A Passage to India
I can’t say for sure when I stopped being a normal person, but it probably was around the time I made plotting my own murder a priority. I don’t mean killing myself, or some fancy form of suicide. I’m talking premeditated, cold-blooded murder. “How can this be?” you might ask. Well, I think it’s been coming for a long time but the actual plan crystallized during my recent trip to India.
As a fifty-something baby-boomer with a twenty five year history of threatening to meditate and do yoga postures daily, I went to India for the very reasons you might expect. That’s right. To meet someone, or possibly go somewhere and have an almost heart-stopping spiritual experience that was totally undeserved and involved no effort or responsibility on my part. And, I can assure you, if it came to pass that several of the really cool yogic powers were to result from this experience I would modestly and with discrimination carry that burden forward for the balance of my incarnation.
Surprising, this did not occur.
The high point of my trip itinerary was to visit a place called Samadhi-ville, which is located at about 6,500 feet in the foothills of the Himalayas in the Garwahl District of Uttar Pradesh. Samadhi-ville is not the real name, of course, but it creates a certain sense of mystery, and besides I don’t want anyone else to be able to go there. Try not to judge me too harshly for this, but all I can say is that if you ever did get to go there, you would want to keep it for yourself too.
Samadhi-ville is an idyllic glen in the midst of towering pines on a point of land that juts out over valleys revealing the snow-capped Himalayas on three sides. The general sense I had of the place was its serenity and its intense stillness. There are two shrines there-one in honor of the God Shiva and the other for the Divine Mother. Great sages and adepts have come there as a safe harbor to perform their spiritual practices for over 900 years.
I can prove how spiritually charged it is. In all of the great stories I have heard about the place (and there have been a lot!) no one ever mentioned the drive up there. The place must be incredible because the horrendous drive to Samadhi-ville truly deserves a legend of its own and no one even talks about it!
Speaking now of driving, here is something I’ll bet you didn’t know. In rural India if the vehicle you are in - say a car or a cab - hits someone and kills them, you shouldn’t stop, because if the relatives of the victim see the accident they will storm the car, haul you out and kill you! This knowledge lent a certain life and death drama to commuting that I had never experienced before.
But I digress.
So, I was sitting around the fire at Samadhi-ville one twilight and I struck up a conversation with the man who is not only the caretaker of one of the holiest places on earth, but a highly evolved yogi in his own right. I casually asked him what the experience of samadhi was like. ( I was thinking . . . Well, you know.) He reflected a moment and then said that slowly, slowly, over time, his deep meditation turned into samadhi. Then he said, “I made it my habit.” And he laughed heartily.
Once again in my life I thought about what that enticing experience must be like. I know from the ancient yoga scriptures, The Yoga Sutras, that there are many stages of self-awareness, usually called samadhi. Something on the order of eight levels of samadhi. Could one of them be the same as the spiritual enlightenment I have been reading about in the lives of sages and saints? It all seemed very confusing. Basically I’ve thought of samadhi as a kind of protracted sexual orgasm with the entire manifest universe.
The key point for me was not so much that the experience of samadhi is attainable, but that it ends. If samadhi is an “experience,” I thought, there must be someone present to have the experience.
Ergo, an “enjoyer.”
I can’t help but interject here something else you may not have known. At some point along the line, yogis who begin flitting up the various stages of samadhi pick a scent for themselves. It’s like a form of personal signature, if you will. The great ones often leave, for example, a scent of jasmine or sandalwood or rose behind them when they pay a visit to others. I don’t mind revealing here that mine will be chocolate.
Anyway, as I was looking at our evening fire in the Himalayas, I remembered that enlightenment is supposed to be, from the macro viewpoint at least, the natural and normal state of consciousness. Yet it is the very notion of individuality of the enjoyer that prevents that awareness of reality - the fact that one is identical with consciousness and that consciousness is all that there is. So if I can murder the concept of myself as the doer, then the awareness occurs that I am indeed “That.” Only I can’t have the experience of knowing it because that experience of knowing precludes the awareness! All “I” need to do is die.
Since you can’t become something you already are, it’s impossible to “get” enlightened. I think you will agree if you are enlightened already.
So, since I’ve returned from India I have set about methodically and systematically to kill my-self. It was a hell of a trip.
Some day, if you enter a room or pass a certain corner or walk around a special tree and smell chocolate, you will know it’s me. I’ll be thinking of you.
Maynard Speece, Manuraj, has been a student on the Path of the Himalayan Sages for forty years.