Only The Knowing Remain
THE FACE OF THAT BRAHMAN, SITTING IN THE MIDST OF ABUNDANCE OF LIGHT, IS COVERED WITH A GOLDEN CURTAIN.
O LORD, REMOVE THAT CURTAIN SO THAT I, A SEEKER OF TRUTH, MAY ATTAIN TO THE SUPREME.
This sutra is rather difficult to understand, but it is of extraordinary significance for many reasons.
First of all, we generally believe that if truth is covered, it must be covered by darkness, but the sutra says it is covered by light; hence the prayer that God will remove the curtain of light.
This is the experience of one who has made a deep search for truth. Those who have only thought will always say truth is covered in darkness, but those who have known through deep experience will say it is covered in light; and if it looks dark, it is because of the brilliance of the light. We are blinded when the light is too intense; then the light looks like darkness because of the weakness of our eyes, they are unable to bear so much light.
Look at the sun with wide open eyes, and in a few seconds you will be in darkness. The sun is so bright that the eyes cannot endure it. So those who have known from a distance and not directly - who have only thought about it - will say that God's temple is hidden in darkness. But those who have known the experience of it will say it is hidden in light, and they will pray to God to remove that curtain. The illusion is created because our eyes are too weak to stand the abundance of light. Our being is not adequate to receive it.
As one proceeds towards truth, the light begins to increase, becoming brighter and brighter. Those who are moving further into meditation come to know, by and by, the growing illumination as their meditation becomes deeper and deeper. The Italian sannyasin Veet Sandeh told me today that there is so much light within her that she experiences rays flaring out from her, and her whole body is burning as if a sun is shining within her. The heat is not coming from without but from within, and the light is so bright that it is difficult for her to sleep at night. "When I doze," she says, "there is light and light all around."
As a person goes deeper and deeper in meditation this light becomes increasingly intense, concentrated and penetrating, and a moment comes when the intensity of light is so great that he experiences deep darkness. Only the Christian saints have named this moment correctly. They have called it, "The dark night of the soul." But this night of pitch darkness is due to the excess, the abundance of light. It is in this moment that a man begs God to remove that curtain of light, "So that I can see the face of truth hidden behind it."
It is only to be expected that there will be so much light surrounding truth that it is blinding to our eyes. It is fitting and good that truth is hidden within a circle of light. It is only our illusion that truth is hidden in darkness. How can there be darkness around truth? If darkness surrounds truth, then where will we find light in this world? How can darkness surround truth? There is no possibility, no way, for darkness to persist near light. Where there is truth there will surely be light; it only looks like darkness to us. If we ask the Sufi mystics, they will tell us that when we go deep into meditation there is not only one sun, there are thousands. So abundant is the light that it seems as though countless suns are shining simultaneously within. Naturally, we will be blinded.
Truth is hidden in light. And have you noticed? - it is easy for us to open our eyes in darkness, but it is very difficult to open them in the abundance of light. What is the difficulty in keeping our eyes open, or in opening them, on a no-moon night? But if the sun is shining into our eyes we find it very difficult to open them. The final conflict of those who approach truth is with light, not darkness.
This sutra speaks of that period of conflict. In that moment the seeker prays, "O God, remove that curtain so that I may see your true, original face." It looks quite natural if someone prays, "Take us far away from darkness; lead us out of darkness," but, "Remove this light"...? And another point of interest is the word golden used to describe the light - it is a very pleasing word. This light is like gold. It is such a light that we will have no wish to remove it. It is very difficult to ask for it to be removed, but truth cannot be seen till that light is removed. So let us understand this point.
It is very easy to give up what is bad, but real difficulty arises when the time comes to give up the good. Where is the difficulty in giving up iron chains? The difficulty arises when golden chains are to be given up, because it is hard to consider golden chains as chains. They look like ornaments. It is very easy to discard unsaintliness, but even saintliness becomes a bondage in the last stage. When it too must be renounced, great difficulty arises. In that final stage the good is also to be renounced, because even that much attachment becomes a bondage, and even that much bondage is a barrier in the search for truth. Only absolute non-attachment, absolute freedom, will do. So this seeker who has fought with darkness and conquered it, now prays to God to remove the golden curtain. It is not so difficult to fight against darkness, but there will be much difficulty when the moment comes to fight against light.
Light - and to fight against it? This is amazing. Light is so pleasant, so heavenly, so peace-giving, so invigorating, so full of life's nectar, that it becomes painful to talk of its removal. And therefore the sage prays to God to remove it: "I cannot do it myself. My mind will persuade me rather to merge with it." Remember, you will have to save yourself even from light when your meditation brings you to its ultimate brilliance. Your journey must go even beyond that. You have to overcome it, you have to transcend it. You have to be beyond darkness, and beyond light also. When consciousness goes beyond darkness and light, the duality ends and nonduality begins. Then that one is seen who is neither light nor darkness, neither night nor day, neither life nor death, who always is, and is beyond all dualities. You face a final conflict with light before that nonduality is attained.
