the unity of life.” [Taittiriya Upanishad.]

Being is life. The opposite of death isn’t life; it is birth. Why? Life has no opposite.

I am life. I am Being.

So are you.

If you have not yet realized that, all fear of death and dying will evaporate as the goal of life is fulfilled.

Of course, never take my word for anything. I am nobody. Always assume that I have no idea what I’m talking about.

On the other hand, neither should you rely on the words of anyone foolish enough not to meditate. You might not want to ignore the single message that all sages have been communicating for the last three thousand years, and you might want to ignore what anyone who does not meditate says about what is of ultimate importance.

Trust yourself and find out for yourself.

There is nothing more important to be doing.

2 thoughts on “Realizing Being

  1. J DeBolt

    You are the most singular person I have ever been aware of.
    Do you ever think about neolithic cave paintings? Like at Lascaux? Those guys must have had so much fun. Camping 24/7, and saying anything that came into your head. And really, really believing that there was a system, somehow, and maybe you could make it work for you.
    I think you want to be everyone\\\’s friend.

    23/09/2011 at 9:27 pm
  2. Dennis Bradford, Ph.D.

    You are on to something: as long as they were in a reasonably rich environment, researchers today think that our prehistoric ancestors had more leisure time than most of us today. Your mentioning prehistoric art reminded me of my friend John, who died last week. Like me, he was an original, a real character. Though he never completed college, he did work for a while as a substitute teacher. He enjoyed doing calculus problems for fun in his leisure time. However, like some other bright but largely self-taught people I’ve known, he had some huge gaps in his understanding of the world. For example, he neither understood nor believed in evolution. I once asked him about cave paintings from our uncivilized ancestors. He explained them as follows: Then, as now, there were crazy people. What they did with them in those days was to lock them into caves. Sometimes they’d look out cave windows and see animals that they then painted in child-like fashion on the walls of the caves!

    24/09/2011 at 9:13 am

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