Hi! How are you today? Isn't it a beautiful morning? The entire cosmos is happening in the boundless silence of space, and this space is awake; this space is pure awareness enjoying the bliss of its own nature, witnessing countless suns and galaxies that arise and dissolve within it. And this space is who you really are.
Let's meet here. In fact, we are already dancing at the center of the golden flower that has no circumference. This is the space of the Heart.
But please don't imagine we are talking about a belief or philosophy. We are talking about your direct experience of Being, at the simplest, most innocent level, before a single thought arises to cause separation. Jai Guru Dev.
My spiritual path has been a journey of gazes, the eyes of the Other an infinity sign leading me back to the Self. Gaze of friend or perfect stranger, gaze of lover and teacher, gaze of the animal guide, gaze of my infant daughter, mother, wife, gaze of my gaze.
Yet through these sparkling corridors of darshan, there were three gazes above all others that took me to the highest peak, where Dante stood with Beatrice, sing the empyrean through her eyes.
The first Great Gaze was the gaze of a fawn. My wife and I were just married, walking through a Maryland corn field. We came upon a newborn deer. We could only spend a moment there, for the mother doe was stamping the ground furiously at the edge of the forest.
Just for a moment we gazed into the bluest eyes I ever saw. Only my daughter's blue eyes come close to that bejeweled Shakti. The word that comes to mind is "familiar." The eyes of that fawn made the entire animal kingdom a clan of cousins. I felt welcomed and warmed into the planetary community. Ever since passing through those faun blue eyes, I've seen one and the same Soul in animals, angels, and human beings, a single Spirit gazing out through myriad facets in the diamond of God-Consciousness.
The second Great Darshan was the gaze of a dolphin. My young family was spending a week at the Jersey Shore, in Avalon. It was late June, solstice time. Every morning I would go to the beach at dawn, practice Sudarshan Kriya and meditation, then swim a mile down the coast in the rising sun, out beyond the breaking waves. Swimming quite a distance from shore, I suddenly saw an enormous shadow-form sweep silently beneath me. My heart shuddered with primordial fear of the deep, the unknown.
I stopped and looked around. I was completely alone. Then a face emerged from the water about three yards in front of me, with perhaps the most intelligent and benign expression I have ever beheld, a smile of respect, parental care, and benediction. A gaze of unconditional love enfolded me, and filled me with the certainty that I am protected, both on earth and among the stars, by a much more advanced and ancient race of Friends.
The peak of my journey was the third Great Darshan Gaze: a meeting with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar at a meditation course in Nova Scotia, back in 1991. Courses were small and intimate in those days, and on the final night I managed to visit alone with Sri Sri in his room for an hour. At one point toward the end of our conversation, I asked, "There is so much chatter about who you are. Are you one of the great avatars, a world teacher from ages past, who has returned to us? I need to know who you REALLY Are!"
So he showed me. It was very simple. He said, "No, no, no. I am Nobody." And he meant it.
Then I saw pure Presence unveiled, no name or story or expectation from the past superimposed by my mind. Truly, I looked into Nobody's eyes. Nobody is my teacher. Nobody is my supreme authority. Nobody is my Lord.
His gaze: twin galaxies spiraling toward the formless source of creation through billions of light-years. Wells of eternity where I fell inward and outward at once, like a thrown pebble, like a lost meteor, in the motionless explosion of a dark yet sparkling rose of infinite circumference. This was the flowering of divine love. Golden petals gently, silently exploding from the empty stillness of the Self we all share.
Jai Guru Dev.
(Photo of Sri Sri by Scott Hague)
Love arises when there is no self-image.
What is the image of yourself as you were yesterday? Is this what you are right now? What is the image of yourself as you were one year ago? Twenty years ago? One thousand years ago?
What is the image of yourself as you will be tomorrow? Is this who you are right now? What is the image of yourself as you will be one year from now? A million years from now?
Who are you when you drop all images of yourself? The present moment has no image of itself. It simply Is. Images only exist in the mind as past or future.
When I Am pure existence, without forming an image of myself, I can embrace whatever arises in the moment, and I can welcome everyone I meet as a radiance of the same existence I am. This is the imageless embrace of love.
Scripture says that we are created in the image of God. I say that Love is uncreated, and has no image.
The power of Love is in direct proportion to the mind's capacity for dropping images. Love is the grace of a silent mind.
Silence x Grace - Time = Love.
I derived this equation by applying the science of tears to the field of yearning.
I raised God's name by the power of the Mother and rose into a shining exponential cloud where rocks, bones and prime numbers have no existence in pure space, yet appear as multiples of one.
I factored my thoughts into an empty denominator, by which I divided the tufted titmouse, the fern, the dog turd and diamond, which resulted, marvelously enough,
in a quotient of titmouse, fern, dog turd and diamond, all things remaining just as they are.
Then I stepped naked into a zero-energy mountain brook of melting snow and virtual photons, gurgling over Cartesian coordinates between a curve and its asymptote.
Thus I determined the square root of the void.
I became infinite, not through mantric repetitions of the name of the One, but a hyper-geometric progression of breaths, wings and inconceivable sexual epiphanies in the company of angels,
such that the One ascended into Many, empowered by a logarithm of Negative Zero.
But you would do better to solve this equation by entering the vacuum of your heart, where the answer was written before you were conceived in runes of black fire.
All this information, and more than I could ever write down, was channeled to me from Albert Einstein, who still wanders from star to star pulling his red wagon.
"Yogastah karukarmani: Inwardly settled in the silence of yoga, perform action." ~Bhagavad Gita 2:48
To witness requires deep inner stillness, which is the state of Yoga. But to witness also requires courage. Not with judgment, but with humor and compassion, witness this tragicomedy of errors that somehow presents every person with perfect lessons of character sublimely choreographed by divine necessity so that all learn precisely what they need to learn each moment, and have a perfect right to without our interference.
The irony is that the silent force exerted by the consciousness of the witness is as healing as any part played by a do-er, since the actor is really a re-actor, spinning tangled karmic circles in the ever-thickening plot of an ever-repeating melodrama.
This is not to say that you shouldn't play your part. But play it with dispassion. Let it go moment by moment, your soul settled in the silence of the witness. And please, never suppose that your part is more important, or less important, than any other's.
This frond of iris is a miracle, not because it is an iris, but because it exists.
Its thingness is a flower, but its Being is divine. All things bathe in the nectar of Existence. The taste of that nectar is bliss. However fallen, broken, exhausted, or small, each creature floats in the invisible waters of perfection, the Being of the Creator.
We usually see the objects of the world as foreground; we are only aware of their Existence as background, like the blue of the sky. Now a subtler field of human awareness is emerging: we begin to perceive Existence itself as foreground.
The earth, a star, a weed in a chink of sidewalk, an old tire smothered in honeysuckle, a weeping wound, all shimmer through the formless sap of transcendental Beauty.
The miracle is merely To Be. Why not dwell in perpetual astonishment? Why not bow to a drop of dew or a cricket, not because it is a thing, but because it Is? Isness is God.
If you don't understand this, I'm sorry. I can't explain it. Just walk barefoot in wet grass at dawn, and watch a plum bud gently, silently explode...
Word and Silence are not opposites. Together they co-nourish creation.
The womb of the Untold ululates in fluctuations of the vacuum. She is the mother of physics, Genesis 1, a feathery hen of breath ruffling darkness into waves of fire, oceanic night-singer of infinite possibility. She was here before God said, "Let there be light," and is still here, beneath all that we can say, the resonant field of eternal Silence, where Words of creation are conceived.We used to savor the Logos on our own tongues. We could talk the elements into doing anything, inspire the wind, instruct the waters, still the storm, ignite a garden with song, move colossal stones with a whisper. Our language vibrated with mantras, Godspells, healing shamanic gutterals. Even our Hum was an unstruck gong in the heart.
