from Gustave Doré's illustrations to the Divine Comedy.
Gustave Doré [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Enlightenment. Salvation. Heaven. Nirvana. Pure Land. The Tao. Faith. Grace. Even… happiness.
They’re not destinations or achievements. They aren’t places to go or things to acquire. The fingers all look different and the language all sounds different, but they all boil down to existence. You Are. I Am.
That’s an abstraction too, but I’m crooking the finger a bit in case you were staring at it. Perhaps it’s better to say they’re ways of travel, ways of being in the world. But you can’t help being in the world in those ways… you can only misunderstand and hide them from yourself. You can only refuse the gift that you’ve already been given regardless of merit.
The trouble with spiritual destinations is that they ask your ego to destroy your ego. If you frame the descriptions of mystical experience as awards, then you start trying to earn them like any other self-improvement effort. But getting to Heaven isn’t the same sort of thing as becoming fit or learning Spanish. There’s not a certain number of meditation sessions or rosary prayers that’ll get you where you want to go.
Enlightenment and Heaven can’t be gotten to by striving. Faith can’t be rationalized and gotten to through logic. They’re impossible things to acquire through the frameworks of physical necessity or analytical computing. Your body and your mind are the systems by which you manifest – they’re how the eternal in you engages with the temporal to play and to witness. If you misunderstand them, they’re the confusions of identity that keep you from enlightenment and Heaven. You can’t fix your interpretation through your misinterpretations any more than you can heal your addiction through the thing you’re addicted to.
Spiritual destinations are an impossible contradiction. You can’t obtain or get to Nirvana or the Tao. You already possess them – you are already most fundamentally them. The arrival at spiritual destinations isn’t an adding-to, it isn’t a treasure in a locked chest. Spiritual destinations are the descriptions of realization – a sudden knowledge and experience that you have, all along, contained these things you thought you were seeking… indeed, that you have, all along, contained all things.
Happiness is impossible, but when you acknowledge the futility of getting at it through effort you suddenly are it. It’s no different with enlightenment, Heaven, Nirvana, the Pure land, the Tao, faith, or grace. These are fingers pointing at the illumination within you… the action to them is realization, unveiling, and unfolding. It’s a subtraction of the unnecessary stuff you’ve added, a removal of the confusions of identity you’ve incorporated into your life.
Christ welcomes you into Heaven, He has washed out your sins. The Buddha welcomes you into the Pure Land and helps you toward undistracted enlightenment. You can’t earn these things. You’ve been given them in grace. You aren’t and can never be worthy. But this isn’t about worthiness.
Spiritual destinations are really descriptions of wholeness. They’re about constantly remembering and participating in Heaven, Nirvana, and the Pure Land. It’s about Christ consciousness and Buddha mind. It’s about right here, right now. Simply doing and being without trying to get something. Fully feeling all that happens, fully being all that exists.
The Eternal cannot be earned or attained, but it can be unveiled. In the end, there is no difference between Maya and Nirvana, no difference between physicality and spirituality, no difference between earth and Heaven. There’s no difference between inaction and action. There’s only the One, with no second. It’s the interpretations that hold you back – it’s the rules and roles that keep you from walking in holiness. The unveiling of the Eternal is as easy and difficult as stopping yourself from complicating life.
Your ego and thoughts will subside back into nothingness, they’re ripples in time. Your ego struggles and strives in an effort to be permanent… to survive, which is its primary function. It’s a meaningless and futile struggle, a shadow fighting to exist independently of both the light and the creature casting the shadow. This is the context of the fight for a spiritual destination.
Don’t spend a lifetime trying to etch your shadow into permanence. You are walking in happiness now. You walk through Heaven each day and are free of all your karma and sins right here, right now.