The Dawn of the Witness

Sundar Kadayam - USA Articles, English 7 Comments


Sundar 2 In my movement through life these days, I notice something odd, something different, something profound. 

I am being breathed. 

Something is acting through this mind-body construct.

It hasn’t always been this way, and it isn’t always this way now. I get attached to this mind-body character far too often, and forget myself as an actor doing what is asked of me in the Divine Play, Leela in Sanskrit, by the director who is God. He is also the play, the theater, the actors, the acting, and everything within and without.

The ego / self appears very real. It always has. The filter system of thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and more appear very real, and seem to define a real “me”, distinct and different than that which is out there.

Fueled and nourished by the continuous flow of sensory data, the mind strengthens the filter system with further judgments, more thoughts, and often navigates life through a series of autoresponses to external stimuli.

Evidence of “free will”, that this “me” can do what it pleases, further twists and screws the ego into a hardline position – this “me” is real, “I” am real, unique, distinct. And leads to the false assumption that since “I” have free will, “I” can seek desire and specific outcomes from “my actions”, that “I” can control the outcomes. Successes in achieving outcomes — I can lift this spoon; I can type; I can yell at this person; I can cut this car driving in front of me — mesmerize “me” into believing that “I” do control the outcomes. Forgotten conveniently are the failures in achieving outcomes — I planted a flowering plant I loved, but it died soon; I wanted to go to this movie, but wife and kids didn’t, so the movie going didn’t materialize; I prayed for this person’s health, but they got worse — these are swept aside as inconvenient data points that didn’t fit the narrative.

So “I” move along, increasingly on autopilot, not aware of what is really happening in the moment, believing myself to be an independent free-will-enabled entity, separate from the rest of it all.

Except, it is stressful, peace is elusive, happiness is fleeting, uncertainty looms around every corner, physical and mental sickness takes root. Something most of us experience often enough. We seek escape, anything to tranquilize the growing pain, escape into fantasy what-might-be’s, shut it off with “entertainment”, lean on using sugar / alcohol / stimulants to dull the unbearable feeling inside, lash out on the world for the messy place it is, blame others for being idiots, jerks, criminals, lunatics. Aging accelerates. Systems breakdown within. The world falls apart outside. Relationships wither. Cynicism grows. The flailing gets worse. Is there even a God? Why is this world so messy? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why did I get such rotten luck so often? And so the inner dialogue abounds. 40,000 negative or limiting thoughts a day. The din within is unbearable. Seek stronger drugs, the prescription variety, the clandestine variety, do something, anything to get a break.

Caught in this space, it seems like a long time and distance away from the knowing that I am an actor, in this mind-body costume, in this role I was sent to play, in the Leela, the Divine play.

Religions promise salvation. Been there, done that, only the pocket is lighter and the heart heavier in the process. 

Gurus, some real and many bogus, abound, promising the fast track to that awakening, to that freedom I am really seeking. Eagerly I go, like a bee, flitting from garden to garden, flower to flower, sucking out the nectar from it all – the nectar is consumed, moments of lightness experienced. But it doesn’t last. The quest for something more powerful continues. Guru hopping I go, accumulating techniques, ideas, concepts, quotes. Feels better than the horror of the cynical place I could have been at. But the gnawing grows. The hunger is for real peace, real freedom.

In the path of Reiki, I find a genuine teacher, a practitioner of what he teaches, one who is moving ever deeper into the inner journey, one who open-heartedly shares and supports students as fellow passengers on the journey. 

Simplifying the journey with Reiki as a foundational element, while remaining true to my personal journey with deep roots from my Hindu tradition, I weave a path consisting of four elements, like four wheels on the vehicle that is my body-mind. The path of meditation drawn from the system of Reiki. The path of wisdom drawn from the system of Reiki and the works of other masters. The path of action drawn from the system of Reiki and from the Hindu tradition. The path of devotion drawn from blessings received from birth and through childhood and all of life. Following the Usui teaching of being true to one’s way and one’s being.

Never evenly and equally inflated, each of these wheels in my journey have at times been more dominantly influential at different junctures in the journey. But always moving me forward unfailingly.

Recently I arrived at the question “Who am I?” through the work of the Indian sage Ramana Maharshi. 

