The Path. The Pointers. The Paradox

After paradoxically searching for something which is essentially our very own nature (svarūpa) or trying to become what we already are, one gradually realizes that one needs to do very little in the realm of self-realization.

ना पाना है, ना छोड़ना है 
बस प्राप्त को समझना है

Neither to attain, nor to relinquish;

Just to understand the ever-attained.

खोजना नहीं, खो-जाना है:
Not to search really, but to get lost in the search

When due to the sheer Grace of our Common Creator, one stumbles upon a teaching of Oneness or non-duality that helps us rediscover our essential nature or true identity, one is amazed at the simplicity of it all, this whole search thing. This true identity is not something separate, individualistic achievement based on the apparatus of body, mind, and senses. It is rather the underlying conscious principle—the “I-Principle” or the felt sense of “I-Amness” or “Consciousness/Awareness”—the substratum, the operative principle of body, mind, and senses. All our experience—of the outer and the inner world—takes place as ripples in the quantum soup of this universal awareness.

The dream analogy is very helpful in understanding this enigma. When we dream, our awareness slips into different dimension. Let’s just say that we see a tiger in the dream. We get afraid of it and start running away. Now, obviously, the tiger is outside (our mind) and the fear is inside (our mind). However, our experience of the dream—tiger/outside/fear/inside/running away—seems seamless: it is all taking place on the “screen” of cognitive awareness. And it seems very real, very vivid as long as it lasts. In the same manner, our experiences take place during the walking state. Our mind “creates” all we see during the waking state just like it creates the objects/experiences of the dream world. Qualitatively, there is no difference. This is a paraphrase of verse 170 of Vivekachudamani of Sri Saṅkarācārya, also a favorite of Sri Ramana Maharshi.

When we get the real taste of this emanation—सफूरना, safuranā, all seeking subsides on its own accord. What remains is this unfoldment, this constant sensing of the experience of our true nature:

न कुछ हुआ न होत है, न कुछ होवन हार
अनुभव का दीदार है, अपना रुप अपार

na kucha huā na hota hai, na kucha hovana hāra /

anubhava kā dīdāra hai, apanā rupa apāra //

Nothing has happened/ nothing ever happens, nor can anything really happen.

It is just this seeing of the experience—of our infinite, fathomless Nature.

Arjuna conveys this rare experiential understanding after listening to the entire message of the Gītā with these words:

नष्टो मोहः स्मृतिर्लब्धा त्वत्प्रसादान्मयाच्युत ।
स्थितोऽस्मि गतसन्देहः करिष्ये वचनं तव ।।

naṣṭo mohaḥ smṛtir labdhā tvatprasādān mayācyuta /

sthito’smi gatasandehaḥ  kariṣye vacanaṁ tava //

O Changeless One (Śri Kṛṣṇa), by Thy Grace, my delusion has been dispelled and I have regained my memory (of Truth). I now stand firmly established (in my svarūpa, essential nature), with my doubts all cleared, ready to do Thy bidding.

Every word here is worth its weight in the gold: Thy Grace; delusion gone; regained my remembrance; all doubts cleared; firmly established in my essential nature; and ready to do the inner, Divine Command (हुकम, hukam). What a complete picture of all that is essential in spiritual journey.

This is the net result, the ultimate finding, of the teachings of the Gītā. It is simple but not easy.

A Zen saying speaks eloquently of the human paradox:

‘It take us long to discover that the light we are seeking is in our own lantern

And that our rice have been cooked from the very beginning.’

The more serious one’s search gets the less spiritual baggage one seems to require for understanding one’s spiritual status.

Says Śaṅkara: “Study of scriptures is fruitless as long as the highest Truth is not known. And it is equally fruitless when the highest Truth has already been known.” (Vivekachudamani, 61)

In a similar vein, Sufi poet, Bulleh Shah, says:

इल्मो बस करीं ओ-यार
इक़ अल्फ़ तेरे दरकार

ilmo bas karīn o-yāra

ika alif tere darakāra

O, dear friend! Refrain from all vain learning;

[In the school of life,]

just the first letter of the alphabet is enough…

[to experience the Real thing!]

पाया कहे सो बांवरा खोया कहे सो कूड़
पाया खोया कुछ नहीं, जीओं का तओं भरपूर  ~कबीर

pāyā kahe so bāṁvarā khoyā kahe so kūr̤a

pāyā khoyā kucha nahīṁ, jīoṁ kā taoṁ bharapūra

The one who says that I have attained it, is a fool.

And the one who says I have lost it, is delusional.
Neither attained nor lost,
It is forever Full and Complete.

ना नेड़े, ना दूर, सर्वत्र भरपूर, हादरा-हज़ूर ~गुरुबाणी

Neither near, nor far;
full and complete all-around,
It is ever-present as Eternal Now.

Why do we miss the obvious?

वज़ह मालूम हुई तुमसे ना मिलने की सनम्
मैं ही ख़ुद पर्दा बना था, मुझे मालूम ना था ~स्वामी राम तीरथ

I know now why I did not meet Thee.

I did not know that my ego is the veil.


इश्क़ ला-हासली का ख़ेल नहीं

देख़, हम इस गली की ख़ाक हुऐ -शोएब बिन अज़ीज़

iśq lā-hāsalī kā k̲hel nahīṇ

dek̲ha, hum isa galī kī k̲hāka huae

This love is not a pastime of achieving something.

Look! Dust I have become on my Beloved’s path.

The mahāvākya-s of the Vedas declare unconditionally,

Tat Tvam Asi and Aham Brahmasmi.

तत्त्वमसि (You are That) is the declaration उद्घोष of the teacher.

अहम ब्रह्म अस्मि (I am That) is the realization of the student.

And this is the saving grace on the spiritual journey.

In the words of the great Urdu poet, Mir Taqi Mir:

राह-ऐ-तलब में गिरे होते मूँह के बल ए “मीर”
शिकस्ता पायी ने अपनी, हमें संभाल लिया

rāh-e-talab mein gire hote mūnha ke bala e-“Mīr”

śikastā pāyī ne apanī hamein saṁbhāla liyā

In life’s quest, I would have fallen flat on my face, O! Mir;

Had the sheer fatigue of my feet not lent its support to me.

इश्क़ ला-हासली का ख़ेल नहीं
देख़, हम इस गली की ख़ाक हुऐ -शोएब बिन अज़ीज़

iśq lā-hāsalī kā k̲hel nahīṇ

dek̲ha, hum isa galī kī k̲hāka huae

This love is not a pastime of achieving something.
Look! Dust I have become on my Beloved’s path.

Reducing oneself to dust on the path represents the alchemy of both path and the goal:

मिसाल-ए-नक़्श-ए-क़दम बैठ कू-ए-जानां में 
मिटा तो सके तुझे कोई, मगर उठा न सके

Sit like footprints on the dust in the street of your Beloved!
Someone may extinguish you but not be able to remove you.


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