Looking Glass

Through The Looking Glass

Andrew Cohen Read

A miraculous leap from one world to another – from one reality to another. That’s what happened 30 years ago, when I had the good fortune to meet my Guru HWL Poonja. On that day my life changed forever, or so it seemed.

Within only three short weeks in this great man’s company, I underwent a profound metamorphosis. I couldn’t believe what was happening to me. It was like dying, consciously and ecstatically, day after day. Slowly the interior transformative alchemy came to a natural end, and I was now on the other side of the looking glass. A seeker turned finder.

Until that point, my experience of living had been a difficult and at times tortuous ordeal. Now it was transformed into an unimaginably glorious love affair – a love affair with the creative process, with other people, with life itself. The change couldn’t have be more extreme, more profound or more complete. As the ancient texts so often describe it, this was an interior shift from a relative to an absolute perspective.

In this condition, the lens through which the entire universe is perceived changes so dramatically that we can never forget it. It is ever present, all-consuming and utterly mesmerizing. In Vedanta they call this state “Sat Chit Ananda” meaning Being, Consciousness, Bliss.

In this state of Being, Consciousness and Bliss, our experience is ever and always new. We can never already know it. The past does not touch it. The experience of Sat Chit Ananda is always like the very first time.

Our response to Sat Chit Ananda, every time, is “…Oh my god… It’s too much, too profound, too obvious, and too overwhelming”. We can never become accustomed to it. The small self can never grasp or contain its transcendental glory and unparalleled freedom. It’s the only experience we cannot prepare for.

After 27 years, my natural abidance in this extraordinary state came crashing down when I stepped down as a Guru. In my position as a spiritual teacher to a worldwide community, my pride, hubris and attachment to power had got the better of me. I had to face my demons, and let go in the biggest possible way. I needed to look in the mirror. I needed to apply my own teachings.

This is what I did, and it has been the most difficult thing I have ever done. Facing oneself is never easy, and in truth few people actually do. It’s just too hard. As a Teacher, I asked many people to face themselves in ways I mistakenly thought I already had.

I was so very wrong. Only when I had literally lost everything did I even begin to understand the unthinkably challenging ordeal I had been asking others to embrace. I finally found out the only way there truly is, the hard way.

During my recent sabbatical, I had a brutally direct experience of the Buddha’s First Noble Truth; the truth of suffering. Seeing and experiencing this truth has changed my perspective in so many ways. Because of this overwhelming confrontation with my own shortcomings, I have finally seen my own frailty and humanity – and in that, everyone else’s too.

This has taken me a long time, but life works in mysterious ways. The Path to liberation always sounds so straight, so simple and so clear. In reality, it almost always turns out to be a very long and complex process – not because the Path itself is not straight and simple, but because we so often are not.

I am in the process of writing a book about what I have been through, what I have done and what I have learned over these past four years. There is so much to share, and I will do so in the months and years to come. But what I wanted to share here, in my first proper journal entry after four silent years, is my own astonishment at the radical shift I have experienced since I started teaching again.

In my initial statement in this journal, I said that all this has gradually brought me back to my senses, my self, and to God. But only now have I experienced that same leap through the looking glass – the same shift from one reality to another that happened when I met the Master. This was not just an experience, but a knowing. A knowing of who I am. In the worst way, I did indeed forget, and forgetting was something I previously thought impossible.

Being graced with this most precious jewel is the greatest blessing, and to drop it once it has been freely given, one must be the greatest fool. And in so many ways, I was.

I am so grateful. It seems most of life’s most important lessons are learned the hard way. Now all the tragedy, pain, suffering, loss and confusion is recognized to be only Grace.

From the biggest perspective, so much of the confusion, unpredictability and chaos of our experience is just that Grace – if only we had the eyes to see it. This doesn’t necessarily forgive any of us our sins, but in my understanding is the highest truth.

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