We named each other. And respecting the power of names, we were creators.
But we lost the science of magical speech when we dissipated Word-energy through gossip, vulgarity, and derision. We allowed talking heads and technocrats, politicians and the media, to infect our language with the virus of babble. Now, instead of empowering us, language exhausts us. Our minds are full of chatter we hardly understand, because it is not our true name...
How shall we speak Truth again? How shall we recover the Godspell? How shall we awaken from ancient sleep the inner Bard? And how root down in Divine Silence, to tap our Words of Creation?
"En archai æn ho Logos: In the beginning was the Word." ~John 1:1
"Adau Bhagavan shabdha rasahih: In the beginning, the Lord created the universe through a stream of Sound." ~Rig Veda
"Speech has power. Words do not fade. What starts as a sound, ends in a deed." ~Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
"Don't ever diminish the power of words. Words move hearts and hearts move limbs." ~Hamza Yusuf
"Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds." ~Eli Wiesel
"Words are also actions." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
"But our words from loose using have lost their edge." ~Ernest Hemingway
"The limits of my language are the limits of my world." ~Ludwig Wittgenstein
"Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace." ~Gautama Buddha
Picture: Tibetan mantra wheel. In the ancient traditions, mandalas that mapped the cosmos were made of letters and their sounds.
14 thousand years ago, when I was 9 years old, my father sent me into the meadow to herd his meager goat flock. From the forest, where I was told never to wander, I heard a thrush song so melodious that it almost seemed like the call of an angel. At the time I did not know that songs do not descend from above, but rise up from the animal kingdom.
Allured, I abandoned my goats, who grazed contentedly on thistles and clover, and plunged into the woods where it grew thickest, greenest, and most wild.
Under a blossoming dogwood tree I met a boy my own age. His skin was blue as a rain-laden cloud in early May. His eyes were twin trillium dancing in fern shadows. Being a prince, he superciliously gave me a commandment: "Leave all your duties and make mischief with me."
"Is this permitted?" I asked.
"Yes," he said, " because the world needs mischief more than work."
"What about the rules?"
"There is only one rule. Fall in love. Then it is your duty to break every other law."
He taught me how to turn my body into a wounded flute with seven holes. He showed me how to pour tears through it. He taught me to catch peacocks by the tail and follow their outraged flight to the moon. He taught me to transcend both sleep and dreams, and to sing all night.
Then my dark blue playfellow led me to a deep pool filled by a waterfall in the forest, where the daughters of his royal cousins were bathing. We tiptoed over the moss and stole the clothes that they had scattered on the bank. Climbing up in a yew tree, we hung them from every branch, laughing and teasing the ladies below, who shrugged their shoulders and covered their buoyant breasts with crossed hands.
I accidentally dropped my wallet into the pool, a little bag filled with my most precious heirlooms. One of the girls dove for it, then came up gasping, waving the purse and shouting, "You must give us our clothes to get this back!"
I called, "There's nothing in that bag but my name, my grandfather's diamond signet ring, and the deed to my father's property. Throw it back into the water. I'd rather see you breasts!"
She did just that, causing the blue boy to laugh with delight. "Well done!" he said, clapping his hands. A very large salmon leaped out of the water with my wallet in its mouth, then swam down the stream toward the sea.
But the blue boy wanted to give the girl some punishment for what she had done, not to fulfill the laws of karma, but simply to tease her. So he blew a breathe upon her turned her into a mourning dove. "You may return to your human form tomorrow," he said.
Beating her wings in distress, the dove-girl flew to a willow branch that wept over the water. All night she keened that plaintive ululation only lovers understand. At dawn her sweet mist-muted cry came from afar, over many hills.
When the sun was high and the mist had burned away, she wandered back to her friends, naked and human, her bare feet delicately pressing last night's dew from the moss with each step. "Sorrow is lovely," she said. "Now I will never be afraid. I miss the dark."
Almost 10 thousand years later, while wandering through Manchuria, I met the Old Master of the Way, hitchhiking out of the empire. I was still a young boy. "Before you escape from civilization," I asked the old fellow, "what can you teach me?" He taught me to breathe through the soles of my feet. I still hate shoes.
I followed the caravan routes across Persia to the Roman Empire. On the way, I passed through a picturesque little kingdom called Israel, noted chiefly for die-hard zealots who kept challenging the authority of Caesar, getting themselves crucified, then coming back for more.
I befriended the son of the High Priest while I was stealing pomegranates in the crowded marketplace. He took me to his father's house and, discovering that I had met some sages in the East, the High Priest asked me if I wanted to visit the temple. Of course I did. He made me bathe several times and cover my body in a white robe, then escorted me through the court of the gentiles and into the sanctuary, where I had no right to be.
"Are you sure the temple guards won't arrest me?" I asked.
The High Priest just winked and said, "You're a traveler. Speak well of what you see here as you travel Westward."
He led me down aisle after aisle, past many tables where merchants were selling pigeons, lambs, and wine for the devout to offer in sacrifice. There were pots filled with dinarii and other trinkets of silver. In the heart of the temple, I walked up the stairs past alters of incense and sacrifice, carefully stepping over trenches in the floor that ran with the warm blood of rams and bulls. The Levitical priests seemed entranced by their work of slaughter and didn't notice me, a 12-year-old goy in their midst.
Then the old man led me to the Holy of Holies, its door barely visible in the cloud of incense that perpetually gloomed the pillars and alters. He asked me not to speak, then opened the golden door. We walked into the shrine room at the center of God's little kingdom.
Imagine my surprise. There I expected to see another alter, with a holy book lying upon it. Or perhaps the Ark of the Covenant, containing the tablets that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai. Or even the lost tablet, the one Moses broke in fury, on which a single commandment was written: "Love thyself."
But instead I saw another door wide open, actually more like the black throat of a cave. The High Priest beckoned to me with a sweeping gesture, and I walked through. Before my eyes grew accustomed to the dark, I seemed to be spinning through a vacuum, tumbled by waves of pure possibility, like a wildly unbalanced quadratic equation searching desperately for Zero, buffeted and baffled by expanding and contracting bubbles of space-time in the swirling maelstrom of infinitesimal worlds smaller than Planck's Constant.
Suddenly I touched solid ground and could see again. I had passed through some mysterious portal into an ancient forest. Thick with cedar, hemlock, ferns and trillium, green shadows echoed with the sound of birds, shrieks of monkeys and other hominids, only the eyes of whom were visible, glinting from the dark. Reptiles with human faces twined around every tree trunk, smiling like flowers, singing so softly that their descant was an all-pervading whisper, mighty in its quietness.
I glanced at the High Priest, yearning for an explanation yet unable to speak. In a very deliberate and barely audible voice, he said, "Adonai, the Lord of Creatures, whose true name is not known, can never be contained in a temple. God is wilderness. God is chaos, not order. In the presence of her mystery, all words must perish, all thoughts fall silent. A holy scripture is holy only when it conjures images of the ancient forest. To be enlightened, you must be feral again."
Walking deeper into the green shadows, I swooned... Then I found myself sitting in the market place, eating a pomegranate, among the merchants' booths. Where was the High Priest and his son? Had it merely been a reverie? Were the seeds of the pomegranate fermented?
Not many centuries later, strolling through a village near the source of the Ganges, who do you think I encountered? Bodhidharma, the 6th Patriarch, on his way to the North. He invited me to go with him but I answered, "I'm too young. Besides, I've already been there."
