February 2, 2005

Dark Night

There comes a time when both body and soul
enter into such a vast darkness
that one loses light and consciousness
and knows nothing more of God’s intimacy.
At such a time, when the light in the lantern burns out
the beauty of the lantern can no longer be seen.
With longing and distress, we are reminded of our nothingness.

Mechtild of Magdeburg


You too will have your descent, your dark night. You too will drop from the edge of the precipice, into open, empty space, the authentic presence at the foundation of your being. You are already here, only you harbor an extremely seductive, pervasive and persistent illusion. Were it not for the anguish of clinging to this illusion, you would remain in your cocoon, desperately trying to hold on to your familiar world unto death. But suffering is an unrelenting messenger, slowly or fiercely contributing to your ripening. The message of impermanence, the temporary and provisional nature of form, leaks into our sleepy consciousness day in and day out, and turns our head, helps us inquire, ask the big questions, and return to the source within.

As you allow yourself to be exposed to the forces of annihilation, as you willingly place yourself into the forge, where the heat and pressure of existence is allowed to work on you, as you expose yourself to this alchemical process where unconscious material is brought into the light of awareness, illuminated, given being, allowed, given a place, some space -- you ripen. Hanging heavy on the branch, you're exposed to the wind, rain and sun. There is nothing to shield you, protect or defend you from the harsh and benevolent grace of nature. And you ripen. You begin surrendering, letting your guard down, softening, dropping your resistance, you open and are transformed without having to do anything. By and by the fruit falls from the tree; you dissolve in the vastness of your original nature, which has been patiently abiding, lovingly waiting for you. Authentic presence moves from the background to the foreground in one sudden flash. Having released your identification with thinking, your clinging to a mind identified self, space opens up for existence to pour into. The hard work of clearing out and opening up has provided a space for authentic presence to descend, to fill you, to shower its blessing and benediction on you. You are no longer in the way, and existence has space to be.

The universe awakens. This awakening, this satori itself, also ripens and continues to lighten up. Then we get scared and pull the covers back over our head, and retreat repeatedly into the old familiar recesses of our cocoon. Here we think we have temporary surcease from our insecurity. But the freshness of living an authentic life evaporates with this retreat back into delusion. Reality is vivid, precise and inherently insecure. We have tasted the beyond, caught the scent of that fragrance, and nothing, nothing compares with the exhilarating rediscovery of our original home. No religion, no creed, doctrine, teaching or discipline can replace the bliss of realizing our original nature, our own treasure house within. This realization requires no external validation or confirmation. It is self-evident. It would make no difference if a hundred sages told you you're mistaken, because it has happened, the realization has flowered from within -- undauntable. It is not based on anything external. It is unconditioned. And you realize this.

Under the covers, back in the womb of our mind identified self, we again live in the sonambulistic twilight of unconsciousness. Once again we become disenchanted with our lives, the suffering, the misery. It dawns on us that our world has once again become claustrophobic, lackluster. Haven't we been here before? Where did we lose our way again, and how? Then we catch a glimpse of sunlight, a whiff of fragrant spring air, and again want out, and set off in search of the openness and freedom that is our birthright. Once again we replay the odyssey of awakening. We wake up and find we're in the theater of self, where the epic of Little Me has been playing over and over. We get up, dazed and nauseated and leave the theater. We go out into the fresh air and sunlight where we rub our eyes and are astounded. We remember our journey outside the prison walls. Eventually we learn how opening up and clearing out leads to increasing luminosity in our lives, a fathomless abundance. And one blissful day we discover the prison walls have fallen away altogether. They are seen to be insubstantial, of our own making, and the house of self collapses. Our identification with mind, body and emotion dissolves and (this has been said in so very many different ways) the sky falls on our head, we turn into existence itself, the universe wakes up, we are pulled through the gate without the use of our own hands. Simply, you are awake. Authentic being, authentic presence is here. Call it bliss, call it love, beauty, silence, call it God.

Post by Akilesh


Jon said...

I just hate coming back to that "sonambulistic twilight" every time!

Marjorie said...

What a wonderful post, Akilesh, thank you. I feel as if you are speaking directly to me and you make me feel better. Sometimes I wonder if my anguish is only an illusion created to stave off boredom -- you always let me know that these feelings are okay, that there is something more to be trusted and followed.