what is THAT?

By: Stephen Levine
Posted: May 24, 2012

In Buddhism many teachers, holding their thumb and fore finger apart about the length a spark might jump, say all we have to relate to is “just this much”. The living present. The moment “as is” whether we call it heaven or hell or “just this”.

It is said if we can stay aware of just this much, just this frame of the inner movie, just one moment at a time of the passing show, we will find in the eternal moment what we are looking for.

Watching “just this much” pass moment to moment through the palm of our hand some say let go of every thing and Everything will be revealed. Others say let go of everything but love. And each following their own predilections come to realize that pure awareness is indistinguishable from pure love.

To the devotional aspect of our nature just this much may mean “God only” as it did for the remarkable teacher Nisargadata, a highly regarded teacher whose name nearly translates as Mister Natural, who said let go of every thought except “ I am God”. That if we let go of every thought but “ I am That” (Om Tat Sat) whether we call it God or Self, or Universal Consciousness, or the inborn concern for the well-being of others, we would be able to abide Here without distraction.

Though considered an Adviata non-dualist Nisargadatta taught from the experience that non-dualism also meant no separation from the Beloved or anything else. No separation from That. His most famous book, dog-eared by the most earnest of agnostic Buddhist meditators, is entitled I Am That.

This is a remarkable example of how varying applications of language separates the same truth into seemingly conflicting ideas. ”Only this” to one is “only That” to another. The same but different. To the Buddhist “this” is all there is and contains everything. In Hindu practice the “this” referred to is our conditioned idea of ourselves only as this mind and body and excludes the most of us. But both agree that when awareness continues to penetrates “ this” everything is revealed.

In one school of Buddhist thought what is sought is said by the Gradual School, that parallels such as the statement by the Buddhist saint Milarepa, which suggested we “hasten slowly”. The other school of this concept, The Sudden School, reflects on the sudden and quite unexpected intercession of some small and almost always very ordinary happenstance that when noticed in a certain way breaks out of Ordinary mind into the inexpressible beyond; the sound of a pebble striking a piece of bamboo, the crack of an icicle, the smell of roses or the rising of the gorge that overflows its banks and carries away all one owns and all one ever wanted to be, sitting alone by the side of the road with head in hands about to bemoan a misfortune in the way so often done before only to find oneself seeing it all in a whole different manner. All that was gone, all that had been pulled beyond our grasp, where the old rope burns had laid scar over scar something altogether different and unbelievably wonderful is found in the palm of our hand. There is mercy streaming from the scaring, a mercy so brilliant shame disintegrates unable to look it in the eye as the clear light penetrates and decomposes the armoring around the heart that has always stopped us there; and without hesitation cleaves the hindrances and enters.

When the light breaks through what it finds, that seems so blatantly obvious can hardly be remembered upon return to ordinary consciousness because, natural and self-evident as the well lit truth seemed, its non-ordinariness is recognized when its imagery becomes so very difficult to quite recall, like smoke fading in air...

If it weren’t for impermanence
there would be no end
to the suffering from impermanence.

Those who recognize that even impermanence is impermanent may be nearing a nexus between spiritual umwelts, as the devotional aspect might say the impermanence of impermanence indicates an Absolute and everpresent indeed permanent Unifying Principle behind it all. The Buddhists too acknowledge a unifying principle but in different language and with different inclinations thus stimulated, they refer to it as emptiness. The Devotional call this permanence the Self, the Buddhists will have none or very little of this and say beyond impermanence what is found is not Self but “ not-self”…which of course no one would disagree with except for the different view of what “self” might be, to one it is the small conditioned personality perhaps struggling to be free.

Neither view disagrees and each willingly offers service to the other to whatever degree this might be desired. “Not self” does not cause too much of a difference to those with a spiritual context but it gives nightmares to many psychiatrists. Ironically many agree what is not clarity, the Beloved, God, the living truth, etc, but unholy wars are fought about how and what to name the ultimate reality, the Great peace within. It is the Self, without which life would be closed at either end and badly shaken between, which comforts one as all they want or really ever wanted, it was the Love inside their love, the Kindness in their kind deeds and neighborliness, the Goodness inside their goodness. They might well follow such as a teaching by our teacher Maharaji which says “Love, Serve, Remember” which means “Love everyone, Feed everyone, and Remember God” , it is the Way of the Bhakti. For the wisdom-mind meditator “no-self”includes no Self as well does not agree upon the nature of Absolute Reality, they squint about what this boundless enormity of Being is composed of; one says at the center is the Godhead, an absolute Something, the other says there is absolutely Nothing, the Supreme Nothing as it seems flickering too on their altars. All metaphysics are meta-physics” beyond the measurements or reckoning of the ordinary physical world.

In a glimpse of the Absolute between unexceptional thoughts. They say that one follows the Gradual Path until Sudden wordless understandings arise which unlock the door, and swung wide by the momentum of a penetrating awareness—the clear light—illuminates the opened, the revealed, enormity of Being which when experienced so floods the vastness with gratitude and humility that it becomes almost luminescent….it is the light that animates the cells, that ripples along long nerves, jumping synapses with alacrity. As Ram and the demon Raksha, who wants only to be killed by God, hold either end of the rope for the ongoing divine play of the Mahalila “double dutch” of creation, “first you birth and then you die, tap the earth and touch the sky” the gopis sing into the stillness of the Buddhas and Bodhisatvas, the angels and demons attracted by the tapping of feet that does not make war and begin the chorus of the song that remembers and cares, the humm between the planets in our cells.