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  • Sacred journey to peru, mystic travel agency peru, mystic travel
  • Sacred journey to peru, mystic travel agency peru, mystic travel
  • Sacred journey to peru, mystic travel agency peru, mystic travel
  • Sacred journey to peru, mystic travel agency peru, mystic travel
Sunday, 23 October 2011 19:01

AT LAST, EVERY LAYER OF THE ONION has been peeled away. We come face to face with the indescribable, the secret at the core of life. Yet words have almost reached their limit. What do you have when you find yourself facing the indescribable? You can only try with inadequate words to describe it. The mind can’t help itself. Used to putting everything into a thought, it cannot grasp something beyond thought.

We each draw a world of line, form, and color using invisible ink. Our instrument is no more than a speck of consciousness, like a pencil point moving across a blank piece of paper. Yet everything pours out of that single point. Could anything be more mysterious and at the same time more miraculous? A point infinitely smaller than a pencil point draws the shape of the universe.
That point is made of essence, or the purest form of Being. Essence is the ultimate mystery because it manages to do three things at once:

  • It conceives everything in existence.
  • It turns what it has imagined into reality.
  • It enters that reality and keeps it alive.

Right now you are also performing these three activities. Before any-thing happens to you it is conceived in the imagination—that is, in the state where wisps of images and desires are born. These images then unfold into expressed objects and events. While that happens you enter the event subjectively, which means you absorb it into your nervous system. The simplest way to describe this three-part act of creation is to say that you imagine a picture, then you paint it and finally step inside.
All that is required to find the essence of life is to step outside the picture and see yourself. You won’t see a person or even a soul, just a speck of awareness—the point that is producing the most lovely, appalling, mundane, holy, astonishing, ordinary, and marvelous pictures. But even in using these words, I have fallen into the temptation of trying to describe the indescribable. Let me throw every image away and say the simplest things that are true: I exist, I am aware, I create. These are the three qualities of essence that permeate the universe.
With every unreal aspect of yourself stripped away, only essence remains. Once you realize that essence is the real you, the golden door opens. Essence is precious because it is the stuff from which the soul is made. If you could keep holding on to essence while stepping back into the picture you create, you would be living from the level of the soul at every moment.
But a huge difficulty arises that keeps the golden door shut: Nothingisn’t essence. When you reduce the one reality to its essence, every quality disappears. Now a tree, a horse, a cloud, and a human being are the same. Physical dimensions also disappear. The time elapsed between any two events is now zero; the space between any two objects is zero. Light and dark no longer exist. Complete fullness and utter emptiness are the same.
In other words, at the very moment you think you have the secret to everything, you look down to find that your hands are empty. This is a particularly disturbing outcome for those who travel the spiritual path to find God. Unless you define God as essence, he will vanish also. But in India, there is a strong tradition that puts essence far above a personal god. One of the greatest modern spiritual teachers, Nisargadatta Maharaj, made no concessions on this point. He declared himself—and all other people—to be pure essence. As a result, he met with a good deal of contentious opposition.
Here’s a typical interchange from a skeptical visitor to Maharaj:

  • Q:Did God create the earth for you?
  • A:God is my devotee and did all this for me.
  • Q:Is there no god apart from you?
  • A:How can there be? “I am” is the root, God is the tree. Whom am I to worship, and what for?
  • Q:Are you the devotee or the object of devotion?
  • A:Neither. I am devotion itself.

You can feel the baffled frustration in the questioner’s voice, and who can blame him? The path to unity is so different from what is taught in organized religion that it bends the mind. Maharaj used to regularly announce that we were not created for God, God was created for us. By which he meant that essence, being invisible, had to create an almighty projection to be worshipped. By itself, essence has no qualities; there is nothing to hold on to.
Essence does a vanishing act because it’s not anything you can feel or think about. Since being alive consists of feeling and thinking, how is essence going to be of any use? At the most superficial level, essence is not useful because differences still hold your attention. Let’s say that you want to be happy rather than unhappy, rich rather than poor, good rather than evil. None of these distinctions matters to your essence. Essence works with only three things: It exists, it creates, it is aware.
A life without differences sounds completely unlivable, and yet there is a document that talks about essence in a matter-of-fact way, suggesting that somebody has figured out how to live from this level. The document, known as theYoga Vashistha, has many strange things to offer.Yoga we know means “unity,” andVashistha is the name of the author; therefore, in Sanskrit the title means “Vashistha’s version of unity.” No one has offered proof that a person by this name ever lived—the text itself is many centuries old—but Vashistha’s version of unity stands as a unique work. I believe it is the furthest stretch the human nervous system has ever taken toward being aware of existence itself.

