Variations on the Separate Self

Who am I, and in what really do I consist of?
What is this cage of suffering?

~ Jayakhya Samhita, Verse 5.7

 

Why is it so difficult to recognise something that’s staring us in the face? The distance is always so short between our worse moments of separation and the full recognition of the truth of our being. The tiniest, softest change of focus can either show you a world made of infinite space or throw you into an abyss of tortured thinking. When we stand in the apparent coziness of our false beliefs, we seem to be ages away from any kind of understanding. We feel that no amount of effort will ever bring us into the light. We might as well give up. This is the road towards self-indulgence and sorrow. We think that the burden is too big, the effort required out of reach. No. It’s never like that. We are an infinitesimal move away from the light. No effort is even required. Something of a relaxation. A so slight change of focus that it seems no move at all. It’s here already, waiting for our humbleness. …

Continue finding out about these variations on separation… (READ MORE…)

 

The Cave

As the innermost Self of all, 
he dwells within the cavern of the heart
.”
~ Mundaka Upanishad, Hymn II.1.9

 

I had this thought landing in my mind some time ago, that “now I might as well retire, take refuge into the cave of awareness”. This made me think of the retiring into caves, as monks and anchorites do in some spiritual traditions. Retiring from the world, falling into solitude can be useful to withdraw from the entanglement with the ten thousand things of experience. It allows a space in which we can be watchful, and have the leisure to deepen our understanding. In the Hindu concept of Ashrama, which represents the four different stages of life, two are dedicated to some form of withdrawal from the the world: Vanaprastha, which in Sanskrit literally means ‘retiring to the forest’, and Sannyasa, which means ‘to put down everything’. The western word ‘anchorite’ has a Greek origin which means ‘to withdraw’, and ‘monk’ comes from ‘monachos’, which means ‘solitary’.

But what does this withdrawal from the world mean, in deep analysis? All the religious concepts of renunciation, solitude, poverty must point to something deeper than just a physical attitude. Because no matter how thick the walls of renunciation may be, a strong sense of being a ‘person caught in the entanglements of its own re-created world’ can and certainly does survive any physical retirement, be it in a forest, a monastery, or a desert. So this retiring has to be a metaphor. In reality, the true retiring resides inside, where we for a time take our stand as the witness, the presence behind all objective experience. The Indian word ‘sādhu’, which also refers to a person living a form of renunciation, has more ambivalence. Its rich meaning goes from ‘not entangled’ to ‘leading straight to a goal, hitting the mark, unerring’, to simply ‘peaceful, excellent, virtuous’. There is much more here than just withdrawing.

 

The Lord is the supreme Reality.
Rejoice in him through renunciation
.”
~ Isha Upanishad, Hymn 1

 

So the cave, metaphorically speaking, is awareness, the peaceful presence at the core of our experience. This place need not be a remote one, except in the first stages of our understanding, when we need to disentangle our true self from the parasites of a busy and confused mind, or indeed an equally busy and confused world. But, in a way that is truly paradoxical, when you reach the deep, unfathomable cave of consciousness, the inside suddenly turns out to be the outside. The true cave turns out to be no cave at all. It turns out to be the world, the entirety of our experience. As Rupert Spira says: “This empty ‘nothing’ turns out to be the fullness of everything.”

The walls of the cave are made out of our daily experience. The world is the cave and it is placed at an infinite distance. Be careful here, ’infinite’ doesn’t mean ‘far away’, it means ‘at no distance at all’. The world is ourselves. The cave of consciousness where we have retired is ourselves. Not the little self for whom retiring was a separate action with an aim at hand, but rather a new self englobing everything, the whole world. And this world is not a cave of separation, it is the totality playing with itself. And believe me, the infinite possibilities for celebration, the number of possible games to be enjoyed are here if we are only willing to play. Not entering any caves, but giving ourselves – literally – to the non conceivable, the non fathomable, and to the ten thousand things of experience.

 

~~~

Text by Alain Joly

Painting by Joseph Wright (1734 – 1797)

~~~

 

Painting: A Cavern, Evening. 1774 – Joseph Wright – [Public Domain] WikiArt

Websites:
Rupert Spira
Joseph Wright (Wikipedia)

 

A Silent Wind

Amma. A name, a face, a smile that I have seen represented so many times. Her reputation and aura precede her wherever she goes, and she happened to come close to where I lived. So I went, not knowing what to expect, apart from the Indian ceremonial, a good dose of devotion, and her embrace, this simple gesture for which she has become famous the world over.

