Against this, however, we have the tremendous affirmation through the supreme negation of Sri Shankaracharya.
The individual who knows that at the root is the persisting illusion of separateness, is vaster than the universe, and can dissolve it instantly by breaking down at will the baseless, insubstantial fabric of his imagination. Anyone who can do that has begun to wake up. There are people who will not wake up voluntarily because they repeatedly fell asleep during eighteen million years and are now frightened to settle accounts. They are themselves negated by suffering which comes as healing compassion, and are negated by others in the course of intolerable inhuman encounter. Self-negation is shown by the timeless religion of responsibility and the hidden science of divine wisdom. The invisible sun in every man as the Atman, the spectator, ever radiates endless energy for the sake of all. According to this teaching, darkness is prior to what we call light; glamour or unwisdom is beginningless. It is what the ancients called Chaos, Gaia, or Mahamaya. There is a chaos prior to any cosmos. There are many myriads of systems, galaxies and galactic clusters in the vast spaces of the heavens, but if there were no primordial chaos one would be forever trapped within the same universe. Before Adam was Chaos, the primordial matter, in which is hidden the light that is the soundless sound. In the beginning was the Word. Primordial chaos is necessary for the universe, but whether we think it necessary or not, we have no choice. We are caught. We can get out, because we have in us the light that was hidden in the darkness, which lighteth up every man who comes into the world.
The Crest Jewel of Wisdom speaks only to those who are prepared to negate the world of appearances:
Gaining at length human life, hard to win, and manhood, and an understanding of the revealed teachings, he who strives not for liberation in the Divine Self, deluded in heart, self-destroying, slays himself through grasping at the unreal. who, then, is the very self of folly but he who, deluded, follows selfish purposes, after he had gained a human body and manhood hard to win? Even though they recite the scriptures, and sacrifice to the gods, and fulfill all works, and worship the divinities – without awakening to the unity of the Divine Self, liberation is not attained even in a hundred aeons.
From the standpoint of the sage, the innumerable ways in which human beings are enmeshed in the Mahamaya are not very interesting. The sage can recognize anyone who is fully awake behind a semi-sleepy projection. Those who really want to emerge from behind the false personal mask will receive what they deserve in mathematically exact proportion. This is a truth about consciousness on all planes. One must deserve to go beyond all the external forms and modes and, through the eternal soul-memory now awakened of the soundless sound behind the great vibrations of the universe, to light up in the lower mind a self-conscious reflection of the invisible sun that overbroods the egg.
Albert Einstein said there are no hitching posts in the universe. There are no boundaries except arbitrary and conventional ones assigned by human beings who happen to think that they occupy a fixed point of space and time, when in fact space is curved and time is relative. They do not understand the inner meaning of spatial coordinates and of clocktime. Although there are no hitching posts, there are innumerable hooking points. When people really begin to enjoy the thought that at any point of space-time they could break out of the boundedness of the universe, they can experience through self-knowledge what they have forgotten. The ancients taught that God is a circle with its centre everywhere and circumference nowhere. Human beings can find in the inmost depths of abstract meditation an active centre of intense, motionless, joyous consciousness. Abiding in universal welfare and doing nothing, as beings of light they enjoy pure unmoving spiritual will in, through and independently of, all material vestures. Even if we somewhat understand all of this, it is still very difficult to light the lamp of discernment. The moment we think, “Let me do this,” “May I be that,” we only create karma and imprison ourselves. But the moment we say, “Let me begin,” and also recognize that there is a chaos we cannot explain and that there are no hitching posts, then we begin like true pilgrims to walk along the Path. It leads to invisible summits lost in glorious Nirvanic light which may be glimpsed from foothills and mountains arduously climbed in cheerful enjoyment, although one is aware of the many pitfalls on the way. The only hooking points are found within. They form the seven-knotted bamboo staff of the ascetic. If you were a montagnard you would cherish the serene strength of the individual and know what the communards forget, that communities are doomed to fail from the start when men are afraid to be alone. At the same time, if a human being in distress came for help, the montagnard will take care of him and then return to solitude.
The soul is ensnared through the power of misidentification in the chaos of primordial matter. If we enjoy narcissistically the illusions of the ever-changing reflective soul, then we forget the light of divine discernment, the Sleeping Beauty in the castle. She can only be awakened by Prince Charming, the androgynous manas, the power of noetic thought, ideation and imagination. Real thinking has a self-sustaining quality determined by the grasp, the vision, the scope and the strength of the universal ideas that provide mental nourishment. When one truly begins to walk the inner Path, one does not need any reference point in external space and time, and can see the moment of birth as if it were this morning’s dawn and can see the moment of death as if it were this evening’s twilight. Thousands of previous lives seem like twinkling stars in the sky.
The real Gurus who truly know teach just by being themselves. They are self-existing, self-manifesting embodiments of the wisdom of compassion, crowned with the Crest Jewel of pure insight. Their very existence is testimony. Shankara spoke to disciples who were already free from the delusion of the personal “I” but who were stuck in the illusion of the individual “I.” His teaching is not about the hereafter, not about the now and then, not about the always and everywhere, but about That. The supreme affirmation is TAT TVAM ASI – That Thou Art. That is the oldest teaching which Shankara explained by reference to reason, to experience, to states of consciousness, to vestures of matter in the five-fold classification, and also by references to madmen, yogis and free men. Universal self-awareness is the potential privilege and birthright of every human being, but no one can attain to it except by fulfilling the qualifications, embodying the conditions that approximate the posture and the position of a true learner.
The Crest Jewel could be in your hands. Use it, Shankara says, because by use you make it sufficiently your own to recognize that the greatest lies are “I” and “thou.” All amounts to an “it” and “it” equals That. That equals zero. Your sphere becomes luminous when you wholly adopt the standpoint of the Logos in the cosmos, the God in man, and then enjoy the universe through every pair of eyes. Heal yourself, and others through yourself, by luminous thoughts and adamantine compassion.
Hermes, August 1977