One of the things I love is unexpectedly meeting someone somewhere with whom I feel a deep connection. Someone in whom I suddenly experience wide openness, someone who speaks a language I also understand, someone who warms my heart. Someone whose appearance might not suggest this intimate connection….
Unexpectedly meeting someone who immediately gets to the heart of the matter with a sense of obviousness, who dares to speak unconventional words and dares to articulate radical views. Someone I’d like to invite for a coffee at the cafe around the corner because I’ve become curious. Whom I would like to ask: How did you come to this understanding? Which paths have you walked? Who were your teachers? What pitfalls have you stepped into? Which paths did you later say goodbye to? All of them? How did your insight change your life?
And I would like to tell about the paths I took to find answers to nagging life questions about myself and the world around me. How that search came to an end by simply looking and seeing what is given, every moment. About how my life became extremely ordinary then but at the same time very adventurous. And how I love meeting others who have undertaken a similar journey. Who have also found the radical truth that they are essentially free, both from themselves and from the world, and totally embrace both at the same time. Lovers of truth who accidentally meet, either in person or in the written word.
In you, nameless writer of this verse, I meet such an unexpected friend, in an ancient scripture from a tradition I am hardly acquainted with. From what you say I can underline every word because your experience is mine: “The true nature of Reality has to be seen with the Eye of your own clear Awareness. No learned Knower can do this for you. The beauty of the moon can only be enjoyed through your own sight. What use is someone else’s sight to you?” (56)
And you continue: “Liberation is not possible through all kinds of systems, such as Yoga or Sankhya, or through rituals or knowledge of rituals. It is possible only through the Realization of the Absolute, or ‘one-ness’ of yourself and the Absolute. There is no other way.” (58)
I imagine us having a long conversation in which we talk about that miraculous moment when we suddenly realised the simple truth. In which we share what our paths or practices did or did not bring us, and how they did or did not prepare us to see reality. And we wonder whether ‘getting ready’ is actually necessary.
I would tell you that at first I thought there was only the classical teacher-student model to reach insight and that this of course could take years or decades.
That now I have discovered another approach in which you immediately see who you really are, and that this ‘Seeing’ is the start of a new life journey. That facing and letting go of anything not in accordance with this Seeing takes a lifetime anyway. But that it can be done from having this distinctive insight yourself without being dependent on a practice or teacher doing it for you. That this may well be the new paradigm if we are to wake up collectively, as humanity. I wonder what you, my new friend, would say to that.
“A disease is not cured by mentioning the name of the medicine – you will have to drink it yourself. Similarly, there can be no liberation just by talking about the Absolute. Liberation is only possible through immediate experience.” (64)
Yes, I would reply…
….. and add: but I also like beautiful language. I like original words. I love the stammering of someone who has just received the decisive insight and tries to find words to share that experience.
I love spiritual teachers and writers who develop their unique jargon to communicate their insights. I love all the attempts to find the exact right word to indicate the truth, the fine precision someone uses in trying to choose their words. As editor-in-chief of InZicht, I love the variety by which writers present their insights.
But even more I love the fact that direct experience is wordless. With relief I drop all language and correctness and rest in the silence from which every word emerges.
The silence from which I myself emerge, just like you, my new friend. The silence that hangs between all words, uninterrupted, timeless, placeless, almost tangibly present. Can words refer to this? Sure. Can they stir the silence itself? Impossible.
It is the silence which I prefer to communicate with. With my cat who understands this flawlessly. With the children I work with. With my beloved, my friends, the people in my workshops. In those moments when our eyes catch each other and, in between words, that moment of relaxation, that smile, that quiet happiness arises which we all know and share. The silence I share with you when I let your words rest on the paper for a moment…
As I write this, I am visiting relatively uninhabited northern Canada, where the vastness even reinforces this silence, making it almost tangible. A single human sound immediately sinks into its boundlessness. But it’s the same silence that was present in the busy urban café where I wrote the first half of this little piece. Everything comes and goes. All of life comes and goes. This consciousness too comes and goes, sinks back into the unfathomable wordless and eternally silent depth from which it emerged.
Translation from Dutch by Henk Vaassen
Verses 56, 58 and 64 are from ‘Viveka Chudamani’ by Shankara, c. 800AD. This article was first published in InZicht.