Long ago, Sage Uddalaka sought to instruct his beloved son, Shvetaketu, in the wisdom about the ultimate Self.
Sage Uddalaka: "Bring me the fruit of that fig tree."
Shvetaketu: "Here it is, Sire."
Sage Uddalaka: "Break it open."
Shvetaketu: "It is broken, Sire."
Sage Uddalaka: "What do you see?"
Shvetaketu: "There are very small seeds, Sire."
Sage Uddalaka: "Break one of them open."
Shvetaketu: "It is broken, Sire."
Sage Uddalaka: "What do you see?"
Shvetaketu: "Nothing much, Sire."
Sage Uddalaka: "Beloved son, the subtle essence that you can no longer discern is the source of that fig tree. Believe me. Likewise, the subtle essence behind this universe is Truth. That is the Self. And That thou art!"
It's not an accident that you are reading this page. Everything that has happened in all of History has led you to this point. It's great to be here with you. It's wonderful sharing this moment. What we have to share with each other is our Being, the words and the feeling are just passing through. Words are symbols which point beyond themselves to the Inexpressible.
What makes this moment unique is your sense of being present. We call this reality because of the experience of being present and aware.
We are here in reality, but we are not totally here. Because we reject here, we are unhappy with here, we want to be farther up the road, but when we get there we will be just as unhappy, because then it will be here. What we want is all around us, but we don't want that, because it is all around. We put in so much effort because we imagine our goal to be external and distant.
Students used to come to my teacher and ask, "Baba, bless me so I can have more love." Baba would say, "My blessings are there. God's blessings have always been there. It's your blessings that are lacking."
The mind is a poor pilgrim forever wandering. The bond which unites us all is this common search for happiness and yet, as we share this moment, we are in the presence of that deep and joyful rest that lies within each of us.
The Ashtavakra Samhita says:
If you detach your Self from the body and rest in Consciousness, you will at once be happy, peaceful, and free from bondage. Herein lies the essence of practice! By identifying the Self with the body, and ascribing to the Self the limitations of the body, such as birth, death, old age, or disease, we suffer.
I have a two word cure for this suffering: Stop it! You will at once be happy means the very moment the Self is known, because the Self is never really affected by body and mind.
Notice it now, this moment! What is your experience of it? Come to rest in the witness of the breath. I didn't say think about this moment. Notice that thinking about your experience of the present is already in the past. Our thoughts as well as our words are symbolic and not experiential. The present is pre-intellectual, a state of pure consciousness.
What is the standard for Reality? That alone is Real which exists by Itself. Which reveals Itself by Itself. Which is eternal and unchanging. Divine. Self-effulgent.
Does the world exist by itself? Was it ever seen without the aid of the mind? In deep sleep there is neither mind nor world. One knows that without the Seer there is nothing to be seen. Without the Knower there is nothing to be known. The knowledge and the known arise to the Knower, in the Knower, as the Knower.
My first experience of this came many years ago. I loved to run and would run for miles just for the joy of running. Dem Dry Bones is a famous spiritual song, and as I ran I would chant the words to the rhythm of my breathing and pace so as not to allow the mind to think of stopping. You remember, it goes like this:
With the toe bone connected to the (pause) foot bone,
The foot bone connected to the (pause) leg bone,
The leg bone connected to the (pause) knee bone,
The knee bone connected to the (pause) thigh bone,
The thigh bone connected to the (pause) back bone,
The back bone connected to the (pause) neck bone,
The neck bone connected to the (pause) head bone,
Oh! Hear the Word of the Lord.
The tune then descends in half-steps and retraces the body back down to the toe bone, and the refrain:
Oh! Hear the Word of the Lord.
One evening after running for a few miles, suddenly I was in a state of what I call perfect rest. I was making no effort, yet the body continued to run. I was totally present, yet in a state of inner ease and freedom. I had withdrawn from the experience and its experiencer and stood apart in pure awareness. The personality continued, but as part of the objective world. My identification with the content of consciousness had stopped or shifted to the witness, pure consciousness itself, the context in which all was happening, totally spontaneously.
