It is commonly said that one cannot do anything to reach the state of enlightenment because enlightenment is present here and now. Then there are those who say the enlightenment will only occur after years and years of rigorous and intense training. Is there one correct way to go about on the path towards enlightenment?
There does indeed seems to be a split in the approach of many different teachers with regards as to what can actually be done in respect to an aspirant seeking complete unification with the “Divine” There are those who say that enlightenment will come about after years and years of rigorous and consistent practice. Then, there are those who say that it can be done this very instant. Both of these views seem correct, yet at the same time they also seem incompatible to each other. Yet, we can understand that if the Truth that we are seeking is the Truth, if the Truth that awakened beings throughout history have found is the Absolute Truth, then it has to be present right here, right now. For how can something that is fundamentally True be not true now? The tricky part is that both these views are correct.
Practice is needed for a time. Not to get us anything or to bring us anywhere but to slowly chip away at the“ego-mind construct.” To slowly show us that we are not our bodies, that we are not our minds. But, it is important to recognize that it is only needed as long as we are still identified with our bodies and mental activity. As long as we still take our thoughts and mental activity to be the sum total of who and what we are then a type of spiritual discipline will be beneficial. Yet, as soon as we have seen for ourselves that this is not so, that we are not our minds, that we are not the sum total of our thoughts and ideas, then the entire practice can be dropped. For there never was and never will be a time when we are not Already That.
There was a point in human history where it was strongly believed that only after lifetimes of dedicated practice will one come to the realization of who and what they truly are. There are some schools of thought that carry this notion to this day. Yet, so many sincere seekers were becoming discouraged. The task seemed overly impossible for them. These seekers wanted nothing more than to meet God here and now. As a lover does not wish to wait years to reunite with her beloved but wants to be with him now, was the same intense yearning that so many had for God and still have.
Somehow in response to this yearning the consciousness revealed to the world that it was not a prerequisite to have to wait lifetimes, but that the Truth can be discovered in this very instant. Sages such as Sri Ramana Maharshi, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, Sri Anandamayi Ma (just to highlight a few) arose in response to this yearning. For those beings whose hearts were already on fire and only the light of God realization could extinguish, these beings were there to point to the immediacy of Truth.
In our modern day where everything is needed instantly, even consciousness responded to this changing time and showed that that which you are seeking is here and now. And, not only that, has always been here and now.
Even those who have taken lifetimes to discover this Truth will realize that it has always been right here, right now. Never any distance between who they took themselves to be and where they imagined they were going.
Yet, unfortunately there exists today very few true seekers after truth. So many are simply using spirituality and spiritual teachings to strengthen their own egos and individual sense of “I.” To simply feel good about themselves and follow a new trend. These are the types of seekers who will spend their entire life being a spiritual practitioner and never even attempt to truly grow. Greed will stay with them. Anger, lust, maliciousness will be there because so many will refuse to call into question their sense of “I.”
Many are satisfied in exchanging one identity for another. Taking a “worldly” identity and trading it in for a “spiritual” one. Because of this the teachings of spiritual immediacy has been abused and greatly misinterpreted to keep the individual sense of “I” alive and well. Many simply repeat spiritual cliches such as “I am That” or “we are all already free and perfect” without realizing for themselves via direct living experience the truth of these words. Saying “I am That” does not make it so.
It does not matter whether a spiritual statement is absolutely true or not, if it is not discovered as fact via direct experience then for you it is an untruth. Parroting out teachings is easy when one doesn’t wish to have their sense of “I” called out and destroyed. In fact, simply believing these spiritual cliches without discovering their truth in the heart is a surefire way to keep the ego alive.
How many spiritual practitioners are out there with so much knowledge they could fill libraries? Of them, how many have truly touched the timeless?
One needs to be brutally honest here.
The spiritual path is to strip us completely, to make us naked and raw before life itself. If you feel that everything is going easily and smoothly then most likely you are missing something. All too easily can the spiritual search become just another add-on for the ego, just another thing we can add-on and show off about. We have our cars, our house, our fancy gadgets and now we can have spiritual awakening too.
Any real effective type of spiritual practice will chip at this and will expose the ego, will expose the mind. If you are feeling comfortable and at ease then you are simply tricking yourself. It may be what you want. Maybe spiritual awakening is not what you are seeking and maybe all you want to be part of a meditation community and make nice friends. Who knows. But if spiritual awakening is what you seek then one should be very caution and be wary of feeling too relaxed and at ease during the search.
The path is meant to rip the ego out. To shake the foundations of everything we believed to be true. To constantly pull the rug out from underneath us. To knock us down, pick us up, and knock us right back down. Life will continue this until the ego, until the identity of ourselves being separate from the universe is crushed.
How can you tell if something is truly spiritually beneficially for you? It is when the mere thought of it brings immense resistance. The ego does not want to engage in anything that might bring about its destruction. Which is why it can become so easy for people to fall into the trap of going to too many retreats, or moving to some ashram in India or becoming a monk or nun of some sort.
Why can this be a trap?
Because you are removing yourself from any situations that might harm the ego. It is very easy to be calm and peaceful and spiritual in front of others who are trying to be and do the same. Keeping that same mentality and focus among those who could not care less about spirituality, among those who criticize you and hurt you is where the path becomes real. The spiritual path is not in the temples or in the churches. It is not even during meditations sessions. It is out in the world. This is where the path starts and ends.
If you are going to practice, if finding out the Truth is what your heart truly yearns then go straight to the heart of the matter. Find the one who is engaging in all of these activities. Even the ones that seem mundane. When walking, find the walker. When breathing; find the breather. See if there even is one. Find your true place in all of this. And this doesn’t need to take years and years or even lifetimes. It can be done today. It can be done right where you are. If Truth is Truth it is not only true where you are now it is what you are now.