Maha Shiv Ratri. The grand night of Shiva, celebrated across India.
Maha Shiv Ratri is the night in the entire year when the Shiva Consciousness, the Shiva tattva is the easiest to tap into. Thus, across the length and breadth of India, in ashrams and holy places, all night vigils, chanting, meditation and different methods are practised to tap into the vast potential offered on this day. And the tenet of this teaching is: ‘Consciousness is all there is’, as Ramesh ji would say.
A quote by American mystic Joel Goldsmith delivers this teaching of Advaita with a beautiful message. Though the words may be different, those intimately familiar with the Teaching will see how they reach the same place, because that place is within.
“Begin your spiritual life with the understanding that all conflicts must be settled within your consciousness. There is never a conflict with a person or condition but rather a false concept mentally entertained about the person, thing, circumstance or condition. Therefore, make the correction within yourself, rather than attempting to change anyone or anything in the without. Acknowledge God as the substance, law, cause and activity of all that is and refrain from meddling physically or mentally in the without. Get back inside yourself and there resolve all appearances. When living out from the center of being, you are untouched by the thoughts, opinions, laws and theories of the world. Nothing acts upon you because you do not react to the world of appearances. In the spiritual life, you place no labels on the world. You do not judge, as to good, evil, sick or well, rich and poor and so on. While appearances may show forth harmony or discord, by not judging you merely know what is and let that which truly is define itself.” – Joel Goldsmith
We may have an opinion about other people in our life, especially about those we don’t get along with or don’t like. But that opinion and judgement is arising within our own consciousness. It is the content of consciousness. It is our perception.
Taking a person from our life, let’s say we feel that person is “nasty”, or whatever label we want to put based on our experience. There is a judgement or label sitting in our consciousness about another person. If we just remove the subject and the object, me and the other, and if we just suspend them right now, the content of our consciousness is not just the word but the feeling which the word “nasty” evokes. Nasty, nasty, nasty, nasty. This is the content, the mantra which is playing out in our consciousness. The subject and object are quite irrelevant here. So while it may appear that we have put a label onto an object, in this case someone else, the fact is that we are most intimate with this feeling of ‘nasty’. What is repeatedly going on within us is what we are most intimate with. And, to label someone else nasty, we must also know what it is to be nasty, at least to some degree.
It is only when we accept that everyone we encounter in life’s journey is designed by the same Source, Consciousness, Shiva, and that everyone comes with their script based on their genetics, their conditioning and so on, that is when we see God in everyone. Not God as a physical being, but understanding that it is the same consciousness at play here. So the compartmentalization, classification, grouping people into different groups as far as we are concerned starts dropping away.
Joel Goldsmith gives an interesting example in one of his books where he talks about this man who walks into a bar, sits on the bar stool at the bar counter and orders one drink after another, and then turns to look at the man next to him and he tells him, “Look here, you better stop drinking because you are becoming very blurry.” It is his own perception that has become blurry and has got projected onto the other, which is precisely what we do.
In a book of Nochur Venkatraman on the ‘Dakshinamurty Stotram’, he uses the phrase ‘combing the mirror’. When you wish to comb your hair are you going to comb the hair in the reflection of a mirror? We have to comb our own hair, but what we do is we try to straighten out the reflection. “Don’t be like this, don’t do this, you should not behave this way, you should not behave like that, and so on”
Can you imagine a mind that is free of this burden of labels, opinions and judgments? How people should behave, what they should do, what they should not do and so on. That is called a vacant mind, completely transparent and open to what the present moment brings.
As Joel Goldsmith said, this belief of two powers, this has to be given up. This battle with what life brings, especially with what we don’t like. This battle, as if there is a power greater than God. When we accept ‘what is’, when we accept God’s will, whether we like it or not, this battle with life is over. We have given up this belief in two powers. To use his phrase, ‘we now withdraw all opposition’ to what life brings our way. We may not like it but the fact that it has happened cannot be denied. So to accept the happening and thereafter do precisely that which we think and feel we should do is the natural course of action. But where we get stuck is that we have a problem with the happening itself. We are psychologically battling with the happening itself. That is the opposition which Goldsmith is saying needs to be dropped. As Maharaj said, “It is not what you do but what you stop doing that matters.”
As he said, “The expected rarely happens, the unexpected always does.”
If that is our own life’s experience, that we never know what the next moment may bring, sometimes pleasure, many times pain… If we just accept this for what it is and drop all the “Why is this happening to me? Why is God doing this to me? What did I do wrong?” and so on, one will find that courage and strength come from somewhere, and that is why Rameshji said that one starts living the ‘life courageous’. It is when we accept that uncertainty is the very basis of life. Let’s look at our own life’s experiences. The only certainty is death. That we are all sure of, but between now and death we are not sure of anything. And that is why we build up this opposition, “Nothing should happen to me while I am alive.”
Bono had mentioned in one song, “Uncertainty can be a guiding light.” It is so true.
The only certainty is that nothing is certain in life.
The dance of Shiva went on for about two years (referring to the Pandemic). Lives and jobs were lost on a global scale. Nobody saw it coming. But it was suffering that united us.
Goldsmith says, “Do not be concerned about your relationships with people. Consciously maintain your relationship with God and that will take care of everything else. God is the cement between you and your brothers and sisters of the human, animal, vegetable and mineral families.”
