Punya – How to Increase Your Deserving Power

“Punya, sometimes called spiritual merit or deserving power, is based on your true sense of what you are and who you are. It’s directly related to the percentage, the extent to which you have your sense of Self correct.”

Thom Knoles

Good fortune is often seen as some kind of cosmic reward for good behavior. “If I do good things, then good things will happen to me.” This has actually evolved as a misunderstanding of the concept of karma.

Rather than being a reward, the Vedic position on good fortune is that it is actually a result. More specifically, it’s a result of enhanced consciousness, brought about by the removal of stresses that prevent us from seeing the most evolutionary opportunities available to us.

Thom explains this in more detail in this episode, in which he clarifies the meaning of punya, or deserving power, and he explains the path to maximizing your punya.

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Episode Highlights


What is Deserving Power?



How Our State of Consciousness Shapes Reality



Who Am I Really?



The Power of Pure Consciousness: Embracing the Unmanifest



Transcendence and Truth: The Key to Understanding Self



Punya: Finding Your True Self



How to Get 90% Punya



Authenticity in the Age of Social Media



Low Punya & High Punya



The Young Man Who Knew It All



“I Don’t Care About My Body.”



Non-Negotiable Strategy of Vedic Meditation



The Oceanic Consciousness: Adopting the River of Life



Embracing Totality: The Journey to Cosmic Consciousness



100% Punya: The Key to Living a Life of Fullness


Jai Guru Deva


Punya – How to Increase Your Deserving Power

[00:45] What is Deserving Power?

People frequently ask me, because I make reference to deserving power from time to time in a variety of talks that I’ve given, what is deserving power, actually?

And interestingly enough, it’s a very easy thing to define. Our capacity to deserve is directly and proportionately related to our capacity to understand what is reality. And reality here is going to mean, in essence, the reality of who is the Knower? What is the nature of the Knower?

The nature of the world around us, that’s the Known, is always going to be changeable, if my own inner identity, my sense of what I am and who I am is also changeable.

If I can’t make up my mind about what is my own nature, if what I sense myself to be goes through regular seasonal changes, even annual changes, even changes by decade, then I do not have in my possession the capacity properly to assess what the Known is, what the world around me is, because we cannot stop someone from behaving according to their level of consciousness.

People’s reckoning about the world ’round them always, and invariably, is nothing but a reckoning based on the state of consciousness of the person who’s making the reckoning. All reports are reports upon the state of consciousness of the reporter.

[02:38] How Our State of Consciousness Shapes Reality

All ideas about how the world is made up, how fair or unfair it is. What are the mechanisms that are at play? Where is it all going? What does it seem to have as a mission? All of this is wrapped up in whatever the state of consciousness of the Knower is. And by that, we mean my own inner sense of what I am and who I am.

And so someone who is wearing green glasses, they’re always going to see everything green. A white wall, they might even agree that’s the color white because they’ve been told that for years. But because they’re wearing green glasses, what they’re actually seeing is green. They may not even know that they’re seeing green. But they’re seeing green.

Like that, someone who’s wearing red glasses, they see everything red. They may not know that they’re seeing everything red, but everything is red, and it’s going to have that effect on their perception of everything.

Our state of consciousness absolutely dictates what it is that we experience about the world. And so then, the idea that there is one objective world out there, that I’m living in a world that, all observers would agree, behaves in particular ways that there’s one world and there are people who have it right, and there are people who have it wrong.

That there are people who agree with me and who disagree with me, but my view is always correct. That idea is an idea based upon knowledge of, and degrees of accuracy of knowledge of, who I am as the Knower.

Let me get a little bit more clear about this. Knowledge of the Knower. Knowledge of the Knower.

[04:49] Who Am I Really?

When one settles down into one’s deep, inner quiet state, whether in meditation or not, and asks the question, who am I? What is the answer that comes back? Very typically, the answer is, “Well, I’m my body. I was born in this place and that place, in this year, in that month.”

If we’re a believer in astrology, Western style, we might say, “I’m a Scorpio.” Or we might say, if we have some other kind of ways of identifying ourselves, “I am, whatever I do sexually. I am a set of doings.” Or I might say, if I think about myself predominantly academically, I might say, “Well, I’m a, I’m a literature professor.”

Our sense of what we are, if the answer comes back, about when you were born and where your body was placed, the fact that you have a mind that’s hitchhiking on a body, that there’s this mind that is a product of a body, and you have a mind that is merely a product of the things to which you were exposed as a child…

 What kinds of examples were around you? What kinds of people were around you? To what types of styles of reaction to demands did you perceive in the world around you? What decisions did you make about that? Were you going to go along with those forms or change everything and try to do things differently?

