Many great teachers tell us that to plumb the depths of self realization, or enlightened awareness, we need to cultivate both wisdom and devotion in our contemplative practice. To me wisdom is the willingness to see all of our life as it actually is. Wisdom complements devotion by providing the insight to unconditionally accept and surrender to things as they actually are; to surrender to the power of the great mystery, surrender to the life force that only alone always simply is.
I was watching a movie the other day, called the Others, that was about a mother and her children living in a haunted house. In the end it turns out that they were the ghosts who were already dead, and didn’t realize it till the very end of the movie.
Quite a few times I’ve read about teachers being asked about their fear of death, and replying ‘I’m already dead.’ I’ve had the intellectual understanding that they mean they are dead to the sense of being confined to a separate self. To them the separate self is but a shadow; they can act from it to help beings, but they aren’t caught by the idea that this shadow self is anything more than a pale reflection of the overwhelming actuality of the light of infinite consciousness.
When observing the initial panic of the mother and her children realizing that they were no longer in physical bodies, that they were dead in the conventional sense, I was quite surprised to find myself identifying with their fear. I realized I’ve never known who or what I am, I am already dead, there’s no life in these ideas of me!
As I allowed breathing with the sense of fear, I felt the utter falseness of my identification with a physical body. The small i was clearly seen as a ghost like stream of thoughts, with ethereal sensations and perceptions that the ghost of thought imagined to be real. Then I realized the sense of being a ghost was just another illusory thought stream. The true ‘I’, our actual identity, was revealed to be the presence of the light of awareness itself free from all qualities. It is always abiding everywhere, and at the same time is nowhere perceivable. The small i isn’t just ghost like, it’s smaller than the smallest imaginable nano particle. The deep flowing compassion and love for suffering beings isn’t mine. All beings share the light of pure awareness together.
The thought flashed: ‘How could we continually fool ourselves into believing we actually have any control over the power of ultimate reality?’ Realizing that we’re nothing perceivable, felt like embodying wisdom on a deeper level than I had previously allowed myself. I also intuitively felt that embodying wisdom naturally turns into embodying devotion to the source of all manifestation, to our true mother and father. The light of infinite consciousness is our true body, allowing it to expand melts the sense of being separate like snow melting by a fire.
In the context of contemplative practice, devoted means to be one with. Here devotion isn’t about self consciously trying to be devoted. Witnessing and unconditionally accepting our self conscious trying without the effort to manipulate it in any way, is to be unattached to thinking. Our self conscious effort is a mere shadow of the blissful light of infinite consciousness. Receiving and offering the life force of infinite consciousness, with the willingness to be free of attachment to thoughts, is the greatest devotion. For me this statement is an ever growing intuition, a koan and at the same time a question to live out and offer for others to find their own inspiration in finding their way on the path of self realization.