A metaphor establishes that something unknown is, in an important way, like something known. We try to push out into the unknown by extending the known. In a certain sense, all that we are doing, really, is reducing the unknown to the known. And the Unknowable can never be known that way.
The value of this approach is that it yields insights; its drawback is that it obscures as much as it reveals, often much more, and in the most critical instance, that of knowing the Unknowable, it yields nothing at all.
Let’s look at the manner in which metaphors can obscure relationships.
Take the notion of balance, for instance. We can say that balance is like a teeter-totter. We can compare our ups and downs to a teeter totter out of balance. This leads us to say that we need to bring our moods into balance, into the center.
But in all the years I’ve been observing myself, I’m not aware of how I can “bring my moods into balance.” For me, this metaphor obscures more than it illuminates.
However, if I see the situation in terms of there being a center, “being in balance” then becomes “remaining in the center” and a better metaphor than bringing our moods into balance becomes one of “letting go” of what keeps us on the extremes or the peripheries and away from the center.
Jesus recently spoke about this type of metaphor of the situation, which has greater advantages than representing balance as a matter of bringing the teeter-totter to the horizontal. He characterized what I’ve called “letting go” as “relaxing and allowing.”
“You are already part of God, so you do not need to strive to become aware of this. Instead, relax and allow this state, your natural state to embrace you. …
“If you will relax and accept them gratefully as they occur you will learn them easily and quickly. If you rile up against them they will just continue to present themselves to you until you do learn them, and this can bring you a considerable amount of pain and suffering.” (1)
Using this metaphor of “letting go” brings us in line with such teachings as the Buddha’s that says the primary difficulty we face in remaining in the center are the impacts of craving and aversion or wanting and rejecting. The more we let go of wants and “don’t wants,” or desires, or preferences, the easier it becomes to stay in the center.
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And what is it about the center that recommends itself to us? We do we want to remain in balance and in the center?
The matter becomes clearer when we use the more common name for the center: the heart. Here I don’t mean the physical heart on the left side of the body, or even the heart chakra. Instead I mean what Hindus call the “hridayam” or spiritual heart. Of it Sri Ramana Maharshi said:
“Call it by any name, God, Self, the Heart or the Seat of Consciousness, it is all the same. The point to be grasped is this, that HEART means the very Core of one’s being, the Centre, without which there is nothing whatever.” (2)
Of it, Sri Aurobindo said:
“According to the ancient teaching the seat of the immanent Divine, the hidden Purusha [Divine Person], is in the mystic heart, — the secret heart-cave, hridaye guhayam, as the Upanishads put it, — and, according to the experience of many Yogins, it is from its depths that there comes the voice or breath of the inner oracle.” (3)
Ramana offered this illuminating description of the heart or center. But we have to remember that this description is from the standpoint of Third Dimensionality and not from that of the absolute truth.
“That from which all thoughts of embodied beings issue forth is called the Heart. All descriptions of it are only mental concepts.
“The ‘I’-thought is said to be the root of all thoughts. In brief, that from which the ‘I’-thought springs forth is the Heart.
“If the Heart be located in anahata chakra, how does the practice of yoga begin in muladhara?
“This Heart is different from the blood-circulating organ. ‘Hridayam’ stands for hrit ‘the centre which sucks in everything’, and ayam ‘this’ and it thus stands for the Self.
“The location of this Heart is on the right side of the chest, not at all on the left. The light (of awareness) flows from the Heart through sushumna [the spinal canal] to sahasrara [crown chakra]. …
“The whole universe is in the body and the whole body is in the Heart. hence all the universe is contained in the Heart.
“The universe is nothing but the mind, and the mind is nothing but the Heart. Thus the entire story of the universe culminates in the Heart.
“The Heart is to the body what the sun is to the world. The mind in sahasrara is like the orb of the moon in the world.
“As the sun gives light to the world, even so this Heart gives light to the mind.
“A mortal absent from the Heart perceives only the mind, just as the light of the moon is perceived at night in the absence of the sun.
“Not perceiving that the true source of light is one’s own Self, and mentally perceiving objects as apart from oneself, the ignorant one is deluded. …
“The Supreme is nothing but the Heart. (4)
We know that God is everything and yet Sri Ramana calls the heart the special place of the Supreme. Sri Ramana has said that knowledge of the heart leads to knowledge of the inner universe and the One. The center or heart therefore becomes a special place for us to focus our attention on and know.
Given that focusing our attention on the heart can lead to enlightenment and knowledge of the entire universe, one can speculate that focusing on the center or heart is focusing on the one place that is assured of opening us up more and more. The center or heart comes to a be a place of immense interest to anyone of spiritual inclination.
Sri Krishna has said:
“I am all that a man may desire
The law of his nature.” (5)
God is the only thing that can be desired without evoking negative karma. And even God, at the last moment before enlightenment, may need to be surrendered as an idea for us to realize Him (Her or It).
But before that moment, desiring God is the only desire that does not harm. Therefore focusing on the center is a point of focus that cannot harm, but in fact infinitely opens up before us.
Thus, the basic spiritual movement is to turn from the world of the five senses to God the insensible. If the compass is conceived of as having 360 degrees, only one degree – that which points to God – does not harm us or evoke more negative karma.
This same message is conveyed in the metaphor that sees the heart as a swing (jula) that seats only one person. If we place any other object of desire on it than God, God will not sit on our swing.
The more we let go of or detach from worldly desires and remain in the center, the more we are focusing on the heart. Moreover, as it turns out, the more we focus on the heart, the more mature and adult are our responses to events. The more we experience our love and radiate it out to other beings, the more we are focusing on our heart. The more we meditate on the hridayam, the more we are inviting the knowledge of God.
The heart is the doorway to the Kingdom of Heaven. The center is the portal through which we enter into the knowledge of the Self, of who we are. To realize the heart is to fulfil the purpose of life, which is to know our true nature. All good comes from focusing on our heart or remaining in the center.
(1) “Jesus: Letting Go and Allowing is What Makes it Possible to Reach an Inner Place of Peace,” channeled by John Smallman, February 26, 2012, at http://johnsmallman2.wordpress.com/2012/02/26/letting-go-and-allowing-is-what-makes-it-possible-to-reach-an-inner-place-of-peace/.
(2) Sadhu Arunachala [A.W. Chadwick] in A Sadhu’s Reminiscences of Ramana Maharshi. Tiruvannamalai: Sri Ramanasramam, 1961, 81-2.
(3) Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1983, 140-1.
(4) Ramana Maharshi in Vasistha Ganapathi, ed., Sri Ramana Gita. Tiruvannamalai: Sri Ramanashramam, 1977, 25-31.
(5) Sri Krishna in Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, trans., Bhagavad-Gita. The Song of God. New York and Scarborough: New American Library, 1972; c1944, 71.