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The Paradisiacal Gaze


"The Bathers", Eugène Delacroix (26 April 1798 – 13 August 1863), French

I am dazed by the beauty of my body. Today I looked at myself with your eyes. discovered the soft curve of shoulders the tired round breasts which want to sleep and slowly roll down in spite of themselves. my legs unfolding offering infinitely up to the limits absent from what is me and what beyond me throbs in every leaf in every raindrop. I saw myself as if through glass in your eyes looking at me. I felt your hands on the warm tight skin of my thighs and obeying your command I stood naked before a huge mirror. and then I covered your eyes not to see and not to feel the loneliness of my body blossoming with you.” - Halina Poświatowska



When we arrive in this world, we do so by leaving the gentle, nurturing and warming space of our mother's womb. Even after we arrive, it takes a few moments, sometimes an external push to let out our first cry. During the first experience of separation, our cry is calling for mother to place us on her warming breast, feed us her nourishing milk and never leave us again at the mercy of the world and its cold airs. Soon enough, we are placed on her breast, we take the first sip of her milk and we are consoled. "Oh that was just a bad dream! Mother is here." - is perhaps what we say in that moment.


Very young, we still don't think ourselves separate, but slowly our individuality begins to form. We begin to eat food that isn't just milk - sweet and fruity foods usually being the first to be introduced. Soon enough, even while little and barely knowing our name, we develop aversions and attractions - we prefer apple over banana and let out a protesting cry when our mother dare bring us the one we do not like. From a cry that invites the mother to put us back on her chest, we move to a cry that demands the mother to indulge our budding individuality. With time, we begin to eat flesh, and our aversions and attractions become more intricate - there are clothes, films, music, people, places, religions, books we prefer over the others. Eventually, we come to an age where the mother or the father become the very image we rebel against. We do so in an attempt to build and construct our own individuality and fate. Finally, we reach a threshold - we come to know that the world, without the protective shields of our parents is full of individual freedom, but at the same time threatening. There is nobody to catch you when you are to run down the stairs and nobody to feed you through the night. You must trust your own discernment about cliffs and rely on yourself to be fed.


Some of us, internally driven by this knowledge, rush to the external world to provide us with solace. We begin to surround ourselves and adorn our bodies with the items or styles that affirm our well-crafted self-image. We may travel to places that we believe will help us find ourselves, we rush to new teachers, gurus and sheikhs hoping to find our father's guiding light in them, we indulge hoping to find in pleasure, the slumbering sweetness of the mother. Our individuality, after this point, is not just the presence of an individualised consciousness, which is a piece of the Universal manifesting itself through the intricacies of the individual. Over time it develops into an egoic identity that constantly needs affirmation. To maintain this identity, as if driven by impulse, we reject anything that threatens to humble it - our own home, our father and mother, our religion or the customs of our village. They left us alone, now it is on us to leave them back! We become the proud rose that delights in its petals and scent and that doesn't dare look at the roots, because if the rose looked there, she would have to face the truth that its flower is nourished by the damp, smelly soil it grows out of.


Sometimes, if we are of the lucky ones, this endless pursuit ends - either by us growing tired of endlessly latching onto something external, or the fated circumstances make us return to ourselves, and for the first time, we realise, that it was perhaps us who was stupid, naïve and misguided, and not everyone else.

 

Know Thyself

Scene: Poosalar Nayanar (Builds Temple Within Him), S. Rajam (10 February 1919 – 29 January 2010), Indian

"You have learnt so much

And read a thousand books.

Have you ever read your Self?

You have gone to mosque and temple.

Have you ever visited your soul?

You are busy fighting Satan.

Have you ever fought your

Ill intentions?

