…is all it takes to blast open the mind and to prove to us, from the inside where it counts, that what we take for reality, as revealed to us via the five senses and our limited finite mind, is just a thin covering over an Absolute reality simply staggering in its intricate beauty and vast complexity.
As a child growing up in south India, I used to catch strangely disorienting fevers that incapacitated me for a couple of days. I would fall into a heavy sleep at night, then wake up to find myself floating above my body; what would hold my ethereal body from floating away, was, believe it or not, the thin cotton top of the mosquito net we always slept under! I would look down with a gasp of surprised terror to see my sleeping body below, and the next second I would be back within it. This happened often enough for me to ponder its meaning: If I had left my body, I realized, then my body was not “me”; of course, it was this numinous knowing that led me gradually to explore this “I” that had so easily left my body—and then, decades later, after much suffering and confusion in the external world, to begin the awesome journey into discovering (or rather, uncovering) who I AM beyond body, mind, emotions, track record, etc.
I have since spoken to others who have had similar out-of-body experiences—and all of us, without exception, have been so deeply impacted by our different experiences that sooner or later we eschewed mundane reality and sought a higher way to see and to live.
As a teenager, Ramana Maharshi had one single intense experience when he lay down in terror of death, and simulated being a corpse. During this brief time, he realized, once and for all he was not his body or his mind, but an immortal being of light. His egoic self burned down completely and he emerged as a sage, one who has permanently transcended duality and knows for all time that his immortal essence is pure existence-awareness and bliss. And so, although he left his physical body a long time ago, his luminous spirit and teachings continue to help tens of thousands to find their own way from darkness to light.
Unless grace is actively operating, those addicted to worldly pleasures rarely have mystical experiences. The relative cage has turned into concrete and no light can seep in. The cage needs to crack so that this in-pouring of light can begin. Most fight this and will do anything to maintain their comfort zone. And yet the first step towards experiencing our true Self is to realize deeply and from the inside that nothing the world values—money, fame, adulation, sexy partners, flashy cars, homes and whatnot—can give us more than a fleeting happiness. And that inevitably this happiness turns into sorrow, even if it is just a perennial dissatisfaction or undercurrent of frustration.
I am often surprised that even the most intelligent people do not see mundane reality in this way, and give thanks that my own life led me to associate with many who were rich, powerful and famous, and who were also deeply miserable—so that I could see with my own eyes how false this sort of a life was. Billions of euros/dollars do not a happy camper make, and often it is just the opposite, for the rich and the powerful are weighed down by their possessions and status and harassed and hounded by those who don’t give a damn for our happiness, but who just want to exploit them.
Lasting happiness and peace are an inside job, and once we commit to finding this treasure within us, it is amazing how quickly help arrives, both visible and invisible. The committed seeker on Ramana’s Direct Path, for instance, will one day feel the first flicker of inner bliss (known in Sanskrit as ‘Aham Sphurana,’ or the bliss of the Self) and then one knows that one is well on our way to the luminous goal. And ah, this is the sweetest reward!
Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva the Destroyer in the form of a hill of fire and light, who vows to aid us in seeing clearly so that we can begin the awesome journey into the Spiritual Heart!