Krishna says to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, “What is day for me is night for all beings. What is night for all beings is day for me.” I am surprised at some of the the current interpretations of this phrase.
Nisargadatta Maharaj once quipped about enlightenment or his state being a “photo-negative” of reality, or some such thing. I take this idea to be intimately related with Krishna’s description of his state. However, I don’t think its interpretation is as mystical as many make it out to be.
Day and night, black and white, yin and yang. Our conventional personality and psyche is literally created by choosing one thing and shunning the other. We consider ourselves rich or poor, beautiful or ugly, tall or short, nice or mean, compassionate or selfish, or somewhere in between, etc. Our entire island of reality is created from degrees of opposites and, for most people, it’s all they really know about themselves. When life changes for a conventional person they can go through extremely dramatic periods of reorientation – just look at the plastic surgery horrors going on when people realize they are getting old or people jumping out of windows when the stock market crashes.
But for a serious practitioner, these things are seen as illusion. Along the path of meditation, we go through phases where our one-sidedness is corrected. This is what practice is all about. I remember times when it seemed like everyone around me was a news-anchor robot babbling something from a teleprompter and completely unaware that they were alive. I remember having periods of extreme guilt and pain and shame and imagining pirranahs were literally eating my old self away. I remember the very physical feeling accompanied with letting fear and all of the anger and sadness that comes with it be flushed from my nervous system and brain. During these periods, I was acutely experiencing what was diametrically opposed to my previous view of reality. These experiences are quite common in spiritual practice and it is in this way that insight and compassion arise simultaneously and are one. True compassion for those stuck in the very darkest corners of existence.
The reason we go through such periods in practice is because our false psyche is held in place by fear. We fear being poor, we fear being alone, we fear being evil, we fear being guilty, we fear being shamed. Facing that fear means going through those dark places and remembering that we are both day and night, good and bad, strong and weak. It’s not just an intellectual exercise, its a physical, mental, emotional and biological realignment with the truth so that our bodies can contain truth. It happens because the mind is turned inward and we see the choices we truly have instead of the movie we project. We see that we contain night as well as day, and we are beginning to own our entire existence rather than a flimsy story we’ve created.
These episodes can come pre or post experience. It makes sense to me that if they come post experience, they tend to be very rapid and dramatic and if they come gradually in practice they can go by almost unnoticed. The way to get stuck in one is when fear is too strong to accept the truth. This will be overcome with further practice. If one is going through this period of “photo-negative perception” one should just continue right on through without attachment and try to find a little gratitude that their practice is progressing.