(The Teacher and the taught)
‘I must experience myself and thus shall I know’ – this is the new mantra of the age.
There is in it a subtle and profound truth, a deep mystery of existence. Yes, ultimately all true learning that would last and endure, must take place in the realm of actual experience. A mere mental understanding and acceptance is not enough. There is a consciousness deeper than the mind. It is the seat of our true understanding. All that we see and hear and intellectually conceive and feel and sense, eventually reaches this core substratum that is hid deep within us. There this information is filtered, its essence kept, while the husk is thrown back into the fields of nature to be used for the world play and collective purposes.
Ordinarily the essence of an experience is a small but powerful drop of light while much of the details are merely the packaging and the covering provided by Nature. It is here that the problem lies. We focus on the covering which is the tangible visible part of the whole experience. To put it in another way much of what we call experience is merely a surface play of senses and the surface mind. If we remain glued at it, we hardly benefit from the experience. Of course something in our depths does in any case grow through the process, but we in our surface personality remain ignorant and unconscious of it. To put it in another way, we miss the real value of an experience so long as we remain tied to the field of senses and the surface mind. Therefore the evolution becomes a slow and laborious process, wherein a single experience is repeated several times, from many angles and with varying intensities until it sinks deep within us and even our surface mind becomes conscious of its true essence.
But we can hasten the process. There is no need of such a long and laborious path that nature undertakes to teach us. She is in no hurry as she enjoys the long drama of pleasure and pain, life and death. It would not matter to us too if this long process did not entail much suffering and pain to be endured on the way. But the more we delay, the more suffering begins to knock at our doors. In fact it is a Grace sent to us to open an inner door, the door through which the true understanding can come, the door behind which our soul lies hidden awaiting its hour when we shall recognize it and know it as our true self. But it is not necessary to thus wait. We can make a conscious choice and open this hidden door and then we shall discover a new world awaiting our discovery. Then the old measures fall away, as we see and evaluate the same experience in a truer and deep light than our mind can presently summon.
In other words experience alone is not sufficient. The experiencing consciousness is equally important. Right now our consciousness is bound by a dense veil of ignorance. It is like a dark glass that we wear all the time over our experiencing mind. How then can we know the truth of things by experience, as long as the lens of ignorance remains. Therefore our first efforts should be logically directed towards removing this lens that distorts and limits our understanding and keeps us tied to the superficial play. To play the game of life well and to the fullest, we must know the rules of the game if any. Otherwise we may well be fooled again and again until we have learned the rules. Unfortunately we are not taught these rules of the game of life in school nor even at home.
But there are a few individuals who have been able to successfully remove their distorting lens. They have been kind and gracious enough to share their profound discoveries with us. Not only this, they are even willing to carry us all along the way if only we allow. It is a mistake to believe that they take away our freedom and give us some kind of instruction to follow blindly. Instead they simply show us the path towards true freedom. The instructions if any are not rigid dogmas to be obeyed thoughtlessly but broad principles with their own proper logic if we care to understand.
Our surrender to such Masters is much like our holding the hands of our teacher in school. He sets us on the path of learning, and after we have finished what we had to learn and grow he sets us free into the world. He does not leave us but now becomes an intrinsic part of ourselves. The teacher outside is then discovered as the teacher within. Whenever our steps falter and we forget the lesson or stray away from what we have been glimpsed he once again puts us back on the trail, sometimes by indicating us where we have erred and at other times simply putting us back on the right track, even forcefully if need be. For the true teacher is not just an embodiment of Light but much more of Compassion and Love. He not only illumines us but leans down to uplift and even carry us all the way if need be. This is his ceaseless labour of love, a work that goes far beyond any mere pointing of the way, and a love that is much deeper and truer than any human relation can encompass or embody. He gives and gives and all that he needs from our side is a response, an opening and a receptivity to receive what he is pouring. Of course it is best if we can from our side give all we can and have to him, so that emptied of our ignorant consciousness he can fill it with Light and Truth and Peace and Bliss. A teacher never demands anything from his disciples yet by giving something of oneself to the Teacher and the Master we make ourselves ready to receive what he is ever willing to pour. Besides can one ever repay what we owe to the Master! There is nothing in this world that is worthy of being offered to One who has everything at his command. Perhaps a deep gratitude in the heart, a pure and profound love, above all – a willingness to follow the guidance gladly and with full trust in the leading, a sincerity in our seeking is enough to start with. Indeed, there is no end to our self-giving and no end to the Love and Light that the Master continues to pour from His cup of infinite Wisdom and Love.
But when the Avatara and the Divine Mother take upon themselves the role of a Teacher, then there are no limits to the possibilities, no fixed term to our growth and progress, no hedges that constrain our experience. She lowers Herself to our puny heights and carries us in Her arms of Love and Light towards the boundless beatitudes that await our discovery. She opens the very doors of Infinity upon us and ushers us within into the deepest and profoundest mysteries of existence.
The smallest grain of sand, the most trivial of things then becomes an occasion for the disclosure of the Divine Beloved, a means of communion with the Master; the most insignificant act – a movement of prayer and worship to the One who dwells in all. Then is the need of experience justified and finds its fullest sense. The limits of religions and ideologies, systems and theories, cults and creeds that tie us forever down simply vanish before the growing Light. Then is our being rescued from separateness, the walls of ego that limit and distort us from truly ‘knowing’ anything crumbles and falls away or simply melts into the wideness of Her calm infinity.
She has lowered her heights to the stature of our souls
And dazzled our lids with her celestial gaze.
Thus each is satisfied with his high gain
And thinks himself beyond mortality blest,
A king of truth upon his separate throne.
To her possessor in the field of Time
A single splendour caught from her glory seems
The one true light, her beauty’s glowing whole.
But thought nor word can seize eternal Truth:
The whole world lives in a lonely ray of her sun.
In our thinking’s close and narrow lamp-lit house
The vanity of our shut mortal mind
Dreams that the chains of thought have made her ours;
But only we play with our own brilliant bonds;
Tying her down, it is ourselves we tie.
In our hypnosis by one luminous point
We see not what small figure of her we hold;
We feel not her inspiring boundlessness,
We share not her immortal liberty.
Thus is it even with the seer and sage;
For still the human limits the divine:
Out of our thoughts we must leap up to sight,
Breathe her divine illimitable air,
Her simple vast supremacy confess,
Dare to surrender to her absolute.
Then the Unmanifest reflects his form
In the still mind as in a living glass;
The timeless Ray descends into our hearts
And we are rapt into eternity.
For Truth is wider, greater than her forms.
A thousand icons they have made of her
And find her in the idols they adore;
But she remains herself and infinite.
Sri Aurobindo: Savitri: 275 – 276