Here's a story from someone who found a dark, deep place within himself which taught him a lot. It was emailed to me, then edited a bit by the author when I told the person "I'd like to share what you wrote on my blog."
I enjoyed the honest clear writing. Also, how switching seats on an airplane was an enlightening experience. I've divided the story into two pieces because it is fairly long. Click on the "continue reading" link to read the last part.
Brian, I ran across your site when researching surat shabd yoga. I wanted to find opposing opinions and there you were. I was greatly disturbed when I saw that you had zero results after a lifetime of effort. Even more disturbing were the testimonies of others who had also followed this path and came up short. So sad but true.
I’m 58 yrs old and have spent decades reading about religions. I rejected my own Christianity when young because of its demand that I accept Jesus as my personal savior and if I don’t I’m going to hell. I was nowhere near comfortable with the original sin, the bloody crucifixion and all the rest. I felt drawn to the Eastern beliefs. Intellectually I recognized that if anything was true it had to be reincarnation and karma. Such a simple elegant system which actually accounts for everything we see -- the pain, suffering, brutality, etc.
At one point I asked myself, “Who were the first gods worshiped?” From there I spent years in the Sumerian cuneiform translations; today I feel as comfortable with An, Enlil and Enki as with any other gods. I followed these gods forward in time through all their changes in the Akkadian, Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian cultures.
Which led me on a different path, that which is called “alternative history.” The idea that in remote times there was a very high civilization of which we modern humans have no record of. Everyone knows of this “myth” from Plato’s description of Atlantis. What I found so fascinating was that there does exist a considerable amount of physical evidence for such a civilization.
The idea is that our earliest civilizations, Sumer and Egypt, were legacy civilizations which had possession of so called “secret” knowledge from this earlier civilization but, as time went by, lost the understanding of what they preserved. And thus we find the Egyptian beliefs, the Greek mystery religions, the gnostic Christians and even today surat shabd yoga preserving, yet perhaps not understanding, what they have. As crazy as it may sound to you that’s the idea.
So, this is how I became interested in surat shabd yoga, certainly not your typical spiritual journey although for me it has indeed been just that. I only want the “truth.” I don’t care about anything else, only the truth.
I see hard evidence in our known history for some sort of understanding, a development, quite likely spiritual in nature, of which we do not understand today. Amazingly enough, it appears to me that surat shabd yoga “may” be a degraded form of that ancient system. In particular I was struck with the similarities between the gnostic Christians and surat shabd yoga. I’m sure you’re aware of this, perhaps through legitimate scholars such as Andrea Diem-Lane (Gnostic Mystery) or others.
Sorry to bore you with such a long introduction but I did want you to know that I’m not a typical seeker -- I have no religion -- my only drive is for “the truth.”
Recently I had a mystical experience which has strengthened my beliefs. This was an “intervention from above” and it occurred through no deliberate effort of my own. It was something bigger in nature which presented “the truth” to me in a clear straight forward fashion. Of course my having such an experience has no direct relevance for you; you may brush it aside as a temporal fantasy.
For me it was as real as anything in all my life and it has had a staggering effect upon me. In short, this experience was a karmic judgment of two events in my life. I was presented these two life events alongside each other and I understood why they happened.
My reaction, against the injustice against me, in each case was clearly visible and this was the reason for the presentation -- to show me how I failed to measure up to perfection. I was not there to defend myself, it was not a trial. I said nothing but only understood. I had no questions because it was all clear -- there was nothing to say. It was, to me, the Egyptian ceremony of the Weighing of the Heart. I was measured against perfection and came up short.
I’ve attached below a document which I wrote shortly after this experience. The overriding understanding I’ve taken away is simply the truth of reincarnation and karma. There is something bigger in nature, call it god if you like, and there are laws which govern this life as well as a purpose to it all.
Just like you I have spent a lifetime seeking but in my own way. Please note that it was all black, there were no lights or sounds and such. I was unconscious of my body and absolutely all thoughts ceased. But like surat shabd yoga beliefs it was, literally, as if I had died.
Thursday July 12th, 2012
I recently visited a place deep within. I want to share with you that place - a place so deep, and dark, that you will not find it by accident. It is a place of deep dark heaviness, so deep that it must be within.
It was not by baptism, by words or intent, not of my own conscious mind but rather events in the material world. I did not meditate for hours seeking the divine, bow to the dogma of a priestly class nor read words of enlightenment from lofty minds. It was not words that took me there, nor were any words spoken. Instead it was a place of deep knowing, no searching for truth -- rather the truth was presented and understood.
How did I arrive, what is the way? How to go there again? I don’t know if that is possible -- perhaps it happened only once due to circumstances or perhaps it was an innate need. Some would say a search for god. Many a holy man has spoken of this place, many systems of belief they preach. Do they work? Not for me.
