It’s common for earnest spiritual practitioners, those concerned with moksha, to believe that certain experiences are “obstacles” or “disturbances.” One man with whom I meditate began by being concerned with certain “intrusive thoughts.” Another conversation partner also voiced this concern.
Atmananda’s position, then, is quite refreshing: “Yes,” he tells some students, “there are no obstacles if you correctly examine them. Nothing is an obstacle to your spiritual progress. Nothing, nothing, nothing” (Atmananda Tattwa Samhita, p. 195, my emphasis).
The question, then, is: how do you correctly examine them?
I. Welcoming All Experiences
Atmananda sounds positively Daoist or Tibetan Buddhist when we states, concerning a loud noise that was apparently affecting his sadhana when he was a younger man, “A noise… I must get somewhere else, in order to take the thought [i.e., to focus on his mantra ‘I am Consciousness’]. It troubles, it disturbs” (p. 186). He goes on: “Well, what nonsense! Is it not a means? What am I meditating upon, what am I contemplating? ‘I am pure Consciousness!’ Is it not so? And when that is so, even the noise that is heard there, does it not point to Me” (p. 186)?
What is now clear to Atmananda?
Initially, he falsely believed that any experience is a disturbance if it pulls the attention away from (in this case) the mantra. Then it dawned on him that any experience, being itself an arising in Consciousness, necessarily points to Consciousness. Therefore, the experience–here, the loud noise–cannot have an independent existence, one that is separate from Consciousness. Therefore, even the loud noise is singing the praise of what it essentially is–to wit, Consciousness.
II. All Obstacles Are In Space And Time
Atmananda’s disciples are generally very sharp. One states that “obstacles are in time and space,” and Atmananda confirms what he says: “All obstacles are in time and space” (p. 188).
If there is greater conviction that I–that is, Consciousness–am not in space or time, then every experience, being in space and time, essentially points to what is beyond it. It could be said that an experience points to the field of Awareness in which experiences arise but which is itself not subject to the conditions of phenomenality: space, time, and causality.
In this sense, each experience helps one to directly see what Consciousness essentially is.
III. The Center–The Witness–Remains Unaffected
When any apparent obstacle arises, it can be realized that “Your Centre is not going to be affected at all. You [Consciousness] are not going to be affected. You are There” (p. 189).
In other words, you abide as Yourself, as that Background to which all experiences arise. You, the Witness, remain peaceful and constant in the midst of all experiences. And what’s clear is that every experience confirms this understanding of one’s being the Witness knowingly.
IV. Direct Pointers To Consciousness
If thoughts come, if there are intruding thought–of course, for samadhi-minded persons–if thoughts intrude to disturb your samadhi, well, I say: Thoughts can be helps, can be helps for you to get into samadhi. If thoughts come, intruding thoughts: “All right! Well, come on, come on! Well, I am waiting for you.” They are pointing to Consciousness…. That is what thoughts tell you. Thoughts point to Consciousness.Ibid, p. 190.
What does it mean to say that thoughts point to Consciousness? In the very least, it can be understood directly that thoughts come from Consciousness and return to Consciousness. Have you seen this yourself? Have you confirmed it for yourself?
Thus, every thought, arising from Home, is also pointing directly at Home. Indeed, every thought is itself nothing but the way Home.
In brief, every single experience can be seen, right here, as nothing but Consciousness. And the arising of this experience is here to “tell you,” to announce that it is nothing but Consciousness.
Therefore, provided one properly examines every experience, there are, indeed there can be no obstacles to Self-realization.