The Universal Path to Liberation
Know thyself — four steps to freedom or spirituality in a nutshell.
You are an integral part of a largely unknown system that exists as seeming interaction of dual forces that are one in their essential nature. Knowing this means knowing that you are perfect. To realize it, know yourself. Willfully cultivate the following four domains that are naturally present in the life of all human beings, and which depend on, and reinforce each other as one indivisible whole:
- In your mind, ask yourself who you are. Look at your present and past. Examine the answers. Are they true? Who said so? In this way you can identify your socio-biological conditioning.
Best done while meditating (see below). You can also inquire about infinity of universe or similar matter (money, success, and their “friends” won’t do)³, but I found the question “Who am I?” (or “What am I?”, “What is ‘I’?”) most effective, as it very quickly leads to the realization of the “all pervading I-ness”. It inherently allows for examination and coming to terms with one’s past as well, which is essential. Inquiry may benefit from some fairly basic understanding of evolution of biological life, human traditions and society in general. Remember that skepticism and doubt are your best friends but also the biggest enemies. And a small hint — if you perceive it, it’s not you, obviously.
- Consciously observe your body and mind as well as the world around you. Play with the breadth and target of your attention. It helps to raise your awareness of what you perceive.
In other words — meditate. There’s really nothing more to it. You can sit or walk (what we classically understand as meditation) or just do your everyday stuff (known as mindfulness, non-doing, wu-wei). You can observe your breathing, neural plexuses (chakras), peripheral vision or hearing. You can examine your thoughts and mental images, your self-talk and also emotions (i.e proprioception, interoception, and exteroception). Literally, anything goes. Just don’t get carried away by extremities of bliss and horror you may experience. You may extend this practice to dreaming state as well.
- Remember and accept, but do not abandon yourself to, your death. It’s the only reference point you have. It dispels doubt by putting everything in a natural perspective.
You have but one certainty in this life — you will die one day, and that will be the ultimate surrender. So, always be mindful of your mortality, and also the fact that your demise may happen in the very next moment. You really never know. At the same time, don’t allow fear and ambition force you into uninhibited excesses or make you abandon everything, drowning you in feelings of profound vanity. These are just indulgences of the ego. Detach yourself from absolutely everything — things, places, people, yourself (desires, beliefs, emotions, etc.). Let go and accept things as they are right here and now. Don’t be surprised, as this state may initially feel very selfish. All in all, if you can accept your death, you can accept anything.
- Without any expectations, act the best you can, for the benefit of all, including you. Don’t be concerned with either gains or losses, and put everything you know to the test. This keeps you free from remorse and guilt.
No amount of experiences, insights, and detachment will get you anywhere unless it reflects in your behavior. If you keep all obligations you consciously choose while you release yourself from all commitments you don’t want, if you have a clean slate and no further demands, you attain the kind of calm that you need to be able to meditate and inquire about your true nature. A good place to start are the five don’ts present in spiritual traditions all across the globe⁸ — no killing, no adultery, no stealing, no lying, no coveting. As a rule of thumb — before you act, always ask yourself, “Would I be OK if this was my last action in life? Am I willing to die on this hill?”
You will find this how-to at the core of all valid world traditions:
And that’s it — as a bonus here’s a poetic form of the same:
- You are That; One; Supreme Self; this absolute All-That-Is;
infinite Ultimate Truth; Existence-Consciousness-Bliss.¹
- You are but lost in a dream; it makes you forget and blind,
keeps you pretend to be pairs, seemingly, of two-fold kind.
- To know it aim for the Truth, realize that you are That,
aim for the Liberation²: know thyself — you are perfect.
- In your mind, ask: “Who am I? Why do I think what I think?”
Look at your present and past, pierce all your conditioning.³
- Drop all your identities; you’re neither servant nor king;
nor parent, child, seeker, saint; nor piece of flesh, suffering.
- Forget the roles you acquired, deny all labels you wear,
know empty meanings of words, witness Reality⁴ bare.
- You’re neither this, neither that; even the “I” is just name,
pointing to notion of Self, that’s one and always the same.
- Observe the world around you, also your body and mind,
aware of what you perceive, focus on One⁵ who’s behind.
- With your eyes opened or closed, sit, or walk, or do your work;
inspect your breathing, your states; listen to your mental talk.
- See emotions come and go, notice thoughts rise and subside,
sink into disengagement, let the calm peace be your guide.
- Play with the target and breadth of your awareness of things,
don’t lose yourself in unknown pleasure and horror it brings.
- Think of and accept your Death, don’t resign vainly to it,
one day, for sure, you will lose this body you inhabit.
- Use Death to dispel your doubts, see things in natural light,
you can rely on its view, to decide which choice is right.
- To tame it, trust what you love; there is the path with a heart.
Dissolve desires and fears, surrender to what thou art.
- Detach yourself from all things, places, people, also thoughts,
until you feel calm inside until you dissolve all Knots⁶.
- If you don’t go past the Veil⁷ and act from conditioned head
or if you don’t act at all, you might as well be just dead.
- To stay away from the guilt and also free from remorse,
act for the welfare of all, including yourself, of course.⁸
- Keep obligations you choose, get rid of ones you can’t stand,
satisfy all of your needs — clean slate, no further demand.
- Don’t be concerned with the gains, let losses equally go,
just do the best that you can; test everything that you know.
- If you follow what you love, if you don’t grasp near and far,
you attain peace that you need to realize who you are.
- Here in this safest refuge, suffering ceases to be,
separation drops away, and you are forever free.
- Dear child of immortal bliss, dreaming the world, wide awake,
when there’s no other than you, what could really be at stake?
- When you know that This is It, and you see there is but One,
when you know yourself as Truth, you also know, all is done.
¹ Also: Spirit, Brahman, Buddha, Christ, Source, Tao, God, etc.
² Also: Moksha, nirvana, unity with Tao or God, third attention, etc.
³ Shankara, Aparokshanubhuti (G. Timčák, Trans.), Sloka 12.: “Kó-ham (asmi) — who am I? How is this world created? Who is its creator? Out of what is this world? This is the way of aforementioned vichara (self-inquiry).”
⁴ Reality: Existence.
⁵ One: Consciousness (“Atman that is Brahman”).
⁶ Knots: Granthis of Brahma (between root and sacral chakra), Vishnu (between solar and heart), and Rudra (between 3rd Eye and crown) or, in contemporary language, subconscious psychological blocks.
⁷ Veil: Maya, illusion, ignorance
⁸ An extremely useful, ancient guide to go by can be found in Mosaic Law.