For me the way there was not deliberate; in retrospect it was out of my control. This deep personal event started with stress. Sustained interpersonal stress over three days; a period of conflict, agitation, deep personal resistance against a supervisor. It had all negative influences for sure. This conflict arose, continued for days and then abruptly ended, at least in the physical world.
As I traveled home more stress. A very late flight followed by a 5 hour drive to Rio ending in a missed flight. Unable to arrange an evening flight I sent email to arrange for an early flight the next morning. I lay down at last at 11 pm -- physically and emotionally exhausted. My body had to stop, my mind was numb.
I had a room-mate, Raphael. He was watching the news and I did not care. As I closed my eyes I could not physically move. Every square inch of my body was pressed by its own weight into the bed. I was unable to move, feeling extreme weariness. I was conscious, aware of the material world but my mind was beyond directed thoughts. Without conscious effort I did a quick review of what I needed to do tomorrow; make that morning flight home, get up at 6:15 etc.
As I finished my plans my mind ceased thinking, no active thoughts; a stillness of body and mind. No meditation, exhaustion instead. No directed thoughts of god, or peace or light or sound. Instead the mind just quit processing information and lay still through no intent or effort; it was the result of extended stress and physical exhaustion.
As my mind quit working all was dark, dark with no lights or movement. As if imprinted on my mind I understood a series of events as not only connected but presented as fact. There was no mulling over the different points of view, no tearing apart the argument. No searching for truth -- the truth was imprinted upon and within -- no explanations needed. It was there and I knew it was true.
I could see clearly how and why these events happened. It was deeply personal, events from my life lined up and connected in flow over time. The first event happened about 1986 when I was second mate aboard a ship. The last event was the events of the last few days. Nestled in between them in an obviously connected way was my relationship with my wife.
There was no condemnation, no criticism, no analysis, no need to explain. Knowledge of these events appeared simultaneously and the consistent line was understood. These events from my life were shown to me in such a way that I understood the meaning. Was this a religious experience? It was not god touching my forehead and giving me enlightenment. There were no rituals, or smoke or show of any kinds. The purpose was shown and not explained, only understood.
In reflection, the closest way to try to express it would be, I died. I lost any sensation or awareness of the physical world and my mind was stilled. There was no endless stream of information flowing through my mind. I believe this state has been described many times in many religions. It was not the religious ecstasy of the Christians but rather close to the stated effects of deep meditation. It was the stilling of the mind and body.
But there was no active intent on my part. I did not look for a light, nor listen for a sound. I did not focus my attention -- all was black. No heavenly hosts, bright flashing lights of heaven. All was black and still. Truth came to me in this quiet still place.
And the truth? What truth did I see -- the answer to the question, “is life worth living?” It's true, there is no end. There is no beginning and there is no end. I saw these three events connected in a clear intelligent way -- understood and accepted without thought - - a path along a line, a clear deliberate path. The path leads to perfection and release from the material world. I say this and there was no material world. All was black, and silent.
These events showed me my own actions when faced with obstructions. When my own wants were circumvented I saw how I responded. It was clear that only my actions were being considered, not the unfairness of the situation in which I found myself, nor other people involved. I was the person, the soul, under review.
My responses were consistent and clear. My determination to say “No” -- to resist and never give an inch. This attitude was not condemned, simply on display to understand. When I'm forced into a corner, when I'm unable to advance along my conscious line I rear up into resistance and will not relent. I must have it my way.
In many time periods this may be called courage -- to resist against that which should be resisted becomes the question for me. Some things, people, are evil and should be resisted. How to tell righteous action from self-deluding action?
It was a violation of my innermost principles which caused me to resist. Although my unwillingness to change, my resistance, is the reason these events happened, there was no condemnation. Only the understanding of “why” these events happened. I was made to understand that because of these soul tendencies these events occurred during my lifetime in order for me to meet these particular circumstances.
It was the reason, perhaps only one of several, for life. It was what I had to meet and overcome on the path to perfection. It was an affirmation of reincarnation -- shown to me as proof of karma. I think now of this as a natural law. Just as we have physical laws that govern how the physical world works, we also have spiritual laws which govern how the spiritual world works.
I think of all my readings, throughout my life, on religion and beliefs. Indeed it was a search for god, that something we call god. We don't know what it is; it's something bigger in nature, something we can’t understand. I don't understand the mind of god now, I was only shown the methods by which our lives are governed. But by seeing that now I understand that there is a reason, a rhyme, a direction along which I’m traveling. You have everything to say about how far in that direction you go, your free will is indeed under your control; but you do not control the path and what you meet along the path.
