The Chandogya Upanishad is considered to be among the earliest Upanishads, coming from the Vedas, the oldest source of what we label as Hinduism. It is called Tat Twam Asi, translated as “That thou art,” and the story goes something like this. (6.1.1. ) There was a boy named Svetaketu Aruneya. One day his father said to him, "Svetaketu, go live as a seeker of Brahman” Go find the Source of all that is. Put another way, go live as a spiritual seeker, go find Ultimate Reality.
The father said, “Verily, dear boy, in our family there is no one without learning, a brahmin by virtue of [one's] relations, as it were."
Having become a pupil at age 12 and having studied all of the Vedas, he returned to the family home at 24, proud, conceited, thinking himself well-schooled. And then his father said to him:
"Svetaketu, since you are proud and conceited, dear boy, and consider yourself learned, did you ask for that instruction by which that which is not heard, becomes heard, that which is, not thought, becomes thought, and that which is not known becomes known?"
The young man said, “But in what manner, sir, is this teaching?" (A sixth century BCE way of saying, Dad, I don’t get it…)
The father goes on, “Just as from a single lump of clay, dear boy, one would know about everything made from clay, the difference being a mere verbal distinction, a name, the reality is only `clay.'
Just as from one lump of copper, dear boy, one would know about everything made from copper, the difference being a mere verbal distinction, a name, the reality is only `copper.'
As from a single nail-scissor, dear boy, one would know about all iron objects, the difference being a mere verbal distinction, a name, the reality is only `iron,' this is that teaching, dear boy."
"Indeed, those worthy men did not know this, for if they had known it why did they not tell me? Sir, please tell it to me."
"Certainly, dear boy," he replied.
"In the beginning, dear boy, this world was Being--One only, without a second…. "But, dear boy, how could this be?" the father said, "how could Being be produced from non-Being? In the beginning there was Being alone, one only, without a second. “
The father goes on to speak of bees and nectar and honey. He speaks of tigers, lions, wolves and worms and after each stanza he says, “That which is the finest essence, the whole universe has That as its soul. That is Reality, That is the Self, and That is you, Svetaketu!"
The heart of this teaching is the Sanskrit phrase, tát túvam ási, as you heard, variously translated as "Thou art that," or That art thou. The full text is translated as something like this:
“That thou art, That art thou, You are that, That you are, You're it.”
Living mystic and Catholic Priest Father Richard Rohr suggests that this ancient wisdom could be read like this,” YOU are That! You ARE what you seek! THOU art That! THAT you are! You are IT!”
Rohr writes, “The meaning of this saying is that the True Self—in its original, pure, primordial state—is wholly or partially identifiable or even identical with God, the Ultimate Reality that is the ground and origin of all phenomena. That which you long for, you also are. In fact, that is where the longing comes from. Longing for God and longing for our True Self are the same longing…1
That which you long for, you also are.
Or as in the poetry from the Vedas, “That which is the finest essence, the whole universe has That as its soul. That is Reality, That is the Self, and That is you.”
Or more succinctly, “You ARE it.” And as Father Rohr says, “You ARE what you seek!” Rumi is said to have taught something similar, ‘“What you seek is seeking you.”
And today we heard what Jesus said after giving a sample prayer, which we now call the Lord’s Prayer, he speaks of persistence and then replies, “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”
Ask. Knock. Receive. Search. Find.…at some point, the door will be opened for you.
To be clear, as we explored last week, if God operates in the world with persuasive power instead of coercive power, then this teaching likely doesn’t mean that if we ask right, God will gives us just what we want, when we want it. That is a vending machine God. That is a Santa God.
Rather, what if this is pointing to the idea that the asking and searching itself will eventually get you to some kind of opening, because we aren’t separate from the Ultimate Reality to which we are praying? Put another way, asking, searching, knocking on their own will open ways, doorways and pathways within us and around us.
“That thou art, That art thou, You are that, That you are, You're it.”
The Universe cannot guarantee you will get what you want, but Ask! Search! Knock! Be persistent in looking for doors that have been opened, even just a crack… because otherwise we could miss it. We could miss the very thing we were praying for because we were looking for something or someone else. In the words of Herman Hesse, “When someone seeks, it easily happens that the eyes see only the thing that he seeks, and he is able to find nothing…”
Sometimes doors that have been opened are ones that were once before closed. And we must pass by again, we must come back, we have to revisit a door again not just because circumstances have changed, but because we have.
To me, prayer is a language, a holy seeking that does not go unnoticed, it is an orientation in which we are invited to live this ancient truth that what we long for is in some way with us all along: “That thou art, That art thou, You are that, That you are, You're it.”
So maybe when Jesus says, “knock, and the door will be opened for you,” he doesn’t mean ask and your requests will be granted on the timeline you requested in the way that you imagined. Instead perhaps he means in some way, what you are seeking in part, you already have and the seeking itself is a gift, the asking, searching and knocking will on its own open us to possibilities and doorways. Perhaps like the words of the Rolling Stones song, “You can't always get what you want You can't always get what you want You can't always get what you want But if you try sometimes, well, you might find You get what you need.”
“You ARE what you seek!” “What you seek is seeking you.” “search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. All who asks receive, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”
Don’t miss the doors that were once closed and are now open. Don’t miss the opened doors that are hidden behind something else. Don’t miss this important and powerful truth: “You ARE what you seek!” ‘“What you seek is seeking you.” The seeking itself is a path of hope. The Universe cannot guarantee you will get what you want, but don’t give up, be persistence or as one translation says, be shameless! Ask, knock, search, seek, keep going. “That thou art, That art thou, You are that, That you are, You're it.” You are part of your own answer. Beloved of God, if you try sometimes, you just might find, you will get what you need. And you don’t need to look very far, that which you long for, you also are! May it be so. Amen.