One of the most cited pointers in the tradition of Zen or Advaita Vedanta is the realization that “this is it”, or that “thou art that”, respectively. To understand the deeper meaning of this pointer is sometimes referred to as the ultimate realization on the path. But what exactly is this “this” or this “that”?
First of all we ought not to forget that pointers do not refer to concrete things or facts. They are teaching tools, that is to say, they are symbolic images or metaphors to invoke an awakening, a realization of the Truth. Since realization is the intuitive understanding of the reference of all these metaphors, until the realization, spiritual seekers on the path will inevitably mistake the metaphors for their reference.
Now, what does that mean?
Just as if I said “you are a nut”, I would not try to suggest that you are literally a nut, spiritual metaphors like “there is no-self” or “there is only consciousness” do not refer to an absence of a person or a hidden, numinous reality. What these metaphors directly point to is nothing but the only reality there is, which is that which we are sensing and feeling right here now. That’s whats real. Hence, the ultimate Truth all seekers are looking for is almost embarrassingly simple: it is what we see, hear, smell, taste, touch and feel in each moment. All else is mere subjective interpretation of Truth, taught about what “is”, or Maya, illusion.
So, spiritual pointers, ultimately, are reminders for people who have forgotten about the most obvious thing: that life constitutes of what we experience, and, thus, that existence is most fulfilling when we are open and receptive to what is going on now. The reason seekers take years (or even lifetimes!) to get this utterly simple fact, is because they are used to compartmentalize the Truth, that is, what they sense and feel, in desirable and undesirable aspects. Thereby they have conditioned themselves to avoid certain aspects of the Truth and to grasp others. This constant “movement” away or towards what “is” forever estranges them from the intimacy of resting in the moment. Spiritual seeking is the ultimate contradiction in terms: it is a search for something that is never not right here now. As they seek it, they must miss it.
So, then, what does the pointer “this is it” mean? Yes, you guessed it right: it’s pointing to the immediate experience in this moment. It does not refer to a “now I’ve got it!” kind of state or flash of insight, but to whatever we experience in this very moment. Whatever that is, is sacred. Experience is the source of divinity, the nourishment of the soul, our life-blood. The more we cherish it, the more we feel alive.
What we all truly want is to have a “rich” life. True richness is not linked to abstract ideas of wealth or achievements but to the ability to be intimate with what is happening. Whenever we are moved and touched by life, it provides us purpose, meaning and direction. On the other hand, if we are incapable of being moved and touched by it, our souls dry out and life becomes a meaningless drag. Once we fully realize this utterly simple fact, that all that counts in life is whether we are capable of sensing and feeling properly or not, our perspective and outlook changes from striving for a life to paying attention to life.
The perennial message is this: THIS is it! THIS is what matters! THIS is the Beloved. THIS is what we have always been searching for! Where else could it be? Stop talking and philosophizing about the good life, just get lost in it! Trust me it works. It always does. Being alive is bliss.
“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land, there is no other life but this.”
~Henry David Thoreau