image credit: Paco CT
In the Gospel of Thomas, the disciples asked Jesus, “Tell us about our end. What will it be?” Jesus replied, “Have you found the Beginning so that you now seek the end?” The disciples’ question about the end is not unlike ours when we seek for answers outside of ourselves. We yearn to know about realities other than this one, which we hope will give us some respite; some nirvana, “the zone,” or “the light.” I think that Jesus was pointing his disciples to know themselves in the present and not to hope for some future refuge.
I have come to a place in my spiritual journey where I think, that which I have been striving for, these many years, is a lot simpler than I thought. I say simple, not easy. There are so many different paths, different teachers, and gurus who teach the ancient truth, each with their own twists of understanding and particulars of practice, according to their inclinations. After years of deciphering many different teachings I have come to realize that there is only one basic message. This message is put very succinctly by Jesus when he said, “Blessed is anyone who will stand up in the Beginning and thereby know the end and never die.” How does one, “stand up in the Beginning?”
In my understanding, The Beginning refers to our original nature, before ego has set itself up in our consciousness as our truth. It is what Shunryu Suzuki called the Beginner’s Mind. He said in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: …The purpose of studying Buddhism is to study ourselves and to forget ourselves. When we forget ourselves, we actually are the true activity of the big existence, or reality itself. When we realize this fact, there is no problem whatsoever in this world, and we can enjoy our life without feeling any difficulties. The purpose of our practice is to be aware of this fact.
So becoming aware of “The Beginning”or “Beginner’s Mind” or our “Original Nature” is to become aware of Truth. We have so many options available to us today to become aware of this “Beginning.” And just like how we feel overwhelmed when we go shopping for cereal at the supermarket, with so many brands to choose from, we feel the same about the glut of spiritual information out there, present company included. 😀 My purpose for writing this post is to share with you how simple I think it could be, hopefully not to confuse you with yet another choice.
I have come to the conclusion that all practices are to help us to let go of ego or our false identification of the truth of who we are. So we practice meditation, chanting, hatha yoga, tai chi, prayer, and communing with nature as ways of calming the mind, to give us clarity, to witness our thoughts and to not identify with them. None of these practices are paths to the Truth. Truth already is in our consciousness, we just need to identify with it instead of identifying with everything else we have come to know as ourselves. These practices are merely aids to letting go of our ego identification, as they create a spaciousness where the mind stops and gives us a glimpse of the true reality that we are.
As I said, the spiritual journey is simple, not easy. If we can find some method that resonates with us that will help us to quiet the mind that is easily accessible, we can follow this practice as an opening to Truth. It is not easy because the ego is very difficult to let go of. We have to be constantly vigilant of the thoughts that bind us into thinking less of ourselves and others. We also have to be vigilant of those thoughts that make us feel superior to others or thoughts of perfectionism that keep sabotaging our equanimity.
I think that the crux of the spiritual journey is the ability to rest in equanimity, to keep coming back to this center, to this Truth which we are. It is the Beginning, it is how we arrived in the world, without a care or worry, pure beingness. The eastern mystics describe this pure beingness as awareness itself, it is blissful and it is of the nature of light and expansion. Ego is heavy, dark, and contracting, it is when we feel worried, fearful, depressed, angry etc. When we are able to recognize that we are identifying with ego and come back to center, we are identifying with the Truth. We can do this by simply naming it: worry, depression, anxiety etc. We say to ourselves: This is not the truth of who I am.
The Truth then, is as close as the next breath! When we come back to the breath, we stop identifying with ego until the next thought grabs us, and then we do it again and again. Then one day we will realize that we can witness all the forms that ego takes and not get tripped up in it. The goal here is not to get rid of our ego, that is setting ourselves up for failure. As long as we are in this human body, there is ego or the feeling of separation from God. This process can take as long as we want, it is simple but not easy.
When we can rest in this equanimity, we will feel blessed, and we will have connected to the Truth of who we really are, which is eternal, it never dies, it is just our body that dies. The Truth that we are is the same in the beginning as it will be in the end. And as Jesus said, “The place of the Beginning will be the place of the end. Blessed is anyone who will stand up in the Beginning and thereby know the end and never die.”