All beings are on an evolutionary journey, and not just a Darwinian one. There is an evolution of consciousness reaching toward perfection, oneness, and divinity. Hindus and Buddhists believe each individual goes through countless incarnations on this road to fulfillment.
A lot of people ask me, “How do you know about incarnations?” I haven’t experienced my past incarnations, but from being with my guru, Maharaji, who’s farther up the mountain, I have an understanding of how it all works. He would speak of reincarnation as a reality, and I and the other people around him had a very deep relationship with him and each other that clearly had not come from our family backgrounds or upbringing in this life.
Our human forms are composed of and surrounded by an infinite myriad of forms, all in constant motion, from the subatomic to the cosmic in scale. This is the lila, the enchanted dance of existence, the divine interplay of consciousness and energy. Amid this divine play we seek fulfillment, perfection, flow, freedom, enlightenment, Oneness.
The dominant quality of form is change, because all forms are in time. That’s another way of saying we don’t know what will happen from one instant to the next. Or, as one of my guru brothers is fond of saying, “Don’t be surprised to be surprised!” For instance, I didn’t anticipate I’d be living in a wheelchair today. The way to live with change is to be completely present in the moment (remember, Be Here Now).
We cannot cling to forms or our experience of them, because they decay and dissolve back again into their formless state. Attempting to hold on to anything in time is ultimately futile and a cause of much suffering. What is really there to hold on to? In reality there is nothing permanent, nothing solid, nothing constant except relativity and change themselves.
When we realize how finite are the limits of gratification or possible fulfillment within the play of forms, then despair arises. That despair is born of the world-weary understanding that nothing in form can provide ultimate meaning. It also forces and demands awakening and seeks transcendence of suffering.
If futile clinging to impermanence creates our suffering, letting go and making friends with change is joy, liberation. In youth our lifetime seems to stretch infinitely before us. As we age, the accumulation of our experiences seems to have occurred in the blink of an eye. Even now that I’m seventy-nine years old, I realize there’s plenty of change to come before dying – change in the body, change in friends and family, change in memory. These experiences lead to deepening wisdom and freedom and to diving deep within to the realm beyond form.
Long before recorded history, human beings were awakening out of the illusion of form or separateness that the Indians call maya. A tiny fraction of humanity, but still many beings, finish their work and complete the process of realization, the integration of form and the formless. These awakened beings pass beyond the illusion of birth and death and attachments to this physical plane and every other plane. Their hearts fill with the bliss of that realization and with the infinite love that permeates the universe the way that dark matter permeates the space between stars. That love is the subtle texture of our material world, the unseen energy, the fullness of emptiness (sunyata).
When they finally emerge from the illusion of separateness, these free beings can either merge back into that formless state or remain in form on one plane or another, or they can continue their evolution to the point where it makes no difference. They may or may not take birth again on the physical plane.
- Ram Dass (excerpt from Be Love Now, co-authored by Rameshwar Das)
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