Gateh, Gateh, Para Gateh, Parasam Gateh, Bodhi Svaha!
"Gone, Gone, Gone Beyond, Gone Beyond the Beyond: Hail the Go-er!"
At some point, images get in the way, even our favorite image of God: so we pass beyond it. At some point, words get in the way, even the divine name: so we pass beyond it. At some point, we even stop clinging to the dearest feeling: we pass beyond it. And at some point, the soul itself gets in the way: so we pass beyond it. This is the meaning of Gateh in the great meditation mantra of Tibet.
But breath never gets in the way. Breath remains, even when there is no mind. Thinking dissolves into pure Presence, then there is only this breath: not the previous breath or the next one. And this breath is never my breath.
Where does this breath come from? Where does it go? Follow it and see. Breathing is constant rehearsal for the moment of liberation.
This breath expires into silence. But this silence is no mere absence of sound. It is the heart's silence, rich with creative energy, luminous with love, yet free from any image or thought. Amma Karunamayi tells us simply, "In meditation, silence is the Mother."
Do not assume that this is simply an Eastern teaching. It is also the age-old practice of Christian mystics. In the early Church, these mystics were called hesychasts, which means practitioners of silence. In the 7th Century, St. Hesychius of Jerusalem wrote that the core of Christian mysticism is, "The heart's silence, undisturbed by any thought." The light of Christ can only be born in the womb of the silent heart.
To silence the heart may at first seen like a negation, yet this is the most positive experience possible. This silence is the soul and source of creation: the silence that was here before God said, "Let there be light." Womb-silence generates the world, yet ever transcends what She gives birth to. This also is the meaning of Gateh, beyond. She is the Causeless in whom all chains of causation are rooted. She is the groundless from whom all seeds spring. The silence of the heart breathes forth all creatures yet abides un-created. This silence has no edges; it is ever-expanding joy.
If only for an instant, between out-breath and in-breath, if I surrender and die in this eternal silence, I truly Am.
What remains after surrender cannot be spoken. To describe it would be another image, another word, another thought. One might say, Surrender and all that is left is Buddha-mind. One might say, Be crucified with Jesus in the still-point at the center of the cross of opposites. One might say, Become sat-chit-ananda: Divine Being, Consciousness, and Bliss. Yet each of these affirmations only creates another little thinker to affirm it. One calls himself a Buddhist, one calls herself a Christian, one says, I'm a Hindu. Better just surrender, and drop thinking for awhile...
"Be still and know that I Am God," advises the Biblical Psalmist. This beautiful verse shows us that Bhakti and Vedanta, devotion and non-dualism, are just concepts. They point to exactly the same experience. When conceptual thinking is still, there is true knowledge, or Gnana, without thought. Then the I Am, and the God that I adore, are one and the same.
Who is this God? The answer comes not as a thought, but as the energy of grace in the next inhalation. This energy is Shakti. She is the living Spirit, the supreme Mother of creation. Breathing Her is the answer: not a belief or a concept, but Shakti herself, the scintillating star-stuff gushing from the heart. Therefor the classic Tantric scripture Vijnana Bhairava declares:
Exhalation goes out, inhalation comes in. At the place where they merge, one experiences the state from which Creation comes forth and into which it is absorbed....
The supreme Goddess, whose nature is to create, constantly expresses herself as exhalation and inhalation. By resting awareness in the space of the heart, between the descending and ascending breaths, one experiences Bhairava, the source of creation.We breathe the Goddess every moment of the day. We're just too busy to notice; too busy to notice the gift of this breath, and in the the stillness where the gift arises, the Giver.