In my previous article Higher and Lower, I talked about attaining the higher. The key message was to recognize that the Lower will always be there but it can be marginalized by focusing on the Higher, thus striking a perfect harmony. (Higher cannot exist without the lower, but the lower can exist without the higher)
Here, I want to reflect upon the word ‘attaining’, an other commonly misunderstood term, in my opinion.
Based on the common definition, ‘to attain’ means ‘reach, get, accomplish, conquer. So, it is natural to assume that ‘attaining’ means to work towards something and achieve it. Attaining means putting some effort to get something that you don’t have. It implies, to get something that you currently lack and aspire for, and when you get it, we feel we attained it, and are proud of it. Nothing wrong in it.
We carry the same notion when it comes to self development. So, we think we lack some thing, we need to work towards acquiring some thing that we don’t have at present. We think in getting from the Lower to the Higher, there is some thing that we need to develop. Therefore, we keep looking out, we keep searching, we keep asking ‘what else do I need to do?’
Our scriptures say, we search, because of our ignorance of the self, our lack of understanding the self, lack of knowledge of the self. In the journey of self development and spiritual progression, key is to recognize that we already have everything in us.
According to Zen, effort can help us in achieving only that which does not belong to us; so in order to become wealthy, we need to acquire wealth and therefore we need to put effort. If we have to go from Point A to Point B, in order to get to (acquire) point B, we have to put in effort. But what if we are at Point-A and we are told that there is no difference between Point-A and Point-B, there is nothing new to acquire, that we can experience at Point-A, all that we were hoping to experience at Point-B? We probably still want to go to Point-B because we cannot connect to it, even on being told. Most of the time we don’t even know it.
When it comes to spiritual development, we search, because we don’t know that we already have it. This is the Ignorance that the Bhagavad Gita talks about. Zen says, that all efforts are meaningless, because whatever we wish to know has already been attained. If the soul is already within us, why should we go anywhere else to search for it? We are already divine, why should we do anything, why should we act?
So, ‘to attain’, here means to ‘Drop all activity and stop for a while’. Attainment, therefore, is directly tied to Renunciation. As we renounce, in parallel, we attain. Attaining here is simply just ‘being’ and not ‘doing’. ‘To attain’, perhaps is more of ‘undoing’ through renunciation. As we undo, we discover our inner self and attain the higher (shedding the ignorance).
Just like a candle which burns steadily; in a closed room, where there is no movement of air. Similarly, in non-action, consciousness becomes motionless. When all movement stops, the individual consciousness becomes one with the universal consciousness.