I was born a wannabe jnani, incapable of the adoration/worship of gurus, temples and holy objects that many with a religious bent incline towards. Some may consider me supercilious, simply because I am not impressed by celebrities, nor the wealthy and gorgeous. But I am prone to immense love and admiration for those whose rare qualities catch my attention. Left to my own devices, I find a truth that sings to me and play with it until it begins to make sense to me. Then I carefully weave it into my worldview and use it as a tool to slice through all the mysteries life throws at us unwary humans.
Over the years, I have cobbled together a magnificent “view” for myself from the various Eastern traditions I have delved into. Buddhist teachers in particular consider a “view” essential to seeking freedom. Many seekers from non-Indian backgrounds are stumped by the sheer magnitude of Sanskrit words and terms they have to understand before they can create this Eastern “view” for themselves. Since, right from birth, I too was educated in English, I empathize. Both my parents were comfortable in the language of our oppressors and insisted we kids spoke English at home. My father was a raconteur; aware that fluency in English would help us to advance in the material world, he gave us Spelling Bees when we were teens, and turned us all into Scrabble fanatics (some of us can compete on the international level). So, although I did pick up a smattering of Eastern languages along the way, I shared the same problem as my foreign friends who were fascinated by the process of enlightenment or moksha but had to struggle to understand the initial concepts.
My main focus for a long time has been to burn the insidious sense of a separate “me” so I can melt permanently into the blissful and immortal Self. In quest of this goal, I went from one guru and teaching to another until I struck pure gold in the Advaita masters (Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta Maharaj). Once I had a general map of reality that included the two great truths of Absolute and Relative reality, I knew I could find my way home. And since my way of learning is to absorb truth by reducing a teaching to an easily digestible nugget of gold, synonyms have become critically important to my comprehension.
Following are some important synonyms I came up with that for Absolute and Relative Reality that you may or may not agree with; I am no scholar, after all, but merely an ardent seeker. Take what you like and leave the rest. The finger can only point towards the moon, it is not the moon; when we work things out for ourselves, everything becomes fluid and easy to grasp and we advance rapidly into the Spiritual Heart.
Divine; Substratum; Shunyata; Parabhrahman; Sat-Chit-Ananda (Existence-Awareness and Bliss); Perfect Brilliant Stillness (the title of David Carse’s amazing revelation of his own awakening), and the most intriguing one of all (for me)—Nisargadatta Maharaj’s allusion to the “deep dark blue state.”
Samsara; Mundane or Conventional Reality; the repetitive cycle of birth and death prior to enlightenment.
After years of intense practice and study, I also began to realize that the words Lila (play of the gods), Maya (cosmic enchantress) and Kundalini Shakthi (the serpent fire that rests at the base of the human spine and, when awareness starts to grow, rises into the Crown Chakra and beyond) are deeply interconnected divine sisters. And that the egoic system of body and mind, which springs into being from the I AM (a rebel spark that breaks free from the Absolute and begins to think of itself as a separate entity, impregnating the budding ego with this deadly virus of “I, me and mine”), cannot move a hairbreadth without their aid.
Paradoxically, all that we learn in this luminous area has to be jettisoned at some point, so we can walk light and free into the blissful cave of the heart. If we don’t make the effort to really grasp the meaning of these words, we may think we understand what the great gurus say, but our comprehension will not be rich and we will falter when we come to tricky bends on the narrow path inwards. Anyone can buy a carton of fresh cream, but the one who milks the cow and boils the milk to extract the cream relishes the product even more. (Vegans can find another example!)
The true guru rests in deep peace and bliss and has no need of what the false gurus of our planet demand from their seekers—money, fame, adulation, sex, mindless loyalty, etc. In fact the true guru just wants to be left alone to enjoy the bliss of his or her true nature. But, out of great compassion for those who do not possess the razor-like intellect and commitment to freedom that catapulted him into the Absolute, he shares his wisdom, hoping the ripe ones among us will become gurus themselves.
But no matter how loving and compassionate a guru may be, he or she cannot do our homework for us; as the great sages say, it takes great effort to reach the effortless state.
Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva in the form of a hill of fire and light, who represents the peak of awareness and guides us out of the jungle of delusion!