2.07.2016

To Receive the Truth, Be Empty

In the “Apprenticed to a Himalayan Master,” the author, Sri M, shares an encounter he witnessed between his spiritual teacher and an old man. There lived a very holy man in the holy city of Rishikesh, at the foothills of the Himalayan mountains. Rumors had it that the holy man had left his position as the head Abbot of a very famous monastery to seek a higher “Truth”. As a genuine seeker, he spent his entire life studying sacred texts, and yet he had not found what he was searching for. Wary of all the fake gurus in the Himalayas, he did not want to seek anyone’s help. Instead, he spent his days by the river Ganges in meditation and nights sleeping in the courtyard of a temple nearby. He ate only when someone brought him food, and had no possessions except for one blanket that he used to meditate on, and as a cover from the cold at night. 

When Sri M came across him, he insisted that the Holy man should meet his teacher, Babaji -- who would certainly be able to help him. When they finally met, Babaji recognized the sincerity of the Holy man. He told him that it is great that he left his “crown” at the monastery but he is far away from the Truth that he seeks because he still carries the burden of knowledge. That burden acts as a barrier to understanding the reality. You have to be empty to receive the Truth.

He went on to share, “Now, Truth cannot be something in the past. It is the eternal present, and therefore, cannot be stored in the memory, which is a thing of the past, the dead past. Truth, on the other hand, is in the present the now, eternally flowing, pulsating with life, and therefore, cannot be touched by knowledge.” The Holy man mentioned that he always wondered about a phrase in the Upanishads (central book of philosophy for Hinduism) -- “He who worships knowledge enters into greater darkness.” The conventional explanation given to him was that it meant “non-essential” knowledge, which never fully made sense to him. He also confessed that he only felt great stillness once or twice in his life, “while doing nothing in particular, just watching the river or looking up at the clear sky.” 

This story made me wonder about the role that knowledge and intellect play on our spiritual path. In our modern world, we have unlimited amount of access to information and we can easily fill our minds with knowledge. How can we truly think about creating room for that “emptiness” that Babaji talks about while living in the most information overloaded era the world has yet seen? 

Perhaps even more dangerous than knowledge is partial knowledge, a fragmentary understanding of something. Confidently assuming that by understanding a small part, we now have an understanding of the whole. Knowledge can't be substituted for the lived wisdom that comes from our own experience. It can only inform us, and then we have to allow it to simmer in our own being, so it becomes actual wisdom that guides us. Confucious tells us that, “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance." That's a very humbling thought and I think he makes a very important point here. When we realize that we don't know what we don't know, it puts us in the student chair. And that is where we are continually open to learning and being a disciple of our experiences. 

What happened to our Holy man that started this conversation? After Babaji and Sri M. spoke with him, they left to visit another town. As they were traveling, they learned that four days after they talked, the seventy-year-old holy man happen to pass away.

The Holy man was sitting on his favorite rock, simply watching the river, and smiling in ecstasy when his soul left his body. He had finally found what he was searching for his entire life.

12 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing this gem of a story! Such timely and auspicious reminder to read, on the eve of the Year of Monkey :)

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    1. Thanks Zilong. And I thought you've already read the book. :-)

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  2. Looking forward to reading Sri M's book. Such resonant reflections in this post. Thank you!

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    1. Thanks Pavi! You're going to love reading some of the other experiences in the book. Looking forward to discussing it with you do. :-)

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    2. Meant *when you do. :-)

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  3. Thank you, Guri. A great teacher of mine once said "the Truth cannot be thought." This post illuminates what this means. : )

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    1. Oh I love that. "the Truth cannot be thought." Beautiful. :-)

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  4. Thanks Guri! Such a fabulous story. Gosh it really makes me think about "lived wisdom" :)

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  5. What a wonderful story. I am currently experiencing the barriers to experience, through knowledge! This is a beautiful reminder :)

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  6. Loved it Guri Ji....I have read the book a few times and met Sri M in person. Would love to hear your reflections on the book and may be a few more stories that may emerge as a result! :)

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  7. Anonymous4/20/2017

    Just to expand on that striking remark "Truth cannot be thought" it just struck that it cannot be taught too...It can only be an experience that can never be captured in words

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