Spiritual teachers are like different facets of a diamond. All are dealing with the same reality, but they do so in different ways.
The Yogi tries by diet, breathing and physical postures to “yoke” the body and the mind together. The purpose of this is to quell the ego-mind and get a sense of felt connection to ones inner spiritual nature.
As the body and the mind become partners again, one’s consciousness grows. However, the expansion of consciousness is more “horizontal” rather than “vertical.” The purpose of the Yogic path is cosmic consciousness, not union with a “higher” reality. You may have noticed that I am using a lot of quotes here. That is because words can never capture fully the inexpressible nature of the ultimate. In the end, we may be all referring to the same reality (after all, we say there is only one God), but, again, it is the emphasis that is subtly different.
As a source of my assertion that the Yogic path is more “horizontal” than “vertical”, which may come as a surprise to some people, I refer to Sri Aurobindo (the Teilhard de Chardin of Hinduism) and Sri Ramana Maharishi, two great teachers who ought to know what they are talking about.
The Yogic liberation from the sense of being imprisoned in a “skin-encapsulated ego” (Alan Watts) is one of life’s greatest gifts. I can still remember when this consciousness first began to dawn upon me. I was only 19 years of age, taking a walk by myself at dusk. Then the consciousness suddenly came upon me: I am a part of all things, a part of nature, a part of the cosmic flow of things. What an exciting, liberating moment this was for me!
As great as this experience of cosmic consciousness is, however, it is still at the beginner stage of the spiritual path. Another quantum leap forward happens when we move to the level of being a “sage.” The sage no longer depends upon the breathing exercises and the physical postures and all of the psycho-spiritual technologies of the Yogi, although he or she may continue these practices. The sage is someone who has come to realize that all sense of the radical separateness of the ego from God is an illusion.
The sage is not interested in the conscious pursuit of God either. The sage has simply “dissolved” all sense of self importance and even a separate sense of self altogether. The great Zen teacher D.T. Suzuki used to sign his name “wu shih”, which means “nobody special.” That is the consciousness of someone who has literally died to all sense of a separate self.
The third type of spiritual teacher is the “saint.” Being a saint does not preclude also being a Yogi and a saint. Thus the saint may have the consciousness of the Yogi and the total loss of a sense of self that we see in the sage. What is different, however, is a “burning love for God.” Again, kindly remember that we are dealing with words here, but this is how the saint would express themselves.
Ken Wilber, arguably the greatest theorist in consciousness of our times, thinks that the sage is at a higher level than the saint. He says this because he thinks that the saint is still locked into a certain dualism. The separate self is in love with a separate God.
It seems to me that Dr. Wilber is setting up a “straw man” and then knocking it down. The saint, like all lovers, is aware of his or her own individuality, but when they surrender to their relationship, they are taken out of themselves. Technically, then, the lovers are separate; practically, they are one. Thus is the relationship between the saint and God.
Next posting: Our Higher Self
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