Enlightenment Is So Much Easier When You Know The Game

A Map From an Enlightened Trailblazer


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As someone working their spiritual path, you may reach a point where you seek more clues to further your personal growth and development. These clues can inspire us to keep going and find new ways to reach our goal. If you can relate to this, this article may offer some insights.

A Map

When playing the Treasure Hunt game, having a map showing where we are going and how to get there is always easier. In the game of life, a map can help us understand why we are here, where we are headed, and the best way to get there.

The ultimate answer to the purpose of life may remain a mystery, but one of the advantages of living in the time frame we are in is having so much help and answers available. Unlike in the past, in this day and age, we don’t need to search to the ends of the earth trying to find a spiritual teacher. Many have walked the path before us and left maps to guide us.

A Great Mapmaker

One such remarkable spiritual mapmaker was Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj. As a family man and merchant living in the back streets of Bombay, India, in the early 1900s, he supported his family as a beedi-maker. Beedi-making is a cottage industry in India. It is a manual process that involves rolling tobacco leaves into a small tendu leaf and tightly securing the leaf with thread.

Nisaragadatta managed to build several beedi shops and grow his business when, at the age of 36, his life took a big turn. His friend introduced him to his guru, Siddharameshwar Maharaj.

Upon meeting him, Nisargadatta describes the teaching he received from his guru as follows:

“My Guru ordered me to attend to the sense ‘I AM’ and to give attention to nothing else. I just obeyed. I did not follow any particular course of breathing, meditation, or study of scriptures. Whatever happened, I would turn away my attention from it and remain with the sense ‘I am.’ It may look too simple, even crude. My only reason for doing it was that my guru told me so. Yet it worked!”

After just two and a half years, Nisargadatta’s Guru died. In 1937, less than a year later, Nisargadatta became self-realized. As a rishi (enlightened person), he wanted to spend his life journeying the Himalayas, but a fellow disciple talked him out of it, telling him that he would do more good as a householder with his family.

He returned to his family to find his business had shrunk down to just one shop. He didn’t have the desire to build his business as before but taught his son to run the one remaining shop, while Nisaragadatta spent most of his time adjusting to his life as a self-realized being.

Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj initiated students into discipleship after an inner revelation from Siddharameshwar in 1951. After retiring from his beedi shop in 1966, he taught visitors in his home twice a day. He welcomed all and continued giving daily spiritual discourses to spiritual seekers from around the world until his passing in 1981.

The Game

According to Nisargadatta, “I AM” is formed when we are born. The I AM is not a thing. It is a powerful awareness that comes into being when we take on a body. In Nisargadatta’s words:

“The ‘I AM’ is not a thing. It is the awareness in which everything else appears. It is the source of all creation.”

When I AM is formed, the game begins. Simultaneously, the I AM embodies both your greatest friend and enemy. It binds you to the illusion of bodily existence but also nurtures your liberation from this illusion.

The first condition of the game is that the I AM causes you to forget your true identity. It deceives you into believing that you are only the physical body, and you forget that you are the source of creation, which is I AM. A deep-seated insecurity arises from a lack of understanding of our true nature, leading us to create a false sense of self known as the ego.

The Ego

The ego is the body of pretension. It pretends to be who your true self is but is unable to. Most people live their entire lives through a false persona molded by societal and personal expectations. Developing a false self, like a dog chasing its tail, is a futile endeavor that creates lots of motion but little movement.

The game’s objective is to remember who we are as I AM and eventually as Parabrahman, or Universal Consciousness. Nisargadatta says,

“The ‘I AM’ is your greatest foe and greatest friend. It is a foe when binding to the illusion as the body. It is a friend when taking out of the illusion as the body.

When the sense or feeling ‘I AM’ appeared, it duped you into believing that you are the body and later on that you are so-and-so (ego). It strengthened the illusion as time went by, and thus began all the turmoil and suffering.

But now the guru tells you to return to the ‘I AM,’ understand it, stay there, make friends with it, or make it your Guide, God, or Guru. Doing so, the ‘I AM’ will help you break the illusion and lead you to the source.”

The Role of ‘I Am’ in Spiritual Awakening

Maintaining the ‘I am’ at the forefront of awareness allows the unconscious to seamlessly flow into the conscious. This transition marks a merging: the individual into the witness, the witness into awareness, and awareness into pure being. Identity isn’t lost but transfigured, becoming the authentic Self, the ‘Sadguru,’ the eternal friend, and Guide.

The Map

Nisargadatta gives us a simple yet powerful map to help us traverse the game of life. Here it is in his words:

“Just keep in mind the feeling ‘I AM,’ merge in it, till your mind and feeling become one… Do not bother about anything you want, think, or do. Just stay put in the thought and feeling, ‘I AM,’ focusing ‘I AM’ firmly in your mind.”

Remembering who we are as I AM is the true meaning of Self-Presence. This goes beyond being present in the moment. It is having the feeling-sense of I AM in each moment. Nisaragadatta is not the only spiritual teacher speaking to the importance of the presence of I Am. Gurdjieff, the Armenian Sufi mystic, created an advanced spiritual school in the early 1900s called the Four Way with ‘Self-Remembering’ at its core. The enlightened Ramana Maharshi lived around the same time as Nisaragadatta and taught his version of abiding in the I Am.

The I AM As Your Guru Will Lead You Home

“Keep the ‘I AM’ in the focus of awareness, remember that you ‘are,’ watch yourself ceaselessly… The person merges into the witness, the witness into awareness, awareness into pure being, yet identity is not lost; only its limitations are lost. It is transfigured and becomes the real Self, the ‘Sadguru,’ the eternal friend and Guide.” Nisaragadatta

By abiding in the I AM, it becomes your guru, inner Guide, and teacher. Aligning to its guidance leads to liberation, the successful completion of the game. The map directions are simple but require a solid intent to follow through. Remember who you are. Remember that you exist as I AM in each moment. Make remembering I AM as your true identity your highest priority in life. Listen and follow the guidance as I AM opens to you with guidance. Just as I AM has the power to create your life, it has the power to guide you home.

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Carl Gerber (aka Kristopher Raphael)
New Earth Consciousness

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