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THE WAY TO ENLIGHTENMENT
THE WAY TO ENLIGHTENMENT
Except from the book of Neale Donald Walsh
(G = GOD ... N = NEALE)
“Okay, what's this all about?”
“The time has come for us to practice the first basic tenet of the New Spirituality.”
“That all the wisdom you will ever need lies within you. That you are all having Conversations with God all the time. That every time you go within, search with a pure heart and a deep desire to know your highest truth, you will receive it. All you have to do is listen to what you have to say to yourself-and then trust that.”
“Yes, I feel that, I know that.”
“We're going to demonstrate that right here.”
“Yes. Our conversation on the topic of Tomorrow's God is now over in its present form.
“For the length of this dialogue I have allowed you to ask the questions and to receive my answers as if I was the one with all the insight and you were the one who lacked awareness. This is not what is true about you, and this continuing dialogue is not modeling what is true about anyone.
“The truth about all of you is that you have deep insights and extraordinary wisdom, and all you have to do to experience that is open up to it and call it forth.”
“I believe that. Through the years I have come to believe that.”
“Yes, but do you include yourself in that? Many people think that people in general are wise, but that they are not. Many people think that people in general are attractive and beautiful, but they are not. Many people believe the best about others and the worst about themselves.”
“I do not. I am not in that group. With humility I would say that I believe I am no less capable than the rest of humanity of accessing and bringing forth wisdom from within.”
“What do you have up your sleeve here?”
“I've already told you. I am going to suggest to you that you-and all others-have all the answers to every question you could ever ask. And I'm going to conclude our conversation by proving it.
“I'm going to turn the tables on you, with the biggest question of all.”
“Are you ready?
“Are you ready or aren't you?”
“Right. Now we have something here. Now remember, from this point on, you are the one with the answers and I am the one with the questions.”
“So here is the biggest, most important question in the entire conversation that we've been having.
“What is the way to enlightenment?
“What will the New Spirituality, what will Tomorrow's God, have to say about that?”
“You know, I've already looked at that. I even did a sharing about that with a small group of about a dozen people recently.”
“And what did you tell them? And what do you want to add now to what you said? Go ahead. I'm waiting for your answer.
“What is the way to enlightenment?”
“Well, ‘enlightenment' is this elusive, magical, mystical experience for which everyone seems to be reaching and for which everyone seems to have a yearning and for which everyone seems to be searching. And I understand the reasons for the search, because if we all were enlightened, one imagines that our lives would be better than they are now, when we are presumably unenlightened.
“In addition, it occurs to me that if all of us were enlightened relatively quickly, the whole world would be different and we would experience life in another way. Presumably with less turmoil, with less stress, with less conflict, for sure. I would imagine, with less sadness and anger and less violence and much less of all the things that make our lives sad and disjointed and unhappy in these days and times.
“So humanity searches for enlightenment, and we have been searching for enlightenment from the beginning of time, ever since we became consciously aware of the fact that it was possible to be enlightened-whatever that is.”
“Whatever that is? You don't even know what it is to be enlightened?”
“Have a little patience. Everything will soon become clear. That sound familiar?”
“That sounds familiar.”
“Sound like something you would say?”
“It does. You've learned quickly. Go on.”
“We have not only been searching for enlightenment, we have been searching as well for a definition of enlightenment, because we can't get to that destination until we know where we are going. And so the first step for most human beings has been to try to define what enlightenment is, or what it looks like, or what it feels like, or tastes like, or what it is like to experience that. And then, after we have that clear, after we know what our destination is, then we can try to figure out what it would take to get from where we are to where we want to be.
“And there is this rush to enlightenment that I observe that humanity, or a portion of humanity, is engaged in. And many say that they know how to get there, and that they know how to get you there. And so we see many, many ‘Paths to Enlightenment' that are suggested, recommended, created, expressed, experienced, shared, and put into the space of our collective lives. Masters of every shape and size and color have been creating a way to be enlightened for millennia.
“Paramahansa Yogananda said that he knew a way to enlightenment. Sai Baba said that he knew a way to enlightenment. The Buddha said that he knew a way to enlightenment. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi said that he knows a way to enlightenment. In their own way, Jesus the Christ and Abu al-Qasim Muhammad ibn Abd Allah ibn Abd al-Muttalib ibn Hashim-Muhammad-said that he knew the way to enlightenment.
