What was it that triggered my satori (Enlightenment experience) twenty years ago? We were stood at a small bridge on the river Isis in Oxford. It was a beautiful sunny day, and as my two companions chatted about this and that, I drifted off, mesmerised by the brilliant dancing point of light on the water. A pair of ducks drifted by, breaking up the ripples into thousands of intricate patterns. I willed myself to “make my mind water” so that I could follow the patterns of light exactly as they occurred without lagging behind. I started to hallucinate endless figures and shapes, which would disappear as fast as they appeared. I remember being impressed by an Egyptian scene with Cleopatra on her barge in full regal splendor.
Once I had tired of this (and it was quite tiring), I began to reflect on the illusory nature of this light show. I imagined Thales sitting on a bank contemplating a similar scene and coming to the conclusion that the world was water. I asked myself, “if all this endlessly changing spectacle is an illusion, what is real?” The answer came fairly quickly: “well, the actual body of water is real.” Then, with a sudden shock of realization, I made a further logical step: the body of water was the shifting patterns on the surface. They were not two different things.
When I looked up from my meditation, the world was transfigured. “The green trees … transported and ravished me; their sweetness and unusual beauty made my heart to leap, and almost mad with ecstasy, they were such strange and wonderful things.” (Thomas Traherne from Centuries of Meditations).
It was only months later, as I desperately tried to make sense of my experience, that I came across the following, ascribed to Shankara:
“The world is illusion; Brahman is the only reality; Brahman is the world.”
I had passed through the same logical steps as had Shankara in his search for the Ultimate. Somehow I had passed through the “gateless gate”. Once through the gate, if you look behind you, there is no gate at all. All is seamlessly One.
It is the same as when you “see God”. How can you see God? God cannot be seen. True, but He can be apprehended, intuited, imagined. He can be “seen” with the eye of contemplation, if not the eye of flesh. So to “see God” is to arrive at a convincing enough approximation of what “God” might be. Convincing enough to be transported to a higher plane. Invariably, when we feel that we “see God”, we instinctively look up at the heavens. We may remain like this for some time, rapt in awe and wonder. At some point, we tire, and our gaze turns back to Earth. What do we see? Not the same Earth we were standing on a few moments ago. We see the Earth transfigured. Why? Because we are seeing it not with our eyes, but through the eyes of God.
Meister Eckhart said, “the eye with which you see God is the same eye with which He sees you.”
It is the same eye, but looked through in the opposite direction. It is a reversible eye. It is the “gateless gate”. From the perspective of the higher Being we call God, All is One. There is no separation anywhere. There is no separation between the world and God because God is the world. Brahman is the world. And more than that, the world, this planet we call Earth, is God. When we look at the world from God’s eye view, we are looking at the world from the World’s point of view. We are lending eyes to the world to look at itself. And it sees itself as One. The world is the world, which is the same as to say, as the Cabbalists are so fond of saying, God is God.
What happens when you look at yourself through the “eye with which [God] sees you”? You see that you are also part and parcel of the One God. You are a child of God, so to speak, a son or daughter of God. You feel that your soul, your mind, the very cells in your body, are part of the One God. You may feel a rush of energy, of being filled with the Holy Spirit. This is communion. In this moment of communion, your body is the body of Christ.
Seen through the eye with which you see God, the world is the Kingdom of God, and you are the body of Christ. Or, as the Buddhists would have it, “this body is the body of Buddha; this very land is the Pure Land.”