Recognition Sutra #10
One thousand years ago, the great spiritual master Kshemarāja posed a question: what is the evidence by which we can conclude that each human being is in truth a manifestation of God? He answered this question with the tenth sūtra (aphorism or condensed teaching) of his masterwork, The Recognition Sūtras. Given that in this tradition (and many others), the five primary Acts of God are creation, sustenance, dissolution, concealment (of the Truth), and revelation (of the Truth), we can conclude that each human being is a manifestation of God because, even in the state of bondage and delusion, each one of us performs precisely the same Five Acts. As the sūtra succinctly puts it:
॥ तथापि तद्वत्पञ्चकृत्यानि करोति ॥ १०
Even then, s/he performs the Five Acts in the same way.
The sūtra only reveals its full meaning and power when read in conjunction with Kshemarāja's explanation, part of which is translated in bold below, together with my explanation of his explanation, which as usual is very terse.
If those with devotion [to this path] constantly contemplate with firm determination the fact of their own authorship of the Five Acts, such contemplation will actually reveal their Divinity.
Now, let's be clear that this teaching, that in your real nature you are the author of the Five Acts, and therefore identical with God, is useless (or even dangerous) as a mere concept. It must be directly and nonconceptually realized through contemplation and practice. Kshemarāja uses the word “constantly” here to encourage you to contemplate many times each day that whatever you are experiencing is flowing forth from what you are, for your own sake, and is dissolved by you as well. Contemplating this does not mean thinking about it (which rapidly grows stale) but opening towards the felt sense of it. After all, it is not the conditioned thinking mind which performs these Five Acts, but your essence-nature of unlimited Awareness.
That is why you cannot change reality at a whim: such whims arise from the limited ego-mind, which is not the agent of the Five Acts. In fact, the ego-mind is not even the locus of subjectivity as it appears to be, but just one of the many objects of experience created, sustained, and dissolved by the Divine Consciousness that you are. (If the mind was subject and not object, you could neither scrutinize it nor dissolve it.) In other words, your true self is not unique to you; it is no more yours than anyone else’s. Yet it is the most intimate core of your being. It is this universal Self (if Self is even the right word) that performs the Five Acts.
Kshemarāja tells us that we need firm determination for this contemplative practice to be effective. Intellectual curiosity is not enough; you must get in touch with the heart’s longing to know the Truth of Being in order to generate enough energy to make the practice successful. For the practice to bear its full fruit, it must temporarily become a kind of beneficial obsession. For example, with each new experience that arises, internal or external, pleasant or unpleasant, you can remind yourself, “What I am created this and freely chose to experience this.” But try to move past the thought and into the feeling towards which that thought points. This contemplation can give rise to a sense of wonder, or amusement, or bemusement—or anger and denial if the experience in question is a ‘negative’ one. The latter reaction passes in time, and gives way to gentle acceptance of pain as part of the beauty of life.
One should not, at first, undertake this contemplative practice in relation to external things (for example, affirming “I created this person in front of me”) because that can easily lead to delusion through wrong understanding of what is after all a very subtle teaching. To avoid this pitfall, focus the practice first on your internal state(s). Affirm your authorship of your own inner experience: “this feeling (whatever it is) arose from me as a spontaneous expression of what I am, and will dissolve back into that same ground of being.” Again, try to feel it as you affirm it.
In this way, you cease to be a victim of your own emotions and thoughts. In this contemplation, it doesn't really matter that some thoughts, the ones we usually call 'negative', are expressions of Awareness-in-disguise and others are expressions of Awareness-revealed. They all arise out of what you are, so you are equal to each experience. If you do not resist it or seek to own it, you find that each experience dissolves at just the right moment and makes way for the next creation of Awareness. In this way, you go beyond the preferences of the mind and begin to sense the irreducible uniqueness and completeness of each moment as well as how perfectly integrated into the flow of reality it is—and you are. You see that everything that arises within you is pure energy in the form of thoughts, feelings, and sensations, and that you are the timeless spacious ground out of which it all arises and into which it dissolves. In this way, little by little, punctuated by sudden flashes of recognition, you realize your divinity. A day comes when the recognition is so complete that what has been seen cannot be unseen, and no energy is required to maintain that seeing. This is the state of abiding nondual awareness, or full awakeness.