[06:37] The Power of Pure Consciousness: Embracing the Unmanifest

All of these doings, these learnings, these people, these examples, these places, this body that you have. “I have a type-A body. I have a type-B body. I have a blood type-O body. I have a blood type-A body. I’m a this. I’m a that.”

All of these examples of what we’re doing based on our body, based on who we learned from, based on what we were exposed to, from the Vedic perspective, all of these are inaccurate. Because there’s one indivisible, whole consciousness field that is the truth of what you are. And that’s your baseline consciousness.

The field of Being. That which is you, the experiencer when you’re not having thoughts. If you can stay conscious, and thoughts evaporate, not thoughts evaporate because you fell asleep at night. If you can stay conscious and allow thoughts to evaporate, then that is you, the you minus all the thoughts.

And what is that? It’s an oceanic field of pure unmanifest potentiality. It’s the unmanifest Unified Field of Consciousness, and that’s actually what you are. Every other answer is temporal.

Temporal means a temporary truth, a truth that we can only spell with a lower-case t, truths. The kind of truth that’s going to change pretty soon.

I’m a Democrat. I’m a Republican. I’m a communist. I’m a Marxist. I’m Leninist. I’m a whatever kind of political thing. That’s all going to go through changes.

[08:32] Transcendence and Truth: The Key to Understanding Self

I was just reading a story about a famous French actor who spent the first half of his life in the 1950s being a communist and then went to the Soviet Union and performed.

He was a singer and actor, and Yves Montand. And then he performed there and saw what it looked like in the Soviet Union in the 1950s and sixties, and changed his mind and came back and dedicated the remainder of his life to right-wing causes.

So from, from the far left to the far right in one lifetime. What am I? Not, what are the latest sets of thoughts you’ve been having? Not, what are the latest desires you’re having sexually? Not, what are the kinds of memories that you have about your upbringing? Or whether or not you’re left-handed or right-handed?

These things are all temporal. These things are all changeable. These things go through all kinds of microscopic or even macroscopic change in a lifetime.

And so, an answer to the question, what am I? To what extent do we get a score in getting it right? People who have regular experiences of transcendence. Transcendence means stepping beyond thought. Going to that layer of one’s inner consciousness, which is beyond thought, the field of pure consciousness.

People who have transcendence on a regular basis have an inner sense of understanding that is accurate. Truth. Why? Because Truth is that which never changes. Something that changes can’t be true. Something that changes doesn’t merit the word Truth.

[10:30] Punya: Finding Your True Self

Truth is only that which doesn’t change. If something is true, but it’s only true for five minutes, it’s a very temporary truth. We call that temporal truth.

And so then, in the Vedic perspective, there’s a certain score that can be given, and this is what we refer to as Punya, P-U-N-Y-A. Very often translated as spiritual merit or kind of like a cosmic credit rating.

But far from it being a kind of cosmic credit rating, what it really is, is a reflection of the percentage to which you have the accurate answer to, what are you? What are you? Who are you?

If your inner innocent response is 85% conviction that I’m absolutely the one indivisible, whole consciousness field, and I’m having a human experience, and 15%, I’m just a regular human here, with my mind changing all the time and my attitudes and my tastes changing all the time and my ideas about what’s true in the outside world changing all the time, then I have 85% punya.

Punya means capability to move frictionlessly with regard to all the laws of Nature that govern evolution. Our capability to move frictionlessly with regard to, and in interaction with, all the laws of Nature that govern evolution. Punya. 85% Punya. Fantastic.

[12:25] How to Get 90% Punya

How do I get 90% Punya? Continue regular experiences of transcendence. Those who practice Vedic Meditation are on a systematic, strategic program for increasing the amount of time they spend in transcendence. Our deep inner ego structure, our sense of what we are, is very often based only on the inputs that come from the outside world.

“I am whatever it appears people think about me. And I think about myself and my sense of self based on what people think about me.” And so the modern age of social media really panders to this.

How many likes did you get? Likes on your posts. How many likes? What is your degree of popularity? What is the degree to which you’ve convinced others that you’re a pretty cool thinker and that you have a rather enviable life. Lifestyle, thinking style, dressing style, enviable look, enviable attitude, and so on?

Something that others wish that they could emulate, and so you carefully style that avatar of yourself. But can you actually live up to it?

You got the 20,000 or the 20 million likes. And then people meet you in the street and they go, “Huh, I thought you were that person I saw on Instagram. But actually, I found out that you’re just a regular everyday person. Oh, good con game.”