Every action has a reaction. You can read the words and intellectually think that's fine. You're processing this information through the material world -- even when you arrive at a correct understanding, it's still in a physical world understanding. You can use this physical world understanding and advance towards perfection. You can make great progress and become better and better. This understanding may be enforced, desired, reflected through religion.
I have no religion, I only want the truth. I now understand from this example how things work. Of course I want more understanding, more progress, closer to perfection. And it is spiritual. Many words have been written, many ideas expressed from so many writers from different philosophy, religions and cultures. I think most all those ideas are being expressed as longing and belief -- not as fact. Fact is what I know
Friday July 13th, 2012
I awoke the next morning on time with a normal routine. I tried to get a seat on the morning flight to Sao Paulo but it didn't work. It's difficult to get things done sometimes and I'm well accustomed to doing business in Brasil. I did have a ticket on the evening flight at 8 PM so I resigned myself to waiting at the airport for the evening flight.
When the ticket counter opens I check in and ask if they have an aisle seat. There are only three seats left on the flight and one is an aisle ,42C and he mentions “in the rear of the plane.” I ask, “Is that right by the bathroom?” and he smiles and says, “Yes.” I decline that seat and just keep my assigned window seat.
I have made this flight many times and I prefer an aisle seat. This allows me a little extra leg room as well as making it easy to get up and stretch without interrupting anyone. In fact, 22C is my favorite seat -- in the center on the left aisle. But, a window seat is not bad.
Unfortunately, on the way down to Rio I had had an unfortunate experience concerning my seat. I had my favorite seat assigned, 22C, and was seated while the plane continued to board. A young Brazilian couple had the two other seats besides me. The sweet girl asked me if I would exchange seats with her daughter so she could sit together with her husband and daughter. I asked which seat and she pointed to the center seat one row ahead. I asked her if I could have the aisle seat instead and she said no, her seat was in the center. At first I declined but she was so disappointed she persuaded me to change seats. I knew it wouldn't be ideal but it was her daughter after all.
Immediately after changing seats I knew I had made a very poor decision. The two large, fat Brazilians on either side of me gave me no room. I was scrunched in tight on both sides. They talked loudly to each other for hours, ignoring me in between them. And, they also spoke to the woman who had asked me to change seats. They all knew each other and were together! Yet they took me, a stranger, and put me in this wildly uncomfortable seat in the center in the middle of their group, without any concern at all. I developed a slow burning anger as the flight progressed.
I couldn't believe what I had done to myself. By trying to be a nice guy I had put myself into a very uncomfortable spot, and I felt I had been taken advantage of. They didn't care about me at all, they had taken advantage of me and I was mad about it. Well, the flight did end but not without me vowing to myself, “Never again will I change seats for someone else.” This was a deep internal vow, a conviction -- never again will I do this thing!!!
So, I finally boarded my flight home and took my window seat, not my favorite but something I could live with. And yet again a nice young Brazilian woman comes up and asks me to change seats. She points at an aisle seat two rows ahead. So I change seats and am very happy about it. I was happy to change to a better seat. After all, my favorite seat is an aisle.
I'm happy and sitting in my new seat while the plane continues to board. And out of nowhere the same deep dark stillness comes over me. It’s that feeling of all mental cessation, deep relaxation, the quiet black place of no motion or thought. Imprinted, as if stamped without effort, the knowing and understanding that this simple episode is also an example of how karma works. This simple act of which seat I'm sitting in is yet a “test” of this defect in my character.
Because I had resolved, vowed with deep inner conviction, that never again would I change seats if someone asked me to. And here it was shown to me that when given an opportunity to “advance” in the material world, to achieve something which violated my mentally stated deep inner conviction, I was indeed willing to violate that vow for personal advantage. I had “improved” my seat assignment and was very happy to do it, even though I had vowed not to change seats based upon another person’s request.
It was only a momentary imprint, lasting half a second. Again, it was showing me how karma works in everyday life; that simple decisions, unimportant decisions, are constantly testing and giving opportunities to improve, to advance.
This was not intellectual reasoning, careful thought or persuasion. It was that deep dark death where something greater made something clear -- without talk or inner thoughts. This was not “me” reflecting or thinking. It was something bigger in nature, it was that greater something within. It entered and the effect was the same. What I now think of as death, it is all motion stopping, darkness, quiet, still; something takes control and makes its point. It's that something bigger in nature, god, a higher power.
We have no control -- there is control but it is out of our reach. We can range here and there and make decisions which impact our lives. The purpose of life is controlled by that higher power. Our free will effects how we respond to situations, but the situations are produced and provided with intent.
There is a purpose and it extends far beyond what we see and do, higher than our awareness. The goal is perfection.