Thursday, June 27, 2013

Anything Said About the Tao is Not the Real Tao

I had to begin with that title. No other way. It has to be said that the words in this post are not the Tao. It is the slipperiest Teflon philosophy, that is, neither a philosophy, nor a theology. It is the reality underlying all existence. One becomes the Tao. One walks "The Pathless Path," as Osho put it. The path of contradictions and paradoxes.

I have a tattoo of the yin-yang symbol on my forearm. I have been asked by various people, a lot of my Hindu friends and members of my close family, why I chose that symbol. "Why not a nice OM or a Ganesha?" they asked. I explained patiently that this symbol does not belong to a particular philosophy but includes them all and covers the totality of deities, methods of worship and disparate traditions. The non-dual nature of existence is the crux of Hinduism. The practices collectively called Hindu-ism originate from the philosophy known as "Advait Vedanta." Literally, this translates to "Non-dual end of Vedas." The four Vedas are the original sacred texts. The end of the Vedas, or the culmination of the knowledge expressed in these texts is the one, indivisible, "not-two" reality. Dvait means dual. Advait means 'indivisible' or 'not-two'. Atman and Brahman, loosely translated as the soul and the outside universe, are a part of this totality that is one indivisible whole. The almighty absolute consciousness we call God, hides this reality from the localized point of consciousness we call our individual self. This is the veil of illusion called Maya. Once the veil is lifted, one is self-realized and finds that Atman and Brahman were one and the same now and forever. Like the Indian saint Kabir said on his deathbed, "Today the droplet has swallowed the ocean."
The Tao is not a Chinese philosophy that is only relevant to that culture. It is a universal truth of the nature of reality. The play of yin and yang which just happened to be discovered by the great sage Lao Tzu, just as Zen was discovered and codified into practices by Japanese monks and Yoga was discovered by Patanjali. The same interplay of indivisible opposite polarities is expressed as Shiva (yang) and Shakti (yin) in Kashmir Shaivism. The Tao cannot become a theology because theologies believe in addition. Creating vast tomes of knowledge that further occlude the truth and keep the seeker further away from THAT. The Tao is a process of elimination. When one sheds every extraneous layer — all that is not the true self — one arrives at pure, unvarnished truth. That state of being is the Tao. You blend with it, you surrender to it; you don't comprehend it intellectually. Rather you realize that you were always a part of it, never separated from it.

The concept of Dharma, as described in Hinduism, is often mistaken to mean your religion, i.e., the faith that you were born into or the faith you chose later on in life. The true meaning of the word Dharma is the essence of your being. The totality of the individual created by a combination of your genetic makeup and the formative factors that created you. An expression of the divine within that body, unique to that person, never to be repeated again. Swami Vivekananda once said that there are about 400 established faiths in this world, but I long for the day when there are as many faiths in the world as there are people in it. A mix and match of whatever suits your purposes — and some new faiths yet to be created. The methods are merely tools at our disposal, to be used to achieve self-realization as we please. They are not doctrines for creating rigid rules or means of self-flagellation at the altar of the ego.

Over time, however, religions have evolved into social practices. They have become more about mindless rituals, repeated blindly and guarded zealously by those that believe in rigid adherence to "how things are supposed to be." They are interested in making sure they impose "our dharma" on the individual seeking to find "my Dharma." The individuals or groups that are busy making sure no one strays from the "path" are to be avoided at all costs if one wishes to realize his own true essence and attain self-realization. Such imposition has nothing to do with spirituality. This is assimilation into the Borg, to borrow a concept from Saint Roddenberry of the Star Trek canon.

A close friend of mine, one who prides himself on his vast knowledge of all things spiritual, makes it a point to mention, in a dramatic fashion, that the actual Chinese pronunciation of the Tao is Dao, and therein lies the irony. Lao Tzu and other sages take great pains to emphasize that the word Tao (oops... Dao) or any other words that describe the Tao are but fingers pointing at the moon. To mistake the finger for the moon itself is to be caught in the superficial outward appearance of things and never fathom the deeper reality itself. To argue about the name given to something that cannot be captured in names is the worst kind of misunderstanding. It reminds me of the Magritte painting: "This is not a pipe." A picture of a pipe is not the real thing. It cannot be stuffed with tobacco and smoked.

In fact, a man of knowledge cannot grasp the Tao. It is when one drops all knowledge that knowing can occur. All knowledge is stagnant and miles away from the truth the minute it is calcified. Knowing is in the present moment. Awareness is in the now. Knowledge is a barrier in the perception of truth. As one drops knowledge or even the concept that one knows or is supposed to know, one grasps the essence of the Tao. By a process of elimination, one arrives at the truth. "Empty your cup so that it may be filled; become devoid to gain totality," as Bruce Lee said so eloquently.

So how did I put the Tao into practice? After my kundalini awakening, there were vast amounts of trauma churned up by the energy moving up and down my spine. Thoughts of resentment, shame, guilt, animosity, despair and every other kind of extreme emotion. I had to train the mind to see it all with an objective observer's calm. As a witness watching a river flow. However, this was not easy. Mindful awareness helped, but it was the "middle path" technique that really came to the rescue. With every extreme thought that was generated, it helped me to remind myself to "Accept the ALL."

Accepting the totality and knowing that every point of view is just one side of the coin with an equally valid opposite. Coming to the middle point between the two sides is a most useful practice. This helped me navigate some very stormy seas and allowed the energy to do its job safely. Simplifying all extreme thoughts to a simple duality and then adjusting my consciousness to accept both sides, moving in the direction where I would not have gone in the past helped the mind assimilate my new revelations, adjusting gently to my new reality. It became a habit that comes in handy to this very day, preventing me from being my old self and others from pushing my buttons to create polarized perspectives that they can exploit. Mindful awareness and detachment allow me to avoid all emotional extremes and stay centered in the middle path.

"Sat Chit Anand" the last stage before Samadhi, translates to "Truth Awareness Bliss." When the mind is emptied of all thoughts, concepts, words and labels, reality can be perceived. The original state of bliss achieved when the mind is still. This stillness can be achieved by centering oneself. Allowing things to happen, floating like a leaf on the river that is this being, allowing the droplet to swallow the ocean.

No comments:

Post a Comment