How does one seek union with God?
The harder you seek, the more distance you create between Him and you.
So what does one do about the distance?
Understand or recognize that it isn't there.
Does that mean that God and I are one?
Not one. Not two.
How is that possible?
The sun and its light, the ocean and the wave, the singer and his song. --
Not one. Not two.
Anthony de Mello
THE MYSTICS describe reality as an indivisible Unity containing two, apparently distinct, aspects: an eternally unchanging and constant aspect, and an aspect that appears changing and inconstant.
To those who have never experienced that Unity, such declarations about It must appear illogical and self-contradictory. But, say the mystics, however paradoxical it may seem to the rational intellect, that is simply and truly the nature of the one reality.
In order to explain that reality which is both the eternal God and the world of forms, a reality which appears to possess two such incompatible aspects while remaining one reality, it became apparent very early on, historically, that it was necessary to introduce two terms, each to designate one aspect of this dual-faceted Being, yet which would in no way represent two separate and distinct entities, but one -- a One with two faces.
As the mystics tell us, the universe is a manifestation of an insubstantial, creative Energy. This Energy has no independent existence of its own, but is simply a "projection" of pure Consciousness and is similar to the thought-energy projected in the form of a dream-image by an individual mind.
Different cultures and traditions have distinguished between pure Consciousness and the creative Energy with terms such as, Shiva and Shakti in the East and Godhead and Christ (the Logos, the Word, or the Light) in the West. The first is the unmanifest Source and the second, the manifesting Energy that manifests the world.
So it can be said, the transcendent Absolute (Numenon) with its Energy manifests as our inner and outer world (phenomenon) -- these are simply polar aspects of the same one and only Being.
These two are not even a hair's breadth apart; they are but two different perspectives of the same reality. And the duality created by conceptually dividing the formless Source from the world of forms is only an apparent and artificial one, as they constitute an indivisible unity.
The complementarity of the unmanifest/manifesting Energy and the manifestated universe may be illustrated by an analogy with the ocean and its waves: Consider an infinite ocean; if we regard its "water-ness," the ocean is one constant whole. But if we regard its "wave-ness," that same ocean is a multiplicity of incessantly changing forms.
The ocean is the one reality that is manifesting as all the waves; and, though the waves form and dissolve, form and dissolve, the ocean as a whole remains the same, continually unchanged and unaffected.
This is exactly what the mystic experiences in his awakening to the universal Self; he appears to be but one of the many manifestations of reality, but he is, in fact, the one Reality Itself, forever unchanging, eternal.
Shankara, the great expounder of the philosophy of unity, called this apparent duality between the many and the One, a "superimposition":
- Like ripples on the water, the worlds arise from, exist in, and dissolve into, the supreme Lord, who is the material cause and support of everything.
The manifested world of plurality is superimposed upon the eternal, all-pervading Lord whose nature is Existence- Consciousness, just as bangles and bracelets are superimposed on gold.
Another way of explaining the "superimposition" of the phenomenal world on God is by analogy with the ordinary experience of the superimposition of a thought or mental image upon one's own consciousness.
Notice how a thought is superimposed upon the background of pure mental awareness: the projected thought has a definite reality of its own, albeit a temporary one; and yet it does not mar or alter in any way that background consciousness.
The thought-form or image and the background consciousness exist simultaneously, with a definite distinction between them; however, the thought is formed not only on consciousness, but of consciousness -- just as a wave is formed not only on, but of, the ocean.
All the mystics concur that it is in a way very similar to this that the phenomenal world of forms is projected upon the supreme Consciousness. The world and God are separate and distinct, but the world has no independent existence; it is formed not only on, but of, God.
In the mystic's vision, one's own body is recognized for what it really is: a form whose substance is the universal substance; and one's consciousness is recognized for what it really is: the only Consciousness that is. And then one knows that he has no other, nor ever had any other, identity but the One who alone is.
Still, while the ocean is the only reality underlying the waves, the waves do exist. No one would deny it. It is equally undeniable that, while that pure Consciousness (Shiva-the Godhead) is the only reality underlying all forms of life, individual beings do exist.
Clearly, we live simultaneously in two frameworks of reality: that of the divisible world of multiple phenomena, and that of the eternal Self, the unbroken Whole. All the great issues and arguments of science, philosophy and theology are solved in one stroke by the understanding of the dual-sidedness of reality.
From the standpoint of my form-identity, my life in the universal drama is fixed and determined; from the standpoint of my Formless-identity, as the eternal Self, I am ever free, and remain unaffected by the changes taking place within the manifested world.
When I identify with my form, I am God's servant; I worship Him as my Lord. When I identify with God, my eternal Self, there are not two, but only one; and I am He.
This complementarity of identities necessitates two entirely different mental attitudes, or states of awareness: when we focus on the Self, we become aware, "I am the one infinite Existence-Consciousness-Bliss"; but when we take the attitude of love toward God, we become aware, "I am Thy creature and Thy servant, O Lord."
