An edited talk, by David Spero
In essence, there’s really no difference between meditative and devotional paths to God-realization. Both are felt as a kind of heat, an urgency and a passionate engagement. Finally, they are consummated in Transcendental Realization.
Meditation is entering into the domain of Light or Nondual Consciousness and Devotion is expanding consciousness through the power of yearning. In truth, both are simultaneously active, feeding off, breathing into one another. When Ecstatic Feeling wells up totally within its own Love-Field, it is ushered into self-transcending meditation. Meditation allows us to merge into a Transcendental Ocean of calmness. The body-mind with its hunger for relationship–its urge to love and be loved–creates a kind of perturbation or disturbance in this Tranquil Ocean: it “contradicts” this vast ocean of Impersonal Silence.
Meditative awakening may be conveyed or transmitted spontaneously, by someone who is enlightened; that is, by someone who has experienced full Self-Transcendence.
Meditative awakening is an impersonal reality. It is lacking in human affection. For this impersonal consciousness to become warmly affectionate, it must learn trust and innocence within the enlightened state. You may ask, “How can it be that one can attain enlightenment and not have trust and love?” Oddly, it is possible because meditative awakening can occur in the Unmanifest, without necessarily finding expression through the relative human personality. That is, it may not have found its way to the surface of the body, to be expressed through the relative dimensions of emotion and thinking.
Ultimately, awakening is meditation and meditation is love. If you are connected with an Enlightened Master, you know that he can be many miles away and still you can feel the Force of his Meditative Transmission. The Relationship with the Master occurs in the vastness of Expanded Consciousness and also in the field of Devotion. It can come to you at any time, transcending the laws of time and space. What finally makes the awakened life livable is the quality of affectionate interrelatedness in this Absolute Vastness of Awakened Consciousness. This is the ultimate spiritual challenge, to be vulnerable and open in enlightenment.
It is a common error in conventional spiritual understanding to think that a Realized Spiritual Master is immune from feeling. The conventional understanding of enlightenment as being beyond attachment seems to breed this kind of misunderstanding. However, in reality, no one is immune from hurt or even attachment–even Avatars have peculiarities of affection and taste. This is true even if they dissociate from so-called normal society, even if they lead unconventional lives of solitude. If you actually found yourself with one of these unique Beings and spent time with him, you might see amazing peculiarities in personality as well as a deep vulnerability based on human feeling. Scholars and thinkers have created a mystique about spirituality and meditation based on dreaming about the lives of such Beings, or taking one aspect of their behavior and amplifying it to an extreme, finally framing it as a constant or universal pattern or stereotype.
The time is approaching, though, in which there will be widespread awakening on this planet. Things are going to change. The Divine is being ushered into this world in a new way. You will be given new eyes with which to see this whole subject. The days are over when you can turn away from love. Love is on the hunt now.
It’s the urgency to love and be loved that gives birth to this world. It is the primal unbearableness of Feeling that generates the perceivable world. How it happens no one will ever know. You can become one with the Source, but you can’t know it. Religious scripture is a remarkable mixture of poetry, fiction, science fiction and metaphor, originating in the human desire to talk, to tell and listen to stories, to wonder and imagine. Scripture, though, is not holy. Scripture’s talk on cosmology, ontology, theories of creation and other philosophical subjects cannot create a lucid enough mind with which to penetrate the Ultimate Mystery of which it speaks. Reality is unintelligible exuberance, a painful ecstasy of blindness and revelation. No one sees through or knows what is beyond appearance and perception.
All the religious books are written by humans. There is no sacred book. There are no holy texts. All texts are profane, mundane, understandable. The Bible is just another book, printed with the same ink and paper as other books, using the same human words, concepts and definitions as other books. The human mind that reads, believes, or analyzes [the Bible] is capable of great distortions and misunderstandings. Some of the greatest human atrocities have their inspirations from “holy” texts taken literally.
This world is part of what the Absolute wears. It is clothing. Just as a human being wears a garland, so the Absolute strings this loveliness, this phenomenal reality around its neck. The world has no substance. It is purely decorative. Yet, it is one with the Being that appears, at least logically, to be prior to it. It contains the extremities of pleasure and pain, bliss and tragedy, loneliness and union. We find ourselves here, in a human nervous system, bringing these things together in our painful human existence.
The goal of spirituality is not just to transcend the mind and senses. It’s not only about samadhi, attaining some kind of transcendent state. Samadhi is a temporary revelation of a particular kind of purity of consciousness, a temporary state of transcendence of this world-hallucination, for a moment or two. We may know Pure Light or All-Pervasive Oneness and that is a truly immense experience. But at the same time it’s just a phase in perception. The Divine has a way of convoluting back onto the body in this condition of manifestation. God enjoys seeing and feeling as a human nervous system. God is a human nervous system. That’s the symbolic meaning of the life of the Avatar Lord Krishna. He is an embodiment of the Supreme Consciousness, who is living in this earthly reality. He, as the Absolute itself, is living in union with everything here.
The Absolute is just one aspect of what we are. The other aspect is quite ordinary, painfully ordinary. It’s getting angry in traffic, feeling hurt when someone ignores us, or looks the other way instead of greeting us with love.
When I was an undergraduate at Clark University, I discovered a deep resistance in myself toward knowing myself as God. I found that there was a part of my mental makeup, lodged in my deep unconscious, that was unwilling to release the notion of an objective God.
At the time, I was having exalted experiences of God-Consciousness day after day, experiencing witnessing consciousness, having soma flow through my brain and my spinal cord while I was asleep at night, ascending into realms of Bliss and Light. My experiences had become so utterly sublime, so exalted, that I wondered where my human life had gone. One day a friend came to me saying that his life was filled with suffering. It was shocking to me. I thought he was joking because I was so far removed from suffering.
During this time, I lived wholly for the breakthroughs in Consciousness. I lived in order to meditate, to go deeper and deeper into Consciousness. Still, simultaneously, I also realized that there was something in me that was tenaciously fighting the realization that I was everything, the alpha and the omega. My whole being was insisting on the notion of an external God. Since I had intellectually discarded the notion of any external deity when I was in high school, I was, needless to say, puzzled by this persisting doubt.
Not long after this, I found myself behaving oddly, putting all my spiritual pictures away in my clothes drawer. I just did it without much reflection or thought. I had to put them all away because anything that suggested an external Master, Guru, or God, became too awkward. I felt them all to be lies. During this time, after the photos were placed in the bottom drawer of my bureau, I had the full experience of nirvikalpa samadhi in meditation. Isn’t it ironic that these photos, which I worshipped and loved with my whole being, turned out to be a kind of obstacle to my own Self-Revelation?
During this time of sadhana, one evening I merged into and beyond an Ocean of Vastness where I had transcended the body-mind completely during sleep. This was in spring of 1980, a time in which my sadhana reached unparalleled heights. I awoke that morning, placed my foot on the floor beside the bed, and just sat for a minute contemplating what had occurred during the previous night. The first thought I had, sitting in transcendental shock, was: “That was Brahman, the Vast, the Great.” I instantly felt a kind of horror because my human mind could not accept this enormity. It could not be approached through thought and to memory. It appeared as death, total extinction of every aspect of consciousness. My whole body was gripped in a tension, an anxiety of deep disturbance. I thought I was going to die in that moment– no, that I actually had died sometime that night. The thought occurred: how could I possibly continue? How could I go on living after seeing this?
I knew then that the idea of God was a lie, a cultural and religious fiction used to protect humans from experiencing this kind of existential horror. Then quickly I got up and left my bedroom. I carried on as normally as I could, walking to classes, going to the library and writing papers.