Another way to understand it is this: it is always easy to give up unhappiness; that we can fight against. But if happiness comes our way, it is very difficult to fight against it - it is almost impossible.
How can we fight against it? But liberation is impossible if we are caught in and attached to happiness. As I told you this morning, happiness will create a heaven for you, and in that heaven you will find yourself in bondage again, enticed into pleasure and love; there is no liberation here.
This prayer, this desire of the sage to remove the curtain of light and see the face of Brahman which is covered by such blinding light, reveals the final helplessness of man's mind. Man's mind has no wish to be free from light or happiness or heaven. But one has to be free from them. The sage is standing on the threshold. On one side is his human nature which urges him to dance with pleasure in the light, to identify himself with light and be absorbed in it; while on the other side is his deep longing within for truth, which urges him to go beyond. It is in this difficult and decisive moment that he utters this sutra, this prayer, "O God, remove your curtain of excessive light." He prays, "Please remove this delightful, heavenly form so that I may see that utter, naked truth, which is you!"
Those who live in misery do not know that happiness has its miseries. Those who live among enemies do not know that friends have their own conflicts. Those who live in hell do not know that heaven has its own troubles. How can those who live in darkness imagine that light becomes a prison?
As long as there is duality there is nonliberation, there is bondage. Then what will remain when light is removed, when darkness is removed? What is the face of truth? What is seen? At present, as far as our imagination can go, as far as our thoughts can fly, as far as our minds can reach, the utmost we can imagine is that if truth has a face it will be of light - brilliant light. Why do we think so?
Understand one or two points. We have not yet seen light. You may well reply, "What do you mean, we have not seen light? We do see light. We see light when the sun rises in the morning. We see light at night when the moon shines and there is moonlight everywhere." No, I repeat, you have not seen light yet. You have seen only lighted things. When the sun rises you see lighted things - mountains, rivers, streams, trees, people. The electric bulbs are giving you light now. You will say, "We see light." But no, you do not see light. You see the electric bulb shining. You see the people standing in its light. You see objects, not light. It is not possible to have any experience of light in the world outside. Only illuminated objects are seen, and when they are not seen we say it is dark.
When is there darkness in this hall? When nothing can be seen in the hall we say there is darkness, and when objects are visible we say there is light.
We have not seen light directly. If there was not a single object in this hall you would be unable to see the light. Light hits an object; the shape of the object is seen and you think you are seeing light.
If the object is seen very clearly you say there is much light, if it is not very clear you say the light is insufficient, and if it is not seen at all you say there is darkness. If you cannot make out anything of shapes and objects you say it is pitch dark. But you have seen neither light nor darkness. It is our conjecture only that there is light whenever we can see objects. In fact, light itself is such a minute energy that it cannot be seen outside.
Light is visible within because there is no object inside which can be illuminated. There are no inner objects which can be illuminated and seen by us, so when we experience light within, it is pure light, it is immediate, it is without any medium. We see two things outside - the lighted object and the source of light; and the light which is between these two is never seen by us. The sun is seen or the electric bulb is seen, and the objects illuminated here are seen; but the light between the two is not visible.
When light is seen within there are no objects, nor is there any source - it is sourceless light. There is no sun from which light is shining out. There is no lamp emitting light. There is only sourceless light. When light is first seen in that objectless world, then Kabir, Mohammed, the Sufi mystics, the Baul mystics, the Jaina mystics, begin to dance, declaring what we call light to be only darkness.
Aurobindo has written, "Once I had seen within, it became clear that the thing which I had understood to be light was darkness. When I looked within I saw that the thing which I had considered to be life was in fact death." It is indeed very difficult to receive and bear the light which, sourceless, objectless and shapeless, is born within. The greatest difficulty is that our mind tends to think, "I have reached the end of my journey, I have reached my destination."
Sense organs are not great obstacles in the way of the seeker of truth; he overcomes them.
Thoughts are also not great hindrances; he goes beyond them. But our legs refuse to keep moving when the flowers of delight and the joy of achievement begin to unfold within. We feel disinclined to give them up and discard them. We find courage and daring lacking in us to go beyond them, and we think we have reached the destination. This is the moment when the sage has prayed, "O God, remove this bright light also. I wish to know that which is beyond light also. I have crossed darkness - now lead me beyond the light."
Remember this. Will and determination can help us to go beyond darkness, but only surrender helps us in going beyond the light. We have to enter into conflict to go beyond darkness; we have to struggle and fight hard. And man finds strength enough in fighting darkness, but he is absolutely weak when the occasion arises to fight against light. He is almost as if not. Determination and strong will do not work here; they are ineffectual. Only surrender is effective.
