It is needless to say that Man is the product of the tangible gross body, and the intangible thoughts, intellect, emotions, ideas, dreams, memories, and other such non-physical attributes. Hence mathematically, Man can be expressed in the following equation:
Man = X + iY, where X and Y are n-dimensional matrices.
Again, going back to the complex plane, Man can be represented graphically by the shaded portion in the figure shown below:
This shaded portion is constantly changing and dynamic, since it represents the transient nature of Man and is dependent on attributes most of which are transitory. So how is the individual Man's ascension to Godhood represented here? The arrows converging to zero aptly demonstrates this Final Mergence.
The pulsing plasma of Man, through his personal spiritual struggles, finally shrinks to the Nothingness. He becomes That. He becomes Null.
Though book-learning, the ageless wisdom of the Vedas, and the priceless tutelage of one's self realized guru, serve only as pointers to this Infinite Nothingness, the final and most important leg of the journey is a solitary one. A pre-requisite before embarking on this final phase seem to be a difficult period of unlearning, where one begins the tedious process of "emptying" oneself of all the egos, accumulated knowledge and experience had bestowed on him. Such knowledge becomes only an "extra baggage" that would most certainly hinder the progress of this Final Journey. That is probably why most of the unparalleled merged Masters were people with little or no education. They were neither bound by the fettered rut of education, nor did they have the cumbersome weight of accumulated knowledge to impede their progress. Yet, here is the paradox, their knowledge was of the highest order! That elemental knowledge by knowing which all other knowledge just withered away! That elemental knowledge, which encompassed all other knowledge complexities of "window perspectives"! That elemental knowledge that was That without second!
This final journey should be undertaken only by those who are ready and well prepared for it, since it involves great personal sacrifice. Such platitudes as the Karma Marga, duties of Man to his family, society, nation and humanity, good deeds etc. form only a peripheral, foundation building exercise. That is probably why the proselytizing "popular religions" of the world have the truism of altruism as their core concept. After all, the pupils are most at the primary level where the rudiments are taught. Very few of those persevere and finally achieve their PhD. Children have to be forcibly recruited (proselytized) to the primary school, whereas those who do their PhD. do it voluntarily out of their own deep interest and accord. Many of the truths, which were taught at the primary schools, were later realized to be not so true when one reaches the University or Degree level. So it is with the world's religions. The popular religions, though essential, have only a marginal importance in laying the foundations of a soul's ascension to Godhood. The greatness of a religion should not be measured by the quantity of it's following but by the quality. The values they teach should be discarded in that final, solitary, "leap to the Light".
The amount of control a religion exercises on its followers is a measure of its backwardness. The more advanced the religion is, the more freedom it affords it's following. Hence it naturally follows that the most advanced religion not only allows, but also encourages vehement but unbiased questioning of the very foundations of its principles.
So, is it enough to remain at the primary school of spirituality, life after life? Certainly not! The individual Man should progress beyond and finally accomplish his sole objective of mergence. For in mergence only lies stability.
Is it then our misfortune to have been born in an age where spiritual values take a back seat compared to the overwhelming race in material accomplishments? An age in which this renouncement for this final leap is not only shunned upon, but the great souls who boldly take this step are labeled as "escapists", "lunatics", "fatalists" etc. by the mainstream society. Not that it really matters to such people, but it tells upon the values driving the society. So is there any way out without this apparent renouncement? There certainly is! The old story of a boy and his basket of rotten apples roughly illustrates this predicament.
There was this boy and his wise father returning from their orchard after plucking apples. Most of the apples in their basket were rotten.
"Father," the boy asked, "Won't the few good ones remaining in the basket also be badly affected by the other rotten apples."
"Certainly," replied the father, "There are two solutions to this problem; (1) keep the good apples separate in a different basket, if you have one, or (2) wrap the good apples, so that they are not in contact with the bad ones. The first solution is a sure one provided you have a second basket. The second solution is a rather dangerous one and would depend on how good the wrapping is and how resistant the good apples are."
"Then what good are the rotten apples, Father?" the son asked.
"They can be fed back to the apple trees, which later would bear good fruit."
The first solution is akin to complete renouncement, whereby the seeker completely insulates himself from society and retires to a solitude far removed. The second solution corresponds to the seeker remaining physically in the midst of society yet insulated from it by the wrapping of detachment. He may continue performing his duties yet remain completely unaffected as to its outcome. This is indeed a more difficult task than total renouncement and "retiring to the hills". It is like maintaining your equanimity in the midst of a raging battlefield. Along with detachment comes its twin sister, the conquest of one's ego.
As with all things spiritual, the paradoxical statement - "the expansion of one's ego" is identical to the "destruction of one's ego". Both achieve the same effect! In the first case the ego is expanded to infinity encompassing all that is around it and everything in this universe. In the second case it shrinks to Nothingness! Both achieve Godhood! The first is the way of the Bhaktha and the second the way of the Jnaani. Different ways, same goal! What are the impediments to these paths? Jealousy, greed, desire, and anger are but a few of the feelings that are serious obstacles that nurture a sense of separateness of the individual and should most certainly be overcome. The truths mentioned above are not new and have been wonderfully expounded in the Bhagavath Geetha, and other such sacred texts.