 And then living a life with imposter syndrome, another great feature of today’s world. “I’m dead frightened that people are actually going to discover what I actually am. Just a regular person.”

[14:27] Authenticity in the Age of Social Media

Someone who gains a tremendous amount of fame in any area, whether it’s in academia, whether it’s in Instagram world, Facebook world, TikTok world, or any other kind of www world, worldwide web world, or the world of acting, or the world of singing, or the world of whatever, there’s an extent to which we do a thing, which is to create an avatar.

We create this imaginary creature that everybody believes we are. And then we have somehow to try to live up to it. And we’re dead afraid we get the imposter syndrome, that “It’s only a matter of time before somebody discovers what I really am. That I actually have these relatively petty likes and dislikes, and things change from time to time, and so on.”

One of the things we can call punya is, we can say the proportion of that sense of imposter syndrome versus knowledge of reality, knowledge of the Knower. “To what extent am I living a life with changeable attitudes, changeable likes and dislikes, changeable thoughts?” Where you have to walk around making sure that the thoughts that you have are not known by people.

“If only people could know what I was really thinking, then I’d really be in trouble because they wouldn’t approve of what I’m thinking. And I only approve of myself to the extent that other people approve of me.” This kind of thing.

[16:12] Low Punya & High Punya

Low punya. This is low punya, when my sense of identity is dictated by the environment, by other people. When my sense of identity is dictated by my memories. When my sense of identity is dictated by what I perceive my body to be.

My sense of identity dictated by the degree to which I feel informed and educated about the world. Sense of identity dictated by relative features of the ever-changing world. This is low punya.

High punya. My sense of identity is based in my internal locus of control. I know from inside myself that I’m responsible, experientially, for whatever I find myself to be. My state of consciousness is everything. My state of consciousness is everything.

The inner Knower, inner Knower is the field of pure creative intelligence itself. The source of all that has come into being. It is as vast as the Universe. It is the Universe. And this is the baseline truth of one’s reality.

But this can’t just be an intellectual thought. Otherwise, it’s just a lot of flowery words. “I think I’m this. I think I’m that. I’m Totality, Aham Brahmasmi. I’m Totality. I live in the Universe. The Universe lives in me,” and all of that.

[17:57] The Young Man Who Knew It All

I was walking along with a young man once. He was very young, like, I don’t know, 23 or something. And we were in a retreat setting, and to get to the retreat center, one had to walk up a driveway that went up quite a steep hill.

And this driveway was hemmed in on either side by very thick and steep, probably 10-foot high, hedges that were impenetrable. They were akin to being walls made out of botanical material. And the driveway was very narrow. It would allow for only one car going up or one car going down at any given time.

And there was a very fancy arrangement of a red light or green light at the top and the bottom, which if there was a car coming down, then the car coming up would have to wait, and vice versa.

And hardly any room on this roadway for walking. Though it was the only way to get up there. If you were on foot, you had to walk in this narrow driveway. It went for quite a while, too, like maybe, I’d say probably 80 yards of walking in a spiral between these two hedges to get up there.

And this young man and I were, we’d been out for a walk, and we were making our way back up the hill, up the spiral driveway, hemmed in, as it were. And he was explaining to me with great conviction how he didn’t care about his body anymore. “I’m not my body. I’m not my body. I don’t care about my body. My body means nothing to me.” And so on and so forth.

[19:45] “I Don’t Care About My Body.”

And spoken in that kind of 23-year-old way of, “I’ve arrived at the absolute truth now, and I’m at the very ancient old age of 23.” 10 years beyond 13, really got it all figured out.

And as we were walking up this drive, suddenly an electric car, which made no noise whatsoever, came round the bend right toward us. And the young man who had just declared how little he cared about his body, which was, according to him, nothing at all. He cared nothing about it.

Not only did he nearly climb the hedge, but in order to get out of the way of the oncoming car, he rather pushed me, and was climbing up onto my shoulders practically, trying to get away from what he saw coming. Fortunately, the car saw us and was able to stop in ample time and not strike either of us.

It wouldn’t have struck him anyway because he was practically standing on my shoulders. But then, when the car finally was able to pass and squeezed by us, then he climbed down, and he laughed and said, “Boy, that was close.”

And I said, “It wasn’t close for you. You were up on my shoulders practically, Mr. ‘I don’t care about my body.’ What about that? You don’t care about your body. I just saw you dodging for your life and throwing your guru in front of the car in order to get out of the way. I don’t care about my body.” And I laughed about that all the way back to the lecture room that night.