For this very reason, those who constantly cultivate and practice this come to know that all things are the expansion (vikāsa) of their own nature; they are called ‘liberated-in-life’ by our tradition. But those who do not know this are bound souls, because they perceive the whole collection of knowable objects as completely differentiated.
The fruit of this process, then, is the direct knowing that all things—everything in the universe of your experience—is the expansion, the blossoming, the unfolding (vikāsa) of your real nature (svarūpa). The beautiful Sanskrit word vikāsa also refers to growth, development, the opening of the heart, and the serenity resulting from an open heart. Therefore it is untranslateable; it suggests that not only is everything in your experience an expression of your innate nature, it is the development of that nature, and is therefore perfectly 'tuned' to give you the opportunity to further open your heart and experience the serenity of that nature.
Directly knowing, without concepts or doubts, that everything in the universe of your experience is the expression and expansion of your own nature is the state of being jīvanmukta, or liberated in this very life, in this very body. Knowing that you are the whole, you know that you are unborn and undying. You are freed from fear and pettiness and delusion of all kinds. You know everything you need to know (which turns out to be not much, on the level of concept anyway) and in that sense are “omniscient.” You can do whatever needs to be done and in that sense are “omnipotent.” You feel as humble as the tiniest creature and as vast as the sky, and in that sense you are God. And (by this you know the experience is real) you viscerally feel that any attempt to put this into words is laughable, or awkward, or somehow just barely completely misses the point—including the words I write here.
Not seeing this truth is the state of bondage, characterized by the vision of reality as fundamentally differentiated and separable. You wrongly imagine yourself separate from the whole, which consists of a vast collection of distinct objects (including people) that you can act on and which can act on you, for better and for worse. This is a world of fear and desire and delusion so subtle that it disguises itself as well-founded conviction. In this state, you mistake the mind’s ability to analyze experience into various discrete entities for accurate perception. You see everything through the lens of a mind conditioned by language, which is inherently dualistic (‘me‘ versus ‘not-me', ‘mine‘ versus ‘yours‘, ‘good‘ versus ‘bad‘, and so on), and thus you see distinction as fundamental instead of what it is—a mental filter, a feature of the instrument you are using for measurement. Since you almost never stop using that instrument, you are unaware that there is a whole different mode of perception, and cynically doubt that there could actually be another paradigm for human existence. In this way you almost revel in your contraction, your certain sense that you know, more or less, how the world is; and you keep seeking ways to gain strategic advantage in this world of hard edges, only occasionally glimpsing that your true fulfillment lies in giving up the constant angling for advantage, melting yourself into the real world, which is all curves and fluidity, and which softly bends to embrace and accept your self-surrender the moment it is offered. These glimpses are occasional until the day comes that you have finally suffered enough in the hard-edged world, and one of the glimpses looks to you like an exit door, and you leap at the chance, even if it means that your life as you’ve known it up to that moment falls apart like the house of cards it was.
Pause. Breathe. Because the next teaching may be life-changing, if you absorb its implications.
I'll conclude with this perhaps startling suggestion. Since you already are That, but aren’t fully awake to what you are, if you want that awakeness you must cultivate discernment and insight. You can gain insight into the difference between who you are and who you think you are by comparing what is with what you think you want.
In other words, as unbelievable as it might seem to you now, what you really are always wants (and loves) what is in any given circumstance (including processual change), and the tension generated by the belief that you want things to be different is the suffering that points out to you the presence of untruth.
If you really want to know what kind of person you are, look at the whole world of your experience: everything that you see and think and feel and know, because you—what you really are—creates and sustains it. Śiva gets what Śiva wants, always. And you are Śiva.
But even the barest beginning of realizing this truth causes your life (i.e., what you manifest) to start to shift. You are capable of astonishing beauty and terrible ugliness, and somehow simply opening to the whole of what you are and allowing yourself to love the whole shifts the character of what manifests through you. It’s a divine mystery.
You are unlimited in your real nature, so much so that you choose limitation in order to have a more specifically defined experience. We could say that you are so free, you choose to experience bondage in order to better appreciate your freedom -- but it’s even deeper and harder to define than that.
This post is an excerpt from Chapter Ten of my forthcoming book, The Recognition Sutras: illuminating a 1000-year-old spiritual masterpiece (Mattamayura Press, 2017).