What is the essence of the scriptures? That out of a vast and perfect unity, Consciousness appears to divide itself into time, space, and immeasurable subjects and objects. Then Consciousness in the form of the individual gets lost in its own creation and it begins to search for a way back to its original state. For lifetimes we wander around, searching in all the wrong places and trying to find a way out of the maze of duality until we gain enough spiritual maturity for a true Guru to enter into our lives. But long before the physical Guru appears, Consciousness works in subtle ways to increase our understanding of spiritual truths. One of its most playful secrets is how nature hints at the unity between all things.
If we take a moment to carefully observe nature, we start to notice clues that point us to the truth of Consciousness. For example, everything in nature is transient and works in cycles. The sky rotates from day to night, from clear to cloudy, and so forth. Each season, the leaves fall only to grow again, which hints at the laws of birth, death, and rebirth. The fact that things appear and exist for a while, only to disappear again, reflects the eternal cycle of creation, maintenance, destruction, concealment, and grace that the Tantric scriptures reveal.
Yet, behind these endless cycles of rising and falling, there is one key thing that remains stable and unchanging: our I-sense or felt presence of being. Even though our thoughts, opinions, flesh, and bones are completely different now from what they were when we were six years old, we still feel, at our core, that we have always been the same person. The Consciousness that witnesses our body and mind is stable and continuous, beyond the reach of time or change. That fact that our inner sense of being never changes is a hint that Consciousness is the screen upon which the dance of creation unfolds. It’s a screen that remains completely unaffected by creation, just as a mirror is not burnt by the fire it reflects.
Consciousness, we are taught, is self-luminous and self-created. The sun, which burns by its own light and yet illumes everything effortlessly, points to the self-luminous nature of the Absolute. When we look at the moon, with all its beauty and glory, we learn that it only shines by the light of the sun, teaching us that creation is made visible by the light of Consciousness. The waxing and waning of the moon also symbolize the mind. The phases of the moon, sixteen in total, hint at the mind’s movement from individuality to universal Consciousness.
There are more examples. From a tiny seed rises a gigantic tree. It teaches us that the whole of Consciousness is contained within every point. Even science admits that the entire universe burst forth from a single point. Division is only possible within the context of time and space. As soon as we move beyond them, there can be no talk of distance or separation. Since pure Consciousness is beyond time and space, and since our innermost I-sense is nothing but Consciousness, we arrive at the extraordinary conclusion that the entire universe is contained within us. Although for now it’s just an intellectual concept, we can experience the universe within us in deep meditation.
When the rays of the sun are scattered, they don’t burn. But if we focus those rays into a beam through a crystal, the unified light can burn through wood. Likewise, when our thoughts are scattered and diffused, they have no power, but if we gently concentrate our mind through proper yogic methods, we can burn through the veil of individuality.
The famous Vedanta analogy of mistaking a snake for a rope illustrates the power of spiritual ignorance and how the sudden perception of a rope restores us in an instant to full Awareness. Likewise, the fact that darkness is dispelled by the mere presence of light teaches us that it only takes a moment for spiritual knowledge to dawn. Even more telling is the illusion caused by the mirage of water shimmering on the pavement. Unlike the snake in a rope, which disappears when we see it for what it is, the optical illusion of a mirage persists even after we realize there is no water. In the same way, enlightened beings continue to see the division between subjects and objects just as we see it, although the truth of behind the appearance is fully understood.
In my own experience, the more we meditate, the more we’ll be able to notice all of nature’s playful hints. It’s as if nature teases us with glimpses of great spiritual truths. On one occasion, I was waiting to be picked up one winter morning by the ashram shuttle that took us from the dorms to the main temple. As I warmed my gloves over a fire burning in a barrel, I couldn’t help but notice a pile of snow just a few inches away from the flames. It was still pitch black, around 3:30 AM, which made the contrast between the fire and the snow all the more visible. In an instant, I experienced that the fire and snow, so opposite to each other, were nothing but the same Consciousness. I understood that they had risen from the same expanse of vibrating Consciousness. The fact that two opposing types of matter were able to rise up from the same formless reality seemed quite playful. And the fact that they were able to coexist just inches apart made it even easier to experience them as expressions of the same blissful Consciousness.
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