“The thought ‘Who am I?’ will destroy other thoughts, and like the stick used for stirring the burning pyre, it will itself in the end get destroyed. Then, there will arise Self-Realisation.” ~ Sri Ramana Maharshi

I am “me”, born in 1963, to so and so. With all these different life experiences etc. and these likes/dislikes, these possession, these cravings/desires, these traits and such!

But, who really am I? Who was born? Who was fearful? Who craves to get this? Who is angry? Who is judgmental? Who is cynical, gets stuck and craves the freedom?

Through the day, the question now hits, in one of its many forms, but with the same essence “Who am I?”. Who asks that question, I know not, but the asking happens anyway.

Something mysterious happens with the arrival of this inquiry. The “me” I thought I was, all my life, stands apart with something witnessing it. It is the sort of witnessing I’ve seen glimpses of in the practice so far, but now it is very pronounced, and unmistakable. The vantage point has shifted. The mind-body is more readily seen for the cloak it is, the costume donned by the one that is witnessing.

To be sure, the “me” hasn’t disappeared. It is there. But so is the one that witnesses. When the witnessing is in the fore, there is a blessed peace, and freedom and stillness are also there. When the “me” jumps up to be in the fore, contraction begins, pain and confusion follow the sheer noise of it all. When the one that witnesses comes back to the fore, calmness returns with it.

Which of this am I? The “me” that I have identified with, or the one that witnesses?

At the moment, I am both. The one that witnesses the unfolding, and the “me” with the stories, both.

What is the key to the continuous experience of that blessed peace and freedom What will catalyze this transition?

Staying true to the four wheels of my practice, now enhanced with the tool of self-inquiry: Who am I?

Continue to allow the unfolding, Frans Stiene says, by “staying grounded and in that open expanded space”! 

Do you see the masterful play of Usui’s teachings in all this?

Sundar Kadayam is a Shinpiden graduate of the International House of Reiki.

Comments 7

  1. Avatar of Frans Stiene
  2. Avatar of Elly

    Thank you, Sundar, for sharing your growth and your thoughts. Inspiring as always! I think we have to lose ourselves to find ourselves, and especially to find ourselves in everyone and everything else, in the All. As you point out, it isn’t easy! But it’s our life’s work, and it’s a great work.

  3. Avatar of seema

    Hi Sundar,

    Thank you for sharing your journey , I find traces in them of my own journey here and there. 
    This one is not your “usual” article , I find in it poetry yet its in prose form :).
    Best wishes to you

  4. Avatar of Sundar

    Frans, Elly, Seema: thank you for your kind words. 

    Yes, letting go of the “I”, the identification we have with the self/ego, is the path to freedom, to peace, to openness.  That’s what makes it a “journey” for us.  Making progress one day, remaining steady another day, slipping back now and then.  Experiencing clarity every so often, and confusion too.  Having that wakeful awareness in some moments, and getting lost in the story at other times.  All this sometimes feels like a drunkard’s walk from point A to point B 🙂  And as I say that, the question arises, “Who is experiencing this?” 🙂  Sigh!!!!

    Breathing in, I breathe deeply.  Breathing out, I relax.
    Breathing in, I am aware.  Breathing out, I smile.
    … cloned from Thich Nhat Hanh’s breathing meditations!

  5. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi Sundar,

    Yes we always have to go back to Who…?
    Who is doing the healing during a hands on healing session? Can we find the “I” who is doing the healing?
    Who is getting sick? Can we find the “I” who gets sick?

    So much to discover.

  6. Avatar of Susan

    Hi, Sundar, Thank you for this lovely sharing – it is poetry in prose form.  I remember being at a conference with Sogyal Rinpoche, the Buddhist teacher from Tibet.  One of the things I keep recalling is his question, ‘Who is doing the looking?’.  As you are doing so, it is quite the question to ponder!
    As a recall from our April retreat – ‘Who is doing the ice cream eating?’

  7. Avatar of Sundar

    Hi Susan, Indeed “who is doing the ice cream eating?”  🙂  Opportunities abound in the day for us to pause and pose that very question on who is experiencing whatever the experience is, in that moment!  The teachings of the realized masters is often so very direct, piercing, literally like shining powerful light in a dark room. Much to be grateful for about their gifts to us. Thanks.

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