The Gnostic tradition says there are two paths to transcend duality, to transcend multiplicity, to transcend this constant conflict between life and death. The first path is called by the Gnostics via purgativa, “through purity”; and the second path is called via unitiva, “through unity.” The first is the path of meditation, the second the path of love. The first is Zen, the second is Sufism.
On the path of meditation, one has to eliminate, one has to empty oneself totally. On the path of love, just the reverse process has to be followed – one has to become more and more full. One has to become so full that one starts overflowing. On the path of meditation, one has to become so empty that nothing remains within, one is just a pure nothingness.
That’s why Buddha says that there is no soul. He says in the ultimate experience nothing is found; only nothing is found. It is utter emptiness, a state of no-self, anatta, hence he has called it nirvana. Nirvana means “putting out a candle” – the ego just disappears as if you have put out a candle; nothing remains. Only when nothing remains is there purity. If something is there, that is impurity. When on the mirror there is nothing, then the mirror is pure: no reflection, no dust, no content in the consciousness. Nothing remains to be known – then one is pure. This is via purgativa, go on eliminating.
The Upanishads say neti, neti – this is not that, that too is not that, neither this nor that. Go on denying, go on negating, go on eliminating until nothing remains. And when you have arrived to that utter emptiness, that is the goal. Then all is peace, all is silence. One has moved beyond duality, beyond multiplicity.
In this state, the observer becomes the observed; there is no distinction between the observer and the observed. Hence J. Krishnamurti’s famous statement, “The observer is the observed.” It is the very essence of meditation. Then there are not two: neither the knower nor the known – no subject, no object. Only one is there. But you cannot even call it one, because there is nobody to call it one. One is there, but utterly quiet and calm. One is there, but there is nobody to declare it. One is there, but as if all is absent, not present.
This is what Hakim Sanai says, The pure man unites two in one: the observer and the observed. The pure man means the man of meditation. The pure man means one who has been trying the path of via purgativa; who has been simply emptying himself of all that is foreign, and who goes on eliminating all that is not his essential self. And then nothing is left in the hand.
That’s what Zen people say, that man is like an onion. You go on peeling, layer upon layer; go on peeling and finally nothing is left. But that’s what the search is. When the hands are empty, nothing is left – you have arrived. Now there can be no misery because there is nobody to be miserable. Now there can be no pain because there is nobody to feel pain. Now there is neither knowledge nor ignorance because there is no knower. Now there is neither bondage nor liberation because there is nobody to be bound or to be liberated. All is gone, all has disappeared. You have fallen back into the source.