I have not posted anything in a long time; today I checked my blog for the first time in weeks and though I still don’t have much to say, I pushed the “write” button to face the blank page of a draft, perhaps the most courageous act I have done in a while.
Prior to this two-year seemingly dry period I was spiritually active, I read a lot and reflected a lot on spiritual matters; and so naturally I had a lot to say and write. For the past two years, however, I was held down by my own humanity, or by that impulse of human constitution which goes against the spiritual impulse to ascend; I moved against my natural instinct to free myself; I became my own shackles.
I descended to the depths, to where no ray of light could reach, to where corruption ruled, to a city in which degeneration was accepted as exciting the norm. I sat so much with the monsters of this underworld that I became one, and I saw that I was one from eternity.
I passed by beautiful mermaids, drank their wine, and laughed out-loud to my heart’s content; little did I know that what I heard as laughter was the cry of the suffocating spirit. I took with me a land creature to live among the fish.
But let what happened in the sea stay in the sea. I forgot my way back to the surface so I was washed onto the shore in an unconscious state and woke up later by the piercing force of sunlight on my skin. “Oh my Sun,” I yelled “had you forsaken me!”
Was my frightening visit to the underworld a dream of a man falling asleep on the beach? Was it a experimental course in human possibilities? Was it a tour and a lesson initiated by the eternal guide, or was a it detour in the Path because there’s roadwork in my life!? I will never know, but I know what I saw:
We do not become sinners and monsters, nor do we become saints and heroes; we are at once all of it. Which of our faces is seen depends on the mirror into which we stare; what we manifest from this infinitely wide range of possibilities depends on the habitat and the company, on people, places, and things to which we cling. I am that majestic brilliance that shines the color of whatever object lies next to it.
Man contains within itself all the possibilities of good and evil. A man or a woman is at once a potential saint and a potential sinner, at once a monster and a hero fighting the monster. The battle is always between the opposing poles of one and the same Person. Life begins with a broken polarity and comes to its conclusion with a return to perfect balance.
This strange creature that I am contains all the opposites within itself waiting to manifest one or the others. I am a man of a thousand faces, and this world is a mirror I face every morning. And every night when I return to the primordial balance of dreamless sleep, all the opposites within me cancel each other out, and hence the world vanishes. Everyday, nonduality breaks into duality, and duality returns into nonduality. This world, a stage for the dance of strife, appears only when Sakina (the Great Peace) shatters.
And this man, this finite vessel of infinity itself, is in its essence the coincidence of all opposites. Rumi, the Persian saint and poet, defines God as the “coincidence of all opposites,” but he also says that man in his deepest essence is identical with with the divine.
What all this teaches me is vigilance, for although I may be divine by nature, still monsters live in me, monsters that can be released, monsters whose sight scare the shit out of me regardless of whether I am dreaming or not.
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“It is unmoving, one, and faster than the mind. The senses could not overtake It, since It had run ahead. Remaining stationary, It outruns all other runners. It being there, Matarisva supports all activities.
That moves, That does not move; That is far off, That is very near; That is inside all this, and That is also outside all this.
He is all-pervasive, pure, bodiless, without wound, without sinews, taintless, untouched by sin, omniscient, ruler of mind, transcendent, and self-existent; he has dully allotted the duties to the eternal years.
He who sees all beings in the Self itself, and the Self in all beings, feels no hatred by virtue of that realization.”
“The face of Truth is concealed by a golden vessel. Do thou, O Sun, open it so as to be seen by me who am by nature truthful.
O thou who art the nourisher, the solitary traveler, the controller, the acquirer, the son of Prajapati, do remove thy rays, do gather up thy dazzle. I shall behold by thy grace that form of thine which is most benign. I am that very Person that is yonder in the Sun.”
Isha Upanishad, 15-16
Happiness is in acting without acting. There is neither happiness nor salvation in inaction. If the Principle became inactive for a moment the whole universe would collapse instantaneously. Acting without acting is acting without attachment to the fruits of the action. So one must be as detached from the world as a theater screen is from the images displayed on it.
In the plane of multiplicity, to which human action belongs, this disinterested action amounts to the effective coordination of the faculties in response to one’s duties, i.e. harmony within and without the microcosm, or what Plato has rightly called “Justice.”
But justice within microcosm cannot be attained without detachment. A sentimental person, and a sentimental society much like we have in the west, cannot possibly approach justice, let alone realize it, for sentimentality is precisely the glue by which we are attached to things, to names and forms.
“You must learn to see with the same eye a mound of earth and a heap of gold, a cow and a sage, a dog and a man who eats the dog. There is another intelligence beyond the mind.” Krishna says to Arjuna in Mahabharata
Names and forms veil the nature of things; and justice is in the nature of things. Illumination is an unveiling of the Real, a negative act. Manifestation is “finding the Real in ecstasy,”* a positive act. The latter projects the experience-of the universe; the former shuts its down, or more precisely it shuts down experience as such altogether. While the positive acts is the production of experience, the negative act is the cessation of experience, or what in various traditions is called Nirvana, Fanaa, Brahmanubhava, Sakina, Godhead, etc.
A man is happy when he is closer to that supreme state, when he has become all-inclusive and universal by transcending his individuality. And this man cannot help but be just and act justly.
So the attainment of justice, which is in the nature of man, is the negative process of purification, of peeling away the many layers of narratives until the Truth shines by itself, until justice becomes one’s permanent station, and only then true bliss ensues. This is the path of maximum action and minimum resistance, keeping in mind that contemplation is the most exalted form of action.
“It is not so easy to be good. What are you but mere machines until you are free! Should you be proud because you are good? Certainly not. You are good because you cannot help it. Another is bad because he cannot help it. If you were in his position, who knows what you would have been? The woman in the street, or the thief in the jail, is the Christ that is being sacrificed so that you may be good. Such is the law of balance. All the thieves and the murderers, all the unjust, the weakest, the wickedest, the devils, they are all my Christ! I owe a worship to the God Christ and to the demon Christ! That is my doctrine, and I cannot help it.”
Swami Vivekananda, Complete Works, Vol. 2., p. 34.