The whole of life is an expression of a love so great that none can fathom it.
Once upon a time, I was visiting my friend. He was an older man, who I had met serendipitously, during the course of my life. He lived near a remote village in Maharashtra, India. He was a very simple man, albeit very educated and with a long life of spiritual search. That day I was talking with him about the unfoldment of the universe, evolution, the dance of energies and electrons, the big bang and about the new scientific consensus on the origin and substance of the universe.
I brought, words from my readings, “the swirling turbulent flows of subatomic particles, cosmic radiation from events long past, their radiant energy mixing with the glow of living creatures.” And I said, “within molecule protein bodies, there is the apparition of consciousness, witnessing, giving meaning. Molecules erupting in flavors and colors, airwaves carrying fragrance and articulating music, the laughter of children, the aroma of roses.” “What a concert,” I said to my friend, “What a marvelous performance of nature.”
He looked at me graciously, as he sat on the floor, with those bespectacled eyes that had seen so much. He showed a sweet smile of appreciation at my description, with the unassuming pose of someone who has heard many stories and words and has found in silence, the answer to all riddles.
“It is all holy,” he said back to me, “holy.” And he continued almost in rhyme explaining what he meant. “Not thoughts, no, they are just aligned syllables of mind. Not emotions either, that is energy that moves you in time. It is a deeper knowing undefined, a dawn, a moment of rhyme. All encounters, trajectories, and confrontations coalesce in debris, moments, and forms, like in an infinite kaleidoscope. Atomic forces and passionate kisses, furry moments, cascading oceans and planets, life in bubbles of puddles; all merges.
They are streams of love searching, desperately, through DNA, prayers and carpe diem, crying out moments of satisfaction, laughing in outbursts of pain, tumbling unknown, into anonymous fame. Time, mind, the angst of cycles, is revealed in a moment of dawn that is beyond mind, emotion, and measure. It is silent of word and thought, shy of I, evoking a oneness beyond fragment, that emerges out of cascades of DNA, blood, and quarks.
This is all a whimsical journey, of yours and mine, my brother. And we cannot describe in this moment of being what Being really is. We know not knowing, while we sense this beauty, this valley of nothing, where we see the unfoldment of this creative script. But sometimes, just for one instant, we imagine beyond imagination, a map to nowhere from nowhere, and we feel Being, yes, sporadically we are stupendously, instantaneously, pierced by Being. Then we experience, a silence of image, sound, and concept, a love that cannot be written or spoken or called by any name. A wholeness, the holy.”
He stretched his arm and placed it on my shoulder, as he concluded his intervention, in reply to my presentation of the nature of the cosmos, bringing to my attention that beyond that lies beyond the game of particles, molecules, thoughts, and stars.
“It is all a dream of Being,” he continued, “Maya it is called by the ancient philosophers and mystics in India.” “But what is it, what is Maya?” I insisted, incapable of grasping the nature of this dream as it related to my own restlessness, about what life is all about.
He looked at me and said, “That reminds me of an old story I heard once, about the same question posed by a disciple of a famous spiritual teacher in India and the way he replied.” Then, he proceeded to tell me the story.
“Once upon a time,” he began “a disciple was enjoying a quiet moment, after a long journey with his spiritual master and other fellow disciples. It was one of those arid sunny days in the Deccan Plateau, and they had been walking for miles on end. The rest of the party had gone ahead, to find suitable shelter for the evening, and he had remained alone with the master, sitting under the shade of a neem tree.
The master, lovingly looked at his close disciple and prompted him, ‘is there anything you want to ask?’ The disciple put forth a question that he always had in his mind, about what was the cosmic illusion, or Maya, or the dream of existence.
He had heard before, what the master had said about this, that Maya was like a dream that one must awake from, to know that there is only One existence and that this dream is a whim, a game in Being’s imagination to manifest Love, which is the essence of Existence. But what is it, what is really Maya? The disciple always thought about this, as he walked and listened and served his beloved teacher. So, given this moment of being alone with him, and being prompted to ask anything; he said – ‘Master what is Maya?’
The master looked at him pensively, anticipating the question, and said to him, ‘that is a particularly good question, but it will take some time to explain, and we have been walking all day, and is hot and dry, can you bring me a glass of water from the river that is close by? Then I will tell you.’
Off went the disciple, with a container, to fetch water at the nearby river. As he leaned on the banks of the mighty river, an unexpected flash flood rushed in with a roar and carried him downstream. He was dumped by the river shore, many miles away from where he went to fetch the water. He was found, unconscious, by a young woman, that was taking clothes to wash in the river. She brought him to her home, where she lived with her father, a small farmer in the area. During weeks she nursed him back to consciousness. He was suffering memory loss and could not remember who he was. As the young woman was attractive, gradually he fell in love with her and befriended her father, and finally, he married her. The farmer was happy, as now there were more hands to help on the farm.
They had four children, the farm prospered, and they bought adjacent lands. After twenty years, he became one of the wealthiest farmers in the region. At this time, to celebrate a religious festival, they decorated two barges, and all the family boarded along with farm helpers, to cross the wide river and have a picnic on the other bank. Upon crossing, the festive mood was tragically interrupted, by a sudden flash flood that overturned the barges.
He tried to save his wife, and his young son who she was holding in her arms, but the current was too strong, he was carried by the rumbling torrent of water and finally dumped, barely conscious, on the riverbank somewhere, many miles downstream. As he was opening his eyes, he saw sandaled feet that he recognized, he looked up, and there was his master smiling. The master said to him, ‘now where is my glass of water?’ And winking an eye he said to his disciple, ‘by the way, that is Maya.’”
As my friend finished his story, I drifted away to my own life, to all past circumstances and events that had transpired in it. Their substance was now like the substance of dreams one has at night, intangible, except for memories and the feelings evoked. And then I thought that the future of my life not yet unfolded, is also made up of the same stuff as dreams of the past and night dreams, our imagination.
My friend concluded the story. “Existence is One, the master told the disciple, who was recovering still, from his flash flood sojourn in Maya. It is an all-pervading singularity that encompasses itself. Wordless, thoughtless, beyond any scope or dimension, infinitesimal and infinite in its nothing and every thingness. It is simultaneously latent and manifest. It flows, through infinite points of view in a manifested, non-existing multitude -it is a beauty of One, expressing its creativity through love.”
I closed my eyes at the beauty of the significance of the story told by my friend. Framed by the simplicity of the ambiance of the place we were at the Deccan Plateau, it brought an instant of pure consciousness. A glimpse, beyond the games that we play, for the sake of the bliss of discovering that unified field, that wholeness of Being.
In love, nothing exists between heart and heart. Speech is born out of longing, a true description comes from real taste. The one who tastes, knows; the one who explains, lies. How can you describe Something In whose presence you are blotted out, in whose being you still exist?
(Rabia Al Basri)