Prayer Becomes Life
"Lord, replace me with you." The prayer of the mystic
A human life is a great thing. It is a very large vessel that does not turn on a dime. Once the need for a change in direction is recognized we start the 180 degree turn inward. But, even if we had one of those earth shattering experiences of total bliss and oneness, the maintaining of that state does not come easily.
In fact, at first, it may not seem like anything in our lives has changed at all. It can even seem as though things have actually gotten worse. This is when we run into the actual challenge of spiritual life.
The prayer for union, which did bring us insight and even revelation, is still living primarily in the realm of vision. We have glimpsed the divinity. We can even taste it and there is a faith, a conviction of its reality. But the momentum of a life (actually multiple lives) lived in unconsciousness, continues to push us into the old channels and habits of behavior and experience.
I call this phase The Budding Visionary and it corresponds to the 6th chakra in my chakra system. It has tasted God but is still living in the sense of separation. The 7th chakra I call The Sage and that is when the sense of a separate self dwindles and finally disappears in the One.
The beatific vision does not move upward, towards the heavens. There is no need for that. That is where it came from and is constantly the expression of it. No, it reaches downward, into the earth, into the body, into the dust and grit of your life. The vision must move out of the rarefied atmosphere of revelation and into the mundane environment of everyday comings and goings.
The word needs to be made flesh and the flesh thus redeemed. In other words, prayer becomes life.
This requires what I call a post-awakening sadhana (sadhana is simply the Sanskrit word for practice). The good news is that the post-awakening sadhana is the same as the pre-awakening sadhana. It is the path of unconditional love; love of the vision, love of human life, love of your experience, just as it is.
In the pre-awakening sadhana, we start with a tolerance for the way things are, eventually mature into acceptance and eventually even welcoming what was before unacceptable. Now we begin to see that what we have been resisting has been the very thing we have been seeking all these lifetimes. We begin to discover that the actual nature of what had ben regarded as a cruel joke, is now the very presence of the Lord.
Because, everything is the presence of the Lord.
"Lord, replace me with you" is the prayer of the mystic seeker. We seek the end of any sense of anything other than Truth, anything other than Love, anything other than The Self. We begin to dismantle all the assumptions we had about the nature of reality and thus the reality of you.
"That Shiva must be meditated upon and realised to be the Self... All shadow pictures removed, what remains is pure Awareness, the spotlessly effulgent screen. Thus, Shiva reveals Himself spontaneously as the sole eternal Sat-Chit-Ananda-Self, the very essence of the nature of the worshipper." - The Ribhu Gita
In this sense the prayer "Replace me with you" is lived, embodied in every moment. It is acted out in every kind deed, every moment of contemplation and introspection, every regret of unfeeling treatment of any other creature. This shows that the reality of what started as a moment of inspiration is beginning to become lived, embodied in the life of an ordinary human being.
This is the true Sage. We regard the Sage as someone who has gained wisdom, but that is not how the Sage sees him/herself. The one who may have gained wisdom is gone. They have been replaced by the Lord. In other words, the Sage is the Truth appearing in human form.
This is your destiny. Even your willingness to follow this path is not of your doing. You find that you have not be praying to God but God has been praying to Herself. As it says in An Explanation of the Oneness of Being by Awhad al-din Balyani, "God takes the last step on a journey that never happened."
Let that last step be taken.
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