Our relationships in life are greatly influenced by our perceptions of others and ourselves. In the Vedas the aphorism atmavan manyate jagatis given, meaning “The self (spiritual soul) projects his consciousness in the universe.” We usually try to find in our environment what we carry inside of us. In others word we project our own reality unto others. Often, if not always, we get disturbed by those defects and shortcomings in others that we know from ourselves. Also the things we admire and appreciate in others are very likely qualities that we see in and appreciate in ourselves. Here we mainly deal with projection. Our focus is on the so called “inner pictures” we have. They are formed by many factors like our own needs, desires, dreams, experiences and conceptions of life. The inner pictures serve as the criterion or basis of how we view others around us. They are founded on our physical and mental constitution (psychophysical nature). We identify with a certain kind of body, mindset, value system etc. which form pictures of what we adore and what we despise. These pictures can also be called filters, since they are like glasses with a certain color, which make the world appear in a certain light.
The state of being in love probably serves as the most prominent example for that. A man and woman come together and fall in love. They view each other as “ideal” partners and the expectations are high. Mostly though it happens that after some time they become disillusioned and understand that the picture they had of each other is not in accordance with reality. The so sweet and well behaved woman might turn out to be very quarrelsome and messy. The man that appeared as the noble gentleman might turn out to be lazy and irresponsible. Or, somehow or other, the person does not manifest qualities and behaviors that we would have (strongly) expected. How come that we experience such contrasts? One answer is projection. Often it happens, that we do not see the people as they are but as how we would like them to be. This might mean that we idealize them or on the other hand devaluate them. In each case we project our inner pictures on them. On the ones we fall in love with, we project our inner pictures of the perfect lover. On the ones we hate we project our inner pictures of the worst enemy. If we perceive some qualities in someone and if these qualities match our inner picture to some degree, we tend to press the person in the frame of our picture. The result is frustration.
In contrast to projection is the true vision. The Bhagavad-gita gives the following statement:
“He is a perfect yogī who, by comparison to his own self, sees the true equality of all beings, both in their happiness and distress, O Arjuna!” (Bg. 6.32)
What is the difference of the ordinary person projecting and the yogi seeing everyone as himself? The yogi, or self-realized soul, is someone who does not identify with his material body and mind. Thus he also does not maintain inner pictures based on them, and consequently does not project them onto others. The self-realized soul understands his spiritual identity as a soul distinct from the material body and mind. He is therefore able to see beyond the external reality of the body and to see the soul, the true self in a person. The self-realized soul is thus also able to understand the psychophysical nature of someone. Instead of projecting his expectations and resentments he sees the constitution of a person, and meets them accordingly to where they are at. This is true vision.
How do we get there? The first step is awareness. Through paying attention to our expectations and resentments we can practice to notice when we try to make someone conform to our inner pictures. But in order to efficiently get rid of this conditioning one needs to seriously dedicate oneself to spiritual practice. By engaging in the chanting of the maha-mantra for example, the mind becomes purified from the false conceptions we carry and we become able to understand our true self. The more we learn to distinguish between our true self and our minds inner pictures, we become able to see others in true vision.