(Tiruvannamalai, January 2015)
Yesterday waiting for Mane at his shop on Chengam Road, for an hour from 2 to 3, and he never showed, so I sat like a sadhu watching the passing sadhus and businessmen and truckers and boys and people on bikes and motorbikes, myself an empty consciousness except somewhat self-conscious, also I suppose Self-conscious, to the extent I was transparent, which is paradoxically conscious and beyond conscious at the same time. What is this subtle distinction? To be conscious, yet not within the enclosure of self, is to be conscious of all, which is Self… yet in that larger sphere there is no enclosure, no boundary.
Interesting to contemplate my current situation—as everywhere—rife for writerly usurpation, exploitation, inspiration: the spiritual mecca of the new wave of nondual seekers. Yet I am bored by their platitudes, their easy enlightenment (not as easy as mine, I declare), their legions of adoring seekers; yet I am intrigued by their obstacles (the Indian man confronting Devaji, the burly, soft-spoken Californian, saying, “You’re full of shit,” and Devaji responding, “That’s just your projection, of your own self”). Osnat asks me why I don’t go to these masters for what I need, and I tell her I don’t need anything, it’s all here right now, by choice. Let’s do it.
The magic of the mountain, Arunachala, is tangible, it is true. Pervading days and nights with a peace of acceptance, and simplicity. While the teachers delineate or soothe, I just sit, and breathe, anticipating and regretting little, content.
Walking up to Ramana’s cave today, and arriving before 8:30, we find the gate still closed and twenty foreigners camped on the rocks waiting. It would be a crowded scene inside this morning. So we detoured past them and down the path to the lower cave, where only five or six other devotees were sitting inside meditating in the half-darkness, warmed by the surrounding earth. Outside, on our approach up the rock-tiled path, we could see on the far ridge the boulders at the height of land, with monkey sentinels perched there outlined against the pale blue morning sky.
Sat with Sat Shree satsang yesterday, stewing since with reconfiguration of spiritual understandings. He takes the tack of James Swartz and the Gita, of years of dedicated study and practice to annihilate the ego, to forego all manner of bliss and comfort, and disarm the mechanisms of protection and avoidance, irritation and fear, to accept all as one in gratitude and equanimity, unconditional truth beyond even the desirous dance of love.
So my self-perceptions of mastery in matters spiritual, musical, literary, social, are but pretences of importance and success, denial of shadow shortcomings, stubborn persistance of desires for comfort and achievement, subtle or obvious, petulant or sincere, all means of continuing this façade of separateness, of specialness, of the sacredness of me and my preferences, my choices, my distinguishing characteristics, my resumé, my observations and reflections, my experiences and relationships, my trips.
On the other hand, to buy into the teacher’s program, which overtly disparages as incomplete and limited the shortcut path of Advaita, and requires commitment to his path as the only one to enlightenment, freedom and truth, can be another trap, feeding his specialness, his talent, his charisma, his understanding. It is the guru way, of surrender to his mastery, rather than to my own unfoldment on my terms.
Who am I to argue with the Gita, with Krishna, with the ages of sages and their devotion to the truth of those venerable scriptures: whether Vedas, or Torah, or Koran… or humble journals of George Fox; manifestoes of Luther; letters of Peter or Paul; proclamations of popes; homilies of pastors; channelings of mediums; transmissions of chosen ones; leaders of cults; politicos and advocates of social change; defenders of the status quo?
I have paid homage to teachers and teachings in the more specialized realms I have instead devoted myself to: the drum masters of ancient West Africa; the literary giants of Western tradition; the self-made guidance of individualistic, libertarian, anarchistic, democratic, New Age, postmodern, relativistic wisdom of the moment, which says that it’s all good, that no one can tell me what to do and I won’t presume to speak for you; that this moment is infinite and fractally complete, holographically ultimate. That in this quantum letter-and-space configuration, the molecules of language and thought in the making, of Truth unfolding truth by minute truth, the cosmos alive in each cell and iota, the energy alive in each breath and kiss and gesture and sign, that the dream and the fabric of time and the spiraling of galaxies are as one, that all is that and all is this, and that and this are but two apparent sides of the same apparent coin, that words are all we have this side of silence, to tell of the silence, to share our gratitude of it, to nestle in it murmuring, I belong.
It does strike me, on this second day of Osnat’s spiritual retreat in which I do my corresponding work on a novel, that the authorial stance is the same as that overview of the absolute, the dwelling in all-embracing Truth, in which all possibilities and manifestations are held as a pulsating dance of creation. Similarly, I can posit the Effortless Mastery of the musician in the state of moksha, as Kenny Werber has it, where ego is out of the picture and the personal self is simply a conduit for divine inspiration. In all three of these cases, there are no shortcuts: no instant enlightenment without years of practice, discipline, and renunciation; no easy first-draft novels and stream-of-consciousness bestsellers despite the myths of the Beat generation; no perfect uncut jams that will stand the test of time, the scrutiny of the audience, the patience of the studio engineer. In all cases, too, the perspective of the accomplished master is needed to steer the adept in training, lest one’s ego take pride in the accomplishments of the path and thus mistake craft for art. It is necessary to get that transmission of greatness, the vibration of full understanding, the humility of where we stand along the way.
Sat Shree points to, if anything, the unfolding of circumstances, to give up “hope” of happiness, if devoted to the absolute truth of existence, which lies beyond the shifting scenes of happiness/unhappiness, success/failure, acceptance/rejection, and all the rest of the dualistic world of experience the ego dwells in, with its endless schemes for doing what seems best at the expense of what is not, what is to be avoided, what is negated. This world of comparisons, reviews, rankings, debates, politics, good and bad, correct and evil, opinion and controversy, story vs. story, is the stuff of history, legend, and archetypal human experience, but—and there’s that word of dualism par excellence, but—AND there is this “other” experience accessible to us, of totality, of oneness, of nondiscrimination.
Yet I have devoted myself not to dwelling in that all-encompassing field of oneness beyond all categories: I have devoted myself to the very stuff of distinctions, language. Paradoxically, by painting a mosaic of units of discreet meaning, called words, on a canvas like dots of impressionistic paint, I aim, by the distance of the observer, to create the semblance of a vision of reality. On close examination it is just a collection of partial truths, of individual iotas of the whole. On the overview, they do cohere into a unitary consciousness, a holistic world view, an embrace of possibilities and probabilities beyond simple opinion or directed reportage.
Thus I continue. Am I only then to comment upon the seeker’s path, with only the Truth ever the subject? No, because that absolute, in our perception, always takes a particular form if any form at all: God becomes a god, and image, an old man with a beard or a maiden stepping from the waves. The picture resolves to a picnic in a French park, or a harvest scene in the fields; a basket of fruit on the table, a tableau of carnage on the battlefield. Since the perception itself has a limited focus, that’s okay, that’s what we are given, and in the fractal unity of all forms, that is okay, that is enough. We take what we are given, and it becomes the host of transsubstantiation, the window into the absolute, the road to the infinite.