I don’t particularly like driving on the busy roads of New Delhi. So I usually walk down to a nearby cafe which is quiet and a bit secluded. On the way, there’s a temple where I often see large gatherings attending religious sermons from high priests. It’s a common sight in India.
One day I decided to eavesdrop from outside and listen to a couple of words. It was a large gathering listening to a guru who wore orange robes and spoke with utmost authority. I must admit that the man had a captivating voice and excellent oratory skills.
The guru began by asking the disciples to notice the notion of “me.” Then he went on to explain how this “me” creates problems. By the way, the guru was not physically present there. He was imparting teachings through Zoom, and the video was being projected onto a large screen.
Finally, the guru concluded that part of the talk by declaring that to be free from this notion of “me,” one must investigate their actions and make amends in behavior to purify the soul, doing which the individual merges with the absolute or God.
He further went on to give steps and methods to do so. They included things like chanting, meditation, Japas, attending the meets regularly, being kind to others, and some other rituals.
Do you see what happened here? The guru gave an idea of “becoming” something greater by “doing” something. He marked a destination, provided a map, and methods to use it. So! What’s wrong with that? To be honest, nothing. In fact, everyone listening seemed happy.
But you see, these very people will line up again every weekend for the rest of their lives, searching for a method to achieve merging or unification with God. Their search is never-ending, and they will remain seekers until they realize what they’re seeking is not apart from them.
It is here, right now, in this very moment. But the guru’s authority and prescriptions have convinced these people that there is something to attain. Something of higher significance that will purify the soul. And that one has to go through arduous discipline and self-control to achieve it.
That is how a spiritual concept is twisted and transformed into a ritual-based religious concept that emphasizes purifying something unholy.
This idea settles well with most seekers because achievement through labor, personal sacrifice, and discipline has an element of satisfaction for the ego. But the ego cannot be satisfied because that’s how it is conditioned. Therefore, the seeking for the absolute or God goes on.
When you visualize God as a separate part of creation with special powers and privileges, you’re simply projecting your own desirable attitudes onto him. So the God becomes an object of your fascination, and God-realization becomes a goal. You see, the guru has successfully convinced his disciples that there’s the path to liberation.
When there’s a destination to reach, i.e., the higher-self, the lower self creates a desire to get there. And so, our imagination begins running wild, creating a fascinating story of struggle, hardships, and sacrifice to achieve that which is a privilege of few.
All the prescriptions, methods, teachings, etc., become object focussed. The idea is that I must become worthy through some means for a spiritual awakening to take place with the belief that those who are awake are special.
The guru emphasizes that one with the purified soul merges with God, implying that separation is the truth of the moment. And following that “event,” the person in question becomes a perfectly flawless and enlightened being, just like the guru.
Now, I have nothing against the guru or his disciples because I see that dynamic simply as an (apparent) interplay between the same energy.
Therefore, all the methods, prescriptions, techniques, rituals, and so on are in some way comforting to the individual. But till there is “me” doing a practice to achieve or “become” something else, the suffering continues.
Separation is the root of all our misery. It is an illusion that ego propagates through “doing.” Seeking ends (awakening) when the separation ends.
However, when one is highly focused on the idea of liberation, the mind begins projecting. Awakening is not a personal event in time. It happens! And the understanding “comes about.” To whom? Not to the ego, but an impersonal vertical (spontaneous) thought.
Therefore, true awakening happens when the personal sense of existence dissolves into nothingness. So the seeking ends when the contracted energy called “the seeker” dissipates. It is the end of “me and my story.”