Freeing the Sculpture From the Stone
I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.
The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we
miss it, but that it is too low and we hit it.
Having had a vision of a mammoth statue of the Biblical David, Renaissance artist Michelangelo went from quarry to quarry looking for a slab of the finest alabaster Carrara marble he envisioned to hold David within it. After many visits to the best quarries and much reflective "seeing," Michelangelo finally spotted his David inside a huge slab of stone and arranged to have it transported to the studio.
After more study and numerous sketches, Michelangelo began his creative journey, chipping away all that was not David, freeing David from the marble slab. When everything finally had been chipped away, only David remained.
See the unreal as unreal and discard it.
It is the discarding the false which opens the way to the true...
—Nisargadatta Maharaj, I Am That
As the essence of David was freed from inside a block of marble, so letting the ego fall out of the way reveals True Nature. Advaita Vedanta, a branch of Hinduism, calls the process of removing unawareness in order to unveil True Nature to be one of negation and renunciation, or "neti-neti" ("not this, not this"). The true meaning of "nirvana" is extinct cessation, that is, the cessation of everything that is unreal, lacking Truth. It is this process of removing and letting go all that is unreal that unveils what remains-the real.
Not knowing what anything is in Truth, one recognizes what is not who one is, allowing for its continuing release and surrender. Symbolically, freeing Michelangelo's David frees Life to live. Through this lifelong process, what remains-"iti iti" ("this, this")-is real and true. To name this realization would only turn it into yet another projection. Therefore, one returns to Silence-timeless, causeless and formless I AM.
Advaita Hindu mystic Ramana Maharshi offers this analogy for how the Self is covered over by ignorance: "Consider observing a room full of junk. If you want some space, you cannot bring it in from the outside. What is necessary is to get rid of the junk and the space will simply be revealed since it was there all the time." Empty out a filled-to-the-rafters garage, and all you will notice is space. Even when all the junk was in the garage, the space was always there! Even as space is easily seeable once the "stuff" is removed, so the timeless is revealed once all that fills time is released, just as the needless is unveiled once all needs are recognized as illusions. People speak of the space in the room, building and Earth, while overlooking that actually the room, building and Earth are all in space all the time. The Self ever remains.