A Spiritual Awakening

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How did you discover your real nature?

You are asking about the specifics in my case. Before I give you the details, I have to forewarn you that this is not a one-size-fits-all path to the truth. The way to the discovery of our true nature varies from one seeker to another. It may be a sudden and dramatic experience or a subtle, seemingly gradual path. The touchstone, in all cases, is the peace and understanding that prevails at the end of the road.

Although a first glimpse of reality is an event of cosmic proportions, it may remain unnoticed at first and work its way in the background of the mind until the egoistic structure collapses, just as a building severely damaged by an earthquake remains stand- ing for some time and collapses a few months later, gradually or suddenly. This effect is due to the fact that the glimpse does not belong to the mind. The mind, which until now was the slave of the ego, becomes the servant and lover of the eternal splendor that illuminates thoughts and perceptions. As a slave of the ego, the mind was the warden of the jail of time, space and causation; as a servant of the highest intelligence and a lover of the supreme beauty, it becomes the instrument of our liberation.

The glimpse that ignited my interest for the truth occurred while I was reading a book by J. Krishnamurti. It was the point of departure of an intense quest that became the central and exclusive focus in my life. I read Krishnamurti’s books again and again, along with the main texts of Advaita Vedanta and Zen Buddhism. I made important changes in my life in order to live in accordance with my spiritual understanding. I renounced what many people would call an excellent career, because it implied my involvement as a scientist with the design and development of sophisticated weapons for the French military.

Two years after the first glimpse, I had achieved a good intellectual understanding of the nondual perspective, although a few questions still remained unanswered. I knew from experience that any attempt to fulfill my desires was doomed to failure. It had become clear to me that I was consciousness, rather than my body or my mind. This knowledge was not a purely intellectual one, a mere concept, but seemed to somehow originate from experience, a particular kind of experience devoid of any objectivity. I had experienced, on several occasions, states in which perceptions were surrounded and permeated by bliss, light and silence. Physical objects seemed more remote from me, more unreal, as if reality had moved away from them and shifted toward that light and that silence which was at the center of the stage. Along with it came the feeling that everything was all right, just as it should be, and, as a matter of fact, just as it had always been. However, I still believed that awareness was subject to the same limitations as the mind, that it was of a personal, rather than universal, nature.

Sometimes, I had a foretaste of its limitlessness, usually while reading Ch’an or Advaita texts or while thinking deeply about the nondual perspective. Due to my upbringing by materialistic and antireligious parents and to my training in Mathematics and Physics, I was both reluctant to adopt any religious belief and suspicious of any nonlogically or nonscientifically validated hypothesis. An unlimited, universal awareness seemed to me to be such a belief or hypothesis, but I was open to explore this possibility. The perfume of this limitlessness had, in fact, been the determining factor that sustained my search for the truth. Two years after the first glimpse, this possibility had taken a center stage position.

That is when the radical change, the “Copernican shift,” happened. This event, or, more precisely, this nonevent, stands alone, uncaused. The certainty that flows from it has an absolute strength, a strength independent from any event, object or person. It can only be compared to our immediate certainty to be conscious.

I was sitting in silence, meditating in my living room with two friends. It was too early to fix dinner, our next activity. Having nothing to do, expecting nothing, I was available. My mind was free of dynamism, my body relaxed and sensitive, although I could feel some discomfort in my back and in my neck.

After some time, one of my friends unexpectedly began to chant a traditional incantation in Sanskrit, the Gayatri Mantra. The sacred syllables entered mysteriously in resonance with my silent presence which seemed to become intensely alive. I felt a deep longing in me, but at the same time a resistance was preventing me from living the current situation to the fullest, from responding with all my being to this invitation from the now, and from merging with it. As the attraction toward the beauty heralded by the chant increased, so did the resistance, revealing itself as a growing fear that transformed into an intense terror.

At this point, I felt that my death was imminent, and that this horrendous event would surely be triggered by any further letting go on my behalf, by any further welcoming of that beauty. I had reached a crucial point in my life. As a result of my spiritual search, the world and its objects had lost their attraction. I didn’t really expect anything substantial from them. I was exclusively in love with the Absolute, and this love gave me the boldness to jump into the great void of death, to die for the sake of that beauty, now so close, that beauty which was calling me beyond the Sanskrit words.

As a result of this abandon, the intense terror which had been holding me instantaneously released its grip and changed into a flow of bodily sensations and thoughts which rapidly converged toward a single thought, the I-thought, just as the roots and the branches of a tree converge toward its single trunk. In an almost simultaneous apperception, the personal entity with which I was identifying revealed itself in its totality. I saw its superstructure, the thoughts originating from the I-concept and its infrastructure, the traces of my fears and desires at the physical level. Now the entire tree was contemplated by an impersonal eye, and both the superstructure of thoughts and the infrastructure of bodily sensations rapidly vanished, leaving the I-thought alone in the field of consciousness. For a few moments, the pure I-thought seemed to vacillate, just as the flame of an oil lamp running out of fuel, then vanished.

At that precise moment, the immortal background of Presence revealed itself in all its splendor.

Excerpt from Eternity Now, by Francis Lucille