Image by Gerd Altmann
Take courage. The human race is divine.
The first thing we must understand if we are to take the Direct Path in full awareness is why we are here in the first place and who and what we really are.
The great mystical traditions are astonishingly united in their answers to these questions; they each claim, in different ways, that we are essentially sparks of Divine Consciousness, emanated by the Divine out of itself, and placed here in this dimension to travel back to conscious union with the Godhead.
The Purpose of Being
Thus, for the Buddhist mystics, the purpose of being incarnated here is to unfold our innate Buddha nature and enter into conscious possession of its timeless peace, bliss, power, and all-seeing knowledge.
For the Hindu mystics of the Gita and the Upanishads, the whole meaning of human life lies in realizing the essential unity of our individual soul, the atman, with Brahman, the eternal reality, that timeless and spaceless and placeless bliss-truth-consciousness that is at once manifesting everything in all the worlds and beyond all manifestation.
Sufi mystics claim that the human being has a unique relationship to God because God fashioned us with his own hands, while creating all other things by the Divine Word and its fiat; they believe that God, while making us, breathed into us his own being, sowed in our innermost core a memory of our origin in him, and ordained that the whole purpose of our lives on earth should be to return in full awareness to the Origin, whose children we are.
For Christian mystics such as Meister Eckhart and Teresa of Avila, the soul is placed in a body and in matter to undertake the immense journey to a living aware "marriage" with the inner Christ and his divine love and knowledge.
For Taoists like Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu, the whole of the universe is a manifestation of the mystery of the Unnamable -- which for convenience's sake they name the Tao -- and the one who realizes his or her own nature realizes his or her own essential unity on every level with this Tao in its original peace, harmony, and boundless fecundity.
Same Message, Different Words
When you look past the different terminologies employed by the different mystical systems, you see clearly that they are each talking about the same overwhelming truth -- that we are all essentially children of the Divine and can realize that identity with our Source here on earth and in a body. Although each of the mystical systems expresses it in subtly different ways, this realization that we can all have of our essential identity with the Divine is always described as a non-dual one -- that is, as a relationship in which we wake up to the overwhelming and glorious fact that our fundamental consciousness is "one" with the Divine Consciousness that is manifesting all things, all worlds, and all events.
In other words, we are each of us parts of Godhead who, when we are aware of it, enter into a naked, non-conceptual identity-of-consciousness with the Source from which all things and all events are constantly streaming.
Each of the major systems has a different way of characterizing this astounding truth. Jesus in the Gospels says; "The Kingdom is within you". The seers of the Hindu Upanishads describe the awakening in three interrelated short formulas: tat tvam Asi, aham Brahmasmi, and sarvam Brahmasm, which mean "You are That," "You are Brahman," and "Everything that is is Brahman."
A Tibetan Buddhist, Nyoshul Khenpo Rinpoche, describes this non-dual realization of essential unity with all things in the following way:
Profound and tranquil, free from complexity,
Uncompounded luminous clarity,
Beyond the mind of conceptual ideas
This is the depth of the mind of the Victorious Ones.
In this there is not a thing to be removed
Nor anything that needs to be added.
It is merely the immaculate
Looking naturally at itself.
A great Sufi mystic, Rumi, speaks of the mystery of this union when he writes:
Love is here;
it is the blood in my veins, my skin
I am destroyed;
He has filled me with passion.
His fire has flooded the nerves of my body
Who am I?
Just my name; the rest is him.
A Jewish mystic, Ben Gamliel, says of this ultimate truth state that it is the "seamless being-in-place that comes from attending to Reality".
All these formulations are stammering attempts to put into words what can never be adequately expressed but can be experienced -- and has been over the course of human history by millions of true seekers in all traditions.
The Paradox of the Journey
All major mystical traditions have recognized that there is a paradox at the heart of the journey of return to Origin.
Put simply, this is that we are already what we seek, and that what we are looking for on the Path with such an intensity of striving and passion and discipline is already within and around us at all moments. The journey and all its different ordeals are all emanations of the One Spirit that is manifesting everything in all dimensions; every rung of the ladder we climb toward final awareness is made of the divine stuff of awareness itself; Divine Consciousness is at once creating and manifesting all things and acting in and as all things in various states of self-disguise throughout all the different levels and dimensions of the universe.
The great Hindu mystic Kabir put this paradox with characteristic simplicity when he said:
Look at you, you madman,
Screaming you are thirsty
And are dying in a desert
When all around you there is nothing but water!
And the Sufi poet Rumi reminds us:
You wander from room to room
Hunting for the diamond necklace
That is already around your neck!
The "Sublime Joke'' of the Journey
Knowing that we are looking for something we already have and are does not, of course, mean that the journey is unnecessary, only that there is a vast and sublime joke waiting to be discovered at its end.
Excerpted by permission of Broadway, a divn. of Random House, Inc.
©2000. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced
or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
The Direct Path: Creating a Personal Journey to the Divine Using the World's Spiritual Traditions
by Andrew Harvey.
Today more Americans than ever consider themselves to be "spiritual" people, and yet attendance at religious institutions is down, perhaps because many of us are searching for a way to encounter the divine on our own terms. In this groundbreaking, eloquently written work, renowned religious scholar Andrew Harvey builds on his twenty-five-year study of the world’s various mystical traditions, from Buddhism to the Kabbalah, to create an illuminating spiritual map that anyone can use to develop a direct path to the divine without relying on churches, gurus, or other intermediaries. Perfect for anyone who yearns for fresh teachings and wisdom that will bring them closer to their life’s purpose and meaning, The Direct Path is an intelligent, beautifully crafted masterpiece from one of today's most celebrated and respected spiritual luminaries.
About The Author
World-renowned religious scholar and teacher Andrew Harvey is the author of over thirty books, including the critically acclaimed Son of Man: The Mystical Path to Christ and A Journey in Ladakh: Encounters with Buddhism, and coauthor of the bestselling The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. Born in South India in 1952, he studied at Oxford University and became the youngest person ever awarded a fellowship to the prestigious All Souls College. He has devoted the past twenty-five years of his life to studying the world's various mystical traditions.
Visit his website www.andrewharvey.net