#4857 - Friday, March
1, 2013 - Editor: Jerry Katz
Here's another really good article from Fred
Davis's Awakening Clarity blog:
Rating the Experts
by David Lang
My friend and teacher, Douglas Harding,
used to say that before we see who we really are, we read the scriptures to see
if we have got it right (it being our own spiritual experience), but after we
see who we really are, we read the scriptures to see if they have got it right!
Making the point that true spirituality is concerned with the question of our
fundamental identity, he was emphasizing that ultimately only I am the authority
on what its like to be me, and only you are the authority on what its like to
be you. Scriptures can be useful guides-on-the-side, but their validity
should be measured against our experience, not the other way round.
In this post, I invite you to exercise your own authority
by seeing for yourself if some of the masters got it right. My proposal is that
we test a few of their assertions by using some of what Harding called
experiments. Harding claimed that basic truths about our essential nature are
as observable and verifiable as physical truths. If the sages claim that we are
one with all things yet at the same time empty of all things, for example, or
that we are infinite, or perfectly still, then we shouldnt have to take those
ideas on trust but should be able to verify them for ourselves, just as we
shouldnt have to take on trust the idea that a heavy object drops at the same
speed as a light one. In both cases, spiritual no less than physical, we should
be able to test the propositions for ourselves.
One objection to Hardings premise is that testing how
fast two objects of different weights fall is easy to doyou can try it with a
penny and a quarterbut determining if we are one with all things is incredibly
difficult. The Buddha, for example, uniquely gifted and motivated as he was,
nevertheless spent years, indeed, lifetimes preparing himself for the supreme
moment of self-realization. We are not the Buddhaso goes the objectionand it
would be both incredibly presumptuous and a huge mistake to believe that we are
at this very moment and in this very place poised for
There are two answers to this objection. First, how do we
know we are not ready for self-realization? If it does take many lifetimes to
reach readiness, isnt it possible that we have in fact already spent those
lifetimes (but have simply forgotten them) doing all the things necessary to
prime us for the supreme moment? Our penny might be just about to drop. Its
worth taking a few minutes to look at who we really are, just in case, isnt it?
What can we lose?
The second answer is even more radical. It is simply the
claim that self-realization is easy, no matter who we are or how prepared we
might or might not be. This brings us conveniently to the first of the
assertions by spiritual masters which I am proposing we test. Ramana Maharshi,
the preeminent twentieth-century Hindu authority on self-inquiry, said: It is
easier to see who you are than to see a gooseberry in the palm of your hand.
What could be easier than seeing a gooseberryor the equivalent ordinary piece
of fruit, depending on where you livein the palm of your hand? Just about
Was Ramana right? Lets see by doing one of Hardings
Point at your feet and notice your feet there.
your knees and notice your knees there.
Point at your chest and notice your
Point at your head and notice the absenceyes, the absenceof
your head here.
Nothing could be easier than that, right?
Of course, Im not asking you to imagine that if you
pointed at your head you would see its/your absence. Im asking you to take the
time and make the effort (little as it is) to actually look. You know the
analogy about the difference between reading the menu and eating the meal or
between looking at a brochure on Hawaiian vacations and spending two weeks lying
on white sand beaches sipping margaritas (I mean, juice
)? Its true of the
experiments, too. Just reading about pointing at your absencetaking it on trust
or imaginationis nowhere near the same as actually seeing the absence of your
head. Its the looking that matters, not the idea or the image. So if you didnt
actually point and look before, perhaps you could do so now. There isnt really
much value in reading this essay without testing for yourself the propositions
put forward in it.
~ ~ ~