Every spiritual tradition values what is known in Sanskrit as sahaj samādhi, or walking bliss: being in the Heart and being with the world simultaneously. The problem is that we make this state of being into a lovely ideal or a distant place that we could never attain. In fact, walking bliss is available to each of us. The real questions are, do we want it, and are we willing to work for this state? Once there is a “yes”, then we have to actually learn the truth of how to work.
We must first define the Heart, something often spoken of but seldom understood. By Heart I mean the innermost center: beyond the physical center of the waking state, beyond the subtle center of the dream state, beyond the center of the deep sleep state to the place where We, the pure Subject, reside. In Sanskrit this state is called turīya or the fourth state, but is categorically different from the other three. This is the state where We are the Witness of the other three states. We are the Perceiver, not the perceived. This is the Heart.
We literally get there by going through all the other centers of each of the states. This is not imagining, this is actual. We start by withdrawing all our attention away from everything except the center of the physical body, the center of our chest; from there we bore in letting go of each previous center and continue until by will alone, quietly, we rest in the Heart. Remaining there will take years of practice, which includes the continued removal of whatever distracts us. This is the ultimate work for each of us: to return home to being our Self.
Most cultures talk about a Fall of some kind. What is the purpose of God’s sending us out of the Garden of Eden? God did that so we can become conscious and return to the Garden in a state of pure consciousness. We have to work to purify in order to return to our Home. Before, we were bliss with no awareness, with no understanding of our state or even of God. Not until we are thrown out and then have to work through our wrong understanding can we see what we lost and what we choose. We have to give up who we think we are in order to be who we truly are. This work is what we call spiritual practice, sadhana. And without a good teacher, we can think we are becoming conscious when all we have done has only added a layer of concepts to our small self. We change our idea of who we are instead of surrendering to being the Self. Not until we do the hard work of surrendering our wrong understanding, of giving up the ignorance that takes what is impermanent to be permanent, what is impure to be pure, what is misery to be happiness, what is not the self to be the Self, does our true Self emerge. Who we are is always here; we just don’t know it because the small, shrunken self is veiled into believing it is Real.
Spiritual practice should lay out clearly and definitively how to remove our ignorance. If it does not, then it encourages the very activity we are working to get rid of.
Walking Home with Baba: The Heart of Spiritual Practice shares a path that has been walked for thousands of years; it also demonstrates the actual practice as taught by my Guru, Swami Muktananda. The teaching chapters explain where to go, why we are heading in this direction, and what tools to use on the journey. I provide some valuable tools I have developed in my years as a spiritual director, such as the Foursquare Personality Game, which reveals our attachments and allows us to transcend them. The anecdotes are teaching stories from my life with Muktananda. Those stories are not fables about sweet concepts. They are accounts that share the heat of one who lived in the fire of a realized being. They recount daily interactions always designed to remove my veils—not to tear me down but to shine a light on the false self, so I could let it go and the true Self could shine forth. Baba never wanted to build my small self back up; he wanted me to be as he was—pure Love—and I could not be that until I was willing to see and relinquish my own wrong understanding. This process had to be done consciously, not merely by the touch of grace but through hard work joined with the grace of the Guru. Ultimately, we have to surrender our small self; no one else, no matter how powerful and loving, can do that for us. The Guru will guide us, God will guide us, but in the end we have to remove the final veil by conscious, active surrender to God, the Self of All. We must break the cup and merge back into the ocean. Our individuality that was formed with the Fall has to be consciously let go.
Then we are living in sahaj samādhi, walking bliss. We are resting in the Heart and being with the world simultaneously; we are both immanent and transcendent. And though we may relate in the diversity of it all, we live in the universality, the Oneness, the Love, at the same time. Sat Cit Ānanda: Absolute Truth, Absolute Consciousness and Absolute Bliss.
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