Lightmind Extract 003
Three Cheers for Ramakrishna
One of the amazing things about spiritual life is how concrete it is. There’s a more or less conventional view of the “mystical” as something airy and insubstantial. So when people see a picture of Ramakrishna in samadhi, being supported by his disciple Hriday, they get the idea R.’s experience is akin to a drugged state — you know, with dopamine-induced bliss flooding the synapses — and that this dreamy state is the essence of spiritual experience, so-called.
In fact, as I found out from personal experience, the bliss of spiritual vision (and experience) is a side-effect of self-recognition of a kind that eventually penetrates reality to its core. Samadhis of every kind — especially in the early stages of such experiences — are intensely joyful (even to tears) for the simple reason that suffering is released and transcended.
It is great happiness to be released from the not-so-subtle and oh-so-subtle suffering of every-day ego-mind (to say nothing of the extremes of mental suffering that are part of the human condition). To uncover for the first time the real core of one’s very existence will indeed flood the body with ecstacy — like the body of an innocent man released to open sunlight after twenty years in isolation on “murderer’s row”.
It turns out that ordinary life is a crime we did not commit. Indeed, “all is forgiven” because all of it was insubstantial relative to spiritual reality (i.e., Reality itself). The essense of Ramakrishna’s samadhis was thus not the response of the body but Reality (or God) itself, revealed by the shedding of unreality. This samadhi is not God seen from a distance. It is God experienced as continuous with the self and as the inviolable essence of self-awareness. In that self-recognition, in God, how could one not experience waves of joy?
Over time, as self-recognition deepens, the blissful aspect will, for some, retreat and even disappear entirely, while the core of the samadhi remains unassailably present. Or it may not. In any case, my confession is that I’m one of the lucky people who found this out (and who was found by it) at a very early age, thanks in large part to the recognition of Ramakrishna.
This self-recognition is the “rock” on which I didn’t hesitate to build my house. It’s the home I have always returned to, after wandering in the craziness of the world. It’s my “place”, and it can’t be taken away from me (although I could, if I chose to, abandon it).
In this house I have many secrets. One of them is that I have friends here, who are people like me. Another secret is that the people one meets in everyday life seem insubstantial compared to spiritual friends. Many people “of the world” are very nice looking and many are various degrees of nice looking, but all seem equally insubstantial to me, like phantoms. They are perceived for what they really are — collections of chaotic emotions held together by desperation, anger, and fear. At times I have taken these people seriously, because they asked to be taken seriously. But then I would always go back to my house, sit in my favorite chair, feel into their desperation, and they would rapidly fall apart in my hands like crumbling mummies of an ancient age.
At that point I could no longer internalize or identify with their personal stories, their dramatics and their mind-forms, nor with the limitations they invented for themselves and others. They were the insubstantial dream. Whereas this “mystical experience” was reality — “brighter than the sun on earth”.
Now, that’s what Ramakrishna knew, and he is long gone into the embrace of it, moved through depths of intimacy with his own being to indefinable and unseen wisdom. When I first saw his picture, in a book I picked up in a library at about age 20, I had the great unexpected flash of recognition — I knew this man. I had always known him, he was one of my oldest friends. And I was the same as him.
How could it be otherwise? And then I committed a crime. I tore the picture out of the book and took it home with me.
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