That night we lay under the stars. Bodhidharma gave me a pearl and said, "Rest this between your eyebrows." So I did. "Now look into the stars." Then I saw my seven grandmothers riding galactic wheels, pregnant with light years, bearing galaxies from virgin silence.
On my way home, I wandered through Macedonia. One night I left the path to sleep in a forest cave. About midnight I was wakened by a goat-footed singer with a three-stringed lyre, climbing through the cave on his way back from the Underworld, where he had been dallying with his lover. He gave me a drink from his wine skin and played the richest harmonies, the most haunting melodies, on just those three strings of that mysterious instrument. I began to weep with incomprehensible waves of grief. He said, "You must make a lyre of your flesh if you want to turn your tears to laughter."
I am not sure if this was a dream, but he touched his lyre to my lips and it melted like a piece of maple sugar candy, dripping down through the hollows of my rib cage, each drop echoing in the cavern of my belly. The goat-man said, "Loop these strings through your nostrils and stretch one to your heart, one to your navel, and one to the tip of your spine." I did as instructed. "Now breathe," he commanded.
As I inhaled, my nerves tingled with love songs. As I exhaled, strange rhyming couplets spilled from my lips in words of evaporated crystal. Even today I breathe these bejeweled sounds. This is how I remain just twelve years old, though I have outlived the world's most ancient volcanos.
About 2000 years later, I met Jesus. He was an honored guest in the house of my master Levi, where I was a servant boy. Reclining on his elbow by the low table, as was the custom at Hellenistic feasts, Jesus said, "Come here, boy. What are you serving?"
"Olives, sir." I offered him my plate of succulent brown ones.
"Not sweet enough for me," Jesus said. "Do you have any grapes?"
The whole room grew quiet. My master Levi and all the men reclining at the feast wanted to see what I would do, for it was a great sin to insult a guest, and I was a slave boy. "No grapes, sir," said I, "Only olives; but my master's olives are more luscious than any fruit."
At that, both host and guests sighed with relief, resuming their debate on the philosophy of love. Jesus reached his fingers into my dish of olives, drawing out a dripping fistful. Holding his hand over my head, he crushed the olives in his palm and drizzled their juice over my hair. It spilled down my forehead, into my eyes and over my lips. Jesus said, "Boy, I anoint you with oil. You are the Christ, just as I Am. Together, we will become pure breath, and enter the bodies of both saints and fools."
Deeply disturbed, my master Levi cried, "Why do you anoint this servant boy as if he were a prophet? He belongs to me!"
Jesus simply gazed into my eyes and commanded, "Speak, boy!"
My mouth made sounds, but were they words? Was this a language anyone could understand? I had no idea what I was saying, but I knew exactly what I meant:
"You have wandered too long in blazing desert sun. Come to my oasis of figs, pomegranates, cocoa and apple boughs. Rest in my green shadows."When your eyes take root in my fecund darkness, you will see gemstones lying among the lilies: rocks of amethyst and jagged topaz, blackest onyx, sapphires gleaming with their own inward light."Turn them over one by one and behold, a gushing spring under each stone. And see, dwelling in those gurgling fountains of night are all the serpents that were ever banned by priests of religion from every nation on earth. Now they dwell here, in my oasis, beyond good and evil. Press your face into my streams and drink of these serpent waters!"That was a very sweet night.
Several centuries later, I wandered through the ancestral hills of Eire, searching for elves and leprechauns, having read in a wicked book that Ireland was the last place on earth where the little people could still be found - at least out here on the world's surface. I climbed over a mysterious mound covered with clover and eglantine. Ancestral commotions rumbled from under the ground. On the other side a four point stag was waiting for me. He whispered, "Follow quickly, we are hunted."
Hearing the huntsman's horn, the buck and I ran into the white fog, then emerged in a cedar forest, walking along a deep crevasse in the broken earth. I heard no horn of huntsman now, but elfin music rising from that cleft in the earth. "Fairies?" I asked the deer. But the stag had disappeared.
As I was very tired, and it was evening, I lay down among morning glory vines whose blossoms were folded up. A sweet breath of warmth pervaded that cluster of green. Falling into deep sleep, I dreamed that tiny dancers entered and left my body, carrying excavated treasures which they loaded into carts of bone, pulled by winged dolphins, who flew up into the night, exporting my whole body, atomized into tiny dust particles of pure starlight.
I awoke among sunbeams, refreshed but hopelessly entangled in morning glories. The blossoms opened wide and gaped at me, yet the songs they sang seemed to tremble out of my own marrow.
Then I noticed a little man sitting beside me on the ground, his endless wheaten beard spiraling around him. Those vacant limpid eyes were like pools of cream, and somehow I knew that he was blind. But he gazed upon me with second sight, holding a ruddy glistening fish in his arms, as one might hold a fat furry cat. The fish had no trouble breathing, for he was the magical herring who swims among the constellations. I have no idea how I knew this.
"Who are you, sir?" I asked.
"My name is Turlogh," he said, "Turlogh, the Blind Harper."
"Have you come to teach me to harp, or to see?"
"Ah," he said, "You are so clever! But have the little people not been teaching you all night?"
At that, I remembered to consult the sensations in my body. I watched my breath sink into my chest, and a flame burst out of my heart, undulating in the form of an emerald lady. She had a serpent's tail, on which she could tiptoe and spin, spreading enormous rainbow wings. Her eyes were filled with tears, her lips with a succulent smile. A harp was singing inside me. A deep underground chorus answered this song of my body, echoing from the fissure in the ground. I realized that the elves who lived down there, in the heart-wound of the earth, had been teaching me their songs through the hours of darkness.
"Now you understand your name!" Turlough said. In fact, I had always hated my name: Alfred. But I never knew what it meant. "It is Anglo-Saxon," he added. "Elf-Raed, which means, Taught-by-Elves."
Then I awoke a second time, and Turlogh was gone. Or was it the third time I awoke? I am losing count. My life has been a never-ending necklace of awakenings. There in the grass beside me was a rabbit, a squirrel, and a fat raven. They plucked, pulled, and untangled the morning glory vines from my body.
The raven said, "None of the beings you have encountered until now were real. Not one. But we are real. We are animals. We come to you in dreams, disguised as other sorts of people whom you respect more. But you have been learning from us the whole time."
The rabbit and the squirrel stared at me with great kindness, then hopped off into the forest. The fat raven beat his wings and rose into the air, making a croak that seemed like the gong of an enormous bell. At that, I seemed to awaken yet again.
"Wait!" I shouted, "Was it all a dream within a dream?"
The raven called, "Yes!"
I shouted back, "Not so, because ravens can't talk!"
And the raven, now very high above, disappeared into the morning sunshine, singing, "This too!"
Krishna, this hair-raising tickle of transcendental beauty, outraged the Brahmin priests when he danced with farm girls. Buddha felt the wrath of holy ascetics because he renounced renunciation, daring to savor a breath in his flesh, then a cupful of sweetened milk.
Jesus broke the purity code, condemned to death for hugging lepers and feasting with unclean women. Why were those women so unclean? Because they reminded men of their longing for what cannot be grasped by thought.
Let the radiance at the center of your body incinerate the books of law. Let your heart be a pot-still, your inner heat boiling the commandments into one transparent shot of pure forgiveness.
May the love that blossoms from the silence where looking begins, dissolve all faces of God into diamond emptiness. Your fragrance must escape the flower, your honey overflow the comb. This is your sacred duty: become an outlaw.
The discovery that you are not your mind is the dawn of spirituality. You are not your thoughts, memories, beliefs, or desires.
