There is a little story that Sai Baba tells that illustrates this shift of consciousness. Imagine the divinity as a child, the divine child, alone and whole, totally self-absorbed. Being a child full of joy and playfulness he entertains himself by imagining that he is entering a room made up of mirrors. Now, everywhere he looks he sees a reflection of himself. In his divine imagination he puts a mustache and beard on one of his reflections, a sari and female features on another of his mirror images, he slightly warps some of the mirrors to present a thin image, another a thick image, another a short image, another a tall image, another a saintly image, another a demonic image. And so, in his divine imagination, he has created more himselves to love and play with.
Of course all these images are merely reflections of himself. There is only one ‘I’ and all he sees is but himself. Yet, to make the play more enjoyable he pretends that all these images are separate beings and that they relate to each other as well as to him through many plots and subplots. Oh, he likes this game very much! It is a thoroughly enjoyable play, a wonderful game of pretend. But all games eventually come to an end. When this one does, the divine child turns around and walks out of his imagined room of mirrors. All his reflections which had instantly appeared, now instantly vanish, and the divine child is again absorbed in his native state of unreflected, undifferentiated consciousness, what Sai Baba calls the CIA, Constant Integrated Awareness.
This story is our story. It is the story of our daily progression through the house of mirrors of our dreams. We are that divine child, playing with all these seemingly different reflected images of yourself. And now we are in process of turning inward and leaving the house of mirrors behind. Just a few more moments and our awareness will again be bathed in the infinite joy of self-absorption. We simply do not realize it yet.
Sai Baba says, contrast this play of the divine child with the actions of a dog who happens into the room of mirrors. Everywhere he looks he sees other dogs facing him. He becomes agitated and ready to defend or attack; he bears his teeth and snarls at the band of dogs surrounding him. Now he finds that his adversaries are also getting excited and signaling threatening gestures. He becomes afraid, adrenaline rushes into his blood stream and he prepares to fight for his life. He barks and growls and menacingly faces one after the other of his attackers to keep them at bay. But there is no relief, the standoff continues and the threat is unabated until he finally wears himself out, becomes weak and gives up; then the band of dogs around him seem to relax as well. Of course, the whole scene of threat and attack and the anguish that resulted from it, was all concocted in the dog’s mind. A shift in perception would have been so very easy to make and would have so completely changed what he sees and experiences, but it is a seemingly impossible task for dog-consciousness to manage.
Slowly through a long history of experiences, through the law of karma, the dog realizes that he himself is responsible for all his actions, that everything he seems to do to someone outside of himself, that every hurt he inflicts, he himself will suffer from, that whatever he appears to be doing to someone else he is really doing to himself. Eventually he realizes that all these projections perceived to be others outside of him are really just himself. When the dog learns to look lovingly on his reflections, 100 dog reflections look lovingly back at him. Every kind act he takes is magnified and returned a hundred-fold. It has been said that when you take one small step towards the Divinity, the Divinity takes 100 steps towards you. Align yourself with truth and all the awakened and realized beings of the ages will come to bless you and shower their grace upon you.
And so, in time, the dog changes changes his perceptions; he reverses his spelling and instead of a d-o-g, he becomes the g-o-d that he has always been. Sai Baba says, “Dust if you think, dust you are. God if you think, God you are. Think God! Be God! You are God! Realize it!”
This change in perception need not take eons. It can happen in an instant. Right now we can leave our dog-consciousness behind and return to God-consciousness. Nothing need be done. We only need to stop giving our false perceptions continued validity by perpetuating the belief that they are true. To let go of our belief in the reality of illusion is the only spiritual practice that is required of us. Truly, we need do nothing; we merely need to be willing to stop reinforcing life-times of mistaken seeing and conditioning by continuing to see the false as true and thereby making the error real.
Sai Baba illustrates the letting go of false beliefs, by calling attention to a handkerchief he holds in his hand. As he clutches the handkerchief, he says, “Holding on is difficult.” As he lets go of the handkerchief and it falls to the floor, he says with a twinkle in his eye, “Letting go is easy.” In other words, when we give up all efforts to hold on to and give meaning and value to the illusion, the truth reveals itself naturally, of its own accord. It is so simple.
Sometimes the shift in consciousness comes quite unexpectedly, as for example in the personal experience of consciousness leaving the body, that I related above. In that incident, without any effort and without any warning, grace had descended and instantly changed the perception. For me this was a totally new state of consciousness. Quite unexpectedly it had come, and subsequently it again left. It was not a permanent experience. But it was a direct experience; the mind was in no way involved. Awareness had spontaneously shifted to its natural state. It was a taste of true awakening.
This shift in consciousness is available every moment of our day. All that is required is a willingness to commit our lives to it totally and relinquish all efforts to hold on to even the least part of the illusion by considering any of it to have real value. To attempt to purify or sanctify the illusion with sacred forms and rituals and incantations, in other words, to attempt to bring truth into the illusion, as some spiritual paths advocate, will not get us there in the end. Even our attempts to spiritualize our lives within the serial dream and hope thereby to awaken to truth, will also not do it; they will not get us there. All these efforts are useful and necessary when we first undertake the spiritual path, but they will not get us there because we are already there. In the end all efforts directed towards achieving awakening turn out to be cul-de-sacs.
What does get us there, is our recognition that we are already there.... that we have kept the illusion alive through force of habit and through non-inquiry, and this has covered our realization of our truth. We have constantly reinforced the illusion by all our daily actions and thoughts, by our judgments and perceptions as separate individual beings. We need but to stop feeding the illusion with our belief in its existence. When we no longer see differences and specialness, then all we see wherever we turn is ourself, the one Self. In Christian terms, all we see is the face of Christ, everywhere. Then love abounds, and illusion, shorn of all our beliefs in it, wastes away and vanishes. And then the truth, which illusion appeared to have covered, but which was always there unaffected, being no longer obscured, now stands revealed. That is all.