“Now the interesting thing here is that the followers of all of these masters have insisted that their master was right about that, that their way was the best way and the fastest way. Maybe not the only way, but the fastest way, and therefore, you needed to take that way. There was a great urgency. You needed to become Catholic or you needed to take Transcendental Meditation or you needed to learn tia chi-and not some time, but right now, immediately, this month.
“Or you needed to join this group or do that process or read this book or be baptized or be unbaptized or do whatever it is that you have been told by your particular master is the fastest, quickest way for you to get where all of us want to go-which is the place called ‘enlightenment.'”
“Now the danger of this business of enlightenment is twofold. The first danger is thinking that there is something specific that you have to do in order to get there, and that if you don't do that, you can't get there. The second danger is thinking that your way to get there is the fastest, best way to do it.
“A few years ago, now I guess it's about twelve or fifteen years ago, I was approached by people in the estmovement. Werner Erhard created the Erhard Seminar Trainings, which was a huge movement in the new thought community in the United States and around the world around twenty-five years ago or so.
“The people who were involved in the est movement were absolutely convinced that this was the fastest way to enlightenment. So they began recruiting people to take est, and they became very engaged in that process. It was almost urgent, an urgent matter with them. And they couldn't understand why you didn't get the urgency, if you didn't get it. They would look at you and say, ‘You just don't get it, do you?'
“This was natural, because they had found something that changed their whole life virtually overnight, and they wanted to give that to you and they knew that this was The Way. There were many ways. This wasn't the only way, but this was probably the fastest way.
“And I enrolled in the est program and I, too, became enlightened. In fact, I became so enlightened that I realized that I did not need est to be enlightened-which really upset the est people, because they wanted me to take the next level and the next level and the next level of the training.
“It seems that est was a program that had multitudinous levels. You could take level one, level two, level three-they had very fancy names for them. And once you got in the program, you could virtually never get out of it. You had to almost extract yourself out of it. And if you did get out of it, you were made to feel by those who were inside of it that you had done something desperately sad. Not wrong, just very sad. Because you just didn't get it.
“Many years ago Paramahansa Yogananda started the Self-Realization Fellowship. Yogananda taught in the West from 1920 until his death in 1952. He published his life story, Autobiography of a Yogi, in 1946. It went far in introducing Vedic philosophy to the West.
“When Yogananda, or Master, as he was called, came to America, he brought a technique for ‘self-realization,' which was his phrase meaning enlightenment. When you realize who the self is, you become enlightened. And Master described himself as being enlightened. And, by the way, he was enlightened. And he was enlightened because he said he was.”
“You mean that's all it takes?”
“Yes. I hate to break the spell that someone may be under, but to be enlightened is to say that you are. It is quite as simple as that, and we will talk more about that in just a minute.
“People heard Paramahansa Yogananda give his talks and explain his technique for enlightenment, which involved a process that included, among other things, deep meditation every day. And the process was one that Paramahansa Yogananda taught to his students, and his students taught to their students, and their students taught to their students, on and on, until a very large number of people all over the United States, and indeed, around the world, were involved in this Self-Realization Fellowship, which, by the way, continues to function to this day and now has many followers.
“If you talk to some of those members of the Self-Realization Fellowship, they will tell you, ‘This is the way. This is the path. Master has shown us the path. There are many other paths, this is not the only path, and this may not be the best path, but it is the surest path that we know of, and so come and join Self-Realization Fellowship.' And that is wonderful, because that is their experience, and they are sincerely sharing that.
“In even more contemporary times, a fascinating man named Maharishi surfaced a few decades ago, and he announced yet another path to enlightenment. His path was called Transcendental Meditation or, for short, TM. Maharishi made friends with the Beatles when they were at the height of their popularity, and within a very short period of time became very popular around the world and began teaching far more widely and creating temples and meditation centers all around the globe.
“He established huge universities. There is a very large one in Fairfield, Iowa, right now. And there are other learning centers that he has established around the world. And many so-called TM Centers.
“Now, I learned Transcendental Meditation, and I learned it from other students who learned it from other students who learned it from other students who learned it from other students, who learned it from the Master. And there is some sense of quiet urgency on the part of some of those people in the Transcendental Meditation movement, because they will tell you that Transcendental Meditation is a tool that can bring you to enlightenment in a very short period of time, and they want that for you.
