Eat your Vegetables first, Enlightenment for Desert!

Ahimsananda's picture

Average: 4.7 (3 votes)
veggies first1.jpg

As a boy, my older brother would often be made to go without dessert because he refused to eat certain foods, often vegetables. I, on the other hand, never had this problem. I always (well nearly!) ate what was put before me. The difference was not that I liked everything, but that I had learned a little truth: that sweet things have more sweetness after the "lesser" things were out of the way. I have found that this applies to life, and "spirituality" as "life".

One of the reasons many children dislike, even despise certain vegetables and other "adult" foods, is that their taste buds are still developing and are not very subtle. This means tastes are stronger, and strong tastes are even stronger. How does this apply to spirituality?

Many Neo-Advaita Teachers, particularly in the West, teach a version of Advaita, or non-duality, that is "strong", or absolute. This is a teaching that says there is no "practice" necessary, for who is to practice? It is a teaching that tells you that you are already awakened, even though the "seeker" feels that anyone can see that "he" or "she" clearly is not, or they would understand this confusing teaching!

Some are ready for this stark teaching. Those that are ready to hear that no practice is necessary, are the ones with years of practice, for only they will understand what is meant. The only "persons" who will have any understanding of "already awakened", are those who understand "awakening" as an experience. To expect "spiritual beginners" to understand these concepts without a foundation in the "practice" of some "method" of centering, or, in Christian terms, recollection, is like asking a child to eat foods he has not developed a taste for and in fact finds repugnant. Before any understanding can begin, remembering who "you" are; this beginning "mental understanding" of the "I AM", is necessary. Even with one such as Nisargadatta Maharaj, three years were needed for him to realize the words of his Guru. And this was after a lifetime of spiritual curiosity and devotion. When one looks at the Teachings of Nisargadatta Maharaj, one must also look at the life of Nisargadatta Maharaj, which is as much of the teaching as anything he said.

In Maharaj's later years he stuck very much to the basics, as his times of availability due to illness, were shorter and he wanted to cover the absolute ground. But in his earlier life, and in his early teaching, he often engaged in worship, and advised others to do so as well. He once deflated a woman that thought she had it all down. She was telling everyone how there was no practice or worship to perform, and that we were already free. When asked by Maharaj, in his little mezzanine room, what she understood, she replied that she knew she was the Absolute, and that all was one. Maharaj told her to go and engage in devotion and chanting. She couldn't believe it. But Maharaj knew what she needed. A seed will not grow well in unprepared ground. The I AM, the Absolute nature of things, are concepts that can grow in only a prepared mind. In an unprepared mind glimpses of the truth can be confusing, perhaps even detrimental or dangerous. Nisargadatta warned that his teaching would burn away all you conceive yourself to be. This can be psychologically and spiritually very dangerous ground without the proper "settlement" in who you really are. A true teacher will not lead you into confusion, but into clarity. A true teacher knows "where" you are spiritually. He knows whether you need devotion, or emptying, or whether it is time to "get on with it " and take that final "step" into "nothingness/everythingness".

But we must not, just like with the child and his hated Brussels Sprouts, force an absolute on a "person" who is yet to develop a "taste" for it. As much as many want instant gratification, a "taste" for spiritual things must be developed so that the flavors of life can be enjoyed, evaluated and discarded. One must try many "practices". Some you might like, others not. Some will work, others not. You may even find that some of the practices you personally don't like do you the most good. After all, we are "seeking", not engaging our wants and desires. As one grows in spirit, and "opening" one learns to widen one's taste and reject the superfluous. A mature taste that can savor sacrifice, relish non-attachment, and enjoy the subtle flavor of stillness, will be able to enjoy the entire meal, as well as the desert, whatever it may be.