You are boundless clarity untainted by concepts. You are the self-luminosity of pure awareness. But when your limitless Am contracts into a point of view, it becomes i. And this little i begins to think.
Then it cries, "How did i become so small, so miserable, so lost? i need to be saved." So the little i looks for someone else to save it from itself. Yet what the little i really needs is simply to relax, expand, and dissolve back into Am.
A mirror remains spotless no matter what it reflects. Even reflecting a lump of dirt, the mirror is untainted. The most vile image, the most lovely image, are of equal disinterest to the mirror. Fleeting, dream-like insubstantial reflections, our thoughts leave no impression on the glass. Their appearance in the mirror does not alter its essential emptiness.
In the blue sky, clouds precipitate and evaporate; yet the sky remains ever the same space whether stormy or clear. When the clouds move, the sky does not move. So our thoughts precipitate and evaporate in pure awareness. "Right" and "wrong" points of view appear and disappear in the vast space of consciousness that contains all possible perspectives.
But no point of view contains awareness itself, just as no passing cloud contains the whole sky. Who we really are remains timeless, limitless and still, even when a thousand thoughts storm through the mind. Whether positive or negative, horrific or soothing, the thoughts that pass over this mirror have nothing to do with our fathomless clarity.
Therefor, why struggle to replace "bad" thoughts with "good" ones, or to change "wrong" viewpoints to "right" ones? Points of view are right or wrong only in relation to each other; but in relation to the pointless space that contains them, all points have equal weight. And that weight is zero.
Our real responsibility is not to be right or wrong, but to wake up as boundless space. The only instruction we will ever need in dealing with our own mind is: "Let thoughts think themselves and dissolve, without any i in them."
O mind, give yourself permission to rest as awareness. Rest as who you are when you aren't trying to be "right." Don't be a cloud, be the sky!
An Effortless Practice
Witness your thoughts without grasping or entering them. This shift from doing to witnessing is always delightful, life-giving, energizing, even if the thought you witness is disturbing or dreary. The falsest opinion or most negative image may be the graceful means of liberation, the moment you cease grasping it. And as Rumi wrote, "Your grief may be the garden of compassion."
Thinking a thought never provides energy. But dropping a thought provides instant energy, returning us to crystal-clear awareness. In letting go of a thought, the boundless void gushes back to fill itself with emptiness, bringing an explosion of ananda, bliss.
Dropping thoughts requires no energy because it is not doing. In fact, dropping thoughts restores energy. This is the immediate pathless path to liberation. And the content of the mind is irrelevant to success in the path. We can practice this non-practice with any thought, trivial or profound, at any moment of the day, by simply letting the thought go.
Right now, surrender this thought and watch the blissful surge of awareness from within, a round wave that rolls outward to encompass the stars. As thought, you are very small. As awareness, you encircle galaxies.
Actually, your thoughts constantly dissolve. You don't notice this because you grasp another thought as soon as this one passes. But when you just watch the death of that thought, the birth of this one, without expending the energy to hold one and grasp the other, you notice the truth: you are not your thoughts. You are the Witness, an ocean of awareness surging with ananda. And what is this ananda, this bliss made of? Waves of emptiness.
Every thought has an opposite and wants to contend against it. What has no opposite is the Great Space of awareness. The unchanging untainted clarity of this Great Space is not only within you, it is you. Enfolding your darkest fear, your hardest pain, your birth and your death, Great Space is pure compassion. All that is required to attain it is: to relinquish being right or wrong. There is no need even to believe this. Just rest.
Tonight in meditation, I entered the garden of Vrindavan, which is located just below the pituitary gland at the center of my brain.
There I met Krishna wandering among the poppies, eating a banana. When he learned that I was from 21st century earth, he said, "Whooh, not that crazy place! I was there a long time ago... or was it the future?"
I said, "You were there 14,000 years ago, just before Kali Yuga began, dear friend, and I would like you to give me a message to take back to my friends, the poor troubled earthlings."
The cosmic lord thought for a moment, then said, "Stop improving yourselves."
"What?" I said.
"Why do you impose your religious beliefs and political ideas on each other, then call it 'improvement'? Does this make your lives better? There is no such thing as 'better.' You're just creating conflict. Stop improving."
Totally confused, I replied, "If we don't try to improve, then what should we do?"
Shyama Sundara, the Blue Sky of Boundless Beauty, smiled very gently, but the sparkle in his eye burned a diamond wound in my forehead. He said:
"Just relax. Become who you already are. Let the nectar of perfection bubble up from the ancient well in your solar plexus. When you scent the music of the inner light, start dancing."
I couldn't make any sense of his words. In fact, now that I think of it, there were no words, just some flute sounds that my vain little mind tried to translate into speech.
So the Lord and I abandoned words. We just frolicked with peacocks, whirled with Gopi girls, sipped blue wine from the sky in a tulip cup, laughed at the moon in a mud puddle. And when the misty sun came up, we offered lotus petals and coconut milk to the Mother of Gardens.
This blossom covered with dewdrops, is it right or wrong?The mind's first need is to be 'right.' The heart's first need is to be connected. I can survive being wrong. I cannot survive being disconnected at the root.
Here is a beautiful meditation: spend a few minutes every day assuming that you are wrong about almost everything. Rest there. It is very comforting. Why?
Because we discover that being 'right' or 'wrong' isn't very important. Even when our mind is 'wrong,' our heart can connect to other hearts, to the moon and rain, the sound of wind and a robin at dawn. In fact, it's easier to be connected when we're 'wrong,' because then the mind quiets down. We just shut up and listen.
Joy has nothing to do with righteousness, but with connection through the radiance of the heart. I may be wrong about this...
Our ego's most ancient veil is the illusion of impurity. "This food is impure. This act is impure. This body is impure. This thought is impure." Close your Eye and let it descend from the mind to the heart. Now open it and see. Nothing is impure. Every form is composed of inviolable light.Thus a Vedic text declares: "Whether pure or impure, whether filled with purities or impurities, whoever remembers the lotus-eyed Lord gains inner and outer purity."
Collage by Rashani Réa
On this exquisite day in the North West, not a cloud in the sky, 63 degrees, blossoms unfolding. I prayed to beloved Lakshmi when I awoke this morning: "O Mother, let me share your beauty and abundance with others today." Just came back from a five mile walk with Bowie, pictured here, already asleep in my arms. On the walk, I had a very simple conversation with my heart. So that is what I am sharing.~Where do we go when we die?
~The next world.
~Where is the next world?
~Is it a higher world than this one?
~It is the light this one is made of.
~How can I see it?
~Feel the luminous throb of a humming photon cloud around an electron in one flowering atom of your body. Un-whirl yourself to the bindhu star at the heart of the nucleus.
~This could be a dance.
~It is a dance.
~This sounds like music.
~It is music.
~It seems that when we die, we don't go anywhere. What do we do?
~Dissolve into Who You Are.
~Is it hard?
~How hard could it be to drop what you are not?
When I awoke this morning, before the mind of yesterday returned, I floated for a moment in eternity. It was so obvious that the truth about our universe was "educated" out of us and replaced by a false story of separateness, distance, competition, struggle; a story drilled into us at an early age and re-confirmed by our religion, our politics, our history and science classes, the literature they forced us to read...
But the truth is not this story at all. Truth is the boundless radiance of the silent Heart, the Anahata center, which in Sanskrit means "the unstruck sound." This truth is our immediate non-conceptual sensation, before we even begin to think. It is the total Self-perception of the body. And if the truth requires to be spoken, it might sound something like this...
Let go of your thoughts, regrets about the past, anxieties about the future, and simply feel their underlying sensations in your brain. Even a powerful memory, an event you believe really happened in some place you call "the past," actually happens in the present moment, as a flicker of light leaping an axon into the dendrite of a neighboring cell. The mental image created by this flare is secondary, like smoke.
