Echo From The Cave: 167

Saturday March 12, 2022 NYC

Talk at the End of the Asana & Meditation Class
Friday, March 11, 2022 (With Extended Reflection):

This Mysterious Essence

This past Summer, Anandamali offered me a copy of the Chandogya Upanishad. I have attempted to read the first chapter several times. I took notes and put myself to study it, but, it was not until I read the recent Blog, Echo From the Cave: 165, that I found a door through which to enter this Upanishad. This blog shares the story of the brahmin, Uddalaka Aruna and his son, Shvetaketu, who left home at 12-years-old and spent 12 entire years studying and learning the Vedas under a Master.  When he returned, he had come to think of himself as quite erudite. Seeing the pride of his own son, his father asked him, “Do you know that which when once known everything else becomes known?” In this excerpt from the Chandogya Upanishad in that Blog, “that” is described as the secret that is not a secret because it is omnipresent, always present in all its fullness and in everything equally.

When I read this Blog, I became elated—actually, joyous! The idea of a precious Essence waiting to be known filled me up with hope and happiness! And the idea of having the key to this treasure through Yoga was over joyous, not to mention the idea of this Yoga as ever present and available at any moment!

All of this made me want to understand this Essence more. First, I started thinking that It must be the opposite of what brings me down, what creates darkness and discomfort in our minds: the uncertain, the unreliable, the unsettled, the anxious. This Essence must be certain, reliable, settled, and serene. If this is so, It must be what we all long for (even if we do not know that we are longing for it), and it must be truly so special! I was becoming more and more intrigued about this Essence. Thinking that it is everywhere and in everyone, was even more thrilling! I began to feel as if it was very possible that something inside of me already knew this as unquestionably true and within my own reach.

Because I wanted to know more about this mysterious Essence, I decided to give the first chapter of the Chandogya Upanishad another try. I read one of the definitions of OM as “Existence, Only one, without second.” If this is so, it was no wonder that reading the question, “Do you know that which when once known everything else becomes known?”, was bringing me such joy to hear about it. If Existence is “Only One” and there is no other, then it must be the only certainty we can find in our lives. I read on… “OM has the quality of fulfilling all desires.” No wonder we gravitate toward That even when we do not know we are doing so. We must be enraptured by That which “fulfills all desires.” This means that it must satisfy us to the point of ending all other desires! Isn’t that the ultimate aim of every single one of our desires in the end?? It sounds akin to drinking water to quench our thirst forever—the very last glass of water.

Then, in the state of elation and marvel that I was in, I remembered the first and only time that I have experienced a teaching having an instant and completely transforming effect on my mind. On that occasion, the teaching came to me in the form of a photograph, which was on the cover of another book, also offered to me by Anandamali for my birthday a few years ago, Where There is Love, There is God: A Path to Closer Union with God and Greater Love for Others, and it contains the recorded words of Mother Theresa. The photo shows Mother Theresa tenderly embracing a baby child. Upon one single glance of this photograph, I became defenseless, all walls crumbled down. To me, this image shows entirely the meaning of “Yoga.” The photo re-appeared in my mind vividly when I was reading about the “Essence behind all” or OM, in the Chandogya Upanishad.

Around the time I received the book of Mother Theresa from Anandamali, she had been telling me that I needed to “accept.” “Acceptance” became my aim, but I could not understand, what it was that I needed to accept. When I would hear the word “accept” I used to think that it had to do with accepting my flaws, my poor judgement, accepting my mistakes…as an act of contrition. And, yes, that was a very necessary part of what I needed to go through, but this acceptance was probably more in the direction of accepting my own shortcomings and the habits of my own mind, which continued to keep me from growing—I surely had, and still have a lot to acknowledge in this sense. However, after reading about the ever-present and subtle Essence in Echo From the Cave: 165 and the Upanishad, and looking again at the photograph of this most tender embrace, I began to see that what I needed to accept was the Essence itself, the One and Only Essence, God itself, the One, which is also Me, You, Everyone and All. In my heart, this embrace represents so purely and completely the One loving the One without restrictions or barriers of any kind. The Chandogya Upanishad says of OM: “All this is but the Self.” And all I see permeating this photograph is the Self, no matter where I place my eyes.

Having filled myself with this content, I really wanted to take it into my life, and experiment living with the awareness of the Self. If this Essence is always there and in everything and everyone, then I want very much to act from this fact. At my work, there are many meetings and activities in which I am not so fond of participating. It could be because of the topics, the type of activity or the people, that I try to avoid them. When I have no choice but to attend, I can become quietly judgmental of the situation and of the people, feeling as if it was a waste of time or as if I was above all of that. But I asked myself this week, if all is that One Essence, then what or who am I running away from? What or who am I better or worse than? So, I cheerfully reminded myself, just accept! I attended some meetings, activities or events with the intention of opening my heart and arms to anything that came my way, the Essence itself coming closer to me, seeking to be embraced. And I proposed to myself that all I need to do is to keep my mind still and out of the way so that the One Essence can satisfy Itself with Itself. To my surprise, my defenses and offenses began to take a back seat, and then, the invisible wall between others and myself became less noticeable. I began to experience much more calmness in these situations, regardless of the topics, the place or the company. The discomfort that I typically go through when I am in groups of people, and the concerns that tend to linger after the interactions (regret, expectation, frustration, excitement, doubt…), started to lessen or become much milder, or none at all. Instead, something new began to arise. I sensed a soothing smile on my face which felt like it was coming from deep within. During this week, this sense continued even after my workdays were over. This new way of experiencing my daily life was something that I have been longing for, for a long time, but I did not know what would spark the change. Now, I am moved to continue seeking to accept this mysterious Essence again and again, moment by moment.

~ Karuna

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