Such a direction is determined almost imperceptibly and it will vary from person to person. However, it must surely be influenced by the deep-felt desire to know (really, experience knowingly) spiritual truth and reality, which I define as being that which is eternal. Full knowledge of this, which is my spiritual goal, I call being one with God / Enlightenment: these are Christian and Buddhist expressions respectively.
Being concerned mainly with such reality and truth, I find that my life on this planet and any Earthly knowledge are per se relatively insignificant.
To elaborate, living solely with regard for this finite transient existence is not spiritually useful. Instead, I feel we should find and live with first and foremost the 'eternal spirit' which dwells in us all, no matter what our external circumstances. So whatever bodily manifestation, nationality, class or education etc. that have befallen us become incidental. This feeling was expressed by Thomas à Kempis, a 14th century Augustinian monk, in his book The Imitation of Christ:
"An humbler knowledge of thyself is a surer way to God than a deep search after learning ..." (Book I, Chapter 3, v.4).Be prepared to be chastised for being 'idealistic' - you may be told, "I've seen more of life than you" (which I've frequently received) and be urged to store up worldly goods and knowledge. It is probably best to remain silent despite the gross ignorance expressed. However, what is written may be perused at leisure so I offer here assorted replies, if only to console those who get bombarded with that and "Why don't you do something with your life?"!
So I suggest one counters with something like: "Do all your material comforts really make you happy?"
If responding to someone who calls themselves a Christian, then ask them how they interpret Jesus's assertion,
"Mine is not a kingdom of this world"If they are of a philosophical bent, then try this:
"On reflection one finds that your statement is irrelevant: it is the current spiritual state of mind that matters; the importance of time is illusory. "(But try not to just blast it back - it is best written down).
Paradoxically perhaps, though certainly important, living by the eternal spirit requires and invokes more attention to our physical lives - in the way that we do the simplest of tasks; and in the way we relate to other people. In particular, we should look after our physical bodies in a respectful manner, avoiding toxicants such as harmful pills or drugs and practising moderation in e.g. eating. In other words, being mindful of treading the spiritual path will carry forward to our daily lives.
I've already indicated that spiritual reality is to be found in contemplation, meditation and prayer - particularly in complete (physical) emptiness - and this is perhaps the best way of finding spiritual direction. It may come in a 'blinding flash', but one shouldn't get carried away by this momentary insight. A glimpse of reality can be likened to looking from a hilltop above a jungle and seeing in the middle one's destination - one can see God, but one is not one with God.
The fact that we cannot dwell during death in any physical particle seems to me to be inviting a deeper exploration of this 'emptiness.' It is here that for me the exceptionally difficult trail to seeking Enlightenment commences in earnest. To emphasise, physical matter is per se insignificant; there is actually (I assert) no immutable particle (see Chapter 7), so certainly no physical body to be lived in for eternity. We need to seek, therefore, a transcendent state - a perfect spiritual state of being, intrinsically constant in physical life and death (but at the same time existing in harmonious accordance with the physical flux of the universe). This path to truth is accessible to all people, which implies that you need not have any of the 5 senses or any limbs: so, everyone take heart!
In addition, to Christians I warn that when you die you cannot expect to be united with God after some arbitrary period without you yourself finding the perfect state through conscious effort - "God helps those who help themselves." If we have no idea what kind of consciousness to expect after death then we ought to start praying now!
Perceiving that we are restless to progress spiritually I call the First Spiritual Realisation.
To finish this chapter, I now return momentarily to the question, "What is the nature of life after death?" By the above, this becomes of secondary importance to the main spiritual goal. Provided your focus is totally on this spiritual goal, you needn't worry because all will be revealed. However, most of us fall far short of this so some explanation is called for - but later!
- © Paul Trafford 1996,97