[21:22] Non-Negotiable Strategy of Vedic Meditation

And I’ve been telling the story ever since. It was probably 50 years ago. He’s an ancient old man by now.

So this idea that I don’t care about my body, if one has made an intellectual decision about that, it may not reflect the reality. The oncoming car could be a good test of the degree to which you have a conviction about to what extent you’re actually your body or not.

In Cosmic Consciousness, which is the first stage of enlightenment, we have attained to 100% punya because our sense, our inner sense of Self, is finally accurate.

There’s a certain point in our practice of Vedic Meditation, which those of you who know this, we do it twice every day for about 20 minutes, and it becomes a strategy that is non-negotiable.

And those who are regular practitioners of it, there’s a certain point reached where instead of being that I am a human who has the delightful experience of occasionally going universal, “From time to time, I go beyond thought entirely and I experience this unboundedness ,and what a great, fortunate human I am.”

When this experience of transcendence has occurred with great enough regularity, there’s a new change, a new season of experience in the meditator. And this change happens very gradually but very definitely.

From, “I’m a human who occasionally transcends and how can I, the human get higher levels of knowledge,” then a certain level of traction of the awakening of the deep inner nature of the Self has occurred.

[23:29] The Oceanic Consciousness: Adopting the River of Life

The ego structure has taken in from inside, not from outside, it’s taken in new information from inside, “I am the One indivisible, whole consciousness field.” Then comes a change. And that change is evidently, “Although I have human features, I am the Universe having a human experience.

“I’m no longer a human trying to acquire Universal consciousness. I am Universal consciousness, and I’m in the process of acquiring this individual life through which I live.”

In Cosmic Consciousness, one continues to live in that vast awareness, but expressing it and finding expression through individuality, that universal aspect has adopted the individual storyline.

The universal aspect has adopted all of the river. The river, the serpentine river coming down from the high, high mountains, having made its way through mountain passes and over waterfalls and down through the plains, and widening out and coming to the delta and then unifying with ocean.

That river has been now adopted by the ocean. The oceanic consciousness senses the river coming into it and considers that river, amongst myriad rivers, being one of the many that feed the ocean with its vastness.

And the ocean evaporating into little droplets in the bright sunshine out in the vastness of the ocean, turning into rain and falling down onto the mountains and then becoming rivers. And then each of those rivers making its way back to the ocean, experiences the circular nature as oneness on the move.

[25:37] Embracing Totality: The Journey to Cosmic Consciousness

In Cosmic Consciousness, one is able to experience, “I am that oceanic field, and I’m adopting, I’m in the process of adopting, all of the storyline of this river that has fed into me. I am the Universe having an individualized experience.

“The experience of humanity and all of the aspects of humanity, the history, the story, all the different foibles through which the individuality went in order to arrive at its final realization of, I am Totality having a human experience.”

In this state, one finds oneself being the source of all the laws of Nature, the home of all the laws of Nature. “The laws of Nature are issuing forth from me. Will the laws of Nature support me?”

This is a question asked by an individual who is having occasional experiences of transcendence. “I want to have support of Nature.”

In Cosmic Consciousness, I am the source of all the laws of Nature. There’s no question about laws of Nature supporting me. The laws of Nature issue forth from me.

And so I no longer am looking for support of Nature. The relative world is a world that conforms itself to my consciousness. And the me here, the, my, the person, is no longer the individual who’s doing this thinking.

This isn’t little Samuel from what, wherever, from Provence in France who’s thinking to himself. “Now I’m the Universe. I get to have things my way.”

[27:39] 100% Punya: The Key to Living a Life of Fullness

It’s not possible to have a selfish thought in that vast consciousness state. One can only be the Universe acting through individuality, and that universal quality using the individuality as a means for progressive change. This is a hundred percent punya. Punya, we can say, deserving power.

Punya is directly related to the percentage, the extent to which you have your sense of Self correct.

Punya, sometimes called spiritual merit or deserving power, is based on your true sense of what you are and who you are.

A hundred percent punya, a hundred percent realization of the true nature of the Self. True nature of the Self is a hundred percent realized in Cosmic Consciousness. Then we have a hundred percent punya, a hundred percent deserving power.

And we have 200% of life. 100% of the inner joy of life, knowledge of the Knower, knowledge of the processes of gaining knowledge, and knowledge of the Known knowledge of the world of relativity.

But we also have all of the joys of outer life, all the joys and sensate experiences of being an individualized human and having the capacity to give maximum to the need of the time. So this is what deserving power is all wrapped up in. Knowledge of the Self.

Jai Guru Deva.

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