Freedom from Experiences
Sri Swami Atmaswarupananda
Early Morning Meditation Talk given in the Sacred Samadhi Hall of Gurudev Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh
As human beings, and especially as seekers, each day we go through a great variety of experiences. If nothing else we go through the experience of waking, dreaming and deep sleep. We know hunger, we know weariness, we know desires, and hopefully there is some contentment, perhaps exaltation. All these we can experience during the course of a day. But who is it that experiences all these things? It is “I”. “I” am the experiencer.
When we realise that “I” is the experiencer, then we have a certain distance from the experience, freedom from the experience. We are not so concerned about the quality of the experience, whether it is pleasant or unpleasant. But if we identify with the experience, then naturally we want the experiences to be pleasant. Indeed, we will try to manipulate our life and the lives of others so that we get more pleasant experiences. We will try to manipulate our life and the lives of others to avoid unpleasant experiences. We become convinced that the experiences are who we are. If we have unpleasant experiences, we feel depressed. If we have pleasant experiences, we feel exalted. In other words, we are controlled by our experience. And that is bondage.
Freedom is to know that we are the witness of all experience, pleasant and unpleasant. Sadhana is the practice of freeing ourselves from experience. It is not that the experience disappears, but we no longer identify with it in the same way–because we recognise that no matter how the experience may change, we are always that which is aware of the experience, that which never changes.
This then is the essence of all our spiritual practices–a detachment from experience and attachment to that which knows the experience. “Detach, attach,” Gurudev said. Lord Krishna said that the solution to the control of the mind is dispassion and practice–dispassion for all our experience, pleasant or unpleasant, and the practice of being that which is aware of all experience. Japa too puts our mind on God; when we are repeating God’s name, we get a sense of space and detachment from our normal experience. Worship, study, enquiry all serve the same purpose–to give us a sense of the reality of that which we can never grasp with the mind and a dispassion for the contents of our mind.
We can never solve our problems within the mind. It is dispassion for the mind and its experiences, be they pleasant or unpleasant, that is the key. They say, “Let go. Let God. Surrender and trust.” And Gurudev put it so well, “Surrender everything to the Lord. Place your ego at His feet and be at ease.”