Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Spiritual Awakening: An 'Inner' Religious Experience Common to All Wisdom Traditions

I was taught by a quiet, anonymous spiritual teacher to "study all religions until I could see the 'sameness' in them all". Of course, my friend and teacher meant the inner religions behind the greater and lesser wisdom teachings of the world - the spiritual awakenings that retie one's inner, absolute consciousness or being with the outer, latent or hidden consciousness that underlies the patent forms of the relative 'worlds' we each perceive.

('Religion' comes from the Latin re ligare, meaning to re-tie, or reunite. Similarly 'yoga', which means religion in the East, comes from the same Sanskrit root as the English word 'yoke', the shoulder harness that 'ties' or 'unites' the ox to the cart. Thus, when Jesus is quoted as saying "my yoke is easy, and my burden is light", (Matt 11:30) what is meant is that his religion, his yoga, his method of practice to reunite with the absolute, with the Kingdom of Heaven within of which he spoke (Luke 17:21) is easy, and what he comes bearing is light, the fruit of his religion is enlightenment, satori, zen, moksha, the mystic union, Christ consciousness, Krishna consciousness, Cosmic Consciousness! What have you ... The words and symbols are unimportant, to experience liberation is the end. All teachings are just 'the finger pointing at the moon'!)

What is this inner religious experience, then? What is this transformative state of consciousness and being that the great esoteric teachers and mystics in all the world's wisdom traditions speak of? Perhaps it was best described by Paul, who in the beautiful words of the King James Bible called that highest mystical experience "the peace of God, that passes all understanding" (Phil. 4:7).

In my experience it is the cessation of thought, of the constant naming and narration of the small "self". One of the Bhudda's descriptions of that selfless state is the "voidness". But, I think, it takes a being that is strong, alert and awake to be free of falling into the trap of a-voiding this ultimate, selfless reality and falling into the multifarious addictions of the outer world - seeking ultimate fulfillment through relative attachments to persons, places, things, even mental formations. One must be strong enough, and have presence enough not to get carried away by the stream of thought!

Spiritual awakening is transcending "self" - transcending one's story, one's sense of individuality or sense of 'separateness' - and through self transcendence, abiding in the eternal, in the void, in zen, in a peace that surpasses our ability to perceive, conceive, name or understand.

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