In those days we called this type of experience being in the zone. I now think of it as the flow state. The experience of flow in nature is known to us through direct experience. For example, when we are absorbed in listening to music, or running, or meditation we experience it. Yet it is difficult to express.
I stopped running shortly after that and I really didn't have the words to express that experience until I began training in yoga techniques. I was reading the experiences of yogis and sages and they spoke about finding true identity. And they said things like:
Because you identify yourself with the ego, the doer, you are tied to birth and death. Cease this very moment to identify yourself with the ego, the doer, which is created by ignorance, and realize that you are that Being which is eternal happiness. You are pure consciousness, the witness of all experiences. Your real nature is joy.
Each was pointing to a state of Being, a pure awareness of Being, a pure delight in Being. We are aware of thinking, feeling, doing but we are not aware of our Being. We are always identifying ourselves with thoughts, feelings, and roles, and it's difficult to let go...and yet very simple. The truth is hidden by its simplicity.
How to catch a monkey
The simplicity of it reminds me of the way a trapper catches monkeys in India. The trap consists of a coconut chained to a tree. The coconut has some nuts inside which can be grabbed through a small hole cut into the coconut. The hole is just big enough so that the monkey's hand can fit in, but too small for his fist full of nuts to be withdrawn.
The monkey cannot revalue the nuts. If he had human intellect, you could tell him to let go and he would be free!
Once caught, the trick is to set the monkey free without breaking the trap or harming the monkey. The wise man takes the monkey by the free hand and offers him a banana with the other. The monkey drops the nuts, withdraws his hand, and takes the fruit.
This is the role of Grace in our lives. The Truth is revealed and we are set free.
The question arises, how can a simple technique like watching the breath bring about a grand transformation? We make the assumption that attaining the Self is difficult. Both parts of this statement are false. It is neither difficult nor an attainment. You are already your Self, you only need to recognize it.
In our daily practice, awareness of what we eat and how we exercise must include the care and feeding of the mind.
My teacher said about the mind:
Do not judge yourself according to the thoughts which arise in the mind because it is the nature of the mind to think, and all kinds of thoughts, both good and bad, keep surfacing. We should turn our attention from our thoughts to their source. That source is the Witness, and it is absolutely pure, not polluted by any passing idea.
Muktananda pointed to Kashmir Shaivism as the philosophy that most nearly represented his own experience, that Consciousness is everything. He titled his autobiography Chitshakti Vilas, or Play of Consciousness.
Legend says that Shaivism was born when the Lord Shiva came to the ninth-century Kashmiri sage, Vasugupta, in a dream and told him to go to a certain rock and touch it. The rock rolled over revealing what we now call the Shiva-sutras. There is much for the scholar in the study of these 77 aphorisms. For me, as a seeker, the sutras are a means to use the mind to know what cannot be known by the mind. The sutras are a validation of the direct experience of the Self.
Baba taught using his initiating power, his power to transmit the experience of Self-Recognition, and these sutras.
The First Sutra
Shiva-sutra 1-1: caitanyamatma: Consciousness is the Self
In his commentaries on the Shiva-sutras, Baba said:
"The Self unfolds its countless powers when it sets out to create a universe, and manifests as the subject (perceiver) and object (perceived). Though the cosmos contains the two-fold division of seer and seen, still it is a unity since there is not a single object in it which cannot be apprehended by consciousness or illumined by it. An object which is not amenable to knowledge (perception) cannot exist.
The functional aspects of Chiti, the rays of the light of consciousness, are present in all directions, everywhere. The nature of consciousness is to be ready to know, to know and to make known. The mode of consciousness is to fill all objects, perceptions and activities while remaining free. Only Parashiva, supreme truth, is thus free. It governs all the tattvas (principles) from earth up to Shiva.
Parashiva is eternal, pervasive, formless. It activates everything. It is the soul of the universe - supremely pure, completely full, the conscious Self. It does not change though it manifests as space, time and form. It is the consciousness within the spirit within the heart, and it is the same as the consciousness without. Right knowledge is the direct awareness of the pervasiveness of consciousness within and without. Such an undifferentiated understanding brings worldly fulfillment and spiritual liberation, perfection, realization and peace. It lacks only bondage and suffering.