Let your awareness fall back into neurological fire. Don't worry; you won't lose your mind. Your mind will be nourished at its roots. Then, when you need to think, your thinking will be useful.
Feel the subtle energy of your nervous system not only in the brain, but throughout the body. Become one field of sensation permeated by awareness, without any words, labels, or thoughts.
Now see if you can feel the boundaries of this sensation. Does your flesh have an outline? Does your body have any edges?
Feel the air around you. Bathe in the warmth of other living creatures around you. Do they have edges? Where does your territory end and their bodies begin? Sense the forest, the mountains, the ocean, the clouds, as extensions of your skin.
Now become aware of space itself, not as an impersonal abyss of frightening distances, but as the intimacy of your own attention. For space is awake. Space is awareness itself. It is not an abstraction you need to move through in order to get somewhere else. Space is an ocean of nourishment in whose waves you play.
Imagine how different our society would be if the people moving down the street, intent on getting somewhere else, would simply enjoy swimming, dancing through space. How would our body language change. How would we greet one another?
When you grasp the total field of your body, the stars are very near you. Galaxies that seemed to be "out there" now waltz inside you as the radiance of your own flesh. Separateness is an illusion. Just for a moment, give up the falsehood you were taught in school: the myth of distance. Let go of the story about the universe as an enormous machine far beyond you, in whose steely gears you are an infinitesimally lonely speck of grit, ground up between chill inanimate absences. This is the lie.
Dare to soak in the glory you really are. Your aura is not contained in the universe: your aura is the universe. You are not merely made of star-stuff: you scatter suns. Transcendence is mutual causation. Participate in the creation of whatever you behold.
Macrocosm and microcosm are simultaneously inter-active and mutually dependent. Be intimately connected to all sentient beings, as to your own nerves, wherever they are rooted on earth, in other worlds, or in the realm of the ancestors. Wash them with each heartbeat. Enjoy the inestimable honor of healing them with every breath. This is the truth.
Our sun is very active right now. It is your heart, after all. Let solar flares wash your body in cosmic particles, and don't freak out as your vibrations throttle up. Allow all sensations to happen in the knowledge that the cosmos wants to transform your DNA, evolving you into a gentle munching wingéd gorilla of unfathomable intelligence.
Illustration from 'Grandfather Twilight' by Barbara Berger
In the current political crisis, we hear a call for conscious people to participate in "resistance." A more radical response might be non-resistance...
Doesn't our resistance just project more duality and polarization? Aren't we limited, conditioned, and defined by what we resist?
When the Heart does not resist, it no longer fractures the continuum into "left" and "right." The Heart responds from wholeness. The answer to this crisis will not emerge from the old stories that have defined us through duality. One old story gave us the infernal engines of corporate oligarchy. The other gave us the almighty socialist state. Both were hierarchies of oppression. Something radically new is emerging from the centered Heart. It is not a hierarchy, but an ever self-sustaining circle. For the Heart is a center without circumference.
The Phoenix rises from the ashes of every narrative about time. She arises as the fire of Presence. Resentment of the past is over. Anxiety about the future is over. Politics is over. For it was all re-action, not action. Creative action springs from the heart's silence, never outraged by an old story. Love needs no story.
We are invited to see that resistance does not nourish us. It hardens us into a lead mirror of the enemy. Let protest be burned in the fire of celebration. Let us exalt something so luminous, so real and beautiful, that the fake and the ugly cannot endure its light.
In my quest for the most just and beautiful political system, given a choice between the Democrats and the Republicans, the answer became clear: Goddess-Intoxicated Anarchy.
I would rather drown in the un-picked blossom than sell the honey. I would rather light a tiny flame in my own chest than entitle myself to a million stars.
The bio-region replaces the nation-state, because nature draws no straight lines or right angles: she abhors borders. The local transcends the federal, the sustainable out-performs the wasteful, the small rejoices over the big, and all is green.
Our congress meets quietly around a forest pool reflecting the full moon. The only sound is a fresh spring gushing out of the earth. Our constitution is written in tree rings. The radical act is to be present. The revolution is to breathe.
Wetland Restoration Mandala by Caryn Babaia
"Of all the great things to be discovered, the being of nothingness is the greatest." ~Leonardo da Vinci
The great theologians of the Western tradition understood wisely that this creation comes out of nothing: 'ex nihilo.' They found this in the first verse of the Bible, where the earth is created out of 'tohu w'bohu: a formless void.'
But they assumed that a Creator must be necessary to make creation happen. This invention of a creator is an act of the mind, not an immediate perception of what Is. When our mind super-imposes its concept of 'God' onto the ineluctable suchness of the world, we lose the capacity for wonder. We cannot see the dazzling paradox that gives the universe its juiciness: the world is un-created.
No Creator makes it happen. There is no process of creation in time. Neither is there any thing-ness to give weight to no-thing. Every moment, for no purpose, the world simply flowers out of emptiness.
Just as a mirage shimmers in still desert air, so creation shimmers in the void. This is the vibrant playfulness, the dance-nature, of no-thing.
Thinking that it's all something makes us heavy. Knowing it's all nothing makes us light.
Here is a good little article on 'The Physics of Nothing' from the New York Times: LINK
Also recommended is the book, 'Nothingness: the Science of Empty Space,' by Henning Genz, Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Heidelburg: LINK
"That space is God in which everything arises and dissolves." ~Upanishads
Religion conditions us to believe that the path is long, the goal is distant, and God is far beyond this place, this moment. But the truth is, we live in a vast trick of perception whose punchline is right here and now. What we've been seeking is this, always this.1.
Long before any New Age teaching, the ancient Upanishads declared, "Know This to be That which you are seeking." Jesus said, "The kingdom of heaven is here in the midst of you." The Gnostic Gospel of Thomas gives us this version: "The kingdom is poured out over the whole earth, but men do not see it."
What if the Divine is space itself? What if space is awake, as pure consciousness?
Here is a dictum from the great mystics of the Western tradition, attributed variously to St. Augustine, Giordano Bruno, or Pascal, but originally found in the Hermetic sayings of 3rd Century Egypt: "God is a sphere whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere."
This is a thought-experiment for contemplating the divinity of space. The revelation that space is awake is so self-evident yet so stunning, that it strikes our awareness like the trumpet of the Last Judgment, calling us to the only temple that remains: the Temple of the Here and Now. We enter this temple the moment when we simply give up the search.
Space is awake, even when nobody's here. Space was awake before we were born into it, and into that Space our consciousness will one day dissolve. We generally use space as a means to an end, a vessel to be filled with our busy-ness. But what if space is an end in itself?
Look at any street in America and you see people furiously intent on getting somewhere. They move through space without enjoyment, assuming that it is an abstraction, a nowhere they must move through in order to get somewhere. But imagine if people actually awoke to the divine fullness of empty space. Imagine if we moved in awakened space, not to arrive anywhere, but simply to enjoy the dance through stillness.
We might rest our attention in the voluptuous softness of space itself, tasting the all-pervading bliss of mere Presence.
Space is the beginning and the end. This living stillness awaited you at your birth, and surrounds you at your death, womb to womb, never born. Even in the midst of the battle, a healing silence surrounds you, the tranquility of awakened space.2.
Space is no-thing, yet the source of creation. The opening of Genesis tells us: "In the beginning... the earth was formless and void." But the Biblical text makes it clear that this void is alive with energy, a churning oceanic intelligence, vibrant with breathings of Spirit, the living womb from which light shines. For in that vibrant space before creation, "the Spirit-breath of God was stirring the waters."
