I'm going to post a video here from Adi Da (yes that Adi Da). Posting this is not meant to indicate a support of all of Da's methods or actions during his years as a spiritual teacher. I personally find many of the criticisms of Da valid. Nevertheless, I find this short video is a beautiful heartfelt reflection that has a great deal to teach us. It all begins with a superficially silly question from a boy that turns out to be a deeply profound inquiry.
I'm now going to share some quotations from this video and then comment on them. Quotations in italics.
"When the mind is transcended, the body becomes the sacrifice. The body is the essential sacrifice."
In contemporary spirituality there is a lot of talk of embodiment, of "bringing things down into the body" and so on. But here I think Da is pointing to something far deeper. What we bring down into the body itself has to be sacrificed in God. Embodiment is good, but by itself it is incomplete. Embodiment is not an attainment. It's not about becoming spiritual superstars or having to have some great yoga body to prove that you are super embodied. It's a good thing to be in shape bodily but that has to be sacrificed. That has to be given over to God. Otherwise it becomes another place of separting ourselves, of breaking our connection, or seeing ourselves as better than others.
Moreover, Da is making clear that mind transcendence is not sufficient. It's not enough to rest all day in a relatively safe spiritual place where everything is at peace, everything is one, there is no time and space, and all is well. And then largely live an unchanged life. All Big Mind, no Big Heart, and no Big Body. Such a mind-only awakening is still a form of awakening yes, but it's a fairly cold one. It's fairly dead (as opposed to Da's alive feet.)
"The body is mind and therefore when the body is surrendered to God, all the nerves in the body begin to open up."
We are not minds with bodies. We are bodies with minds. We are bodyminds. Mind is the interiority of the body. Body is the physical manifestation of mind. We are conscious bodily beings. If a person is going to truly open to God they must do so all the way: thoughts, emotions, instincts, will, even our very nervous system, all the way to the very sensations of our physicality. "The nerves begin to open up."
"All of the body becomes like your face....The whole body becomes like your face. So how would you smile with your feet?"
However problematic phrases like getting into the body, bringing it down into the body, and others are, this kind of awakening is what they are aiming at, however improperly understood.
So the question is: how do we smile with our feet?
How do we smile with our chest? Our left knee? Our back? Our forearm?
The genuine smile is the physical expression of radiance--the energy of joyous love, (i.e. God). How we smile with our feet, back, or arms is by feeling the radiance of the body surrendered into God and feeling that radiant energy streaming out from our bodies.
"God is present bodily. God is already here. God is already present; God pervades the body. You're thinking all the time but it's your thinking. When you stop thinking your attention feels God."
How does this radiance streaming off the body come about? How do we surrender bodily into God? The first piece to remember (as Da says) that God is already present. The body is already entirely within God. We are arising, we are happening (right now!) inside God.
When Da says to stop thinking he is not denigrating the place of the rational mind. He is simply saying to put our attention elsewhere, i.e. on God in whom we live, move, and have our being presently. The mind will do what the mind needs to do just like the body regulates breathing without having to think about it consciously, but we don't need to place our attention, our sense of self, into those thoughts. As the thoughts are needed, they'll be there.
Feeling God. This is a powerful statement. In my experience, so much spirituality is about techniques and methods. Whether the techniques seek to make us more mindful or to access intuition or visualize a more beautiful future, whatever they are, they assume we are whover we think we are (a self), and work with that self to improve it in some way. These practices are valid within their own sphere. But I just sense a deep lack of understanding this deep, profound sanity--when we release who we think we are, we naturally feel God.
The heart doesn't even have to open up. We realize a part of the heart is already open, is already one with God. We just place our attention there. We be that one and let it expand.
And that heart (or rather Heart) feels like the tulip feels the rain. And the energy of that feeling is love. And the bodily sensation of that love is the nerves opening up, the radiance shinning off the body.
"The body becomes a smile. It becomes full of life. Then you become a different person. Then you can be love with other people; then you can serve other people and be very happy doing that. It's no big deal."
If we could all just start here--with feeling God--then we could learn relative practices to hone various aptitudes as are necessary. But they wouldn't become places of competition or ego or exclusion. They'd be just what we need to do in order to make things harmonious, serviceable, decent, and good.
"The enligtened man [sic] is enlightened down to his toes."
What else is there to say?