The truth is that to realize the Self is to get what we already have. There is nothing apart from Shiva. There is nothing other than Shiva. Whatever there is, is Shiva. To be aware of Parashiva is to be fearless and free in the Self. There is nothing which is not Shiva; there is no place which is not Shiva; there is no time which is not Shiva; there is no state which is not Shiva. Not a single thought wave can arise separate from Shiva. To be aware of this is to be aware of Shiva. Here, there, wherever you look, whatever you think, is Shiva. The Shiva-sutras are alive with this divine consciousness."
The Five Cosmic Processes
Shaivism talks about Shiva's five cosmic processes, which incorporate all of life. That philosophy is embodied in the Nataraj, shown above. What we first notice about the art is that Shiva is not portrayed as a Greek god, a muscular male figure, but rather is shown as a manifestation of consciousness with male and female qualities. Note the curve of the hip with a sari blowing in the wind. The major premise is that there is only one Ultimate Reality and that Reality has two aspects, one transcending the universe: Shiva - masculine principle; and the other operating throughout it: Shakti - feminine principle.
The infinite bliss of the Supreme Soul naturally overflows and spills out into the play of the five processes.
The first of these is creation, which is shown as a drum in the raised right hand, signifying the creation by vibration.
The second is sustenance, shown by the elephant trunk mudra (hand gesture), signifying protection or preservation.
The third is destruction, shown by the flame in the raised left hand, signifying dissolution.
Everything in form goes through these three changes.
Poised in the balance of creation and destruction is the blissful face of Shiva /Shakti and the mudra (palm outward) signifying "do not fear".
The fourth process, concealment, is represented by the little guy that is dressed just like Shiva under Shiva's foot. He is holding meditation beads in his right hand and counting his breaths, like his life depended on it.
He is also looking up at the raised foot signifying the fifth process, grace or revelation. While delusion creates separation and casts us down, grace is the principle that creates unity and lifts us up.
The Nature of Reality
Baba was fond of telling a story from the Upanishads. The hero of this story is Ashtavakra who, as legend would have it, wrote the Ashtavakra Samhita, also called the Ashtavakra Gita. I will tell a somewhat shorter version.
The story of King Janaka and Ashtavakra
One day King Janaka was lying in a bed of flowers after lunch, armed sentries were keeping watch over him, and some maid servants were fanning him. He fell asleep and began to dream. He dreamt that another king attacked and defeated him and that he was banished from his kingdom. Janaka left his throne in rags.
After awhile, he became very hungry. He came to a corn field on the side of the road and plucked two ears of corn. At that moment, the owner of the field arrived and began to beat him. The farmer shouted, "You scoundrel! How dare you enter my field and help yourself to my corn!"
At this Janaka woke up. He looked around and saw his bed of flowers, armed sentries around him, and maids fanning him. Then he closed his eyes and again dreamed the farmer was beating him with his stick, and he began to feel the ache of the blows that he had received. He opened his eyes again, and again he saw the bed of flowers, his armed sentries, and the maids.
The king was amazed. He began to think about it. We have such experiences quite frequently, yet we don't pay much attention to them because to us they do not mean anything. This wasn't the case with the king. He called all the distinguished people of his kingdom, all the physicians, astrologers, learned men, sages and seers, and he put this question to them: "I have had two experiences. Which one is true? Explain this to me."
Everybody gave an explanation according to his understanding.
The astrologer said it was due to the evil influences of planets. The physician said a disorder of body fluids. Janaka was not impressed. He called the sages and swamis and put the question to them, "Which state is true? Which experience is true, the experience of the beating that I received from the farmer or the experience of being surrounded by armed sentries and maids?" No one could answer. Janaka said, "All these people have been living on my charity, but they are obviously good for nothing. Throw them in jail." Many days passed and the king became obsessed with this question. He let everybody know that he was in search of somebody who knew the answer.
