Writing it Down

Shakuntala_RRVIt’s hard to believe it’s been an entire year since my last post. We moved and life changed drastically. New city, new home, new job, new schedule. My writing has suffered as a result. When I fail to write, I lose a whole dimension of reflection and discrimination that comes with the act of writing. It is a dimension I am unwilling to sacrifice any longer.

Fortunately, the one thing that hasn’t changed over the past year is our continued study of the Gita. We still meet online come what may, four times a week, expanding our study beyond the Gita to include Tattva Bodha and Viveka Chudamani by Adi Sankaracharya and works by Swami Chinmayananda.

These other “more advanced” scriptures are interesting in that they approach the mysteries of the Self in a scientific manner, dissecting body, soul, universe and consciousness in order to get to the essential truth that all is One. Still, there is nothing as simple and beautiful as the Gita.

It is amazing to see how we continue to discover hidden truths with each reading. This morning we realized for the first time that jivatma, the individual self, and paramatma, the universal Self, are both distorted reflections of Atma, Supreme Consciousness. Collective mind blown.

We have been taught from childhood to regard Paramatma as God and as Goal. Our earnest prayers and elaborate rituals have all been directed at that Universal Soul which apparently determines our fate, metes out our destiny and controls the very planets in their spheres, ensuring that the Universe runs smoothly. Imagine our shock to find that even that mighty power is merely a distorted reflection of the Absolute. So who shall we pray to now? And for what?

After our initial shock, we agreed that this truth is not really at odds with what we have always believed. Yes, there is a Higher Self, that hears our prayers and determines the course of the Universe, and yes, it makes sense to have faith in that Higher Self, but not with the yearning to merge in it but rather for guidance to the ultimate goal. How can we merge with something that is itself a distortion? We need to realize instead that while we as individuals are smaller more impotent reflections and the Higher Self is a vast and extremely powerful reflection, we both are one and the same and do not exist apart from Atma.

All this sadhana, satsang, meditation, prayer, have been directed at cleaning the mirror so that the reflection can be brighter and more accurate. And we cannot stop that process but must redouble our efforts. What changed today is the ultimate goal, from merging with the Higher Self, to realizing that there is nothing but Atma. We are not the body or the mind or the intellect or the senses. All these form a shell around our true essence, which is none other than the Absolute.

As I read back what I’ve written, I find it sounds convoluted and confusing. Perhaps because I am not yet clear myself in my understanding. But, I have written it down, and that’s a start.

Image: Shakuntala. Raja Ravi Varma, Wikimedia Commons.

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