‘View from the Ganges of the burning ghats’ – Edward Lear, 1873 – Wikimedia
We are but a layer. Our sense of identity has been downgraded to being just a thought whose presence is by now so habitual and pregnant that it is likened to our very self. This shallow well, this dubious layer, seems to be all that we have access to, and our thoughts and feelings have been upgraded to ridiculously important and all-consuming proportions. We have the identity of a thought imbued with itself, satisfied as it is to block the view to any deeper reality. It is ironical that the wonder and blessing of truth can be so effectively buried under the thin layer of a single thought about ourself. A thought that is so pervasive and convincing that few are the ones who have even the idea or curiosity of digging beyond it. But try it. A little probing works wonder.
Try to localise the shallow well of your illusory self. If you have to live your life from its vantage point, you might as well have a security check before embarking in such a serious journey. Is this all we are, this shallow thought that’s tossing itself about in our head? Is this all we are, this little body at the mercy of any impending death? Why such fatuous view about ourself? Was this beautiful mind of ours — that can behold the moon and the starry sky, that can fathom the silence and embrace the vision of beauty, the infinite expanse of love — was this mind created only to end up being likened to a thought? It really is a mystery that we have come to be satisfied with a shallow well, when we have at our hand the infinite and largely unexplored field of consciousness: that thing in us that is responsible for our very experiencing and without which no thing or being could ever exist or appear.
The idea we have about ourself is not our real self. We are satisfied with a vague representation, with a limited understanding. We don’t go all the way. We feel it okay to live our whole life — even build empires — without knowing who we are. But this essential knowledge of ourself should really be where we start our journey from. And a good look is worth many books of spiritual knowledge. We only have to notice that we have misplaced our focus. We have been seduced by the objectivity implied in the functioning of our sense perceptions. We feel we have to reach for ourself in the same way, and so we create this dubious sense of self as a projected idea. This mesmerisation is the shallow well — or shadow well — where we do nothing but go round and round in repeated circles of self-assumed ignorance. Only step aside once and you will realise that this thin paper-like layer of yourself is but a bundle of accumulated beliefs.
Only step aside once and you will realise that your self is a deep, unfathomable well that cannot be seen unless you merge with it and become of it. Feel your being as being that emptiness with no end. Be the aware quality behind your very seeing and hearing. Be this divine threshold of pure awareness. Don’t take refuge inside a shallow well. Realise its hidden depth. Relinquish the whimsical thought that stands in the way. Move just below or beyond this idea of and about yourself. There is some courage needed in this small death, but the reward is the path taken from limitation to freedom, from suffering to happiness, from death to immortality, from shallowness to infinity, from lie to truth, from pretending to truly being.
Text by Alain Joly
Painting by Edward Lear (1812-1888)
– Edward Lear (Wikipedia)
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