The opening passage of Genesis reflects, in poetic form, the revelations of quantum physics. Matter arises from an apparent vacuum, yet the vacuum is a rippling continuum entangling virtual photons and electrons as waves of pure mathematical intelligence. The void is alive with possibility. The vacuum of pure space is the un-created mind of God. Space is awake.
Space is a hologram, at every infinitesimal point containing all the information in the cosmos. A bindhu of pure space, tinier than a quark in the nucleus of an atom, bursts with virtual worlds and galaxies. Yet the womb of space remains ever-virgin, transcendent, immaterial, awakened clarity.
This "ground state" of energy, or "zero point" of the quantum vacuum, is Mother Divine. In the words of the 2nd Century Christian Gnostic, Valentinus, "The true Virgin Mother is mystical eternal silence."
Space is awake as consciousness itself. And when we are awake as space, mere emptiness overflows with self-nourishment.The very transparency of space sparkles as a kind of self-luminous food. This is the secret of abundance: the wealth of your birthright is all around you as pure awakened space. Space is the invisible cornucopia of creativity. Abstract space can generate whatever has form or substance, from the tiniest sub-nuclear particle to the vastest sun.
This is why great mystics love the desert. Space awakens us from the torpor of materialism. We stop deluding ourselves with the notion that consciousness is the effect of chemical interactions in the brain. Truly, at the subtlest level of quarks and gluons inside the supposedly "solid" proton, every particle of every chemical in the brain is born from the field of a prior pure consciousness. Consciousness was already there before the brain.
Consciousness is the cause of matter, not the effect. Awareness was here before the body was conceived. Brain, nerves and molecules are composed from waves of awakened space.
The limitless vacuum of space beyond the galaxies saturates each atom of your body. Fundamental particles of matter are no-thing but blessedly unbalanced mathematical equations suspended in the mind of an infinite zero. Creation tumbles out of that zero as mathematical symmetries seek balance. Blessed is the calculus of our stumbling particles, because if those equations every factored themselves back to zero, the whole universe would dissolve into a cipher, an empty circle. So let us enjoy the dance of space, these waves of emptiness playing in the ocean of the void, as a marvelous unsolved mathematical mystery. Because the mystery is unsolved, there is wonder. Because there is wonder, there is a world.
In the words of Sir James Jeans, one of the founders of quantum physics, this world is "made from pure intelligence." Jeans also said, "God loves to do geometry," which is a paraphrase of Plato.
Max Planck, another founder of modern physics, said that "mind is the matrix of matter." Likewise their colleague, Sir Arthur Eddington, wrote: "All through the material world runs the stuff of our own consciousness... the stuff of the world is mind-stuff."
Where can we find this cosmic stuffing? Far above? Deep within? In another dimension? Will it require lifetimes to reach? These questions are answered when all our seeking simply falls away, and we embrace the spaciousness of our own attention. The stuff of our consciousness is empty space, and the stuff of space is consciousness.
The 12th Century Christian mystic, Hildegard of Bingen, wrote that "God hugs you; you are enfolded in the arms of the mystery." We are like fish searching for water, surrounded by a miracle so self-evident we just don't notice. Therefor, the deepest form of worship is simply to awaken where we are. The beginning and end of spiritual practice is to rest as pure awakened space.4.
Opening our attention to the nature of space is the essential practice of all the world's wisdom traditions, once we strip away their mythological and religious imagery. Could there be any plainer path than becoming aware of space?
Pure space can nourish, heal, and re-create us. Awakened space is imbued with all the attributes of God. Someday, human civilization will derive infinite free energy directly from fluctuations of the vacuum in empty space.
Why not open your attention to the Great Space within you, around you, to the left and right, above and below? Then open your attention to that same vastness within each cell of your body. And now, become aware of this unboundedness in every atom, every photon of flesh... Here is the purest meditation, requiring no visualization or effort, because it is the sparkling naked awareness of what we are actually made of.5.
Then we notice a fact so obvious that it shakes the earth, yet so near we have overlooked it. Awareness OF infinite space IS infinite space. We are not only aware OF space, but As space. Space as subject creates its own object in itself, dynamically Self-aware. And this dynamic pulse between awareness and awareness is the impulse that creates the universe.
Space is one, yet as awakened space pulsates as two. All created worlds of perception become possible when space as subject knows itself as object. This is a perpetual oscillation from subject to object in the continuum of the empty void. The void ceaselessly explodes into the polarity of consciousness and matter, yet consciousness and matter are made of one Self-radiance.
And this is why the awakened space of deep meditation can heal and re-energize the body. Space is not only our awareness, it is every particle of our nervous system. To become truly aware of space is re-creation.
The ego-mind rebels against such a spontaneous and obvious revelation. Mind wants to attain something, to climb a ladder, to work its way from level to level, plane to plane, initiation to initiation. Ego wants to say, "I have been meditating for thirty years, and you have only been doing it for one minute. I have attained level 12, the highest initiation. You'll get here some day if you keep working at it," or some such nonsense. This is the mirage of seeking, the illusion of a journey. The illusion that there is a "path" playfully appears as a trick in the pathless wilderness of space.6.
To delight in emptiness is too graceful for the mind: not enough drama, not enough quest. Here is the joke. The only thing preventing our realization of divine space right now is the thought that, "this is too easy."
No circumstance can limit our practice of spaciousness, since space is not affected by its content. We can enjoy this Sabbath rest wherever we are. We do not find Sabbath rest in the content of this moment, but in the space that contains whatever is happening. The riot on an urban sidewalk and the green glen by a forest pond are both but momentary configurations of the same fundamental particles, appearing and dissolving in precisely the same space. Every battle surrounded by a stillness...
Because space is awake, there is an easy natural way to find liberation this very instant, wherever you are. Ever so gently shift your attention from the content of the moment to the space that contains it. Did you hear?
Ever so gently shift your attention from the content of the moment to the space that contains it.
Ironically, this salvific shift occurs by grace in some of the most violent and terrible events. In the midst of a crash, a traumatic accident, an act of war or sudden violence, so many survivors recall how they experienced a deep peace, a time-stopping stillness, surrounding the trauma. For many people, this is their first taste of spiritual Presence. Life, even in its most challenging moments, reveals its secret source!
We only need to taste spaciousness for an instant, in a one-moment meditation. This meditation is not an escape, for it enlivens our readiness to respond. It is the purest response-ability, and it can happen during our busy work day. Take one moment to rest as awareness, even if there is chaos around you. In this brief Sabbath rest is recreation. If the Sabbath can happen every seven days, it can happen every seven hours, every seven minutes, every seven seconds. Each Sabbath moment is filled with eternity.
Allow this Sabbath moment often throughout your day, and gradually its inner stillness will pervade all your actions. The day will come when the spaciousness of eternity outshines the content of any moment.
As awakened space, we remain thoroughly IN the world, but not OF the world. It is important to add that the realization of space is redemptive; you do it for others as well as yourself. Your space bestows a blessing on all who dwell in it.
Therefor it is impossible to awaken space for yourself alone. The space awakening within you is also the space around you. Your awakened space becomes available to others. This is how the practice of awakening space becomes our deeper work, no matter what else we do. By awakening space, you become a a healing presence in the world.
We might close by briefly observing how this universal practice of awakened space reveals itself in the world's great wisdom traditions.8.
AWAKENED SPACE IN THE VEDIC TRADITION: The ancient rishis of India called this space, Sat-Chit-Ananda: Truth-Consciousness-Bliss. Later Hindu priests populated this space with gods and goddesses. But gods and goddesses are just waves in space, energy potentials in the vacuum, just like you and me.
