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Devotion to Truth, Real Bhakti

We hear a lot about self-realization, recognizing truth, and knowing our essential being. We all think that after decades of meditating or engaging in other spiritual practices we are going to have a moment of recognition, where we realize who we are essentially, and that moment is going to be “it.” We believe this recognition marks the end, and we think, “I recognize who I am so now it is finished.” The truth of the matter is that this is not quite the way it works. In my view, the recognition of your essential being marks the beginning of waking up. Until you have realized your essential being, you have not really begun. Coming to know your essential being can be called Jnana or self-realization. 

We all have many habits like these, deeply ingrained habits in the mind. These habits are created by societal, cultural and religious conditioning and keep us from being reconciled with the truth of our essential being. So, there is another essential aspect of the work I do, without which liberation is never fully reconciled and you never become doubtless. I call that aspect devotion to truth, another word for it is Bhakti. 

Most people believe Bhakti means devotion to the guru, a god, singing bhajans, or performing other spiritual practices, which produces a loving, devotional feeling towards another, separate from them (god, deity, etc). That is a form of Bhakti, but I say the real, mature Bhakti is devotion to truth, being devoted to your own essential being. Be devoted to the truth that there is no other. Be devoted to the truth that actually, the guru, god, and the deity is you—there is only you. 

When you come to recognize your essential nature of freedom, you realize that there is only you. You are it! How does that realization become reconciled and doubtless? By being devoted to the truth you have come to know. That is what I call Bhakti. You need to be a true bhakta to become doubtless in liberation.

Again, the two aspects of liberation are Jnana (which is recognizing your essential being) and Bhakti (which is remaining devoted to truth). However, if we are honest, we may ask ourselves, “What exactly am I really devoted to a majority of the time?” As part of our human conditioning, we are all true devotees and worshippers. What we worship is the opposite of the truth; we worship and are devoted exclusively to ego. Just be honest, look into your experience and see. What are you really devoted to? We are devoted to my stories, my past, my future, my beliefs, my opinions, my ideas, my separateness, my hopes and aspirations, my enlightenment, my victimization, etc. It’s all me, me, me. Lies, not truth.

Everything that appears in the mind is ego. Ego is simply the belief that “I am a thing” instead of knowing yourself as the essential knowing of everything. We are great devotees of a thing called “me,” but if you want freedom, you have to be a devotee of truth, which is knowing that who you are is free of everything. If we were only such great bhaktas to truth, liberation would be easy.

To be clear, when I say truth, I do not mean “Truth” with a capital “T” (as if there is a thing called the “Truth” that needs to be attained). What I mean by truth is simply that here and now, I am nothing. All of the lies from the mind are not true. The only thing that is true is that I am, now. What is currently appearing is this, nothing. It is truth with a small “t,” and is merely a word used to convey what cannot be objectified. 

The more this truth is recognized, the more you see the value of it, the peace of it, and the freedom of it. In seeing this, you naturally become more devoted to truth. It is a reinforcing, self-fulfilling mechanism in its own right: the more you are devoted to truth, the more you see the value of it, and the more it strengthens your devotion to truth. On the other hand, devotion to ego reinforces devotion to ego, and suffering. And if you continue being devoted to lies, you will not come to see the value of truth.

An essential aspect of Bhakti is to be honest. What am I devoted to? Am I devoted to truth? The truth is that I am nothing. The truth is that I have nothing, my hands are empty. The truth is that I know nothing. The truth is that there is no one here who is special, there is no one here running the show. The truth is that there is only ever here and now, there is no past and no future. Any story conjured up about what happened in the past is a lie. Similarly, any story about attaining enlightenment, awakening, or seeing through the separate self is also a myth. The stories have to be a lie because when we look now, we cannot find them. Do they have any substantiality now? No. A story of the past is only a myth, and the fears and hopes we have that are based in the future are all a fantasy. 

Being devoted to truth means being devoted to having nothing, knowing nothing, and being no one, now. Being devoted to truth means being willing to be finished with all of those myths and fantasies, now. Being devoted to truth does not mean being devoted to truth in the future. That is being devoted to seeking and seeking is only based in time, in the fantasy of something happening or “becoming” at some point in the future. It is ego. Being devoted to truth is simple. Since that is all there ever truly is, it is recognizing truth now and being devoted to truth, now  

Truth is extremely simple because there is nothing. It is the opposite of complicated or difficult. Truth is simply nothing. There is nothing simpler than truth; knowing truth. Even though it is simple, it is not trivial at all because we have a lifetime of being devoted to the false, what is not true. It is a deeply ingrained habit, like a groove on a record player, the needle keeps going around the same groove repeatedly. To break out of that habit requires Bhakti, devotion to truth, and honesty, which means seeing in any given moment what you are devoted to. 

As spiritual seekers, we all claim that truth is the most important thing. But, if we are honest and look, we can ask ourselves what do we really consider valuable? For you, for me, for all of us, when we ask ourselves this question, we can see that we place an emphasis on many things other than truth. Each and every one of us has to see this firsthand, we have to see what is actually valued. Is truth valued? Or are the movements and stories in the mind valued? We do not need to analyze our minds and behavior to discover the answer to this question. We already know the answer, but it is useful to see this movement more and more when it appears. 

Often times, in the spiritual realm, seekers believe that self-realization can be transmitted by a guru or teacher. They believe that somehow, someone else can magically bring about this transformation. But the truth is, there isn't a whole lot that someone in my position can do or say. The recognition is simple, and yet it may take some time to be seen clearly. I can try to help make the recognition clearer for everyone by pointing out different ways of looking at it. But that is about as much as someone like me can do. Each and every one of us is already free. Each and every one of us is on our own in this world. Each and every one of us will come to the doubtless reconciliation of liberation on our own. We cannot depend on anyone (teachers, gurus, deities, etc.) or anything external to ourselves to deliver a quick resolution. We need to stand on our own two feet and depend solely on ourselves and to see the truth for ourselves rather than projecting the responsibility on an outside source.

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