“There is nothing to practice. To know yourself, be yourself. To be yourself, stop imagining yourself to be this or that. Just be. Let your true nature emerge. Don’t disturb your mind with seeking.”
~ Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
Of all the more profound questions that humanity tends to ponder throughout the centuries (in between wars and similar conflicted pursuits), the “great matter” regarding the purpose of life ranks among the most investigated and argued over, and yet still remains the most puzzling for the vast majority. Why are we here?
Few are there who can accept the most simple and yet obvious answer to that question: we are here to be ourselves, in whatever form that might take. It does not have to be more complicated than that – we are here to be what we are, just as we are. Whatever more we add to that fundamental truth is just extra window dressing, although window dressing itself can be creative and fun.
As powerful and immortal spiritual beings, we have infinite choices for experience in the vast playground of the multiverse. Some of us may enter into human bodies and fuse with them for the lifespan of the bio-vehicle in order to experience human life and all its challenges, often as a way to test ourselves, but mostly as a way to gather experiences that we can then take back to our soul group, or family, and thus increase the “data base” of the whole.
Moreover, a good many of us are here just because it seemed like an interesting adventure, based on the testimonies of others who tried it and recommended the trip. Some are here as tourists in that respect, while others are here to finish some project started but uncompleted in a previous foray into the human game.
Each soul family, or group, has a particular character, or vocation, so to speak. For example, some groups are directed towards science, some towards healing, some towards political matters, and some towards arts and creative expression, just to name a few. There are innumerable groups – millions of them. Each one of us is like a cell in the body of our group, and each group in turn is like a cell in a larger spiritual body. These immense bodies are cells within an even vaster mystical body, and this goes on beyond the comprehension of the human mind in a perfection and harmonious pattern that is too marvelous for words!
Those that choose to incarnate in this realm may do so out of compassion, in order to accomplish some work for their soul group in association with the evolutionary development of humanity, or simply out of curiosity for the unique possibilities of experience available in this particular circumstance.
The more experienced among us might choose the most difficult sort of lives (knowing that they are not actually “real”) because we seek increasingly more demanding challenges. As the great Chan master Hsu Yun advised, “Welcome hardship more than you welcome ease. Hardship will present you with challenges, and it is in overcoming these obstacles, that you will develop character and skill. Challenges are our greatest teachers.”
To one degree or another, and with the assistance of our soul group guides, we all participate in the general design of our present lives while in-between incarnational adventures. However, a good deal is left open and unplanned, so that we will have an opportunity to experience the full impact of the Unknown. That is, we are fascinated to discover how we will react to all the various experiences that come with being human, in the same way that those who play video games enter into difficult situations in order to test their ability to take on various challenges and increase their gaming skills.
Another way to regard this adventure might be in terms of costume changes. We like to try on different costumes, different self-images, to see how they fit. Eventually, we find that none of them are permanent, so we resume our natural nakedness. It’s all fun, like playing dress-up. None of the costumes were “wrong”, it’s just that we tend to identify with them and forget that we are not the costume, no matter how appealing or interesting or glamorous or even raggedy it might appear. We came here to try on the human costume, which includes a lot of wardrobe changes in the process.
In any case, we are progressing into light and even more light. However, true “enlightenment” is far beyond our ken while we are temporarily immersed in the heavier densities of this human “amnesia”. The human vehicle itself could not bear the intensity. In this human form, we are greatly limited by the parameters of this realm, its frequency and vibration. This does not mean that the material realm is therefore somehow “lesser” than any other, but simply that physical existence provides very specific forms of energetic experiences, realizations, and creative potentials that are not necessarily available elsewhere.
For example, even in so-called phenomenal reality there is no actual physical substance (matter) — only levels, degrees, spectrums of light/waves, whose properties are hardly seen, and much less understood, by the human perception mechanism. The contemporary teacher A. H. Almaas described our true nature this way:
“If we experience ourselves in our true self-existing condition, we will see what we actually are. We are beings of light…. We are beings of light in the fluid state—completely frictionless, completely luminous, totally radiant and free. Now, everybody knows that because light has no mass and no weight, gravity does not affect it. So, in our True Nature, we have no heaviness, no thickness, no weight. We are substantial only in the sense that fluid light has a fullness, a body-ness to it. But that fullness, that substantiality, is completely light and smooth. That is the nature of awareness. And because it is light, it doesn’t help us see—it is what sees, it is what perceives. Thus light, awareness, consciousness, perception, sensitivity are all the same thing.”
It is all a play of light. Light is literally the essence and constituent matter of our being, and as we attune to the vibration of the higher adaptations, so too the substance of our being expands, becoming less dense and reflecting more light. We express our own light. The light dwells within all of us as who we are, and all of us are known by our light. Nisargadatta Maharaj said it well: “There is only light and the light is all. Everything else is but a picture made of light. The picture is in the light and the light is in the picture.”
