Here is a passage from my book, “The Translucent Revolution”:
When children grow, they pass through what are called, in psychological language, various developmental stages. It is actually quite interesting, if you’re a parent, to notice the bizarre nature of these developmental stages. There is the stage of being completely dependent—nursing, just holding the mother—and at that stage this is absolutely necessary, appropriate, and normal. If an eight-year-old child behaves in the same way, that’s not considered healthy.
Then there’s the stage where the child is just completely running on “no.” This is called “the terrible twos.” “Eat your dinner.” “No!” “Put on your shoes.” “No!” This stage is about breaking dependency and discovering independence. If the child were to say “no” as a newborn, this would not be healthy at that age. If the child is still saying “no” at forty-three, there is also a problem.
Later on, around the age of six, comes the stage of trying to please. “Can I do that for you?” “Let me do the dishes.” All these stages are necessary. Then come the teenage years (which I have not yet come to enjoy with my children) when the child begins to say, “Like, who cares, man!”
Similarly, although freedom exists out of time, there are also developmental stages within the mind/body in the realization of freedom. It is worth recognizing the difference between these developmental stages because, as a mind/body, it is possible to get stuck in a stage that is no longer authentic.
Before any hint comes of something beyond ordinary life, choices in life are determined entirely by “my pleasure” and “my desire.” Before you meet any Indian gurus or do any workshops the focus is basically, “I want more good stuff and I don’t want pain. I want more money, more sex with more people, less income tax, more food, and less indigestion.” And then (not for many, probably for less than one percent of the population), comes the dawning recognition that perhaps there might be something more to life beyond “I,” “me,” “mine.” This is called the beginning of spiritual seeking.
In this phase of seeking for peace, most of us have been willing to do almost anything to get there. We have obeyed all kinds of dictates—chanting whatever we were told to chant, changing our diets—there are all kinds of interesting things we’ve done in the name of trying to get what we thought was enlightenment. If you look around the world, it’s not primarily a world of people seeking freedom, is it? So this is already a rare blessing. In seeking, however, there is still this preoccupation with “I,” “me,” “mine”—“My freedom.” Seeking is even more narcissistic and self-centered than the previous phase, isn’t it? In seeking, it’s “My diet,” and “My posture.” “What kind of thoughts am I having? Why am I having thoughts at all? Are they positive thoughts or negative thoughts? How am I doing? Is it okay?” Seeking becomes self-obsession.
I don’t think anyone has ever found what they were seeking —at least I’ve never met anyone who suddenly got what their fantasy of enlightenment was! But for a small percentage (one percent of the one percent, perhaps) comes the recognition, “I have always been what I was seeking for. I have always been That.” This is realization; this is freedom. And with respect to seeking, that is the end.
There is also a maturing that follows. Not as far as freedom goes, but as far as the mind/body there is a maturing in this freedom. The first wave is, “I got it! I’m enlightened! I’m free! Are you free? I’m free. Are you still seeking? Aww—I’m free! Let me tell you what it’s like to be free! On the 23rd of September I realized the Self and now I’m free. Before that I wasn’t free and now I am free.” Does that sound familiar? This is the “I” that was seeking. It has a momentum, so now it grabs hold of the realization of That which doesn’t change and tries to hold it as its own. This phase also comes to an end with the realization that freedom and “I” have nothing to do with each other.
There is another stage where this “I” is abandoned and the realization comes that there is really nothing to do and nowhere to go, there really is no doer anyway. There’s just Consciousness, and this wave is “I’m just resting as Consciousness. Are you still ‘doing?’ Not me, I’m just resting as Consciousness. Nothing to do—it’s all just unfolding on its own.” This is another phase, a little more mature than “I got it, I got it, I got it!” Now there’s no one to get anything, there’s just resting and things unfold naturally.
Each of these phases in the beginning has a kind of freshness, but once it gets into a repetitive groove it gets boring. Many people comment on this. I have a friend in the Bay Area who’s been giving Satsang about the same length of time that I have. We had a talk the other day and he was saying, “You know, I’m really tired of what happens in Satsang. It’s getting boring—realization, little glimpses, and the questions about how to keep the glimpse.” He was commenting on this phase. He said he switched on the news one evening and saw film clips of a hurricane in Central America, and he thought to himself, “All this realization of, ‘Wow, there’s nobody there!’ actually seems kind of superficial in comparison to the devastation of this hurricane.”
There comes a time when even the interest in realization, even the interest in being free or not free, also subsides. “I’m free, I’m free, there’s nobody there!”—how long can that be fascinating? Then, for some—and this is actually a rare thing—there comes the realization that this is all you. You’re not just one small human form, there are actually more than six billion of you. Everything that’s happening on this planet, even with animals, is happening to you. If there’s pain anywhere, it’s your pain. If there’s judgment anywhere, it’s your judgment. If there’s violence anywhere, it’s your violence. If people are fighting, it’s a fight within you. This is not a sense of personal guilt (“Oh God, it’s all my fault!”) but an abandonment of the boundaries of where “I” ends and something or someone else begins. Then no one can say, “I am free” because there are six billion of you, and not all of you is free. One tiny little incarnation may have had a nice experience but there’s plenty more of you to go. This realization that it’s all me, all the same me—one mind, one heart—means that my heart is not truly at rest as long as I am still bound in some form somewhere. This realization is at the foundation of what Tibetan Buddhism and other schools of Buddhism know as the Bodhisattva vow—the vow that there will be constant service until all beings are liberated. The funny thing about the Bodhisattva vow is that it is a contradiction, because within the Bodhisattva vow is the realization that there are no beings to be liberated anywhere. In fact, it was said of Buddha that he came to the earth to liberate all beings and he could do that only because he realized there were no beings to liberate. Strange paradox, isn’t it?
I mention this because for many of us it’s time to move beyond preoccupation with the minute fluctuations of “my freedom.” “Am I getting identified with thought? Am I getting caught up? Or am I resting? Maybe I should do another retreat, or maybe I should have a session.” There comes a time when all that becomes like a hamster on one of those wheels. The very preoccupation with one’s own state of consciousness is what keeps identification in place. What arises spontaneously from here is a life of service. That is the greatest secret.
In 1992 my teacher, Papaji, asked me to give Satsang. Naively, I thought I was supposed to go out and benefit other people, but the one who got the most benefit was actually the one giving the Satsangs. As soon as the body is used in service, the attention goes off this illusion of separate identity and starts to be concerned with the larger mind/body. For many of us, it’s time to move beyond “my freedom.” There’s a pull of the heart, a call of the heart, to something bigger than “my spiritual state.”
Images obtained from: outbackonline.net, realestateinsights.com.au, buddhamuseum.com, twinpossible.com