Spiritual awakening is the game of realizing we’re not who we think we are and remembering who we really are. In truth, we’re not a separate self. We are part of God, a divine loving consciousness that creates, supports, and permeates all.
Our human dilemma is that unless we dedicate our lives to letting go of this illusion of a separate personal self, we can’t experience the bliss of our divine nature. Instead, we spend all our time building a false personal self which we define as “us.” However, this “us” in reality is just a collection of thoughts about who we think we are. Then we spend our lives defending and fighting to satisfy and maintain this false solidity, our made-up self, our ego. We do this by manipulating everyone and everything in the world, trying to make life go our way instead of God’s way. A quote attributed to the science-fiction writer Ray Bradbury describes the effects of living this way:
Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces back together.
Living in this quandary, if we are smart, we start to wake up and ask ourselves: Why continue to play this ego game we can never win? Why devote our life to this personal mind – constantly trying to satisfy, protect, and improve it – when that won’t solve our core issue, which is our misery caused by being separate from God? It’s like putting lipstick on a pig. We reach a point where we realize we are trapped by this personal mind and we want to be free. At that point we’ll get serious about the path because it’s the only sane choice we have.
The Masters tell us that there is great freedom in dying to the limited self and resigning our position of running the world. Saints tell us that only when we let go of everything and everyone and still our mind through meditation will we be able to tune into the current of Shabd, which will lead us back to God. This divine current is the life-giving, intelligent power of God that is both audible as sound and visible as light. It's not easy to explain what Shabd is because it is beyond the capacity of language. Soami Ji says, “It is all love.”1 Julian Johnson, in his book The Path of the Masters, describes the Shabd this way:
When any man speaks in this world, he simply sets in motion atmospheric vibrations. But when God speaks, he not only sets in motion etheric vibrations, but he himself moves in and through those vibrations. In truth it is God himself that vibrates all through infinite space. God is not static, latent: he is superlatively dynamic. When he speaks, everything in existence vibrates, and that is the Sound, the Shabd; and it can be heard by the inner ear, which has been trained to hear it. It is the divine energy in process of manifestation which is the Holy Shabd. It is in fact the only way in which the Supreme One can be seen and heard – this mighty, luminous and musical wave, creating and enchanting.2
Unfortunately, most of us don’t experience the flow and pull of Shabd because our attention is so riveted on this physical dimension of people, objects, and places. The saints emphasize that unless we drop our obsessive attachment to our wants, preferences and judgments, we’ll remain stuck in this gross material realm. The question is, are we willing to do what it takes to let go of our personal ego, so we can experience the delight of Nam?
Most of us say we want to know God, but that’s really not true. God is pulling us to him, while we are busy pushing him away. This constant push and pull is all part of the great cosmic game of love. Luckily for us, God has given us the company of saints to liberate us and break us out of our self-delusion that keeps us away from him. Fundamental to their teachings is the practice of meditation, in which we learn to surrender, minute by minute, to the divine will. Through meditation, our love for our body, mind, and the world fades out and is superseded by love for the Creator. Little by little, as we let go and become more inner-directed, we gain access to the divine melody inside. Shabd is the rocket fuel that takes us to God. Saints tell us that the bliss we begin to experience from Shabd is so elevating that once we taste it, nothing else compares to it. A person who owns precious jewels will not value worthless trinkets.
Mystics point out there are two stages in our spiritual journey, and both require constant practice in letting go and surrendering to the divine. The first stage is understanding that we are not our personal ego-mind; rather, we are that greater awareness that is looking out at the world through the filter of the ego-mind. The first task is to be willing to stop playing the game of the personal ego and instead withdraw our soul-consciousness to the eye center. Then the second stage begins when we become aware of the pull of the Shabd and develop the capacity to merge into it and become one with God.
In closing, a contemporary spiritual teacher describes this process of surrender:
Ever since you first tasted the elixir of nobodyness, maybe in the midst of meditating, you have lost your hunger for somebodyness. Mainstream culture conditioned you to construct a persona and defend it with all your might. The endless self-improvement project, fueled by self-loathing and foiled by the realities of the human condition, has only reinforced the illusion that you are separate from your source – God. But a combination of spiritual practice and tragic losses ended that game. You, for one, are relieved to surrender…. Who knew that dissolving would be so sweet?3
- Julian Johnson, The Path of the Masters, 17th ed., 2012; p. 383
- Julian Johnson, The Path of the Masters, 17th ed., 2012; p. 378
- Mirabai Starr, Wild Mercy: Living the Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics; Amazon, soundstrue, 2019, p.61