I was reading Nisargadatta Maharaj last night. He was a student of Ramana Maharshi and teacher to Ramesh Balsekar, all in the lineage of Advaita Vedanta, or the path of non-duality. Nisagardatta's seminal work is the book 'I Am That'. The insight that captured my attention last night was the recognition that our personality only exists within time, and time only exists in the past or the future. In other words, when you are totally present in the Now, you are outside time; you are timeless and eternal, and you are not bound by or affected your personality, preferences and prejudices. Try it...as you drop totally and completely into this eternal moment of Now, it is impossible to connect to the moment that just passed or anticipate the moment yet to arrive...because when fully present, there is no mind, there is only pure experiencing the 'what is'. Without the affects of mind, there is no personality, in the sense of a collection of memories and life experiences carried forward from the past and projected on the future. How liberating!
So I have been asked what exactly is the pathless path. Well, as we all know, a path is a well worn and recognizable route that will bring one to a specific destination. There are literal paths, like the one through the forrest which, if followed, will bring you at a town or lake or a neighbour's house, and life paths like the path to becoming a doctor or engineer. The destination is known and the directions, if followed, will inevitably result in arrival at that destination. However, in spirituality, all bets are off. The destination is elusive and nebulous at best, and the road to get there (wherever or whatever there is) is uncharted.
To break this down further, its pretty hard to plan a trip if you don't know where you are going, right? So we begin by trying to decide what it is we are seeking, so that we can then choose the path to us get there. Of course defining what it is we are seeking in spirituality is a very complicated and multi-dimensional question: we may want deep inner peace; freedom from conflict; a sense of purpose or belonging; a feeling of connection; to belong to a community; to touch the face of God; to know the mysteries of the Universe; awakening; enlightenment; God Consciousness...Or, all of these things and more.
The problem is that our idea and experience of all of these things is subjective. Awakening is a subjective experience which will look very different from one person to another. It is also a dynamic experience such that Awakening will mean one thing to you today and something quite different to you in a month or a year. As we evolve in each moment so to does our sense of destination evolve and ironically, while our linear mind is seeking a destination, spirituality is a journey that actually never ends, no matter how high you soar, so we actually never arrive anywhere!
The next problem is that we are seeking experiences and insights that are ephemeral and beyond our mind's ability to understand and our vocabulary's ability to describe so we don't really know what, exactly, it is that we are searching for. What we usually end up with is someone else's words from their description of their experience which we adopt as just the thing we want. We form well defined thoughts and images about what that will be like for us, based upon the other person's words. But as we know, we are each completely unique individuals and no two people will ever experience the same thing the same way (even if words could accurately convey that experience). When 10 people witness the an event, there are invariably 10 different accounts.
So we decide we want awakening, for example, and we formulate an idea about what it is and how it will change our life, all based upon anecdotal accounts of someone else's awakening. We then either mimic the awakened person's journey in the hopes that copying their steps will lead to the same destination, or we hunt about looking for anyone or anything that promises to bring us awakening. But awakening is an experience, not a destination. It has no fixed address and its impact, resonance and depth will ebb and flow in intensity and effect, sometime obvious and sometimes not.
The spiritual path is thus the ultimate paradox: there is actually no path or person that will bring us to this ever-changing, mind-projection of a conceptualized destination. This is not to say that all teachers and paths are useless; quite the contrary. Different paths and teachers can be incredibly helpful in advancing our awareness and revealing the Light within; the key is knowing that the Divine alone, in an act of Grace, carries you across the last mile to Nirvana. You can't do it alone and no one can do it for you.
The invitation is to be ever mindful of where you are in each moment and to be aware of when your current teacher or path can carry you no further. See where your 'practice' has become stagnant or rote; feel where your teacher's teachings are no longer in alignment with your own knowingness. And trust your own inner wisdom as it flowers into ever deeper awareness of the highest truths. As you disconnect from the old, you will be amazed at how you create the inner spaciousness for new, expansive experiences to unfold, on the endless journey along the pathless path....