Some typical observations by Vashistha quickly give you the flavor of his viewpoint on life:

  • In the infinite consciousness universes come and go like particles of dust in a beam of sunlight that shines through a hole in the roof.
  • Death is ever keeping a watch over our life.
  • All objects are experienced in the subject and nowhere else.
  • Whole worlds arise and fall like ripples in the ocean.

Vashistha’s teaching has a reputation for being one of the most difficult, abstract texts in the spiritual canon, and therefore not for beginners. I read him much more simply as the voice of essence. Even from a handful of sayings, some general themes emerge clearly. Vashistha considers the universe to be impermanent and fleeting. He observes that death is inescapably linked to life. He uses subjective awareness as the true measure of what’s real, compared to which the material world is like a puff of air.
As you keep reading, these themes get elaborated hundreds of times over with such total conviction that the reader becomes mesmerized. The sentences sound arcane, sometimes inconceivable, but then that is the point—this is life compressed into ideas as dense as diamonds:

  • Whatever the mind thinks of, that alone it sees.
  • What people call fate or divine will is nothing other than action from the past acting upon itself.
  • Even as motion is inherent in air, manifestation is inherent in consciousness.

As you pore over his words, it’s easy to fall into a kind of trance in which the visible world blows away like a feather. The effect isn’t to inspire or uplift: Vashistha offers absolutely no consolation. Nothing matters to him except essence, and therefore he is the ultimate teacher on the subject of getting real.
Getting real is the goal of this book, too, and therefore I’ve tried to distill Vashistha’s advice on how to live if you are totally serious about waking up from unreality. He describes four conditions that must exist if you want to find reality:

  • Contentment
  • Inquiry
  • Self-awareness
  • Strength

Four ordinary, somewhat innocuous words. What did he mean by them, this sage who knew essence perhaps better than anyone who ever lived?

Contentment: This is the quality of restfulness in the mind. Someone who is content exists without doubt and fear. Doubt is a constant reminder that there is no answer to the mystery of life, or that all answers will turn out to be untrustworthy. Fear is a constant reminder that you can be hurt. As long as either of these beliefs exists in your mind, resting easy in yourself is impossible. So contentment must be won on the level where doubt and fear have been defeated.

Inquiry: To get real, you have to question the unreal over and over until it disappears. This process is a kind of peeling away. You look at something that seems reliable and trustworthy, and if it betrays your trust, you say, “No, this isn’t it,” and throw it away. The next thing that asks for your trust also gets examined, and if it proves unreliable, you peel it away as well. Layer by layer, you keep inquiring until you reach something that is completely trustworthy, and that thing must be real.

Self-Awareness: This quality tells you where to conduct your inquiry—not outside in the material world, but in yourself. Turning inward doesn’t happen as a single step. For every challenge there are always two solutions—inner and outer. Only by working through every reason to look outward are you left with why you should look inward.

Strength: Because you are looking inward, no one from the outside can help you. This implies a kind of isolation and solitude that only the strong can accept. Strength is not a given; it’s not that the strong are born different from the weak. Your inner strength grows from experience. The first stages of looking inward give you a hint that you can get real, and with that bit of added strength you move forward. You grow in resolve and certainty. You test what you find out until it feels secure. Step by step you discover that strength is built from experience. The journey itself makes you strong.

Vashistha has almost nothing else to say about everyday matters. No one has to start living a certain way or stop living a certain way in order to get real. Vashistha’s viewpoint is totally accepting: He is content to allow life to unfold. “For only as long as one invests any object with reality,” he says, “that bondage lasts; once that notion goes, with it goes bondage.” In other words, unreality has to melt away on its own. Until it does, you can be rich or poor, happy or sad, certain or plagued with doubt, as your karma dictates. Vashistha feels infinite tolerance because “the unreal has no existence and the real will never stop existing.” He feels infinitely serene because “consciousness is omnipresent, pure, tranquil, omnipotent.”
Yet it’s not for these deep thoughts that I hold Vashistha to be unique. His special gift lies in jabs of truth that are as sharp as salt on the tongue: “The universe is one long dream. The ego-sense, along with the fancy that there are other people, is as unreal as anything in a dream.”
When I see Vashistha in my mind’s eye, I envision a picnic where everyone has fallen asleep under the shade of an old spreading beech tree, done in by too much food and pleasure and play. Only one person is sitting up, awake and alert, waiting for the others to end their nap.Everyone else is asleep. There is no escaping that jab of truth. Vashistha knows he is alone, but he isn’t a pessimist. His solitary watch hasn’t calloused over his love for other people. Essenceis love. Not the love of passing emotion or the love that gets attached to one person but the sheer love of being here. By comparison, the emotional kind of love is confined, doubtful, full of fear, and driven by dreams that never get fully realized.
In pure essence, Vashistha knew that he had found the secret of universal happiness. That secret has three parts: freedom from all limitation, complete knowledge of creation, and immortality. Vashistha found all three. That such a condition is possible proves the existence of love, since nothing more could be wished for. Until the moment when these three things are achieved, every other awakening is false; the whole universe exists in the dream state, the pursuit of a cosmic delusion.
This delusion has now been presented to you in full. It consists of separation, fragmentation, the loss of wholeness. There must be a final “No!” that refuses to participate in the delusion, and Vashistha has said it, loud and clear. He is often the one teacher I reach for when I imagine that I am in trouble. Reading his words, I can feel myself rising to his level, not fully and not permanently, but with enough validity that I come away feeling reassured. There are times when I want CNN to stop running endless crises in the crawl space at the bottom of the television screen and start running these words instead so that people can be reminded about what’s real:

