Appearances. They change. They come and go and are always different. They can be transformed/changed (with time, perspective, and/or with knowledge/facts, among other things, for example). And they are not Real. This is their nature. And, by definition, what appearances are.
According to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition, appearances/appearance can be defined in three ways:
- The act or an instance of coming into sight.
- The act or an instance of coming into public view.
- Outward aspect.
Appearance, by a forth definition, is also an illusion in which one thing seems to be something, a certain way, etc., but is not (at all, or indefinitely).
With appearances, things show up for a while and then they disappear (pass from view, fade out of existence and/or awareness), or, things are perceived to be what they are not, or, perceived in a way that is inevitable subject to change at any time based on a variety of different factors. And this applies to everything that can be seen/cognized in reality.
For instance: it is easy (if you pay attention) to see that your body changes from moment to moment (a breath in, a breath out, blood flowing, food digesting, hair changing, clothing appearing to fit you differently based on lighting, changing shadows, wind, angles, etc), and certainly from year to year (aging “well” or otherwise) and over the span of a lifetime (gradually and inevitably fading away into elemental form). Yet, your body appears to be real/concrete when it is not (matter is mostly empty space, for example, and what you think you see is mostly a mental fabrication, if you are confused by this statement).
And it is possible, with a bit of observational diligence, to see the constant fluctuations in your mind as well (thoughts coming and going in reference to an infinite variety of things to be imagined, remembered, cognized, desired, feared, and/or observed, especially when the mind is particularly “active” or disturbed–“colored” by likes, dislikes, preferences, biases, illusory beliefs, compulsions/greed, etc). But your mind, and the contents of your mind, appear to be real/true when, in most cases (if they are not absorbed in the Absolute Reality) the contents of your mind are, at best, relatively “true,” or flat out imagination.
Look even more carefully and you can observe the continual metamorphosis of your ego-sense-of-identity in relationship to your body-mind, others, and the “external” world as well (roles, “status,” etc. being the most obvious examples). But your sense-of-worldly-identity appears to be real/true/permanent when it is not.
And, if you look even more carefully at what is going on, you will see how this occurs in your perception at all times (how you “understand”/”know”/”see” reality), which you can notice by doing something as “simple” as consciously observing a “sunrise” or “sunset”…or any object within space and time, in essence…anything that is affected by light, shape, and/or angle (and, of course, the shape of your perceptions that are themselves affected by forces, influences, and objects, and what are generally referred to as the Gunas). But, like everything else, your perceptions are…you get the point (at least hopefully).
Everything observed in perceivable reality (within a fluctuating mind “colored” by kleshas) is an appearance, which is why “reality,” in the manifested sense, is generally referred to as Maya (illusion) in Indian philosophy. And living as if appearances are Real, when they are not, leads to living in a state of ignorant delusion (engaging in Karmas that are motivated by these delusions) that always leads to suffering.
The Self (the power of existence and observation itself) remains unaffected/unchanged eternally…which is why the Self is the only True Reality.
The Reality of “I am” is the only Truth (with a capital T). But, like breathing, the mind forgets its own Source/awareness and this can lead to problems when any given instrument of life and perception is not properly kept in awareness and regulated.
In distraction and confusion–and downright ignorance–humans take appearances, and the delusions that accompany them, to be Real, when their projected perceptions of “reality” (and what they look to as real) are nothing but fleeting impressions, a display that reflects their failure to correctly see something that is actually Real, flat-out make-believe, an imitation, and/or an often disturbing façade.
And, again, humans “suffer” for this. The punishment for ignorance (and ignorant perceptions and Karmas) is more ignorance (and ignorant Karmas): leading to being trapped in a vicious cycle of pain and further delusion.
Breaking The Illusion/Delusion
As a Yogi on the Eight-Limbed path, you are here to come fully into knowing/being who you Truly are (without distortion, imagination, or projection) by discerning what is Truly Real.
You are on the path of dissolving your delusions that you are a body-mind-ego so that you can come into the Truth of the Ultimate/Absolute Reality and your Pure Self.
And when you, the seer “abides in its own Nature” (Sutra 3)–attaining Kaivalya which is the entire subject of the fourth chapter of the Yoga Sutras–delusions are purified: ignorance is wiped out, and suffering comes to an end.
The Buddha, who was an Indian Yogi (wandering ascetic), most likely taught a version of this path to his students because he knew, from conscious experience, that what needs to be perfected in order to rest in one’s inherent perfection (pure I am) is not the world itself (since the “world” is first and foremost your perceived projection when looked through your–or anyone else’s–eyes, and simultaneously, a constantly changing and fluctuating multifaceted object–always striving for balance as a natural reflection of “its” version of “perfection” within tangible form, space, and time/unreality at any given moment). What needs purifying, in order to free oneself from the suffering that comes from any given body-mind-ego manifestation in limited/limiting space and time, is one’s delusional relationship with, and perception of, appearances, as real (especially when it comes to not picking up the delusions of others in the process of living life, since you have your own false perceptions to work through).
There are many schools that teach this (to one extent or another), so you have no shortage of help on your journey if you happen to be drawn to any particular methodology, teacher, or practice.
Always remember, however, that the point of this journey is not to simply study or even understand this Truth. The thing that gets you to your “goal” of Liberation is to purely reflect the Truth through being it in every aspect of your manifestation…to live it in your life.
To know, and be, your Self is to finally “get Real…”to know that appearances (which include experiences and perceptions, your body, the world, and the contents/shape of your mind, etc.) come and go and change, but you remain eternally unaffected, free and unchanged.
So, as always, just keep practicing, aligning, and moving forward. And do not get swept away, nor bothered, by fleeting and illusory appearances (nor its different manifestations and/or delusional expressions in others/the world). The more you do this, the more progress you make on your journey and the closer you get to your goal of Liberation (which supports you to obviously eventually “get to your goal” in the first place).
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