Letter 36: True union

Every meditation session in our Community starts with the opening prayer of John Main:

Heavenly Father, open our hearts to the silent presence of the spirit of your Son. Lead us into that mysterious silence where your love is revealed to all who call, Maranatha….Come Lord Jesus.

This prayer brings out our reason for meditation and our entering into deep prayer. It is this silence and love that lives at the true centre of our being that leads us to feel the unity with others and the rest of creation and the Divine.

This is also Jesus’ prayer for us in St John’s Gospel: ‘may they all be one; as Thou, Father, art in me and I in Thee, so also may they be one in us.’ (John 17: 21) This saying of Jesus in his farewell discourse and a previous teaching: ‘I am the vine and you are the branches. He who dwells in me, as I dwell in him bears much fruit; for apart from me you can do nothing.’ (John 15:5/6) sum up Jesus’ beautiful teaching about the importance of connectedness with others and through Him with God.

This union with the Divine is in the Christian tradition not seen as a total merging, implying loss of self. Bede Griffiths in The Marriage of East and Weststates: “There is no doubt that the individual loses all sense of separation from the One and experiences a total unity, but that does not mean that the individual no longer exists. Just as every element in nature is a unique reflection of the one Reality, so every human being is a unique centre of consciousness in the universal consciousness”.

From our own experiential experience on the spiritual path we realise that a spiritual and moral practice like meditation, involving solitude and silence, attention and detachment, allows the emotions and desires to be purified and thus the ego to be integrated and transcended, leading to the gift of awareness of Love and Unity, when ‘the Knower, the Knowing and the Known’ are one.

Being an integral part of the Divine is also beautifully expressed in other faith traditions:

Chang Tzu, an influential Taoist philosopher, who taught in the mid-4thcentury BC put it as follows:

All that is limited by form, semblance, sound and colour,
Is called object.
Among them all, man alone
Is more than an object.

Though, like objects, he has form and semblance,
He is not limited to form. He is more.
He can attain to formlessness.

In the Chandogya Upanishads – one of the oldest Upanishad, possibly going back to the 8thcentury BC - we hear:
“Svetaketu, who has returned home after having learnt the Vedas, is very proud of his learning and has a great opinion of himself. His father asks him:
‘Have you asked for that knowledge whereby what is not heard is heard, what is not thought is thought, and what is not known is known?’
‘What is that knowledge, father?’ asked Svetaketu.
‘Bring me a fruit from the banyan tree.’
‘Here it is, father.’
‘Break it.’
‘It is broken, Sir.’
‘What do you see in it?’
‘Very small seeds, Sir.’
‘Break one of them, my son.’
‘It is broken, Sir.’
‘What do you see in it?’
‘Nothing at all, Sir.’Then the father spoke to him: ‘My son, from the very essence in the seed, which you cannot see, comes in truth this vast Banyan tree.
Believe me, my son, an invisible and subtle essence is the Spirit of the whole universe. That is Reality. That is Atman. Thou art That.”

This union with Ultimate Formlessness is a Divine gift expressed in many names in the different traditions: nirvana, no-mind, enlightenment, union with the Beloved, union with the Divine. Though the words may differ, they all point to the same essential state. The Sufi tradition expresses it beautifully: “I saw my Lord with my heart’s eye and said: ‘who art Thou, Lord?’ ‘Thyself’, He replied.”

Kim Nataraja