Nothing Has Ever Happened

I was quietly sitting by the banks of the Ganga in Rishikesh between Ram Jhula and Lakshman Jhula, watching the fishes moving through the water. As I sat there I had an extraordinary vision of myself, the self that had been ‘Poonja’, in all its various incarnations through time. I watched the jiva [reincarnating soul] move from body to body, from form to form. It went through plants, through animals, through birds, through human bodies, each in a different place in a different time. The sequence was extraordinarily long. Thousands and thousands of incarnations, spanning millions of years, appeared before me. My own body finally appeared as the last one of the sequence, followed shortly afterwards by the radiant form of the Maharshi. The vision then ended. The appearance of the Maharshi had ended that seemingly endless sequence of births and rebirths. After his intervention in my life, the jiva that finally took the form of Poonja could incarnate no more. The Maharshi destroyed it by a single look.

As I watched the endless incarnations roll by, I also experienced time progressing at its normal speed. That is to say, it really felt as if millions of years were elapsing. Yet when my usual consciousness returned, I realised that the whole vision had occupied but an instant of time. One may dream a whole lifetime but when one wakes up one knows that the time that elapsed in the dream was not real, that the person in the dream was not real, and that the world which that person inhabited was not real. All this is recognised instantly at the moment of waking. Similarly, when one wakes up to the Self, one knows instantly that time, the world, and the life one appeared to live in it are all unreal. That vision by the Ganga brought home this truth to me very vividly. I knew that all my lifetimes in samsara were unreal, and that the Maharshi had woken me up from this wholly imaginary nightmare by showing me the Self that I really am. Now, freed from that ridiculous samsara, and speaking from the standpoint of the Self, the only reality, I can say, ‘Nothing has ever come into existence; nothing has ever happened; the unchanging, formless Self alone exists’.

That is my experience, and that is the experience of everyone who has realised the Self.
A few years later, when I was staying in Paris, someone showed me a copy of the Nirvana Sutra. I read it and found that the Buddha had had a similar experience.

Excerpt From Nothing Ever Happened Volume Two, pages 7-8
By David Godman