We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning…
If you are on a path, you may have wondered when you will arrive… or if ever you will arrive. You may have heard that we are all already enlightened. This will seem as far fetched as claiming that it is all already perfect, just as it is.
Yet many of the greatest spiritual masters maintain this, including the incomparable Ramana Maharshi, who woke up as a teenager and wandered off to a sacred mountain. While the whole world came to Ramana, he never returned to his birthplace, for he found that wherever he was, that was home.
Ramana was deeply puzzled why the rest of us don’t simply get that there is only God, that there is nothing but God, and we are already God. Quoting the Old Testament, he reminded us, “I AM,” and “Be still.” If we recognize the “Great I AM” within us, and we become still, we will see God, just as he once did.
There are many different words for enlightenment, based on the great religious traditions, all initiated by mystics.
“Enlightenment” is the Buddhist term, meaning waking up. “Awoken” is frequently used, as well.
“Self-Realization” is the Hindu term, meaning that you come to realize Who You Really Are.
“Salvation” is the Hebrew, as well as Christian, term, referring to being bought back and brought back…body, mind and spirit.
Christianity went on to introduce “Born Again,” as being born to a whole new world, as opposed to reincarnation.
Islam added, “Remembrance,” you remember that God IS, and There is Only God. (The mystical reading of “There is no God but Allah,” is “There is nothing BUT God.”)
Transformation is a contemporary term, introduced by Werner Erhard, which refers to a sudden shift in Self-Identification, from that which is NOT Self (the content of your life), to that which IS Self (the context, or space of your life).
You are the Space out of which everyone and everything streams forth from your innermost being.
As we find a path and embark, we come across other paths, and start asking questions.
Are we all going up the same mountain? And if so, is there ever a peak to Mount Everest or Mount Kailash? Or is there always another peak to climb?
Bhakti, or fervent devotion, is adoration of our Creator until we find ourselves becoming our creator. The Eastern Christian Church calls this a process of divinization.
Karma, or loving service, is unattached action whereby we recognize everyone we encounter as divine, as witnessed by the Hindu greeting, “Namaste!” This means, “I salute the Deity within you.”
Raja Yoga, or union with God, is a process of merging with the Shakti, or sacred feminine energy. Out of this tradition came Hatha Yoga.
Jnana Yoga, or inner knowledge, is a direct means to God by using the mind to transcend the mind, and realize that there is just “THAT” (Aum), the inexpressible.
What most of us fail to appreciate is that each path, which appeals to a separate group of people, is intertwined with every other path, such that you can’t have one path completely devoid of the others.
For example, the path of devotion and the path of knowledge are frequently juxtaposed, one against the other. But a devotional mystic will eventually have knowledge, and the knowing mystic will eventually have love and devotion.
Many, if not most, Christians have regarded the Holy Trinity of the Roman Catholic Church as a hopeless anachronism, much like the appendix is regarded as a useless organ in the body. Recently, a whole new perspective has emerged that makes this concept of Three-in-One highly relevant.
1. God as First Person equates with The Father, the Source. I AM.
2. God as Second Person equates with The Son, the Logos, or Divine Word. YOU ARE.
3. God as Third Person equates with The Holy Spirit, the Sacred Presence that permeates all of creation. THAT IS.
The breakthrough realization is that we can directly experience “God” through each channel, and each channel necessarily implies the other two.
Three channels in One. You can switch channels any time you want.
Saint Paul was more responsible than anyone who has ever lived for putting Christianity, numerically the world’s largest faith, on the map. Late in his ministry along the Mediterranean Sea, Paul maintained that, without Love, he was nothing. He maintained that mystical knowledge, the ability to work miracles and extreme acts of altruism were completely subordinate to Love, which he defined in great detail.
We may legitimately wonder if the ideal path is to find a cave, meditate for 10 years and disappear into the Void, much like the original Buddhist Theravada tradition. Within several hundred years of inception, Buddhism developed a powerful counter-current, called Mahayana, or “The Great Vehicle,” which maintain the opposite.
A buddha is not simply someone who escapes the suffering of the world and vanishes, but rather a bodhisattva who finds the Gates of Paradise, and then goes back into the world to bring everyone else with him.
If you ever experience a direct hit of divine love, you will be very clear that this is the ultimate, that nothing is comparable to that. It is of greatest interest that recent accounts of Near Death Experience (NDE), such as those of Dr. Eben Alexander and Anita Moorjani, emphatically maintain that the defining characteristic of the afterlife is ABSOLUTE LOVE, a love that is forever, and has no limits.
What has irreversibly changed in our post-modern, planetary era is that enlightenment has no more meaning unless it is universal.
There is not a Buddhist enlightenment, nor a Hindu enlightenment, nor a Jewish enlightenment, nor a Christian enlightenment nor an Islamic enlightenment. There is just enlightenment. As Dr. Deepak Chopra defined it, the religions of the West simply have different hues than those of the East. It’s the spiritual equivalent of Baskin Robbins 31 Flavors.
As the remarkable charismatic evangelist, Carlton Pearson, maintained, a Gospel of Inclusion is the only gospel worth talking about. We need a Greater God, and a Greater Christ. Perhaps we weren’t ready for it when the Avatar, Bodhisattva and Messiah first appeared. This is accordance with the great shift in humanity, from, as Judith Anodea brilliantly put it, “the love of power” to “the power of love.”
We might remember the Beatles’ words, “When all of the people living in the world agree, there will be an answer, ‘Let it be. Let it be.’” I would maintain that, when people of every path realize that they are each calling the same God by a different name, the world of humanity will awaken, and our planet will be transformed.
Dr. Steven Wolinsky, a passionate disciple of the late jnana master, “Nisargadatta Maharaj,” recounted how, early on in his pilgrimage to India, he asked a master, “How will I know when I am enlightened?” the master quipped...
“You don’t want to be enlightened, because if you were enlightened, you would not be there to enjoy it.”
We are God’s dream. We are the precious characters in His creation that He loves, with His very own absolute love. We are not here by accident. We each have a destiny to fulfill.
To be happy, we only need consider Werner Erhard’s final aphorism, “If you really knew what God wanted you to do, you would be happy doing it, no matter what it was. What you are doing IS WHAT GOD WANTS YOU TO DO. Be happy!”
All we have to do is remember Him, and then remember Who We All Really Are. At that moment, He and We will disappear into THE ONE. Out of THAT ONE, all things are possible.