On Ordinariness of Awakening: By Latha Ramanan
It is the simple things in life that teach the greatest lessons in our lives. We all want something special or extra-ordinary from our lives – the ordinary life as it is seems so boring or meaningless. Most of us have pre-set ideas about awakening or enlightenment. We practice techniques including yoga, meditation, breathing, worship of saints/gods, rituals, seek assistance of an enlightened teacher; all these are adhered strictly only for the hope of experiencing enlightenment.
Awakening is an aspiration for each and every soul. It is said that a soul plans with different souls before coming into this world so that in the next birth they can live amongst these souls who can assist in fulfilling this eternal goal of enlightenment. If this theory is to be believed then we are living at the right place with the right people to achieve self-awareness. The souls/persons or the circumstances that assist you to re-discover your inner ‘Self’ may not be apparent-they may be in the form of your worst enemy or difficulties or simple routines of life.
It is our duty to pay attention to derive the ultimate truth from the simple things in life. Often we miss the cue, how? When our soul and the universe itself creates opportunities and events to know our ‘Selves’, we use our free-will to approach them in a different way and we miss the point altogether.
Now how do we re-connect with our ‘Self’? We can continue to practice any technique such as discipleship, rituals, meditation, et cetra with the awareness that these are only the means to attain self-awareness but not the end in itself; until we learn to rest in the stillness or the divinity with us, uninterruptedly. Then these practices can be done away with.
Another alternative method is to drop all concepts about enlightenment and doubts on our chance to be realized in this life time. Ramana Maharshi says, ‘the Self is here and now’ or as Adyashanti says, ‘be the Buddha now’. This message gives immense relief to the seekers, to know that our inner ‘Self’ can be known now, just as we are reading this article.It is not necessary to postpone it till we perfect some spiritual practices. There is no need to do a pilgrimage to the Himalayan peeks or visit holy persons or shrines. Pilgrimage is, in spiritual terms, a journey to our heart.
We do not have to break away from our partners because they do not like spiritual seeking.We do not need to join a group or sangha, it is not essential to switch to a vegetarian diet to realise your ‘Self’ (this is not stated here to hurt anybody’s feelings). Why is it so? Whatever habits, circumstances or people that need to move away from us will do so naturally. Let them shed off on their own. We do not have to do them forcefully for the sake of ‘purifying’ ourself. Our true ‘Self’ is pure, another purifying is not necessary. Psychologists say the practices such as joining a spiritual group or changing to a vegetarian, etc can give a superior feeling and inflate our egos. It also adds a tendency to alienate anyone or anything that is not part of these practices. It is equivalent to being in an anti-social gang. All teachings direct us to be cautious of our egos and the need to remain in harmony with everyone even if they are following a different path. So we have to be scrutinising everything we do in the name of spiritualism- are we feeding into our ego or are we excluding or condemning others who are different from us through our practice?
All the awakened persons narrate about an initial boom phase and a phase of return to ordinary life, with just one difference; in the final ordinary life, the same things and people in our life have re-organised themselves in a different and yet harmonious order. There will be experiences of psychic powers or siddhis and times when we feel we are not bound by time, space, body or mind, initially. Generally, we would like to hang on to this state forever for which we may even re-create that situation in our minds. We have to understand this as our ego’s or our mind’s play because all feelings, sensations,experiences, thoughts are unreal, there are not our real ‘Self’. What is changing and is not permanent are not real, says Ramana Maharshi. Do not get caught up in them. We have to let go off them, letting the divinity within us to shine through. Then again, our mind asks the cliche question, what next? In reality, there is nothing more. We return to live our ordinary life, it may not be attractive or a successful life but you will learn that we can forgive ourself and others around us for the mistakes we commit. What we are, is the same as another being around us. We will not look for approval or appreciation for what we are; we will simply be.
We would become aware, all ordinary things in our lives were scheming to make us enlightened – to remind us that we are not bound by the limitations of body, the mind or birth and death, but we are the eternal ‘Self’. We discover the ordinariness of awakening. Gratitude, compassion and universal love encompass us, as we realise that everything in this universe is part of us – the oneness is felt. There are no more enemies, no peaks to achieve and no resistance to the ordinary flow of life. Wherever we are, from that moment, we become the vastness of the universe and we enjoy being the ordinary ‘we’ – ‘the awakened selves’.