“When you have a life-changing technology, you naturally want to share it with as many people as you can. And there is nothing wrong with that. That is very exciting, and it is very wonderful. But as with sex and as with sugar and as with any good thing, it can throw you out of balance if you are not careful, if you just go overboard with it.
“Now there are many other programs as well. Like Maharishi and Transcendental Meditation, like Paramahansa Yogananda and the Self-Realization Fellowship, like Werner Erhard and the est program. There are many programs. Many approaches, many paths developed by many masters. There was a book written called Many Lives, Many Masters by a wonderful man named Brian Weiss, and he talks about the fact that there are many ways to reach the mountaintop. Which way, then, should we recommend? Which way, then, should we encourage others to take?”
“That's what I am asking you.”
“Or should we simply encourage others to investigate for themselves the many paths that there are, and empower them to know that inside their heart and soul they will pick the path that is just right for them if their intention is pure and if their desire is true?
“God says, ‘No one calls to me who is not answered.'”
“You're right. I do say that.”
“And Tomorrow's God will make sure that each of us is answered in the way that most effectively responds to the vibration that we create and hold in the center of our being.
“To put this another way, God, or divinity, or enlightenment, if you please, appears in a form in the lives of every person that is most appropriate to their background, their culture, the level of their understanding, the level of their desire, and their willingness.
“This very conversation, this book that many will be reading, falls into that category. For some, it will be perfect, the perfect tool of communication. For others it will not, and they will not even have read this far and will not know what is being said here.
“So there are many means of communication, and there are many disciplines: physical disciplines, mental disciplines, spiritual disciplines, and some disciplines that involve all three-the body, the mind, and the spirit.
“We spoke of the Buddha earlier. It is good to tell the whole story.
“His name was Siddhartha Guatama. He lived in riches and luxuries as a young man, because his father and his family were the rulers of a large area of countryside and had much wealth. They tried to protect Siddhartha from any knowledge of the outside world for many years. And they kept him in the grounds, but one day Siddhartha ventured outside the walls of the compound and learned of life as it existed on the street.
“He learned of poverty and of illness and of disease and of cruelty and of anger and of all the so-called negative experiences that no one ever allowed him to experience when he was inside the gates of his compound. And he gave up all his riches and all his luxuries, his whole family, left his wife and children and everyone at home and disappeared, essentially, and embarked on his search for enlightenment.
“'What can I do?' he asked himself, ‘What can I do?' And he then underwent a series of very rigorous physical and mental disciplines, from fasting to day-long meditations to physical trainings of every imaginable sort. And this went on for quite a while, not a week or two, but for a long time. Something like six years.
“He sought out other masters and asked them how they had achieved or moved toward the experience of enlightenment, and he did as they told him, because he wanted to honor the masters that he met along his path. But nothing brought him the experience of enlightenment. It only brought him an emaciated body and a life that was made difficult with physical and mental discipline and training.
“And one day Siddhartha Guatama said, ‘I am going to sit beneath this tree until I am enlightened. I've tried everything. I've done all the physical disciplines, all the trainings, all the exercise, all the starvation, all the diets, all the fasting, and all the meditation. I'm just going to sit here on the ground. I'm tired of all this stuff, and I'm not getting up until I'm enlightened.'
“And there he sat doing nothing. No exercises, no meditations, no fasting, no nothing, just sitting there doing absolutely nothing. Now that is hard for many of us to do, because we think there is something we are supposed to be doing in order to be enlightened.
“The Buddha sat there until he opened his eyes and realized that he was enlightened. And he said, ‘I'm enlightened.' And people came to him and cried out, ‘What did you do? What did you do? Teach us, master! You have become the Buddha, the enlightened one. What is the secret? What did you do?'
“And the Buddha said something quite extraordinary. ‘There is nothing that you have to do.' Imagine. After all that time. After all that self-flagellation, and wearing a hair shirt, and starving his body and doing his physical discipline. After all that time her realized it was not about telling beads, or lighting incense, or sitting in meditation for three hours a day. It was not about any of that. It can be if you want it to be. It can be if that is what suits you. Itcan be if that is your path, but it is not necessary to do anything.
“The Buddha said, in effect, ‘I'm enlightened because I have realized that enlightenment is knowing that there is nothing you have to do to be enlightened.'
“Isn't that interesting? It's sad in a way, when you think of all the effort people are putting in, with years-long programs and trainings, only to find out that enlightenment requires nothing at all.