  • Whatever is in the mind is like a city in the clouds.
  • The emergence of this world is no more than thoughts coming into manifestation.
  • From the infinite consciousness we have created each other in our imagination.

As long as there is “you” and an “I,” there is no liberation. Dear ones, we are all cosmic consciousness assuming individual form.

It’s nearly impossible perhaps to take these noble sentiments into the rough and tumble of everyday life, but the basic thing that Vashistha wants us to do is to live from essence—and thatis workable. The teacher I mentioned before, Nisargadatta Maharaj, lived such a life. As a young man he was raised on a farm to walk behind a pair of oxen pulling a plow. But spirituality intrigued him and he made his way to a guru who gave him one piece of advice: “You are the unborn and undying ‘I am.’ Remember that, and if your mind wanders from this truth, bring it back.” The young Maharaj went away, needing no more visits to gurus, and found his essence with that simple teaching.
The most exalted state of awareness comes down to realizing how commonplace it actually is to live a cosmic life. We do it all the time. One only has to listen to how matter-of-factly Vashistha looks around and sees infinity in every direction. His is the teaching to keep by your bed when you want to do something other than fall asleep:
To a suffering person, a night is an epoch. To a reveler, a night passes like a moment. In a dream, a moment is no different from an epoch. But to the sage, whose consciousness has overcome all limitations, there is no day or night. As one turns away from the notion of “I” and “the world,” one finds liberation.


The fifteenth lesson is about unity. As a young man, I was driven to reach as far as I could, but over time I began to grasp that unity is not an achievement one can set for oneself in the way one can set winning a game or finding the perfect wife or rising to the top of a profession. Unity is more like music. Bach might visit a kindergarten class and inspire the children with hope that they can all be like him. In reality, few children will ever grow up with Bach’s genius for music. But they don’t have to. Music is a glorious pursuit on its own, comparing yourself to no one. Every moment of music making brings delight on its own, not just as a step up the mountain toward the highest peak.
Spirituality can bring delight at every moment—or at least every day—if it is pursued with the four things in mind that Vashistha taught. Let’s review them again, this time as they might be applied to our own lives.

Contentment: Look for a moment of contentment every day. You have a right to it because, in the cosmic design, you are safe and cared for. Be content not with your lot in life but with being here in the flow of life. The glories of creation are in your very cells; you are made of the same mindstuff as the angels, the stars, and God himself.

Inquiry: Don’t let a day go by without asking who you are. Understanding is a skill, and like all skills it must be coaxed into existence. To understand who you are means returning again and again to the question, Who am I? Each time you return you are allowing a new ingredient to enter your awareness.
Every day is filled with the potential for expanding your awareness, and although each new addition may seem tiny, overall the accumulation will be great. It may take thousands of days to know who you are; it takes only one day to quit asking. Don’t let today be that day.

Self-awareness: Never forget that you are not in the world; the world is in you. Whatever you need to know about existence will arise nowhere outside yourself. When anything happens to you, take the experience inward. Creation is set up to bring you constant hints and clues about your role as a co-creator. Be aware of them; absorb them. Your soul is metabolizing experience as surely as your body is metabolizing food.

No one will ever be able to say that walking the spiritual path is the easiest thing in the world—or the hardest. The birth of the new is too intimately tied to the death of the old. Joy comes on the heels of sorrow, as it must if birth and death are merged. Don’t expect one or the other today. Use your strength to meet whatever is coming your way. Be as committed and passionate about spirituality as you can be. Strength is the foundation for passion, and you were designed to survive and thrive no matter how life unfolds. Be strong today in that knowledge.



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