Eka (or ekam or ekaḥ) is the Sanskrit word for “one”. It seems for man to be the most profound and impossible concept. That is because our minds work in a universe or paradigm that starts with “two.” This is one of the central tenets of the philosophy found within and without Hinduism known as Advaita, which means, defined imperfectly “not two”. Buddhists also claim to have this idea.
The error most commonly made by Western (I cannot speak to the other) newcomers to Eastern thought, in my perception, has to do with the “All is One” school of bullshit. I say that because although it’s true in the deepest sense that All is One, that concept is to you as a human being, absolutely useless. You can’t do anything with it. False teachers and foolish student use that meaningless proposition as an axiom to justify all sorts of foolish behaviors. If you’ve studied with them you will know what I mean; if you don’t, I will get to it elsewhere, because that’s not my point here.
My point here being, having for almost forty years studied and practiced various forms of spiritual and occult teachings, almost all nonsense, I feel inclined to point out one very simple truth that was probably explained to me quite well, but which I never understood or was able to practice until I stumbled upon it as if by chance (though it was no chance.). And that is: The path to enlightenment is begun by the process of initiation; and that initiation comes not from your efforts, but from outside “you”. All you can do is to do your best to get yourself ready for that experience, when and if it comes. All of the work comes in trying to resolve what kind of preparation to make, and in trying to make it. That part, I can’t give you. You can try to work it out for yourself; but you don’t have to try, and you may succeed anyway. Or not.
I’ve been attending, for almost two years now, a class for laymen on the Bhagavad Gita at the local Hindu temple. I am not and never can be a Hindu, but I find I have a lot to learn from the surviving Vedic teachings. The Bhagavad Gita is for many Hindus, especially the Vaishnavas, the summary of all the teachings of Hinduism, or of the various philosophies which are a part of it. My experience is that Hinduism itself is not a religion, but a culture, and an ethnic culture, which is the best and purest kind, I think. It does appear to me that all of the teachings of Western philosophy, at least up to the point of Classicism and Romanticism, have their Indian reflections. But I diverge from my point, which is that one of the teachers has pointed out on several occasions, including when discussing “Yoga” in its broader meaning, that all you can do is to focus on one thing; as a human this is your highest effort. If you are to “progress” beyond that point, that movement must come from a power higher than yourself. All you can do is to get yourself clean, to be ready when “He” comes.
And really, that’s all I can tell you. It took me forty years to learn. I tried all sorts of ways. In Yoga, they teach you that the essence of practice is chitta vritti nirodha, which roughly translate as “ceasing the disturbance of the mind”, although each of those terms is a lengthy discourse, if properly explored. That is, you progress through each of the eight limbs (which incidentally begins with what amounts to a moral purification, the phase which is “jumped” by most Western practitioners of salon Yoga and plastic Zen) until you are truly able to quiet the mind. One of the “goals” of Zen meditation, I am told, is to release all thoughts as they arise, or to not grasp them, until one reaches tiny pockets of “time” in which thoughts cease to arise, and to try to allow those experiences to expand. Obviously there are all kinds of problems with trying to say what I just said in English, as one cannot “try” to make no effort. But I will say that this is also a paradox of the practice.
But I’ll leave that there, because Zen never worked for me, but it did lead me, as I have said before, to an experience which occurred over time, which led me to another awareness, which when coupled with subsequent experiences, led me to what I would call initiation. Not to repeat myself too much, but in summary: I did relatively long periods of zazen over several days, on several occasions, over several years. And I suppose I did have glimpses of those gaps in which nothing appears. But I came over time to experience something behind that nothing. That experience was not at first conscious, but it came to me over time that the essence of reality was not nothing, but something. Exploration of what that something was led quickly to the question of who I was, which led me far afield from Zen. It led me to what is called by some Asatru, which is the teaching of the Northern peoples of Europe, and our ancient, pre-Christian gods. That led me to a study of the Runes, of which I hope to write more, soon. And that study led me to the Aryan roots of the Runes and of the Northern teachings, which led me back to the roots of the Vedas, before the times of our written records. Which in turn led me back to the Gita, and to the study of those Indian teachings that had first appealed to me through George Harrison’s music as a teenager.
During all of the time I was studying these things, I also lived with and eventually suffered through a serious addiction. I was a practicing alcoholic for almost forty years, though there was a break in there of almost five years which begun when I was 28, and during which I acquired some habits that saved my ass repeatedly over the next 25 years of struggle. During that time I was in and out of AA, which never worked for me, though I don’t fault it for those, for whom it does. I do however want to testify the central tenets of AA as embodied in its first three Steps, are based on an eternal truth and can in fact work. The essence of those being that one must reach a point of absolute desperation and must be absolutely and totally willing to give oneself up to a higher power, who is the only one who can solve your alcoholism. Because at that point you’ve tried to do everything you can, and you have failed. You must absolutely and totally be willing to give yourself up to God as he wishes to appear to you.
It seems to be essential that at that point, you must not preconceive God. I had been told about all of this by several over the years, but I could not take the step until driven to do so by my own experiences. This was my One. It was probably the first thing I had ever done that was totally free of ego. I didn’t care anymore about the person I had been. I was totally willing to abandon that person and allow God to make of me whatever he wanted.
I first allowed God to appear as a glow through a window that was located right above my head; I could not see through it. I allowed God to come to me, rather than trying to get to him. In the course of the next days, God appeared to me as Krishna, and it was for that reason that I returned to my studies of Hinduism. That changed after. I will add that I also began a personal prayer at that point that began with asking God to remove, for that day, from me the desire for drugs and alcohol. There are other parts of the prayer; all are personal, but I also ask to be shown my duty and given the strength to do it. It’s worked for me for two years this coming Wednesday, and I have to intention of going back. But I also have no intention of stopping doing the prayer, because relief from that burden is not up to me; it was a gift that I was granted, by God’s grace, and which depends on a daily basis upon his maintenance.
I’m not saying that drug or alcohol addiction is the only way to get there! But it seems that many kind of intense personal suffering do seem to work. For some, maybe discipline and practice alone can do it. For some the experience seems to come completely gratuitously. But I do advise you, if you seek meaning beyond the shallow ones, that ordinary human life offers, to do your best to be ready. Whatever that means. There’s more to be said here, but I don’t know how to say it. It also occurs to me that clarifying to oneself what one’s passion is, is also another route. But maybe that’s hindsight.
My route took me through Eastern religions because I was so alienated from the Western ones, but I don’t think you have to go there. My undergraduate major was Philosophy, and mostly the Western ones; preparing to write this blog entry, I was trying to recover the teaching of whichever early Christian philosopher said – and I think it was probably Augustine, and I’m told later that Kierkegaard said something similar: That to receive the grace of God, one must want one thing, and one thing only, and that thing is God. There are truths that emerge through the great Lie of Judeo-Christianity, they had to cobble them in there to make it work, and that’s one of them.
You have to get yourself up to the point. How you need to get there is something you must discover. Then God may take over. If he does, you’ve been initiated. If that happens, you will find to your amazement that you have just begun your journey, not completed it. But now you have a guide. You may see him as God, or as your Higher Self, but it is not definitely not the Self you were (and still will be) before you had this experience. Now you have a guide for your journey, and wonders await you.