“Now I have come to this conversation, and I am going to end it by saying something daring. I am going to tell you that one day I, too, could be enlightened.
“You may think I'm joking, but I'm not. I could be an enlightened master, and so could everyone. And do you know how I will know I'm enlightened? When I find peace and joy and love in every moment. I, too, like the Buddha, like Jesus the Christ, like Paramahansa Yogananda, like Maharishi, like Ilchi Seung Heun Lee, choose to seek enlightenment.
“On my own particular path I have tried everything. First I tried orthodox religion. I said my rosary faithfully every day, because there was this formula that you could use to have God answer your prayers. There was a litany, there was a process.
“I also tried fasting. I tried meditation. I tried reading every book I could get my hands on. I took est. I learned Transcendental Meditation. I learned transactional analysis. I walked down many paths, many, many paths.
“And then one day I had an out-of-body experience. Now that was interesting, because I wasn't trying to do this. I was trying to produce outcomes with my fasting. I was trying to produce outcomes with my meditation. I was trying to produce outcomes with my rosary and with my disciplines, but those were not bringing me where I wanted to go.
“Now here I was, just simply trying to get some sleep. I just fell asleep. But in that moment I flew out of my body quite involuntarily. Just left. And I knew that I left. It was a conscious awareness. I was not in my body, and I knew I was not.
“I won't take time here to explain to you or describe for you my experience, although I can tell you it was very real-it is very real to me to this very day. I've had three such experiences in my life, two since the original one. And every one of those experiences brought me to the same place: a space of absolute-capital ‘A'-awareness. Kind of like an AA meeting. Absolute Awareness. And when I returned from my very first out-of-body experience, I was left with two words that blew my mind. Would you like to know what they were?”
“I'm all ears.”
“Nothing matters. What an amazing message for my soul to receive from the unified soul that is all of Life. Nothing matters? And yet, like the est training, like Transcendental Meditation, like my venturing into the work of Paramahansa Yogananda, it changed my life. And here's the message behind the message:
“If nothing matters intrinsically, then I am free to declare what I choose to have matter to me. But if something matters intrinsically, that is to say, if something matters to, shall we say, God, then I had darned well better figure out what that is, because if I don't figure out what it is, I will be the thing called condemned, or at the very least,unenlightened.
“But a voice in my out-of-body experience said to me, ‘Nothing matters.' I knew then that we are free to make matter what we choose to make matter in our lives. And I mean that in two ways: not only to make matter, but tomake something into matter, to manifest in physical reality something out of invisible energy. To turn it into, to turn energy into, matter.
“So here is what I would share with people who ask about enlightenment.
“If you think there is a path to enlightenment that is the only path, the best path, the fastest path, the one that everyone has to know about by ten o'clock tomorrow morning, you will suddenly find yourself feeling pressure, stress, upset, and your ego will be deeply involved in convincing as many people as you can that that's what's so.
“Suddenly you will start acting not like a master at all, but like someone who is under a terrific amount of pressure and stress, because it will suddenly matter to you whether I ‘get' what you are trying to tell me.
“If you are not careful, you even start having quotas or goals. You'll have to get a certain number of other people to agree with you every week, or every month, or every year. And if you don't meet those goals, you will think that you have not done a good job.
“And yet you have done a good job if you simply love without expectation, without requirement, without needing anything in return.
“Enlightenment, when it is all said and done, has nothing to do with what you do with your body or your mind. It has to do with what you do with your soul.
“Now that's a wonderful insight. Just the way you put that opens up the space for clarity. Nice.”
“Thank you. I want to share that if you simply love everyone whose life you touch endlessly, unconditionally, with nothing needed or wanted in return, you have become enlightened and you have shown everyone how they may be enlightened as well. As fast as any other system that exists, like that.
“As fast as Transcendental Meditation, like that. As fast as joining the Self-Realization Fellowship, like that. As fast as taking est, or now, the Forum, like that. And if you learn to love yourself unconditionally, as well as everyone else, you heal your entire self without lifting a finger.
“Now I want to discuss this thing called health, because many people believe that you are not enlightened unless you are in good health.”
“You really are on a roll here, aren't you?”
“You opened a door, I walked through it.”
“Go on. I want to hear what you have to say about this.”
“Is enlightenment being in good health? And what is good health anyway? Is good health having a body that has nothing wrong with it? Is good health living until you are 90 or 100 or 200, or 500?
