Q: Is it conceivable we are born with Self-wisdom but we must be taught the process of awakening to tap into it?
S: That is a wonderful question. You are absolutely right. Next question! [Laughter from audience.] It is true—the Vedantic gurus say that there is nothing to attain. Zen also says that. In fact, Zen says there is no way to attain it anyway, so just give up the search and you are there. Of course, when we hear that, we may be nonplussed, but there is great truth in it. Baba wrote a book many years ago called, Getting Rid of What You Haven’t Got. Getting rid of what you haven’t got: what you haven’t got is ignorance and separation. So we have to get rid of ignorance and separation. Then we return to wholeness and connectedness. From the point of view of truth, that connectedness is the prior condition. From the highest viewpoint we are all connected. There is nothing but love, oneness and truth everywhere. We might say, rightly, that
we don’t know that. So the spiritual task is to get rid of the ignorance that creates the separation.
Yes, wisdom is innate. If it weren’t innate, then any quest for it would be impossible. Yoga is not like building something new, it is looking in and discovering what already exists. Even before you became interested in the inner quest, the Self was alive and well within.
In the sixties, it was fashionable to make movies that violated the heart. You would leave the theatre with a horrible pain in your chest, and the intellectuals (including me in those days!) would think it was a ‘deepening’ experience. But the heart wants peace, harmony and love. This is not a lust for feelgood movies—it is the natural disposition of the Self.
A part of us intuitively loves goodness and truth to prevail. In the movies, we are uplifted and we resonate with That. That is the Self. Sometimes art makes us contact—however fleetingly—the experience of the Self. It is intuitive. A great artist can tune into That and evoke it. The yogi is the greatest artist of all because he doesn’t create an object. He cuts right to the experience of Self, which is at the source of the aesthetic experience.
Michelangelo or somebody said, ‘The statue is already in the marble’. So in the same way we have to chip off the inner excess to find what is really true. It is good news when we discover it. We all have an intuition of a shining and pure part of ourselves. A lovable part of ourselves. We may have a feeling of being unlovable, and yet we know underneath there is something lovable about us. We may even have done bad things in our lives, still, underneath we feel a fundamental goodness or innocence. Some seekers think of the spiritual quest like body building: You work hard and you build new muscles, ‘meditation muscles’. You create new things that you never had before. I tried that for a while but I discovered that a better metaphor is a peeling away, like cleaning a dirty window. You wash a window and it becomes transparent.
I decided to start from the assumption that everything I sought is already here and now. In other words, whatever else is going on now, the Self—truth and joy—is here as well. At least potentially. That approach was fruitful. The work we do here flows from that point of view. If the truth is not here already, how will you ever acquire it? If it is not here now, it means it is not eternal. If it is not in this place, it is not omnipresent.
So, then, where is it? The scriptures ask, ‘Where is it that God is not?’ Every thought, every feeling, must be divine. And we are born in that condition. That is why people love babies—because the spirit is shining through so powerfully in an infant. The heart naturally opens when it sees an infant. Later, of course, the child becomes acculturated and, dare we say, less appealing. At puberty, its hormones shoot in all directions and he or she becomes cranky, cantankerous and miserable. Still, purity is there, but hidden.
Perhaps, a time comes when we consciously make a decision to find our essence, to recapture it. We enter the spiritual path, we become yogis. Or you might go to therapy or wonder, ‘Who am I?’ That is a great moment: the process becomes conscious and you take responsibility and say, ‘I am now on the path of Selfdiscovery’. I don’t care how that happens, what particular path you take, that is a great moment. You say, ‘Now I will discover, I will reclaim who I truly am’. That can only come about by grace, since the vast majority of humanity is not doing that.
Still, in teaching meditation over the last twenty years, I have witnessed a great awakening. I am sure that I am not solely responsible for it! That’s a joke. [Laughter.] In a sense the world is as you see it, so it is hard to know what is objectively so. Because I keep teaching meditation and people keep coming I think, ‘Oh, the whole world is meditating’. What is it really like out there? I
don’t know. But I’d like to think an awakening is taking place.