And it is the paradoxical fact that both attitudes are correct and valid which accounts for the confused oscillation many dedicated truth-finders feel between the attitude of Self-knowledge (jnana) and devotion to God (bhakta).
To say, "I am He," as did al-Hallaj, or Shankara, is offensive to the bhakti, for it denies the separate existence and fallibility of the individual soul; and to say, "I am the servant of God," does not satisfy the jnani, for it asserts a duality where none in fact exists.
I am convinced that, if we are to speak truly and to live realistically, it is necessary to embrace both attitudes, and to relinquish the logic which begs for an either/or approach to identity.
The greatest contemplatives who ever lived, having pondered this quandary, have come to the same conclusion, and have taken a position which defies categorization into one classification or another. For example, the Blessed Jan Ruysbroeck, a 14th century disciple of Meister Eckhart, wrote,
- 'Though I have said before that we are one with God, ... yet now I will say that we must eternally remain other than God, and distinct from Him. .... And we must understand and feel both within us, if all is to be right with us.'
And in the folowing song of Kabir, we can hear the perfect blending of the devotion of the bhakti and the unitive knowledge of the jnani:
- Whatever I utter is His Name;
Whatever I hear reminds me of Him.
Whatever I eat or drink is to His honor.
To me, society and solitude are one,
For all feelings of duality have left me.
I have no need to practice austerity,
For I see Him smiling everywhere
As the supreme Beauty in every form.
Whether sitting, walking, or performing actions,
My heart remains pure, for my mind remains fixed on God.
Just as the Formless and the form cannot be separated one from the other, neither can the knower (jnani) and the devotee (bhakti) be separated; though mutually exclusive, they co-exist as complements in every awakened individual.
As the knowing deepens within us, we must learn to adapt our vision of the world to accept and embrace such apparently contradictory views. We must learn to feel comfortable with the notion that a quantity of energy is both a wave and a particle; that our lives are determined, and that we are free; that our identity is both the Whole and the part.
We are the universal Self, we are God; and we are also temporarily an individual which consists of the mind and its own private impressions. We are the Ocean; but we are also the wave.
We are perfect, but we are also imperfect. We are the eternal Reality, but we are also the ephemeral image It projects on Its own screen. We are indeed the Dreamer, but we are also the dream.
We are entitled to say, "I am That I Am!" but while we remain consciously awake, our hearts will be filled with love and devotion to the Lord of Life. While we live and move in this phantasmagoria, we will recognize ourselves to be His children, and are utterly dependent upon His grace.
Therefore, if we truly realize our own double-faceted reality, we must learn to sing two songs: one, the song of our own immortal Self; and the other, the song of love for God. Neither, without the other, is complete.
If we are to learn anything from this protracted examination of the dual-sidedness of our own nature, it is that, if we can but peer beyond the appearance of multiplicity, we can become aware of the unity of all things, the unity and ever-presence of God, the supreme Self.
With such a refined vision, we will then be able to see that not only are we the Self, but everything around us is also the Self. The subject is the Self; the object is the Self. Truly, no matter who or what I see or speak to, it is really only my own Self. If we could really grasp the truth of this, what a revolution would occur in our thinking and behavior!
Just as waves on the ocean are only water, just as golden ornaments are only gold, so all the various forms in the universe are only forms of our own Self. Becoming aware of this, we would begin to revel in that joy which had been missing in our lives before.
We would begin to drink the nectar of the unending love for which we had been thirsting before. And we would begin to take delight in just being and living and acting in the world in a way we had been unable to before.
The knowing once gained from an experience of "enlightenment" is a means of escape from any real ensnarement in anxiety or fear from that time on. It is a supramental knowing which asserts itself whenever needed, and provides a surety which can never be shaken.
The perceptual division of subject from object does not cease; the world goes on, even for the enlightened. It is just that she knows in her heart, with an indomitable certainty, that she and the universe are one.
Just as a chess-player retains the awareness that the warfare between his opponent and himself is merely a temporary game of role-playing, and that at the end of the game both the red and the black pieces will be thrown into the same box; in the same way, one who has clearly experienced the undivided Reality retains the 'knowledge' of the ultimate unity, and sees the play of subjects and objects as the ongoing pretense, or play, of the one Self.
Listen to what Jnaneshvar has to say on this theme:
- "There is nothing else here but the Self. Whether appearing as the seen or perceiving as the seer, nothing else exists besides the Self.... Just as water plays with itself by assuming the forms of waves, the Self, the ultimate Reality, plays happily with Itself. Though there are multitudes of visible objects, and wave upon wave of mental images, still they are not different from their witness. You may break a lump of raw sugar into a million pieces, still there is nothing but sugar, Likewise, the unity of the Self is not lost, even though It fills the whole universe. It is seeing only Its own Self -- like one who discovers various countries in his imagination, and goes wandering through them all with great enjoyment."
Adapted from the Appendix.in: History of Mysticim, by Swami Ahayananda. To receive this helpful and inspiring book as a FREE GIFT, >Click Here.
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