A young boy named Ashtavakra, which means one who suffers from eight deformities (he was quite crooked!) heard the news. As his father was a seer, he asked his mother, "Where is my father?"
"The king who issued this proclamation has imprisoned your father. He is not the only one in the jail; there are many other seers besides him. And all because they could not answer the king's question."
Ashtavakra decided, "I'll go and give the answer."
His mother said, "People far greater than you are lying in prison. You are a mere boy, what can you know?"
Ashtavakra said, "Take me to the king."
She took him to the king's palace. A large drum had been placed outside with a plaque above it saying that anyone who wanted to answer the king's question should beat the drum.
Ashtavakra beat the drum!
Everyone who heard the sound became excited and came rushing, and the king's court was filled to capacity. And here was a young lad who looked so funny. All the courtiers laughed, and the king laughed and laughed. Ashtavakra stood silent and waited for the people to calm down, and when everybody became quiet he began to laugh heartily, he laughed for over an hour. The king was astounded, but he was wise. The king asked Ashtavakra, "O son of a seer, when you entered the court everybody laughed. But they had a reason to laugh, you dared to come answer my question, because of which thousands of seers and sages of the realm are lying in prison. But why did you laugh?"
The boy said, "Your majesty, I had been given to understand that you are a wise king, as are your courtiers. Your court is supposed to be full of learned people, but when I came here I found that all of you are fools, no wonder you can't get an answer to your question. I laughed because I saw that all the people here are fools, who laughed simply at seeing my deformed body. The fact is that everybody is lame in his own way, just as I am lame in my way. But the soul that dwells within the body is neither crooked nor deformed, and the soul in my body is the same as the soul in your body. The king was quite intelligent, and he got down from the throne and honored the boy. Ashtavakra continued, "Your majesty, ask me your question."
"I had two experiences. Which is true?"
"Neither experience is Truth; both are false. When one is awake, the dream state is unreal, and when one is dreaming, the waking state is unreal. Both states have a beginning and an ending. Therefore, both states are unreal. The truth lies beyond both of them, and if you reach that place and get centered there, you would never be beaten, and you would never get involved in such debates. That state has so much value. And that is a state of supreme, everlasting bliss. It is beyond birth and death. The Real is eternal and unchanging, and you are That. It is the highest state, it is the state of supreme peace. And that is the goal of meditation, the most worthwhile goal for man."
- For Self-Realization, if you detach your self from the body and rest in Consciousness, you will at once be happy, peaceful, and free from bondage. Herein lies the essence of practice and direct experience. Through commitment and practice spiritual concepts become experiential realities.
- Kashmir Shaivism accepts the reality of the world as it is, with all its happiness and pain. It views the world not as an illusion, but as the creative manifestation of Consciousness - the joyful expression of Shakti, the power of Consciousness
- Shaivaism talks about Shiva's five cosmic processes: creation, sustenance, dissolution, concealment and grace. These incorporate all of life. That philosophy is embodied in the Nataraj, the Lord of the dance.
- The jiva (the individual) - God in bondage as the embodied soul - always carries out the five processes on a small scale.
- The word turiya literally means fourth. So long as ignorance prevails, the Self is conditioned by three states: wakefulness, dreaming, and deep sleep. With the dawn of Knowledge it attains the fourth (turiya) state of transcendental bliss, the Witness of the other three states. The Witness of the breath.
Detach yourself from the body-mind.
Close your eyes and return to the witness of the breath.
On each out-breath speak the word... Silence...Silence...Silence.
Note the difference between the gross word Silence and the actual reality of silence,
the interval of silence that the word arises and subsides in.
The word Silence is the creative movement of Shakti.
The actual reality of Silence is the light of Consciousness, Shiva.
Now think silently to yourself on the in-breath and the out-breath...silence...silence...silence.
Note the difference between the subtle thought, silence, the creative movement of Shakti,
and the actual reality of the silent background that allows the thought to arise and subside.
The light of pure Consciousness.
Now rest in the silent witness of the in-breath and the out-breath for a few minutes.
Understand your Self. Love your Self. Meditate on your Self.