If you truly have the understanding that we are all instruments of the same Source, then our relationship is directly with the Source, not with individuals. If at the dinner table you praised a movie and someone passes an exactly opposite opinion, at that moment the understanding should be that this person across me who has a contrary viewpoint is equally entitled to have it just as I have my viewpoint, because we are both instruments designed a certain way to have our likes and dislikes. With acceptance, the other’s opinion is not opposed. All opposition is withdrawn and there is no need to try to convince the other that their view is wrong. “That’s your view, this is my view.” Life then becomes simple and that is why Goldsmith so beautifully says, “Do not be concerned about your relationships with people. Consciously maintain your relationship with God.” That is what is happening now because the same divine force is in everyone, especially the ones you don’t like.
A mind that is not at conflict is a mind at peace. The content of consciousness becomes
peace. Someone I met recently told me he was not able to sleep at night. When I met him a week after that meeting, he mentioned the same thing. He decided to visit a doctor and the doctor gave him pills. When I asked him how his day was spent, he said, “Why are you asking me such an odd question?” I said, “Peaceful days mean peaceful nights.” Is something happening at work that is agitating the mind and therefore one cannot sleep? How is the mind during the day?
This teaching is like a pill for the mind which is not at peace, which is the thinking mind, that goes into the dead past or an imaginary future and creates situations of what should have been, what should be, based on what one thinks is right and wrong. That is why Maharaj said that in meditation, or let’s say simply sitting still, one witnesses whatever arises right now as movements in consciousness.
So if right now, eyes closed or eyes open, we witness whatever arises as movements in consciousness, a thought may arise or it may not. If a thought doesn’t arise right now it will sooner or later. Meanwhile, our meditation is ‘Consciousness contemplating on Consciousness’, which we rarely do. Our waking day is so busy that we don’t take the time out to just honour the fact of being, even if it’s just five minutes, sitting by ourselves quietly with the sheer fact that we ‘are’, the awareness of ‘being’, which is the foundation of our existence, and honouring that being. And if a thought arises, not pushing that thought away, because that means we are opposing ‘what is’, we are having a battle with it, while allowing it to be, we are witnessing it. Witnessing is happening, the thought disappears at some point, maybe another thought takes its place, we just let it be. A total acceptance of what is ‘in the moment’ is meditation. Therefore there is no such thing as a good meditation or bad meditation. This is one of the biggest misconceptions. Meditation is not goal oriented, “Oh I had very few thoughts, therefore I had a very good meditation.” It could be the opposite. If you have many thoughts, you might have had a superb meditation. Why? Who is the one who is aware that there were many thoughts in the meditation? Those many thoughts in meditation are pointing to the one who was aware that there were many thoughts in meditation.
But the ego steps in and labels the meditation as good or bad, resulting in labels getting stuck once again. Let us observe silence for the next two minutes, allow what has to emerge, to emerge, with no one running after that to judge it. We will find that we are flowing with ‘what is’.
The more one starts to witness, the more one finds oneself living a life of equanimity. A gentleness comes into the way of living and one finds life becoming simpler and simpler and simpler. There’s truth in the saying that if you take one step towards God then God takes ten steps towards you. One will find that the universe supports this endeavour, this new way of looking at things, this new way of being. That is the gift of the spiritual journey.
It’s all about relationships with either someone else and eventually with oneself. When we start looking at our relationships through the eyes of non-duality and we start questioning our long cherished beliefs about how people should be, how I should be, and so on, we realise, as it is said, that there are no others because the relationship is in relationship to ‘me’. If the relationship is a harmonious relationship it means my relationship with myself is harmonious.
If one experiences harmony in relationships as a result of the teaching, that is indicative of the harmony of Consciousness, of God, of the lack of separation. It is very subtle and cannot be measured. But looking back, one month ago, six months ago, one year ago, when one was not exposed to the teaching and now one has an understanding and views each relationship in a different light, despite old triggers and buttons being pushed, the involvement is much less, the reactivity is much less. That is when our relationship with the so-called other, which actually reflects our relationship with ourselves, gets redefined.
So says Joel Goldsmith, “Your relationship is now with God and not individuals.”
Sri Aurobindo also says something very beautiful on the lines of, “When you are giving gifts to people, are you giving to individuals or are you giving with the awareness that you are giving gifts to the same divine being, that is in everyone?”
In A Tibetan course I studied it was said, “What you give to the other is that which you truly possess.” Because it is Consciousness giving Consciousness. Consciousness is giving Itself the gift. Imagine you have to give a gift to someone, you count your pennies and decide to give something cheap just to save money, where your heart is not in it and it is just a part of social conditioning which is making you do that. The consciousness here is giving a cheap gift to the other just to fulfil a social conditioning. It is giving the same gift back to Itself.
How generous can one be, with one’s time and possessions. How generous can one be, towards others. How generous is one? When someone wants to talk and calls or asks to meet, how generous we are with the other is a reflection of how generous we are with ourselves.
“Do not expect the power of God to function in the dream but rather to break the dream. Do not contact God to adjust, change or heal the dream. The understanding or awareness of God breaks the dream.” – Joel Goldsmith.
The understanding or awareness of God, Consciousness, Conscious Presence, abiding in your being, breaks the dream.
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