A god or a me arises as a ripple in the ocean of awareness. A ripple of me only exists in relation to a ripple of you. Each of these ripples is made of one and the same space. And each wave, while individualized at its peak, is the whole ocean at its base. Hence all of us, gods and mortals, are but one Great Space playing as many relative points of view. Indian philosophy starkly states that this 'atman,' the individual soul, is nothing but 'Brahman,' the eternal space of God. We are each other.
AWAKENED SPACE IN BUDDHISM: Gautama the Buddha taught this same truth in a different way. He wiped away all gods, goddesses and separate souls, reminding us that we are all mere empty space: "sunya." But this emptiness is alive as "bodhi chitta," which literally means "awakened consciousness." Western scholars misinterpret Buddha's teaching as nihilism, regarding emptiness as a negation. But "sunya"is a living emptiness that purifies and regenerates. Emptiness pulsates with positive energy, the energy of creation.
AWAKENED SPACE IN JUDAISM: Jewish mystics call the emptiness of awakened space, "ayin," which in Hebrew means no-thing. The mystical Jewish vision of God is "Ayin Soph Or." "Soph" means point, "or" means light. "Ayin Soph Or" may be translated as pointless light, or the dimensionless point of light. It is self-luminous space without any permanent point of view. The light of creation ("Or ha'Olam") emanates from the darkness of "ayin." Thus, as we have seen, the Hebrew creation story in Genesis 1 actually describes the foundations of quantum physics: material particles vibrating in waves from the cosmic no-thing of the vacuum.
AWAKENED SPACE IN CHRISTIANITY: Christian mystics personified the emptiness of awakened space as a Virgin Mother engendering the Word or Logos. The Logos is the seed of the material universe existing as pure thought before manifesting as matter. Christian theology insisted that creation is born out of nothing: "ex nihilo." In Christian contemplative prayer, we return to the creative silence that was there before God said, "Let there be light." Medieval mystics named such deep interior prayer, "the cloud of Unknowing." They called their practice the negative way: "Via Negativa." The deepest form of Christian contemplation was "apophatic" rather than "cataphatic" prayer. In Greek, this means "without form" as opposed to "with form." These mystics realized God as awakened space in radiant emptiness. They called God "the divine darkness."
In Christian meditation, we rest in a stillness where no images arise. This seems like nothing, because it is so empty and dark. But in our Sabbath rest from the work of thought, we discover that the Mother of God is within us, nearer than our own mind, as the womb of awareness. All creation is born from her silence as the light of Christ, the Word of God. It is this divine Logos who becomes sacred matter: "the Word made flesh."
AWAKENED SPACE NOW: Churches, temples and mosques exist for one purpose - to awaken space in our cluttered lives. Those wisdom-traditions who remember this will survive. Those who clutter their space with dogmas and creeds will not.
A New Age teacher may call this awakened space "cosmic consciousness." A Yogi may use the Sanskrit term, "samadhi." The Christian might use a Biblical term such as, "the peace which passeth all understanding." A Buddhist may call it, "Buddha-nature," and a Zen Buddhist might even call it "no-mind." The name we give to awakened space makes no difference at all. Indeed, some of us discover that when we try to name it, we aren't in it any more!
Awakened space is a practice, not a philosophical concept. Thinking about it has no value, since pure awakened space is not a thought. It is the pure consciousness from which thoughts arise. You cannot think awakened space because you are awakened space. So don't philosophize about it: just rest there as the radiant silence you are, beyond name and concept. We cannot measure the ocean in our little cup of thought. Throw the cup into the sea. Then dive in after it with your whole body!
Does this mean that we must suppress thoughts, or attempt to push thoughts out of awareness? Not at all. Such misguided practices only give us a headache. Simply realize that awakened space is always already here, even when the mind is cluttered with thoughts. Then quit grasping. Because our thoughts are all made of awakened space, just as a mirage is made of the still sky.
Awakened space pervades our thinking, dreaming, and deep sleep; our action and our rest; our words and our listening; our breath, our blood, our bones. Before the question even arises, awakened space is the answer.
Space is awake. She has no opposite. She welcomes all beliefs, religions, and points of view. Boundless, untainted, transparent, She is within you, and you are within her. She is the womb of creation. Awakened space enfolds your deepest fear and your bitterest pain, your coming in and going out. Her nature is compassion.
Return to the great Mother of awakened space for energy, for peace, and for the milk of perfect joy. You don't even have to believe. Just rest.
Om Shantih Shantih Shantih
All week, this pinball mind was pinging around this pin ball world, distracted by the news. But if we can just observe the way things really are, the madness of the world becomes a perfect meditation on the nature of awareness and the non-existence of distraction.
You can never really be distracted in meditation because your mind is the Goddess and your consciousness is Lord Shiva, watching her wild and lovely dance.
Lord Shiva is pure awareness, stunned into silence by Shakti's creative power, the sinuous undulation of your own mind. The Lord is not stunned into unconsciousness, but into higher, clearer, more radiant consciousness. And the more he has to witness, the more conscious he becomes!
The object only enlivens the subject, and the object has been projected into form, out of the ocean of pure consciousness, just so that consciousness can witness, be amazed, and through amazement become conscious of its Self. That is the purpose of prakriti, creation.
Shakti, the very play of your thoughts, irradiates space and time with her splendor, cleansing, healing, re-creating earth and stars, not through your will but hers alone. You are just the wonder, the Keeper of the Space where her dance unfolds.
So let your mind dance as wildly as she pleases. Let her wander throughout creation, caressing and kissing the furthest galaxies. Simply remember the secret: this dancing mind is Shakti and this awareness of the dance is Shiva. Awareness abides as silent witness, wherever the mind goes. Then there is no conflict, no distraction in meditation.
Satyam, Sivam, Subham,
Sampurna, Sukha, Santam;
Sivoham, Sivoham!"The true, the auspicious, the good,
the beautiful, the radiant;
existence, awareness, bliss;
fullness, joy, and peace:
the very form of bliss-consciousness,
I am Shiva, I am Shiva!"
By Josquin Deprez, one of the most cosmic musicians of all time, here is a canon for 24 voices, a setting of Psalm 91: "Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty..."
Mystics are not afraid of the night. Christian contemplatives named God, "the divine darkness," inviting us to find truth in the "cloud of unknowing." St. John of the Cross proclaimed that illumination only happens after "the dark night of the soul." They called this path to God the "via negativa," just as the Vedantists of India called it, "neti neti: not this, not that."
Indian poet-saint Lalladev cried, "Give me the strength to take hold of the darkness!" In Chinese spirituality the Yin principle of darkness is as fertile and healing as the Yang of light.
The Jewish psalmist wrote, "Yea, the darkness is no darkness with thee, but the night is as clear as the day; darkness and light to thee are both alike" (Psalm 139). In the creation hymn of Genesis, chapter 1, we discover that God's Word of light emerges from a living sea of pulsating darkness, which is "tohu wa bohu: formless and void." Yet this is a vibrant Void where "the breath of the Spirit stirred the waters of the abyss."
These profound opening verses of the Hebrew Bible encapsulate the wisdom of modern physics: particles emerging from energy into matter as "fluctuations of the vacuum," waves of pure mathematical intelligence arising from the Uncertain yet infinitely Possible.
Throughout Eastern Europe, in the most ancient centers of Christianity, the sacred Dark was embodied in the figure of the "Black Madonna." It is she who gives birth to the Light.*
What a tragedy that Western religion came to impose its moral dualism, Good and Evil, onto the mysterious dance of Light and Dark! Let us return to the fierce sweet naked sheltering shadow, and find rest. Darkness is not the opposite of light, but the womb of light.