“Is good health having no pain and nothing wrong with your physical form? Is good health the absence of anything that is not perfect in your physical experience? Or is good health being okay and in a place of joy and peace no matter how things are?
“What is health, what is optimum health, if it is not happiness?
“I know people who exercise every day, lifting weights and running and working out, and their bodies are in great health, but their hearts and their minds and their souls are desperately sad.
“And I know people who are hardly able to lift a toothpick, they are so…their bodies are in such bad shape…but their hearts and their minds and their souls are bright, and they are happy.
“I know such a man, whose name is Ram Dass. Ram Dass is a master, and I am vastly privileged to have met him personally. He has taught many people for many years. He wrote a book called Be Here Now, among others.
“About two and a half or three years ago Ram Daas had a stroke. He was a young man: he was only sixty-three or something like that.
“I met with Ram Dass after his stroke, in a hotel room in Denver, and I want to tell you something. I've never met a healthier man.
“I sat in that room with a master. I said, ‘Ram Dass, how are you?' And he sat there in his wheelchair and said very slowly and very carefully, ‘I am won-der-ful.'
“Then Ram Dass sat there and we talked. I asked him many questions, because I wanted to hear, right from his wonderful mind, how he felt and what he'd experienced of this life. And he had great patience with me. He must have heard my questions a hundred times before. Nay, a thousand times before. But he listened intently, as if he was hearing them for the first time.
“He did not rush his answers, either. I got the impression that he was thinking deeply about each one, going within to see, not how he'd answered that question before, but what his experience was now.
“It was a moment of incredible giving. He was just giving to me.
“Now, when you have so much happiness, peace, wisdom, and joy that you spend your life sharing it with everyone else, no matter what your predicament, that's enlightenment. You have become a master.
“When your life is no longer about you, has nothing to do with you, but is about everyone else whose life you touch, you have become a master.
“In the end, that is why you came here. You did not come here to somehow ‘get better,' or to ‘work on your stuff.' Consider the possibility that all the work you will ever need to do is finished. All you have to do now is know that.
“So, this moment is the moment of your liberation. You can be liberated from your life-long search for enlightenment. You can be released from any thought you may have that it has to look like this, no-no, it has to look like that, no-no, you have to get to it by this path, by that program, by the other activity.
“You may still do those things if you choose to, but if you feel stressed about them, if you feel pressured by them, then how could they be a path to enlightenment?
“I know a master named Ilchi Lee. He created a wonderful path to enlightenment called Dahn Hak. It is a body-mind-spirit integration process that you can engage in for the rest of your life. People have devoted their whole lives to it. It's wonderful. I've tried it. It works. Millions are finding their way to enlightenment with it.
“I asked Dr. lee once whether people needed Dahn Hak to become enlightened. His answer was very quick. ‘No,' he said. He didn't even try to qualify his response. He didn't equivocate. He just gave me a one-word answer. ‘No.'
“The point here is that there is no one way up to the mountaintop. Every true master knows this.
“So set yourself free today. Stop working so hard on yourself that you don't even enjoy it anymore. Do what works for you, but be sure it brings you joy.
“Now here is what I know will bring you joy. Decide that the rest of your life-every day, every moment, every word-is something that you will share with everyone whose life you touch in a way that ensures that they will know there is nothing they have to do, nowhere they have to go, and no way they have to be, in order to be loved by you right now. Let them know that they are perfect just as they are, just as they are standing there.
“Spend the rest of you life giving people back to themselves, that they might love themselves. And show them by how you are with them that you know there is nothing they are lacking, nothing they are missing, nothing they need, nothing they are not.
“You want to know the fastest way for anyone to experience that they are enlightened?
“Yes, can you tell me? Can you really tell me?”
“The fastest way of all for anyone to experience that they are enlightened is to cause another to know that THEY are.
“That is the message of Tomorrow's God. That will be the teaching of the New Spirituality. That is why Namaste´has become such a powerful tool, such a meaningful and special exchange of energy:
“The God in me sees and honors the God in you.
“There's nothing more to be done if we really mean that. Of course, if we are saying that because it sounds good, then there is a great deal more to be done. But if we really mean that-if, when we say that, we really mean that-then the struggle is finished, the search is over, and enlightenment is ours at last.”
(Tomorrow's God: Our Greatest Spiritual Challenge - By Neale Donald Walsch, pages 366-384)