All of these questions contain the little words “am” and “I”. They refer to the state that we call ‘I am”. Is it possible to know of a state that is not of the ‘I am” quality? All that we are conscious of has to do with the ‘I am” state. Is it possible for there to be a state that is free of consciousness? What if I told you that all the worlds that make up the realm of consciousness, no matter how many billions and perhaps trillions of galaxies are contained in that realm, are but an infinitesimal speck compared to the absolute, which is not of the realm of consciousness. All that is of consciousness is within the absolute, but the absolute is not of that realm. Consciousness is like a hiccup that just happened.
Cobra phrases it as follows:
“Basically, there is no first cause. Basically the absolute is not the Creator. Universe was created with an interaction with the absolute and the contingency. Absolute was not created, it always was, is and will be. Contingency (“a chance occurrence”, a contingent event; a chance, accident, or possibility conditional on something uncertain) was not created with a purpose. It was an outburst of a random function, an anomaly and those two things are logically opposite. They are two very strong but opposite forces, and the tensions between those two created the Universe.” (source)
Is this just an intellectually intriguing notion? a concept? It is indeed a concept, but it is a reality. Actually it is the ultimate reality without which our relative reality could not exist. For me it is evidential. There is no way to point to phenomena that might substantiate this reality for you as it is that from which all phenomena arise.
We have been taught from the moment we became conscious that the world of consciousness is the realm of “all that is” and thus it is obvious that there is nothing else to be aware of. It is rare for anyone to even express the notion that there might be something beyond or prior to consciousness, much less explore what that means for our worldview. My own genesis as an aware human being was characterized by the desire to expand my consciousness. For decades I pursued many directions of wisdom teachings and disciplined practices with the intent of expanding my consciousness. My intent was to gain a functional, visceral understanding of how consciousness works so as to ferret out how my consciousness had become distorted and then correct it.
In the course of this process I met up with several teachers and sages who pointed to silence as a kind of gateway to deeper understanding and realization of my true being. Silence is seemingly simply the fact of not talking. The grade school teacher said “Silence!” and so did the priest. It was clear that they meant “Shut your mouth!” When I attempted to sit in silence in the sense of meditation I began to discover many facets and levels of silence. The bottom line is perhaps clear in the wording: “silence is the stilling of the personal mind that the God-mind in all its splendor may illumine the consciousness” (Baird T. Spalding, Life and Teachings of the Masters of the Far East, p. 39)
A simile can help us to understand how silence works to still our personal mind:
In a glass tank full of water a light bulb is placed. The light shines out through the water into the space around unobstructed. The glass tank is now made to oscillate by a vibrating plate underneath, causing also the water to oscillate. The light source now begins to reflect on the water patterns of the movement. This obstructs the light from shining into the space around.
Soon, as the oscillation increases, almost all the light is obstructed from shining out of the water container and only a dim glimmer is still visible.
Were there an organ of perception inside the tank, it could perceive only the water patterns of movement, but not the space beyond or outside of the tank and not the light source itself either.
Now, take the water to be the mind-stuff within consciousness. The source of consciousness is the light at the center of the tank. When the movement of thought increases, the mind-stuff vibrates, oscillates, in increasingly dense patterns. The light of consciousness illuminates all thought patterns, which together constitute what we call our mind. Consciousness is, however, obstructed from perceiving anything beyond or outside of the mind. Caught up in the fascination and the belief that life is about having more and more experiences with the ensuing thought patterns and “understanding” them, the direct perception of the source of consciousness, the eternal effulgence, is obstructed.
It is clear, if one contemplates this metaphor more deeply, that only when the modifications (oscillations) of the mind-stuff subside, will connection with the source of consciousness and direct perception of reality beyond the mind be possible. (source: Taimni, Science of Yoga, p. 17)
Anyone who has learned how the modifications of the mind subside knows that not talking is only the beginning. If I attempt to stop the flow of thoughts I become an active element within the mind’s dynamic and therefore by this attempt I actually increase the mind’s activity. I may succeed for a while, but as soon as I release my efforts, the thought flow surges forth again unabated. Through trial and error and in a very individual way, it is possible to come to a place of not fueling the mind’s activity.