Read a profound exposition on the Dark Goddess by mystic and scholar Vera de Chalambert at her website: LINK
Yama, All-Devouring Time, and the Six Realms
Pure consciousness generates the material world out of its Self as the appearance of the non-self.
Why would I want to appear to myself as the non-self? So that by experiencing what I am not, I may awaken ,through contrast, a clear experience of what I Am.
I get lost in the forms of maya to realize the formless essence of who is getting lost. This is the very purpose of the game of creation.
Divine Consciousness projects worlds of desire out of its own energy and then perceives them for only one reason: to awaken the perceiver. This is why the Biblical creation story proclaims, "God said, Let there be light, and there was light: and God saw that the light was good." The divine Self was liberated by seeing.
What awakens the taste that dissolves all craving and attachment? Only the Self-reflection of consciousness. Consciousness must taste her own Self-luminosity, unalloyed with any object of perception, to repose in her essence, and enjoy liberation. Yet this awakening from bondage is only possible through bondage, in a world of forms paired in opposites that both attract and repel her awareness.
In perceiving, "I am not that, not that, not that," consciousness awakens and declares, "So-Ham: I Am This!" In Western scriptures (Exodus 3) this awakening is represented through the story of Moses, where consciousness reveals itself as "I Am that I Am." I Am is the very name of God, the self-awakening of awareness in the burning tree of Moses' own nervous system.
Once liberation is gained, consciousness continues to dwell in the world of objects without attachment, craving, or fear. Every perception is an enlightenment, a refresher in awakening. The poetry of William Blake so clearly describes this all-important difference between experience in bondage and freedom:
"He who binds to himself a joy
doth the winged life destroy.
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
dwells in eternity's sunrise."
In the Yama Mandala, there are six realms where our awareness may be reincarnated, depending of course on our karma. Yet these very forms of bondage become doors of liberation. We may take this mandala literally, or we may take it as a symbol of our present experience: the way our attention gets drawn into various limitations through desire.
It is important to note that this paradigm of limitation and bondage is not "world denying" or "nihilistic." It does not make value judgments. Heaven is just as binding as hell. And earth is the school of liberation! The mandala just describes the world as it is, giving it meaning and purpose.
The six realms portrayed in the mandala are: (1) heaven of the gods, (2) heaven of the demi-gods, (3) earth, (4) animal realm, (5) realm of Pitris, or "hungry ghosts," (6) and hell of the demons. All are realms of bondage, where consciousness limits itself through absorption in the forms of the non-Self.
Even the gods are in a delicious dream, enjoying heavenly delights of the subtle senses. And the demi-gods dwell in a delirium of envy and competition. The animals are completely absorbed in sensation, with little or no self-awareness. While the hungry ghosts are lost in craving and addiction. Like figures in Dante's purgatory, their forms embody their karma: they are conceived as having huge heads and bellies, with thin delicate necks, constantly straining to take it what their senses crave.
At the center of the mandala we see the curious image of a cock pursuing a snake pursuing the tail of a pig, in a perpetual circle. These are the "three poisons" that drive us from lifetime to lifetime in the endless cycle of karma. The three animals symbolize craving, anger, and dullness, the mental states that cloud pure consciousness and lead to bondage in the six realms.
Outside the wheel is a clear blue sky: the boundless realm of liberation, the clarity of pure awareness grasping no form. The mandala depicts the figure of Buddha floating in this sky. The path out of the circle rises like a wispy trail from the earthly realm.
Why can the path to liberation not arise from one of the other six realms? No, not even from the heaven of the Gods! For it is only possible to gain liberation through human incarnation. Only here can we experience life in combined opposites, awakening Self-awareness. The Gods are too absorbed in pleasure, without pain, to gain liberation from both.
According to Buddhist teaching about this great Yama Mandala of all-devouring Time, even gods and angels must be reborn on earth to gain liberation. "Why would the heaven of the gods be a realm of bondage?" one might ask. Because soft chains of gold are still chains. The chains of limited experience bind consciousness to form, even when the form is the seductively sweet experience of paradise. In heaven, a god may delight in the fragrance of a celestial rose for ten thousand years, absorbed in sensory delight. Yet this experience still binds consciousness to form, and distracts the Self from the taste of its formless essence, the bliss of boundlessness. The Gods are those who have yet to learn the deepest lesson of all: bliss and pleasure are completely distinct.
Detail from the Yama mandala, the realm of demi-gods,
who are still caught in subtle desire, envy and pride.
The rishis who devised this mandala remind us that even heavenly beings eventually grow restless, yearning for they know not what, because their awareness is still bound by craving the pleasures of the non-self. Eventually, an intuition arises in them, whispering, "There must be something more, more than even this paradise!" Then that god is reborn on earth, where liberation is possible.
In the human realm, the contrast between the Self and non-Self is greater than in heaven, but not so great as in the other realms. To put it simply, only in the human realm is there an equilibrium between spirit and matter. In the "lower" realms, the bondage of matter prevails. In the heaven realms, matter is too subtle and dreamlike to provide contrast with the Self. But on earth, there is neither constant pain nor constant pleasure. Opposites are balanced in such equilibrium that a Path opens up in the axis between them. Treading that delicate razor's edge between antipodes liberates the experiencer from the experience.
Here on earth, pain holds hands with pleasure, sorrow accompanies joy. It is easier to get un-stuck from the world of sensation when one has a hangover the morning, after a pleasant party, than to live in a world where the feast goes on for a thousand years with no adverse side effects!
A "Son of God" incarnates here to be liberated on the cross of paradox. His liberation spills a radiant force-field that blesses multitudes. It is only in this human form that we realize formlessness. It is only here, at the center of the cross, that we learn to repose in the Self, tasting that which is beyond gain or loss.
Reposing on the milk ocean of pure consciousness, Vishnu witnesses worlds arise and dissolve like bubbles, just as you may witness your own dreams yet know, "I am awake inside." Vishnu is merely a representation of the Witness within us, who is "in the world but not of the world." Vishnu is our own awareness liberated from bondage to form, yet ever flowing in the midst of form, enjoying what arises and dissolves without attachment. Such a liberated awareness has no personal craving or fear, but wills only what heals and awakens others.
Western intellectuals often misunderstand this teaching as "world denying." It bears repeating that this teaching does not deny the world, but celebrates a world awakened! A world awakened to the Self, through perceiving the non-Self. This teaching describes the real purpose of creation.
In liberated consciousness, wherever we are in this world, we are at home. We experience the best lesson possible for us at each moment. Consciousness invites us to participate in the manifestation of its wholeness through seeing and acting. The Self has constructed this dream for one reason: our awakening. Each moment arises just as it should be to give us the next step in letting go of something we were grasping.
This teaching honors the Creator, a Creator who pervades yet out-shines her creation. And that Creator is each one of us. In awakened Self-repose, we enjoy the world without projecting into it those limiting fears and desires that debase our creation into a culture of addiction, violence and greed. As the Awakened, we truly "love our neighbor as our Self," seeing clearly that our neighbor is our Self. For we penetrate the veil of the non-Self, and it dissolves, letting pure Awareness shine through as the essence of all creation.
Therefor, it is really only through Self-realization that our political and economic conflicts will be resolved. One can do no greater service to humanity than to touch one's own heart and awaken the bliss of the Self. Then our actions are spontaneously directed to helping others awaken. Only in a world of awakened beings, who see their neighbors as their own Self, is peace possible.
Friend, no object is more radiantly beautiful than the subject. Taste the diamond at the center of your heart. This is cessation of desire, the end of bondage.
Jai Guru Dev.