Each of these Seven Contemplations on Awakening, written by Pir Elias Amidon, presents a different facet of the jewel that sparkles as the light of awakening in our hearts. While there are many words and thoughts here, they all seek to serve this "light" that cannot be thought about or named. Seven Contemplations has been published as a small book; to receive a free copy, please go to the Contact Us page to make your request. Remember to include your mailing address in the "Message" field.
Introduction to Seven Contemplations on Awakening
Imagine that you are facing a gate. On your side of the gate is the infinitely large and complex world of phenomena — the grasses in the prairies, the teeming cities, the clouds over the ocean, babies crying, wars being fought, suffering, love making, your thoughts, everyone's thoughts, the stars sprinkled in the heavens, every single appearance everywhere, every thing, every self. On the other side of the gate is nondual reality, selflessness, enlightenment, the absolute, God. The gate is the gate of awakening.
You try to walk up to the gate, to push it open, to step through it, but like in a dream your effort to do so brings you no closer. You try harder. Movement seems to be happening but the gate remains out of reach. You become more desperate, straining to reach out to the gate but it stays just out of your grasp.
The Path of Openness
What is the Open Path?
One of the most joyful moments in the life of the spiritual seeker is when we recognize that the long sought-for goal is already here. We are the pure presence the sages and poets speak about. Not our personality, but the heart of our own natural awareness is this most intimate and infinite presence. We understand in these moments of realization that we are one with all of reality and have always been so, and that this identity is completely safe, free, and inexpressibly kind. There is nothing more that needs to be done for us to be complete. Nothing needs to change. We do not have to improve ourselves or get anything right. We recognize there is no question of being worthy or not worthy of this illumination, of achieving or not achieving it. It is our natural state.
The Art of Awakening
Looking for it, the vision cannot be seen: cease your search. It cannot be discovered through meditation, so abandon your trance states and mental images. It cannot be accomplished by anything you do, so give up the attempt to treat the world as magical illusion. It cannot be found by seeking, so abandon all hope of results.
— Shabkar Lama, 19th Century Tibetan mystic
There are contradictions at nearly every step on the spiritual path. In fact the very image of a spiritual path is a contradiction. It implies there is a distance to be traveled, that we are walking on a path that goes from somewhere far from the divine to somewhere closer, from darkness to light or from a state of less awareness to awakening.
The Simple Fact of Being Aware Right Now
There is no goal other than the realization of natural freedom, effortless, faultless, and without defects, the unique fact of awareness, self-radiant and free from discursiveness.
Imagine the sky on a clear spring morning—utterly transparent, empty, and vividly fresh. It is alive, though there is nothing there.
This experience of the sky's emptiness and at the same time its living presence is often pointed out as analogous to the experience of spiritual awakening. The sky is perceived simultaneously as both a presence and an absence. The same paradox becomes apparent in the instant of spiritual realization. There is an unexplainable sense of absence and presence, of emptiness and fullness.
Near the end of his life, Sufi Inayat Khan gave a talk on the relationship between spirit and matter. The talk concluded with these words:
What is consciousness? Consciousness is the knowing faculty, but it is the knowing faculty when it has some knowledge—it is only then that we call it consciousness. One is conscious of something, consciousness must always be conscious of something. When consciousness is not conscious of anything it is pure intelligence. It is in this realization that the greatest secret of life can be revealed.
One might say that the experience of pure intelligence is possible only for the only Being, for God, but no one can stand outside of the only Being. The only Being includes all. And undoubtedly there is a certain process by which one can attain to this pure intelligence. Man is not conscious of it anymore — he has lost the habit of experiencing what pure intelligence is. But all the meditations and concentrations, the whole process by which the mystic treads the spiritual path brings us finally to the realization of that pure intelligence. If one asks what benefit one derives from it, the answer is that since all that benefits us comes from one source, that source must be perfect. It must be all-beneficial. It is beyond our limited imagination, but it is the greatest thing one can attain in one's life.
Some years ago I went to Fez, Morocco, to deepen my practice under the tutelage of a sufi shaykh of the Qadiri order. Although I am not formally a Muslim, I was welcomed by him and in the dhikr circles I attended. One day, however, when I was visiting the house of one of his students, the student turned on me angrily for not being a real Muslim, and insisted that the only true sufi path could be found by following the Shari'a — the laws of Islam. Some months later the shakyh told me he had heard of this conflict and had been furious at his student for his narrow-mindedness.
But the shaykh's view is less common than his student's. One often reads in current books on sufism repeated and harsh attacks on what the authors perceive as "pseudo-spirituality" masquerading as sufism in the Western world. They are especially sensitive about any suggestion that sufism could function as an authentic path of awakening outside the Shari'a and doctrine of Islam, or that it could look for any of its origins prior to the revelations of the Prophet Mohammed.
The Mysticism of Music
What is music? What happens when music touches us? If we could somehow float above planet Earth and hear the abundance and diversity of music rising up from around the globe — monks chanting in cloisters, rappers hip-hopping in Detroit, mothers humming lullabies in China, string quartets performing in Vienna, distant lovers singing of their longing — what would we be witnessing? What is it that enchants us in the mingling of sounds? What is happening that moves us so?
I am not sure these questions have reliable answers. Of course, we might say music comforts us, or calms us, or excites us, or inspires us, but we still wouldn't be any nearer to answering what music is, or what is behind the mystery of its capacity to touch us in so many ways.
Sufis speak of a gentle way of continual blessing available to us—a way of beauty. Following the way of beauty does not require adherence to a special belief or dogma; it is a path that simply reveals itself through our direct, intimate experience. The Greek philosopher Plotinus described it as a way that makes us "godlike." "Never can the soul have vision of the First Beauty," Plotinus wrote, "unless itself be beautiful. Therefore, first let each become godlike and each beautiful who cares to see God and Beauty."
In these pages I would like to contemplate with you this way of beauty, and in particular the possibility that what we call beauty is not simply an aesthetic arrangement of sensations that temporarily pleases "the eye of the beholder," but that it is a vital current in the very life of things, ourselves included.