There can be only one
and we're all it.
Therefore, no "paths" are necessary. The idea of a path implies that there is somewhere to go: from here to there, now to then. It may imply that we have to work on ourselves somehow; that we are imperfect and need to perfect ourselves; that we need to elevate our level of consciousness or achieve some mysterious and elusive goal. All of these ideas arise from our "ego" and prevent us from simply being aware of being, right here, right now and noticing what we already are. We are already perfect. We are all life. We are all one. There is nothing else to know.
However, if we forget this, here are some of the ways that we can remind ourselves of this simple concept and know it both intellectually and as our own direct experience.
1. Knowledge (as information, experience and reasoning)
The more we learn about the universe through our observations, experiments and logical reasoning, the more we are taken towards conclusions that scientists did not anticipate: time, space and matter do not exist in the way we think they do; something very weird is going on. When we look for the building blocks of matter, instead of hard particles, we find energy fields and vibrations. Instead of universal, constant time, we find that time is relative and dependent on the velocities of objects travelling through space. What we observe to be real is no more than a mental construct of information received via our limited senses, which tells us very little about what's actually "out there", if anything.
Observation, enquiry and reasoning can only help us to a point. We reach the limit of their
usefulness when we realise that anything we observe implies that there is an object to be observed and an observer to do the observing. Whenever we try to see what the observer is, we make it into the object we are observing. However, it is still useful to ask this question:"What am I?".
Here's a suggestion:
Modern science tells us that we, like everything else in the universe, are fluctuations within electromagnetic fields, like patterns of light in a hologram.
Light travels at the speed of light.
At the speed of light there is no movement through time, therefore all time is now and ideas of space and time are meaningless concepts.
Therefore space and time are an illusion.
If space and time are an illusion, then that illusion is generated within us and even the idea of "us" must be an illusion since "us" is plural and implies separation in spacetime, which does not exist.
Nobody exists except the Self, which has no body.
If the Self is aware, it must be aware of something, and that something is a universe, projected into spacetime just as a source light projects a hologram into space.
The Self is the source of the projected universe.
We can work out this much rationally, but to really know it, we would need to experience it. The following methods can help us to do that.
Being self-obsessed and completely wrapped up in our own little ego is not necessarily the best route to enlightenment known to man. By focusing our attention on the needs of others, we not only increase our chances of doing something helpful for them but we also reduce the power of our own ego. By being "selfless" we come closer to discovering the Self.
Meditation is a tool that, when used properly, can help us to see reality more clearly by allowing all the stuff that's normally fogging up the mind to settle. It is only when the mind is calm and clear that we can usefully ask the question:"What am I?"; otherwise all the mind throws up is a mish-mash of ideas about our little egos and personalities and our enquiries take us further away from what we seek.
To meditate, simply sit and be. We can let go of even the idea of meditating. Just be present in the moment. When you stop looking at your ideas about yourself you will see your real Self.
Sounds simple, and ultimately it is, though for most people it may take a bit of practice at first. For this reason, there is a hughe amount of information about meditation on this website .
Being in the moment, with whatever is in front of us and whatever thoughts come and go in our minds, without judgment, is called "mindfulness". It's important not to confuse this with rumination and introspection which are counter-productive and can send us into the downward spiral of depression and mental illness in some cases. Mindfulness is not about digging up the past, getting in touch with our deepest feelings, working through our "issues" or analysing our unconscious motivations ad nauseum, it's about the calm clarity of a quiet, settled mind which is the mind's natural state when it is simply present in the now without trying to "do" anything.
Going about our daily activities with our attention on the task in hand, in the present moment, without attachment to the results of our labours, we can just observe the passing show without getting caught up in it. This again brings us back to the Self, the witness of the show.
Love arises naturally from service, just as service arises naturally from love. Through love, we may experience a genuine concern for the needs of others.
The greatest gift we can give to another person is our undivided, loving attention.