Waiting for Amma’s appearance, the immense hall had the flavour not so much of intense devotion, but of an easiness, a casualness, bearing little indication on the spiritual nature of the assembly. I could only be in admiration and awe for this woman who, though coming from a poor background in South India, has by her bare presence and loving hugs reached out to the entire world. …

A day spent in Amma’s presence and embrace (READ MORE…)

 

Our Mother’s Lap

Let the little children come to me, 
and do not hinder them, 
for the kingdom of heaven 
belongs to such as these
.”
~ Mark 10:14

 

I’m sure we can all remember this. We were small children, we were playing in the courtyard near our house with our little friends. Maybe running after a ball. Then, pushed by a rough little boy, we fell and hurt our knee on the ground. It was painful. We got confused and a rush of pain and sadness overwhelmed us. We froze for a second, confused, and then what? Then we ran to the house to find our dearly mother. Our mother’s love is always here at hand, available, so we cried and complained for a while, but something magic happened. In our mother’s lap we were gradually consoled and reassured until our sadness and pain gently melted and disappeared in no time. Why was I hurt in the first place? It’s such a tiny little wound! So we rushed back to our playground, eager to continue our game and be with our little friends again. …

A divagation into the ways of the little child we once were (READ MORE…)

 

Unsubstantiality

I remember one day being at the breakfast table, my eyes peeking randomly through the window. They landed on the courtyard down below where a thin layer of snow were covering the lawns. I was attracted by the curious behaviour of a couple of magpies. One was so to speak climbing up a tree, branch after branch, until it reached a spot where the building of a nest was being started. It wasn’t just flying there, in one big leap, and I wondered why. The other magpie was leisurely sitting on a bicycle shed looking at its friend, attentive, but somewhat unconcerned. I watched this little dance for a while, but realised that there was more to see. 

On the lawn, there was a big ball of snow, may be an unfinished snowman or something of the kind. It had been pushed there by the arms of a few playful children, and became this big, somewhat dirty giant ball sitting strangely in the courtyard. It was massive, solid, and yet had an odd, ethereal presence that drew me to it. It appeared as if it was not really there, somewhat absent in spite of its size and solidity. My mind wandered for a while, finding the snowball to be a perfect analogy for the ‘me’, this ‘thing’ that we assume to be the person, the doer. There is ‘somebody’ there, inside the skull so to say, that is directing the show, and for whom all actions are being undertaken. …

A reverie that speaks of our unsubstantial nature (READ MORE)

 

The Fruitless Search

I have been an [explorer] and still am.
But I stopped asking the books and the stars.
I started listening to the teachings of my own soul
.”
~ Rumi

 

It is not because I have read a few books, bathed in the presence of some beautiful beings, and participated to many retreats that I know where I am, what I am at, and can now follow the upward course of a promised, enlightened destination. I’m not like an arrow steadily cutting through the air. It’s not like that I’m afraid. I confess: I’m a lost bird. One that’s flapping its wings on the winds of uncertainty, not knowing how, where and what to proceed. I spend all my time in the forest, flying around like a mad bird, thinking that I have one thousand things to do to secure a more decent life for myself. And this is an endless, confusing activity. …

A tale that speaks of a lost being and its fruitless search (READ MORE…)

 

 

Promenade Parisienne

I love, during my walks in Paris, to stop in one of the many small parks that you find in the capital. I sit on a bench and rest while observing, listening. Some children are having some fun a little further, pushing each other on the slides, playing on the swings. I hear the gate slam from time to time, when a mother arrives with her child, an old man leaves with his dog. All the benches are not occupied. Some old ladies are chattering on one of them, two lovers are kissing tenderly. Some older men are playing pétanque and the balls are slamming, breaking the joyous monotony of the carousel music. Some children are shouting with joy. Suddenly, a din of flapping wings falls on me. A swarm of pigeons, lured by abundant crumbs of bread, swoops down on the nearby bench. A few scattered sparrows come to join in the feast. A couple is passing by, stopping for a moment, while their little dog is stretching in the lawn. A young woman is walking fast. Friction of wings. All around, the trees rise majestically and protect all this little world from the warm rays of the sun. They are like big umbrellas and their tall rough trunks spring from the ground, sometimes seeming to counterbalance their bending choice, like big tensed muscles. …

Share with me a poetical promenade in Paris (READ MORE…)