Most on the spiritual journey find themselves dealing with two very important factors: pain and suffering on the one hand, and bliss on the other. The latter is obviously most desired and welcomed, and many times it is the goal of the whole spiritual search. The former is avoided, feared and very often also the reason for the spiritual search, which is looked upon as a means to somehow escape pain and suffering. I feel it is important to throw some light on these two because an aspirant will always come face to face with both of them during their spiritual pursuit.
In the first part of this article I would like to address Bliss and Joy. So, what is this Bliss? Is it permanent? How can I attain and achieve this state? Is this bliss real, or unreal?
Here it would be wise to bring up an old Hindu story from India about a lion cub who, through unusual circumstances, was raised by a herd of sheep instead of his own mother. The sheep were very kind and raised the lion cub (we will call it the “sheep-lion”) as their own. The sheep-lion cub grew up among them, believing he too was a sheep. He slept with them, played with them, ate grass with them, and bleated when they did. He became as fearful as they at the appearance of a potential threat.
Years went by. One day an enormous lion leapt out from behind some trees and threatened the pack of sheep. They huddled together, terrified. That’s when the lion noticed the sheep-lion shaking and hiding in middle of the herd. The sheep-lion was bleating instead of roaring. The lion asked, “Why are you bleating instead of roaring? Why are you living among sheep? You’re a lion.”
The sheep-lion didn’t believe this at all. He had been a sheep all his life. Frightened, he tried to run away. But the larger lion caught him and dragged him to a lake, where he told the sheep-lion to look at his reflection in the water. The sheep-lion leaned over and saw his face for the first time. He saw that he wasn’t a sheep; he was a lion after all.
From this moment everything changed for the sheep-lion. He roared instead of bleating and became who he was meant to be. He wasn’t meant to live a fearful life, following the herd of sheep and doing what they did without question. He was a lion. He was powerful, noble, and strong.
This analogy provides us a very deep insight into the spiritual journey and puts a few misconceptions surrounding our spiritual life to rest.
First of all, bliss is NOT an attainment. It is our own reflection, our own inner nature. The lion was always a lion. He was never a sheep. The sheep-lion cub had wrongly identified himself as a sheep… similarly, we too have wrongly identified with the herd mentality, which is that “I am so and so” – the body, the mind, the intellect, the energies. We have failed to look into the lake of our heart. Once we see our true selves clearly, the
false identification drops completely. The memory of the herd is no longer predominant. Bliss takes over completely. We have only to “look” inwards deep enough, and then we will see the reflection clearly. This Bliss is what you’ve always been, so there is no question of it coming and going. What comes and goes is only a state of mind. This bliss is often referred to as SAT-CHIT-ANANDA. This means that the bliss stays forever, never to leave. SAT-CHIT-ANANDA may merely seem like three separate words meaning EXISTENCE-CONSCIOUSNESS-BLISS, but together they denote a very important deeper meaning, which is “The Consciousness which ever exists as Bliss.” Once we see it, we will know that we were always that bliss. It stays forever. How can it ever leave me? It is known that it never did leave me in the first place.
A few key components and features of the Bliss of SAT-CHIT-ANANDA and my own experience regarding it are mentioned through the following points:
1) It is what you already are, so it is not a question of attainment or of becoming that Bliss.
2) It is continuous, ever flowing and ever new Joy.
3) All it takes to realize it is an intense looking inwards (towards the lake of our inner heart) and away from outward sense gratifications (the herd mentality.) The journey the sheep-lion makes towards the lake represents the inward journey every sadhaka (spiritual practitioner) has to undertake. It is not enough merely to assume that we are already that “lion” and so nothing needs to be done, as Neo- advaita declares.