This sutra tells us about surrender. The sage has arrived at the place where light is born. He is defeated now. He did not pray for help till now. He did not ask God to do anything for him till now.
With confidence in himself he made his way to this point. Man can come this far, but those who depend on determination can never go beyond this. Only those who are prepared to surrender totally can cross this boundary.
This will be easily understood if we put it this way: meditation leads you up to the great experience of light. After this, meditation is not useful. So those who have never practiced meditation but are offering prayer are foolish - there is no need of prayer where they are. And they too are foolish who have practiced meditation and consider prayer unnecessary, because meditation will bring us to the door of light, but once there, only a deeply sincere prayer can help.
In the end you will have to pray, "I am in your hands, lead me! I have come to this point, now lead me beyond this." And remember, the man who has traveled to the limits of meditation earns the right to ask God to lead him beyond. Now, when God's grace begins to descend on him, he is prepared.
He has reached as far as man can go, and even God cannot expect more than this from him. This is the utmost limit of man's ability. If now God also demands more from man, it is tyranny, it is excess.
No question of more than this arises. Now, only prayer can help, and the prayer is, "I surrender to your hands: O God, remove this curtain." Prayer is the step that brings meditation to its completion, and total surrender is the final step on the path of will and determination. You have to exert yourself as far as you can, but the moment you feel, "I can go no further than this," resort to prayer. At that moment, cry aloud for God's grace; tell him, "I have come as far as was possible on my feeble legs, but it is beyond me to go further. Now you take care of me!" This is the moment when the sage prays that the curtain may be removed and the true face revealed.
What will truth be like? What will it be like when light is also removed? It is necessary to grasp this.
It is very difficult, very deep and subtle, but it is necessary to understand it a little so that it can be useful to us. I told you that in the outside world there are illuminated objects and the light source.
There is no experience of light itself in the world outside. It is experienced only within, where there are neither objects nor source. And then, finally, the light also disappears.
We think there will be darkness when light disappears, that is our experience; and we might regard the sage's prayer as foolish, because how can he see God's face in the darkness which will be there when the curtain of light is removed? Remember, he has already conquered darkness; now, when the light disappears, there will not be darkness. Darkness has already disappeared long before.
Facing him now is the curtain of light. What will remain when the light disappears?
When the sun sets it is evening; the night has not yet come. It is a period when the source of light has disappeared and darkness has not yet descended. That moment we are seeking to describe is the twilight which lies between day and night. That is why prayer and twilight are described by the same Hindi word - sandhya - they are synonymous. People began to call prayer sandhya, and to look upon sunset as the time for prayer. There are two sandhyas - one before sunrise and the other after sunset. They are midpoints; the day is over but the night has not yet come, or the night is over and the day is yet to come. That small gap between the two is known as sandhya, and we have made that period the time of worship and prayer. But the real fact is different.
This sandhya is merely a symbol of that moment of inner sandhya, when both darkness and light have disappeared. Sandhya comes when there is neither darkness nor light, there is only a peculiar kind of light known as alok. The dictionary meaning of the word is light. It is incorrect. Alok means that moment when there is neither darkness nor light. At dawn the sun has not yet risen but the night has already passed away. That moment of alok is in the dawn. I am referring to this as an illustration so that you may grasp the idea, because there is no other way to give you an idea of that happening within. There is neither darkness nor light. There is only alok.
As I told you, both objects and the source of light disappear when you turn inwards and only light remains. Once that light, and the darkness too, pass away and only alok remains, then both the knower and the thing to be known also disappear. The seer and the thing seen are both lost. Then it is not that the sage is standing there looking at truth, no; then the sage himself becomes the truth. Then the truth become the sage. Then there is neither the knower nor the known - both disappear. In alok, darkness and light and the knower and the known are no more. There is neither the experiencer nor the experience, there is only experiencing. Where there is an experience, the experience is and the thing experienced is. No, here there is neither the experiencer nor the thing experienced. Only experiencing remains. The experiencing sage is no more, God is no more.
Differences, distinctions disappear. The lover and the object of love are no more. It is the moment of supreme liberation.
It is not that in this moment we come to know something. On the contrary, we know that we are not; and we know also that there is nothing left to know. Only the knowing remains. So the term used by Mahavira is beautiful. He called it only knowing. The knower is not, the known is not - only knowing.
Both ends are gone.
It is like this: the sun, the original source, is gone and the objects receiving light are also gone.
Similarly the knower - the source - is lost, and the objects known are also lost; only the knowing remains.
In the journey towards this knowing, as I told you, the first step is determination - strong will - and the second is surrender. The first is of meditation, the second is of prayer.
For one who takes both steps, nothing remains to be known or achieved or experienced.
Enough for today.