“Make no mistake. Enlightenment is a destructive process. It has nothing to do with becoming better or being happier. Enlightenment is the crumbling away of untruth.’-Adyashanti
So often, we think of the spiritual path ending in an attainment. And this makes sense, for the path itself takes great effort to walk. And when in our lives is a great effort not commensurate with a great reward? But this path is different - this is a path of undoing.
I often think about what it takes. Maybe one night, you decide to sit cross legged and not move until dawn. Maybe one night, you decide to chant and prostrate until sunrise. Ram Dass, jokingly, suggests a more nuanced formula.
“If you took this and followed it with this and you did it under these conditions with this person reading this book after fasting for so many days and standing on your left foot - it would work”
Clearly, before looking at methods - one ought to clarify to goal. What is the destination that seers and sages have sought for millennia? Fundamental Contentment.
A replacement of the undercurrent of anxiety and discomfort with a deeper sense that everything is okay. Importantly, this is not the disappearance of discomfort or stress - but an understanding of its nature. The message of these mystical traditions is radical - for they say no matter what happens, everything is always perfect. Even more radical - they say that things are already perfect, but we are just confused and cannot see it.
Krishna explains to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita that the true Self, what you really are, is like space. In the same way that space pervades the cosmos yet is unstained by anything - the Self remains untouched by the play of appearances. Krishna is urging Arjuna to identify with his deeper Self, not merely the ever-changing play of appearances. As such, he explains that:
“Actions do not cling to me because I am not attached to their results” -Krishna
Is space attached to the objects within it? Does space care whether I put a coffee cup, pencil case, or vase in a location? No - it remains as it always was - Unstained and Open.
But our tension towards existence, our lack of openness is not entirely unfounded. We live in highly sensitive bodies, with minds ever liable to trauma. So naturally we seek to ossify and solidify this flow of uncertainty we call life in order to protect ourselves. But we mustn’t lose sight of the underlying truth - we must become comfortable with bare uncertainty. At the time of the Buddha, the monk Anuruddha once said:
“Don’t you know, you fool,
That maxim of the awakened ones?
Impermanent are all formations;
Their nature is to arise and vanish”
That was their maxim. The most important thing to remember is that the world is rushing away from us - that this play of existence consists only in appearances arising and vanishing from our awareness. The entire path is thus an unlearning of our habitual avoidance with the present moment - our habitual avoidance of this bare fact.
So to recognize the Self, given that it is already here, one need only become aware of all that veils it. In the same way that if you want to relax, you just need to get rid of tension - then relaxation follows naturally.
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it” Rumi
And for this task - you need a Yoga. A method of re-union. T.K.V Desikachar writes that:
Yoga is 90% waste removal
Removal of what? Of unnecessary clinging to experience. Of holding onto results instead of focusing on efforts. Zen master Shunryu Suzuki writes that:
“There is nothing to understand but ignorance for the enlightened person”
And his forefather Dogen writes:
“Those who have great realization of delusion are Buddhas; those who are greatly deluded about realization are sentient beings”
It appears that this is the secret. That to realize what you already are - you need simply to start acting like it. You need to practice not being attached to the fruits of your actions. Even if you do everything right, the world is so complex that the ultimate results are still out of your control. So why be concerned? All you can do is give maximum effort - the rest is up to nature.
Let us wake up from the slumber of ignorance. Wake up from our willful blindness to the fact that:
“I exist as I am, that is enough” -Walk Whitman
Make no mistake - the world of confusion and discomfort continues to occur even if you are aware of your enoughness. As the philosopher Nagarjuna writes:
“Water in the summer is described as warm, While in the winter it is said to be cold. Entangled in the net of emotions, we are called sentient beings. One who is free from those emotions is said to be a Buddha”
We are just water - and it’s natural to get caught in rivers, streams and ponds. But make no mistake - you are the expansive ocean.
It is as it is.
Ramana Maharishi’s Essence of Instruction