In my own experience it is the encounter with the absolute that finally opened up the space of effortlessness and such deep letting go that there was no chance of holding on to anything of the realm of consciousness in the broadest sense, much less of the phenomenal realm. Picture yourself standing on the edge of a cliff and looking out into the empty space before you. Suddenly not only does the cliff disappear but also the space itself. Is there any chance of holding on to anything in your entire field of perception? any concept of “God”, “Creation”, Nirvana, Samsara, ascension or enlightenment? No, there is not. At that point it is simply obvious that all that you have known up to now have been simply “emptiness of designations”, as Zen calls it.
Now comes the really interesting part. You will ask if that experience of even the space itself disappearing was a greater emptiness than the space, that we might call the void? Even the void is simply another word, a thought-form. You might ask if that greater emptiness free of even space was a cold emptiness, naked, bare and stark? or was it full of a benevolent quality, warm and inviting? All I could answer is that it is a reality that is so ultimate, so absolute, that it matters not in the least what you might think of it, as thought doesn’t touch it. One sage, attempting to convey the bedrock character of it, says that in comparison with this ultimate reality a diamond is like butter.
In light of the encounter with the absolute, all thoughts seem as so much fluff of the stream of consciousness. Even the stream of consciousness itself is like mirage in the desert, or foam thrown up on the ocean’s beach. Beingness itself, the fact that something “is”, sits on the absolute that is a beginningless and never-ending event of no change, no modification and endless suchness free of all attributes. Do these words begin to incite your consciousness to question itself? If so, then I congratulate you, for you may have just chosen to end yourself.
Does the realm of consciousness end when you end? That is not my experience, as obviously then I wouldn’t be typing these words, would I? What has ended is the tether of consciousness and the belief that the world we perceive and conceive of is anything that I should allow to spoil my day. Through my body I am part of the realm of consciousness and as such I participate in it. What is now my experience is that my encounter with the absolute is deepening and becoming more a conscious part of this dance with phenomena. It tempers it more and more and allows me to rest more solidly in the perspective of “none of all of this is important”. What remains important for me is to understand how it is that the absolute makes its way into this phenomenal realm, so that I may remove the obstacles to that entrance.
One of the obstacles that block the portal for the absolute to enter our consciousness is the conditioned stream of our normal consciousness. As long as I am buffeted by the circumstances, the conditions of my life, the portal will be obstructed to a lesser or greater degree. That is why many have said we should simplify our lives, so that we feel less and less compelled to respond to our surroundings. When our surrounding circumstances are simpler it may be easier to recognize how we can open up to the absolute even while engaged in functional activities. Silence, for me, is another word for the absolute. It is not simply ‘not talking’ and also not simply ‘stilling the personal mind’.
Silence for me is that immense quality of unimaginable vastness and also minuteness and fineness that pervades everything. Perhaps this quality can be conveyed by saying that all things in our world are actually contours of silence, and that silence is the very ‘stuff’ out of which our world is made. This ‘stuff’ is so very subtle that it is of course very useful to not talk, to sit quietly and to explore how the personal mind’s activity can subside. Once that is achieved, and one has been able (however that happens for the individual) to connect with silence, it becomes apparent that silence is everywhere. It is impossible to fall out of silence as there is nothing else. All that appears as though it is not silence is the result of an illusion, like a conjurer’s trick.
As the saying goes, once you see that the rope on the trail is a rope and not a snake, you can never again believe it to be a snake. Once you realize that all is an appearance in the absolute, in the silence, you can never again take any of it seriously, it cannot ruin your day. Do you interact with it and do you attempt to come into alignment with some greater harmony that you sense does exist? Do you live you daily life in greater and greater mindfulness and are you compassionate with the other extensions of yourself that are walking around? Yes, of course. You do all of this for the simple reason that if you don’t, you yourself obstruct the portals for the absolute to show itself in your life. Never again, however do you lose that deep knowing of the absolute, that is your true Self.