The greater the selflessness and illumination of our own being-ness, and the more positive our response to the higher frequencies of vibration, the purer and brighter is the light transmitted by us. The purer and stronger the light from each member of the family, or soul group, the greater is the expansion of the group soul towards the ultimate recognition that we collectively are Source Itself, playing the role of being separate individuals.
As Nanci Danison (who experienced what has been termed a “transcendental nde”) explained: “Most of us never realize we are Source pretending to be separate beings until we merge back into Source. We characters within Source’s mind continue to believe we are separate individuals even in the afterlife – for as long as we desire and /or resist knowing that we are actually Source. Once we become aware we are Source literally playing a character, the façade of a separate identity dissolves.”
The process of incarnating into these human forms creates a uniquely challenging circumstance in which we are faced with living with a dual nature. Unifying and illuminating this dual nature is rare, because it requires absolute humility, which few seem capable of in these times, coupled with a penetrating insight into the nature of the “bigger picture”, which is not quite as rare, but still rare enough.
This realm has been called a virtual school for a number of reasons, and it seems to be a rather elementary one, in the scheme of the totality of universal manifestation. The roles we assume on this current stage may typically involve developing a rudimentary form of integrity, achieved by inspecting and seeing through all human motives based on greed, envy, hatred, ignorance, and pride, for starters.
When we have attained sufficient mastery of these basics, we become capable of a love without conditions or self-interest, and this capacity demonstrates our fitness to graduate, in a manner of speaking, to more advanced curriculums and gain access to a wider vibrational frequency or level of consciousness. In Buddhism, such an attainment might correspond to the rank of “Anagami”, or “non-returner”, although no soul really needs to return to this realm. The concept of “karma” that most of us are familiar with is essentially a human contrivance, often accompanied by a flavor of punishment for sins committed, but such notions do not at all apply in the spirit world. After all, what retribution would we exact from actors in a screenplay, or characters in a dream?
In any case, the human possibility is indeed a challenge — more so than most potential incarnational circumstances — and so provides an excellent classroom for our continuing edification. It attracts us because it is so different than what we truly are, and so beckons as a fascinating opportunity to deepen our self-awareness by discovering, for example, how we will react in situations of conflict on a war-like planet like Earth.
It is an educational opportunity in that regard for our soul evolution, though as long as we allow our human hosts to choose unskillful behaviors, such as anger, hatred, and violence, we may continue to be confronted during the life experience by the contraction of unresolved desires and self-perpetuating traumas that result. In fact, such unresolved elements are often what draw us back into the human frequency, so that we can attain a sense of completion in terms of our original intent for embodiment.
Our immortal spirit, or light being state, is characterized by love and wisdom, which we temporarily set aside, so to speak, in order to fully participate in the human adventure. As Nisargadatta Maharaj noted: “Once you know yourself, it is immaterial what you do, but to realize your independence, you must test it by letting go all you were dependent on. The realized man lives on the level of the absolutes; his wisdom, love and courage are complete, there is nothing relative about him. Therefore he must prove himself by tests more stringent, undergo trials more demanding. The tester, the tested and the set up for testing are all within.”
Just as in a movie in which we might be fully identified, death may seem very real, but nobody actually dies. Nevertheless, we walk away affected by the drama we participated in, even though it was in reality just a play of light on a screen. In the process we might learn something important about “what we are made of”, and that’s what makes the adventure worthwhile.
At their current level of adaptation, many humans tend to behave as selfish, violent animals, driven by emotions, cunning, and instinct. They use violence to protect themselves from real and imagined threats to their ability to get what they want, to amass wealth in its many forms, and to manipulate and exercise dominance over others. Each of us can allow human emotions and instincts to characterize our human experience, or strive to bring love into the equation, and thus magnify the light of our original and true nature.
We have the innate power to remember what and who we really are, and then compassionately control our human host’s actions, which requires a discipline that does not come naturally to humans. As the Dalai Lama noted: “The purpose of religion is to control yourself, not to criticize others. Rather, we must criticize ourselves. How much am I doing about my anger? About my attachment, about my hatred, about my pride, my jealousy? These are the things which we must check in our daily lives.”
Consequently, as we re-awaken to our true nature as immortal light beings, we also learn increasingly skillful ways to embody that realization in our behavior and relationships, based first and foremost on the direct and living recognition that love is all that truly matters. Having demonstrated our adaptation to and stabilization in the capacity to freely give and receive love (even in the midst of any and all circumstances), we are able to expand our frequency of vibration to an ever-wider and more profound universal panorama of possibilities undreamed of in earth-like realms.
Q: But ultimately is there a world, or is there none?
Nisargadatta Maharaj: What you see is nothing but your self. Call it what you like, it does not change the fact. Through the film of destiny your own light depicts pictures on the screen. You are the viewer, the light, the picture and the screen. Even the film of destiny (prarabdha) is self-selected and self-imposed. The spirit is a sport and enjoys to overcome obstacles. The harder the task the deeper and wider his self-realisation.