It’s human nature to compare ourselves to others. In some cases we are made to feel better by the comparison and in others the reverse is true. Add in to the mix that some will be depressed and some inspired by this and some just won’t care. All of it adds up to one glass of water simultaneously half full and half empty at the same time to the soundtrack of one hand clapping.
For a couple of months now, I have been alone almost all of the time except for a couple of dogs; a strange ghost of a disappearing house guest and a couple of brief visits by a lonely neighbor who wanders around my land commenting on things as his way of touching. Most people don’t like being alone. I love it. It comes down to whether you enjoy your own company; whether you can live with the thoughts of your past, whether you are afraid of the unknown and whether or not all you know about yourself is what happens between yourself and other people.
I don’t watch TV or listen to the radio. I have my occupations, practices and the main concern of my life which is to master myself and which is the most difficult of efforts due to the sheer simplicity of the requirements. There are not very many people who are absorbed in a constant effort to bring their attention back to the same thing... over and over and over. Something has to have happened to you to cause this and you may not even know what it is... or was.
I’ve read a lot of books with varying perspectives on the self; its discovery, its management, its components and place in the scheme of things. I’ve had meetings with remarkable men and women. I’ve taken powerful substances as an aid to perception and engaged in various practices to the same end. You could say that this particular interest is my most compelling interest and as time and circumstance pass it becomes more and more so.
One thing that seems to be a huge stumbling block to self realization; mastery, whatever you want to call it is... our personal history. I’m not thinking about this in terms of the errors we have made but just that we think about our personal history when we think about who we are. Most people define themselves in relation to their past. That is who they think they are. It isn’t even who they were. If we don’t know who we are then we’re wrong about any assumptions we have made or are making. Because of this, what we remember isn’t real, irrespective of the way time degrades memory or how our lens filters color things.
I think it was Paramahansa Yogananda who said something on the order of, “You must take all of your burdens; your hopes and dreams and everything you have said and done and thought about yourself and the world and you must tie them up in a bundle and cast that bundle into the sea. Certain Christian churches refer to something called, “being washed in the blood”. Every religion has something like this that is recommended as a precursor to union with the divine. They’re essentially the same thing adapted to the personality types attracted to a particular version.
It seems to me that you just cannot be who you are if you are caught up in being who you think you are. Guru Bawa used to say that you can’t pour water into a bucket that is already full. I studied with him for awhile. He is a realized master who has moved on to a more rarefied plane. I couldn’t stay there. I’ve never been able to stay in any of these ashrams or fellowships because I don’t get along with bureaucrats and they don’t get along with me. When Bawa passed, the hierarchy paved over the beautiful lawn in front of the fellowship and put in a parking lot with designated parking places for themselves... but I digress.
...though, maybe not... it’s a common belief that there is safety in numbers and maybe that applies to spiritual progress for a little while but... you’re on your own even in the midst. The day will come when you are no longer there for one reason or another. You’re alone and unless you can face this you’re just playing patty cake. The only difference between you and the master you are sitting before is that his personal history is gone. Your attention is on your personal history because that composes who you think you are. His attention is on the self that has no personal history... it just is. Some will transmit this in a seemingly dualistic way and some will transmit it as Advaita. Some will empty you out while you aren’t paying attention and some will scramble your support structure until the props fall away. The method isn’t important though a large percentage of followers will latch on to this as ‘the ticket’.
You hear about, ‘the dark night of the soul’ and ‘the stations of the cross’, ‘the dweller on the threshold’ and sundry trials and tests. Whether you are reading, “The Pilgrims Progress”; “The Koran”, “The Bible” or “The Kybalion” you are going to come across these elements that are like the blades of grass that turned into sharp knives in the Stephen Crane poem. Your personal history can’t endure these things, which is why it has to go. Only ‘the self’ can endure these things.
When you are alone you come up against yourself. When you are not alone you are staring into a funhouse mirror. Your personal history is a convincing argument as to why you cannot accomplish self realization. It is filled with all of the mistakes you’ve made; all the times you’ve failed at even simple things. It’s filled with the record of selfish acts and deceptions practiced upon yourself and by extension... upon others. You’re a shameful little bug. This is what your personal history tells you. Every master has been right where you find yourself today. Some of them got up to more mischief than you but that’s somewhere at the bottom of the sea now with all the rest of it.
Of course, there isn’t a single master anywhere who is the master. Each of them has come to realize that it is the indwelling self that masters all. This is how persons of wisdom recognize each other whenever they met no matter what may overlay the presence. When a master looks at you this is also what is seen even if, for the purposes of assistance, your personal history is laid out as well. Guru Bawa knew about me when we met, as did the master that I met on a beach and who activated a certain process in me. Both of them had something to say. There wasn’t anything bad... nothing like the things in my own mind about myself. It was all very encouraging. Neither you nor I are what we think we are or what the world thinks we are.
The world is a manufacturing plant. It manufactures lies. This is its job. You wouldn’t fault Nature for producing her plenty even if some of it is not good for you. The same wind that cools you in the heat can carry away your house. We must remember that in seeking a master or in seeking the truth that we are seeking the destruction of everything we invested our personal history in. It’s not all dancing and singing. It’s the loss of everything you hold dear but... there’s no lasting value in any of it. Still, it is why the majority turns away and returns to their former pursuits or why they continue to attempt what cannot be achieved with that knapsack on their back.
You’re not going to get any support from the world. The world is going to laugh at you. It’s a good indication that you are headed in the right direction; if that’s what you want. Whatever we are going to come up against we have to remember that all of these masters came up against it too. The reward is beyond description or... you can continue on through the inescapable disappointments of the world. It will eventually strip you of all you hold dear and leave you broken and alone. It would be a far better thing to accomplish this before hand and find that you are neither.
'Listening to God in the Morning' is track no. 13 of 13 on Visible's 2007 album
'The Sacred and The Profane'