4) Without looking at one’s reflection in the “lake” (Bliss flowing from the heart) any knowledge is mere mental knowing. Doubt will always persist. The sheep- lion has to take the journey to the lake to see its true reflection. This is a must. Without firm conviction derived through direct experience, no matter how hard the sheep-lion tries to roar he will only be bleating. Most on the spiritual journey don’t take the inner journey as a discipline (formal meditation,) and many of them who do are easily distracted midway along the journey, or drop the journey altogether. Many go “guru shopping” and read various books, trying to seek a technique or an insight which can reveal the “Truth” to them in a very short period of time. They mentally grasp various different concepts and try to find the Truth through these mental concepts. This is like trying to find fish in a pool of piss. Fish can only be found in a lake. Therefore it is of vital importance to limit reading and rather dive within, into the lake of one’s heart. All doubt vanishes when the lake is reached (when the life energy is stabilized in the heart.) Only then can the spiritual journey be called complete, not before
5) Two sure signs that one has reached the “lake,” which is the end of seeking, are:
a. Firstly, there must be a moment when the “sheep” memory (body/mind/ego) is completely gone and the lion consciousness (pure uninterrupted bliss) takes over. This means that the knowledge I EXIST cannot be of both the lion and the sheep (body/mind/ego). In that knowledge BOTH CANNOT CO-EXIST TOGETHER. There must be a time where one finds a new reality has emerged INDEPENDENT of the body/mind/ego. This means the experiencer is not this body/mind/ego. Many talk about bliss arising and falling, oneness experiences, alertness and mindfulness experiences or a background SELF (often another mental concept;) but none of these constitute real awakening because they are experienced through the normal waking state, where the experiencer is still the body/mind/ego. This is another flaw of the Neo-Advaitins and of those who shy away from formal meditation. They haven’t gone deeper than waking and dream to see their true reflection.
b. Secondly, seeking will automatically come to an end when there is no abidance by you. Rather, Bliss will abide in you, captivate you and possess you. It will hold you so close to itself that the outer sense gratifications will lose their charm and effect on you. Nothing outer or inner will enchant you. All forms of practice and searching will drop automatically.
6) The bliss which comes and goes (as a glimpse) is nothing but a state of mind. The temporary joy and bliss which appear take place when the mind gets purified through sadhana (formal meditation and inquiry). But they disappear too, as they come from the mind. Many aspirants chase this joy and bliss, and feel dejected and de-motivated to pursue their sadhana when the joy and bliss elude them, but this is a big mistake. It is here that a teacher advises his students not to worry whether bliss is manifesting or not. The student is asked to let go of whatever the mind brings in – sorrow or joy, and to identify with neither of them; simply to dive deeper without worrying about any results appearing in the form of joy and bliss. However, there will be no question of letting go the Bliss of SAT-CHIT- ANANDA, because it won’t allow you to let go. You will be powerless. Can a drunkard remain in his senses and let go of his intoxication by his mere willing it? I know it’s a bad example, and obviously it is not to imply that they are similar in any way, because the state of SAT-CHIT-ANANDA (Divine intoxication) is a highly alert state unlike that of any drunkard, and the joy far exceeds that of drinking or any pleasures of this world.
BEYOND THE BLISS OF SAT-CHIT-ANANDA:
Once a sadhaka establishes him or herself in that Bliss (the Divine intoxication) which holds them uninterruptedly and continuously, they will intuit and know that they are beyond that, too. It is outlined in my book with my Master Edji [“Autobiography of a Jnani” by Edward Muzika and Rajiv Kapur] how that certitude is established. It is “known” when a timeless existence/non-existence “state” visits you. It is a well established fact that it is impossible to describe it in words. It is then known that you are the One, prior even to SAT-CHIT-ANANDA. The reflection was not ME. I was still the witness. However, as long as Consciousness remains, the purest form of intoxicating bliss engulfs your entire being. Knowing that you are prior to this Bliss doesn’t mean the bliss stops flowing from your heart. It only expands further and further, and makes its way into the hearts of many forms of Consciousness, transforming the lives of others into great joy and happiness. Everything transforms into love. The lake of the heart (SAT-CHIT-ANANDA) transforms into an ocean of bliss and love, feeling great joy in the joy of others and tremendous pain in the suffering of others.
In my next talk I will address why we can’t separate ourselves from experiencing the pain and suffering of Consciousness, and how it transforms into love.
Read the second part of this talk Understanding Pain and Suffering
~ Rajiv Kapur