You have reached into the skies,

But you have failed to reach

What's in your heart!" - Bulleh Shah


"Know thyself to know your Lord" is an utterance easily found in any mystic-leaning book, poem or even online content. Yet very often, the exact nuances and what it means seem to be lost & the utterance eventually comes to be used to affirm the state described above - to affirm the egoic identity that needs to constantly identify itself as separate & different from everything around it. This also demonstrates how our egoic self will use anything - knowledge, even truthful utterances to create distortions that eclipse our own light. This common mystic wisdom refers to the journey we ought to take once our egoic self, that is, our separate self, fully manifests and forms. In these external pursuits, we accumulate a lot of thoughts and ideas, and yet so often, even if they are true at the core, they do not serve us, rather the egoic self finds a way to have them serve its own agenda. The going within, unlike the constant movement & pursuit, brings us into a mode of passivity. When external world is passive, it is when the internal world begins to move. We celebrate Light during winter for this reason - lacking external stimulation, we become internally stimulated. With enough concentration, our own light begins to gently grow. Unlike the external fire that can easily be extinguished, the fire contained within us is the eternal flame. Holding this candle, we go inside the darkness & there our real self, that is, our true individuality, begins to reveal itself to us. Unlike the anxiety, worry and neuroticism that defines the egoic self, our real self is always at peace and calm, knowing it has aligned itself with the Truth and not deception.


When we know our inner self, we come to know the very form our personal Lord / Divine Archetype wants to take. The egoic self cannot provide space for this Lord to manifest, for it is too terrified. It is the inner self that can open itself to its Lord. The inner self becomes the locus of manifestation for the Transcendent. Here we find our true uniqueness & individuality, but instead of it being rooted in separation and resentment, it is rooted in unity & non-dual awareness. This is when life itself becomes a lovely play (ludus amoris or lila) - where each experience is but an endless dance & play between you and your Beloved Lord. Sometimes you love and are together, sometimes you fight and are apart, but in the end, even in separation you are together, always in love, always seeking one another, and ultimately inseparable.

 

Your Lord Knows You

"Summer", Maxfield Parrish Maxfield Parrish (July 25, 1870 – March 30, 1966), American

"When you have entered into my Paradise, you have entered into your soul/nafs & know yourself with another knowledge, different from that which you had when you knew your Lord by the knowledge you had of yourself, for now you know Him & it is through Him that you know yourself." - "Alone with Alone", Henry Corbin


The journey after being born in the Earth's realm, as explored above, is the journey of gradually becoming separate to eventually returning to the point of Unity. To reclaim the Unity, is to reclaim the Eden - hence the entry into our own Soul being the entry into Paradise.


Yet, now, in this space, it is the Soul's time to enjoy. For it has strived so much, suffered so much from becoming separate and finding a way to return. You have known your Lord through knowing Yourself, but now it is your Lord that wants to know You. He wants to lend you His gaze so that you may look at yourself through it. As Ibn Arabi suggested, in the Paradise, God unveils the Final Name - "The Gently Beautiful" by having it shine within you. You are the Gently Beautiful when seen through His Gaze. You embody the Truth but you cannot see yourself, so your Lord, in His Boundless Love, gives you His Eyes to witness the Truth you embody.


I rarely share my personal practices and journey, but I find that here, I must make an exception. "Look at Yourself through Divine's Gaze" is my favourite meditation & contemplation. It is so powerful and beautiful that any false inhibitions and egoic needs to pick apart, label and separate disappear as if they were never real. In this meditation, I gaze at myself through the Gaze of Divine. This is the gaze of Supreme Perfection, Boundless Purity & Absolute Unity - from that perspective, I see myself. I see her delight in flowers, I see her filled with ecstasy, I see her enjoying beautiful fabrics, perfume & juicy fruits, I see her creating, I see her resting, I see her teasing & playing, and no matter what she is doing or in what mode is she manifesting, the only thought that appears is: "My beautiful One, my Heart's Delight, my whole Universe, how I love you!" Purity here is not a moral position, rather a condition of holding no falsehoods or dualities.


His Gaze is so pure & perfect, that His Creation can only reflect Perfection & Purity back at Him. His perfect Gaze demands body's & soul's nudity, for clothes & veils, physical or spiritual, are needed only in the realm of dual consciousness. He is Pure Consciousness, free of duality, and there is no need to hide before He who is Perfect & Pure. Praised be He who guides me the rivers of delight of my own being & existence. Praised be He whose Love endlessly nourishes me.

 
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