An Autobiography – Part 1
The first visual impressions and sensations slowly formed a new picture - a bed, a body, intravenous tubes, a hospital. The moment of awakening was the resumption of the film, but now there seemed to be no one who awoke, no “me.” Slowly, from the accrued perceptions of many moments, a body reconstructed in consciousness. A person took shape. This person, however, was not “me.” It was just another object in my perception. It was a shock to realize that without any doubt “I” totally existed, yet the body didn’t exist, nor even the world. I was immortal! It was inconceivable. By the grace of God I was allowed to experience an interruption in the stream of perceptions. The dimension of time and space had disappeared, and even the original dualism between the experiencer and the experienced had ceased to exist.
For two days, I had been clinically dead. For unknown reasons, only a few minutes from my destination, without applying any brakes, I had driven my car off the road and crashed head-on into a hundred-year-old oak at fifty miles per hour. It was only due to several lucky coincidences that the body had the chance to survive at all. That the body could be welded out of the car and rescued only a short time after the accident could even be called a miracle.
My existence as an individual had been shattered, and I was unable to share my experience with other people. Physically and emotionally, the whole organism seemed to be in a kind of stupor. I experienced total indifference towards what I had until then considered as “life.” Life suddenly appeared to be a stream of empty, insignificant phenomena arising from that which I am—eternal Consciousness.
As I was awakening from the coma, a friend standing by my bedside asked me what I had experienced. I could not help thinking of all the reports of so-called near death experiences. I had read reports of out of the body experiences in books by Elisabeth KüblerRoss, and I had also read about long, dark tunnels at the end of which a shining light appeared. When descriptions came to mind of being kidnapped by aliens, I smiled. What had I experienced? Nothing of the kind.
I had experienced nothing. Yet even this expression does not come close to the experience itself, for nothing is not “nothing.” To describe this nothing, I would need to go beyond the limits of language as a fundamentally dualistic instrument. There had been no “I” to experience anything, for that would signify a separation between the subject and the object of perception. The “waves” of perception had abruptly quieted down, and “I” was an ocean of limitless consciousness without any form and without any qualities. It was the pure I am. In an indescribable way this ocean was conscious of itself, even though there was nobody and nothing aware of the ocean.
After reawakening, a creeping process of re-identification with I-thoughts set in, yet oceanic consciousness still penetrated the entirety of perception. I experienced the body as an empty shell, without significance, and no longer necessary for the existence and completeness of mySelf. Everything that had been “reality” suddenly appeared empty and without meaning. …
Nothing in my life held importance any longer. Gangaji was the only person to whom I could open. One single desire started to completely take possession of me, and that was for liberation from the inherent human state of separation from divine Self, from the Source.
Things that had once been important, such as social contacts with friends, suddenly meant nothing. I started to withdraw more and more. I experienced other people, including some of my old friends, as living in a kind of sleepwalking state. I saw that they did not really communicate with each other, but instead communicated with self-created images from the past, which they then projected onto the other person. Nobody really communicated with me now. Therefore, I disengaged from old “relationships.” My need for external seclusion supported an inner process, a process that I experienced as a progressive detachment from the illusion that the human mind calls “the world.” It was as if the waters of the ocean were carrying me, and I was slowly sinking deeper into it.
Nothing could be done to accelerate this sinking into the ocean. Rather, there needed to be a rejection of all habitual ways of thinking, feeling, and acting that created the tendency for “me” to resurface again and again. It was crushing to have to see that the whole of my conditioned thinking, all of my attempts to reach happiness on earth through understanding, knowledge, and security, directly created the opposite; that is to say, suffering.
For the first time, I understood the mechanics of suffering in all its dimensions. It was so obvious. How on earth could it have been hidden? How was it possible that I had never been completely aware of this suffering, and therefore, never had the desire to get rid of it?
Suddenly, I became aware of the infinite ignorance of man, stewing in hell and believing it to be paradise. This seemed to apply especially to people of Western civilization who “have everything”—money, success, a partner, all varieties of pleasure, a comfortable life without struggle for survival. But how could I describe this seeing to a blind man? What an illusion of bliss!
I began to understand why great masters define suffering as sleep. The essential quality of suffering is contained in the fact that the human mind is only marginally aware of its suffering, if at all. This is what is actually fatal about the fall of man. In the moment of falling, blindness becomes blind to blindness, and being unconscious of unconsciousness becomes the human condition. The almost perfect illusion of relative happiness and presumed love is actually confounded by comfort, well-being, and transient pleasures. …