The vast motion picture
Blog reader Norman sent me this excerpt from Paramhansa Yogananda's book, "Autobiography of a Yogi," that I agree with so completely I wanted to share it here.
"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth."
In 1915, shortly after I had entered the Swami Order, I witnessed a vision of violent contrasts. In it the relativity of human consciousness was vividly established; I clearly perceived the unity of the Eternal Light behind the painful dualities of MAYA. The vision descended on me as I sat one morning in my little attic room in Father's Gurpar Road home. For months World War I had been raging in Europe; I reflected sadly on the vast toll of death.
As I closed my eyes in meditation, my consciousness was suddenly transferred to the body of a captain in command of a battleship. The thunder of guns split the air as shots were exchanged between shore batteries and the ship's cannons. A huge shell hit the powder magazine and tore my ship asunder. I jumped into the water, together with the few sailors who had survived the explosion.
Heart pounding, I reached the shore safely. But alas! a stray bullet ended its furious flight in my chest. I fell groaning to the ground. My whole body was paralyzed, yet I was aware of possessing it as one is conscious of a leg gone to sleep.
"At last the mysterious footstep of Death has caught up with me," I thought. With a final sigh, I was about to sink into unconsciousness when lo! I found myself seated in the lotus posture in my Gurpar Road room.
Hysterical tears poured forth as I joyfully stroked and pinched my regained possession - a body free from any bullet hole in the breast. I rocked to and fro, inhaling and exhaling to assure myself that I was alive. Amidst these self-congratulations, again I found my consciousness transferred to the captain's dead body by the gory shore. Utter confusion of mind came upon me.
"Lord," I prayed, "Am I dead or alive?"
A dazzling play of light filled the whole horizon. A soft rumbling vibration formed itself into words:
"What has life or death to do with Light? In the image of My Light I have made you. The relativities of life and death belong to the cosmic dream. Behold your dreamless being! Awake, my child, awake!"
One day I entered a motion picture house to view a newsreel of the European battlefields. World War I was still being waged in the West; the newsreel recorded the carnage with such realism that I left the theater with a troubled heart.
"Lord," I prayed, "why dost Thou permit such suffering?"
To my intense surprise, an instant answer came in the form of a vision of the actual European battlefields. The horror of the struggle, filled with the dead and dying, far surpassed in ferocity any representation of the newsreel.
"Look intently!" A gentle voice spoke to my inner consciousness. "You will see that these scenes now being enacted in France are nothing but a play of chiaroscuro. They are the cosmic motion picture, as real and as unreal as the theater newsreel you have just seen - a play within a play."
My heart was still not comforted. The divine voice went on: "Creation is light and shadow both, else no picture is possible. The good and evil of MAYA must ever alternate in supremacy. If joy were ceaseless here in this world, would man ever seek another? Without suffering he scarcely cares to recall that he has forsaken his eternal home. Pain is a prod to remembrance. The way of escape is through wisdom! The tragedy of death is unreal; those who shudder at it are like an ignorant actor who dies of fright on the stage when nothing more is fired at him than a blank cartridge. My sons are the children of light; they will not sleep forever in delusion."
Although I had read scriptural accounts of MAYA, they had not given me the deep insight that came with the personal visions and their accompanying words of consolation. One's values are profoundly changed when he is finally convinced that creation is only a vast motion picture, and that not in it, but beyond it, lies his own reality.
Mortal life is that movie. We don’t need to make the movie perfect—we need to leave the theater.
Related blog entry: Death never wins--Life is Spirit
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