By really being there for someone, in the present moment, without wanting to be somewhere else or trying to influence them in order to make them fit in with our own ideas of what they should be or do, we "real-ise" them; we help them to feel real, special, valued and cared for.
In such moments, two beings re-cognise each other (or know each other again): Self meets Self and something amazing happens. It can be like coming home; a union, a healing. I and thou become an "I-Thou" just as two notes of music can merge in a harmonic resonance. The Self is simply present in two forms and is experienced as love.
Religion as a path of love
An exercise which has been practiced for millennia is to imagine the Self as a separate entity and then come to love that entity. We can feel the presence of the invisible entity everywhere. Even when no one else acknowledges or values us, we can feel valued and loved. This practice is at the heart of most of the world's major religions and the separate, everywhere-present entity, or Cosmic Consciousness, is usually called "God".
There is a purpose to this exercise, which has been forgotten by most religious practitioners and is actively avoided by others. The purpose is union. When people love each other, they want to be together. There is a yearning to become one. When a religious devotee loves their God so much that they yearn to become one with Him/Her/It, they may take that final step and, out of love, put themselves "in the shoes of the beloved" and in that moment realise that there was never any separation in the first place. The two become one; or rather the One continues to be One, since there were never two to start with.
(If this concept seems strange, we can ask ourselves a question: If, in the beginning, there was only God and God created everything, what did God create everything out of if not himself? And if everything was created out of God, how can anything not be God or be separate from God? If everything is God, then God is what we all are.)
This may be why many religious leaders have developed a kind of paranoia about philosophical disciplines, to the point where some of them even refuse to hire out halls to groups doing physical exercises such as yoga or Tai Chi. There seems to be a fear that their congregations will somehow be contaminated by ideas that will ultimately reduce their dependence on the religious organisation they belong to. If people were to remember that they are God, then they would no longer need favoured messengers through which to communicate with the deity and religious leaders might become redundant.
This fear seems largely unfounded. Any honest religion capable of reminding people of their own divinity would still have plenty of work to do. The idea that we are somehow locked into the little region of spacetime enclosed within our own skin is a powerful one.
But a religion can only be honest if its leaders remember its true purpose and have not themselves become so attached to the illusion of separation that they become like the blind leading the blind and begin to consider their own original message to be a kind of blasphemy.
Let's not blame religious leaders, however, since most of us have a vested interest in maintaining the illusion of a separate supreme being, which someone described the other day as their "cosmic comfort blanket" that helped make life more bearable and that they were scared to let go of.
Which is understandable, and fine if people are happy with that. However, is there any need to "let go" if the "something we think we are letting go of" is something that we actually are? Can an ocean wave, believing itself to be separate from the ocean, let go of the ocean?
Would the act of "letting go" leave a big ,empty, scary hole in which we would be helpless and small and alone, or would it produce a paradigm shift where we realised that we were always alone in the first place but need never feel small and helpless again.
Being enlightened now
It is interesting to note that these seemingly different "paths" all lead to the same destination, the top of the same mountain, the awareness that we are all One.
According to our nature, each of us may find that we are attracted to a slightly different "path" or method of discovering the truth of what we are. Often it is simply that we explore different aspects at different stages in our development. It may even be the idea that we are on some kind of path that is actually holding us back.
For some of us it might take many years before the penny drops. For others it might be very quick.
It could be now.
There is no law that says you have to wait several lifetimes to "achieve enlightenment". You can be aware of the Self right now if you choose to be because that is what you already are; you were never anything else in the first place.
This is what the wise men and women of all religions and cultures throughout history and in all parts of the world have been telling us for millennia and are still shouting from the rooftops if only we have the courage to listen. When we study the words of the wise, from Lao Tzu to Einstein, we see that they are all saying the same thing.
As Chuang Tzu summarized neatly, on everyone's behalf:
"The ten thousand things and I are one.
We are already one –
What else is there to say?"
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