photo by ellen reitman.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

the sum total of what i know.

if looks could kill, i guess i'd be pretty much dead, thrashing around on the ground or at least dealing with a nasty illness. i am specifically, although not exclusively, referring to the results of a speech i recently gave at a local yoga centre pertaining to the self, the one all-permeating self which is pure, free and forever. except i said the self which is pure, free and allegedly forever. there were scowls, growls, and that's ok. 

those good folks had not come to hear me vacillate or say i actually don't know the truth of our existence. they came to be reassured, by someone considered a senior traveler upon this so-called spiritual path, that their faith in self, in our shared humanity, in enlightenment, nirvana, is all well-founded. but, what is that faith based on? is it based on experience or is it a blind faith? the whole premise of this practice we call dhyaan or meditation is that it be experiential, direct, not theoretical, not intellectual, not just a parroting of sages, saints or philosophers from days gone by. 

gurus, masters and spiritual guides are inherently a rather self-assured lot. they speak with tremendous certainty. i prefer to be real, and who does that? they talk as though they have all the answers and may god bless em, whatever the hell that means. but, that just aint me and therefore i'm effectively out of the club. 

i stumbled upon one facebook post recently by a great living master who wrote that the first stage of any seeker is to have a 'burning desire to know the truth of who you are, a burning desire to go all the way'. i know that. i've read it so many times. i've lived it. that's called 'mumukchetwa' in sanskrit. yet, here i sit in my lazy-boy, forty-five years later, without the faintest idea what it even means to go all the way. as well, i don't believe any of them, not yogananda, muktananda, vivekananda, shivananda or any ananda know the so-called true self that is pure, free and eternal. maybe they all do and only i don't. or maybe they do know, but where did that come from? who was that first mother and where did she come from?

there's no need for me to list my credentials or explain why i was asked to speak at that place, to those people, why my opinions count. ultimately my opinions don't count. we each need to consider these questions on our own: where do i come from? where do i go? who am i? what am i? what is the meaning of this life and, perhaps most importantly, how can i be happy? i don't need to convince anyone about the value of meditation. i'm not in business. i have no agenda. 

so here's the sum total of what i know: i know for certain that there's a sense of joy, peace and bliss within each of us that can be accessed no matter our circumstances. my direct experience has shown me that there is more going on here than what meets the eyes, that we are not as separate from one another as it seems.  i suspect that that state of deep meditation, like deep sleep, is like a drop of water merging with the whole ocean of life. i suspect that that state is a kind of a death, and it's not scary. it's beautiful, freeing. at the same time, i know for sure that i'm not ok with dying. i like it here. i want to live. i have netflix. 

here's another thing i've learned along the way: i know for sure that this life is a gift, a glorious fleeting gift, that we should embrace it, and each other.


  1. A great post Nathan...and timely. I just finished reading Sam Harris' book "Letter to a Christian Nation". You stress the experiential, direct over blind faith; Harris stresses reason and scientific inquiry over blind faith. While you may disagree in other areas, you both identify blind faith as a problem...and I couldn't agree more. For the spiritual seeker, it impedes progress on their path. For Harris, the blind faith of religious adherents, be they Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist etc. impede our very human shared existence on this planet.

    “The conflict between science and religion is reducible to a simple fact of human cognition and discourse: either a person has good reasons for what he believes, or he does not….It is time that we admitted that faith is nothing more than the license religious people give one another to keep believing when reasons fail.” (Sam Harris, “Letter to a Christian Nation” 2006)

  2. Nathan your open mind is always writing delightful ways of seeing things. I appreciate the reminder of the importance of experience as a guide to finding truths. And I also appreciate how relaxed you look in that van! My shoulders are already dropping :-)

  3. Hey Nathan. Great post. Don't worry about those who need the kind of certainty that faith gives them. I think you got everything covered... be happy, try to help others be happy, this life is short (unless you're in some kind of pain and/or your Netflix connection is really bad) and a gift and we're all on this together so might as welltry to get along wit the othe passangers. Oh and deciding what type of travel vehicle to have is time-wastingly fun!

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.