Although the way up the Mountain of Oneness can involve some pretty rugged terrain, and one stumbles every now and again, and even gets lost in the thickets of strange new concepts and terms, eventually the journey becomes smooth, pleasurable and easy. Bizarrely enough, all you have struggled to absorb and to practice over lifetimes is now spontaneously jettisoned or distilled into a living inner truth. Some call this cultivating the “view,” and I like this term since that is exactly what we do when we turn decisively into the interior and develop new ways of seeing and being.
For me, comprehending the beauty of Advaita essentially involves understanding the nature of two things: the Self (the Absolute, blissful, immortal, aware and including both manifest and unmanifest) and the Egoic machinery (current body, mind, track record, emotions, etcetera). The goal is to dissolve the building blocks of the ego (known as vasanas or karmic trace impressions accumulated over countless lifetimes) into the vast peaceful ocean of the Self.
Now, for as long as we are totally identified with samsara (relative reality, considered “unreal” in Advaitic terms since it is ephemeral and consists of beings, situations and things that come and go), we will continue to spin in the mad roaring vortex of primal confusion. But once we step out of the dream (and this dream includes the three states of waking, sleeping and dreaming) and enter Turiya (the fourth state of blissful non-duality), the Sakshi or Witness wakes up.
The process is quite fascinating—what used to drive us up the wall in the past, what we used to take with deadly gravity, now becomes mostly funny and interesting, for the Witness is an aspect of the eternal Self and nothing can negatively impact it. Imagine watching a fascinating movie—you enjoy it, and empathize with the trials and tribulations of the hero, but you do not take the plot personally, do you? You may even identify yourself with a character in the movie, but once you leave the theatre, it is easy to drop the role, right?
This is how it is for the advanced seeker on the path of moksha. At some point, the Self wakes up with an exultant roar and begins to watch, with amused curiosity, the Ego building sand castles on the shifting sands of samsara. You can think of the Self as an indulgent and wise grandfather watching his bright and mischievous grandson (Ego) having a blast on the beach: throwing a tantrum when a high wave rolls over his castle and reduces it once again to ordinary sand, or getting terribly excited because a passerby assures him his castle is the best in the whole world.
But the infant does not have to remain an infant—as she matures, she can become aware that her grandfather is really omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent, for she has noticed that, unlike her tumultuous self, he is totally unflustered by events. Weary of meaningless and essentially dissatisfying play, she decides she wants to be like him—and so she stops building her endless sand castles, turns her back on the craziness of external experience, and begs the old man to teach her the real meaning of existence.
The job between them is done when the two merge into One; whether it is done quickly or slowly depends on how much effort, commitment and interest she can invest in her brilliant new Moksha Project. The final ingredient for fusion, of course, is grace, and that is ever-present, although it is up to each one of us to prepare ourselves to receive its blessing.
Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva in the form of a hill of fire and light, who is said to watch a particular soul for eons as it wanders, lost and confused in the dazzling tinsel worlds of samsara, until, out of great compassion, He lassoes the soul and draws it into His fiery embrace!