A common spiritual fantasy is to attain enlightenment, which is usually thought of as the state of permanent bliss, the one state that ends the repetitive cycles of birth, death, and rebirth. The spiritual seeking begins with the thought, “I am not there yet.” This creates a measure or distance between here and there.
What seems to be here is an illusory image or pseudo-subject (“me”) that appears distorted, dysfunctional, conflicted, and marred by anxiety and restlessness. Additional confirmation is provided by religious leaders, philosophers, thinkers, psychologists, and spiritual Gurus who constantly remind us how impure our thoughts are, and how that is the reason for our suffering.
They say that the reason for your suffering is that you are selfish; you don’t have faith; you have carnal desires; you don’t meditate; you don’t pray; you don’t follow what’s righteous; you sin; you are greedy; you are undisciplined; you don’t seek the company of pious people; you don’t do community service; you engage in self-centered activities; and so on.
Therefore, the above conditioning: backed by your family, relatives, and friends, brings about another image that is a future projection of there. Everyone blindly follows a fixed template that is based on conformity and subjugation. The material and spiritual, in that context, are not much different. In fact, worldly materialism transforms into spiritual materialism with the usual prescriptions and dogmas.
While in the former, the chase is for material accumulation to enhance one’s self-worth, in the latter, the same chase shapeshifts into the search for enlightenment or moksha, or liberation. Now, you are on a spiritual journey of self-betterment – a different song composed of the same tune. You begin by shunning all activities that you think are self-centered. It’s not much different from the self-centered activities you were doing earlier.
The idea of enlightening the little “me” to make it better than what it is now is not different from any material desire. It’s just another thing on your list—a spiritual fantasy of the ego-mind that seeks continuation by becoming or unbecoming.
“I won’t drink. I will get up early in the morning and meditate for an hour. I will be vegan. I will be kind to everyone, even those who hurt me. I will attend mass prayers. I will go to temples, churches, mosques, etc. I will engage in social work. I will completely give up smoking, drinking, playing video games, watching television, and porn. I will eat clean food.” And the list goes on and on.
All of the above is just the ploy of the ego-mind to divert attention from itself because it fears being exposed. To escape facing what we are, right now, we sometimes go on to the extent of inflicting self-torture. I remember meeting a gentleman who had some property dispute with his family members. He was soft-spoken and kind outwardly, but I could sense disturbance inwards.
He told me that he followed a spiritual guru who imposed strict rituals time and again, like fasting for prolonged periods and so on. One time his guru instructed him to have a cold-water bath every time he goes to urinate during the winter season. He did as he was instructed, but that kept him sick throughout the season. His body temperature kept fluctuating throughout. He felt sick. Nonetheless, he was convinced and devoted and never questioned his guru.
No matter how painful the current reality is, it is our key to genuine self-investigation. The measure of what I am right now and what I should or should not be in the future is the reason for our conflicts. It is an extension of the personal self or “me” that seeks continuation through a pre-conceived idea of transformation. We want to get enlightened while keeping the separation alive. We fail to see how the dualistic split of here and there propagates thinking that becomes suffering.
Our mind is quick to conclude. To maintain separation, it clings to one of the opposites. We don’t realize that we’re always here and now. This moment is where everything is happening, but there is no individual doer. Where else could things happen? Acceptance of things the way they are weakens the ego mind.
It brings about an insight where a radical transformation takes place without the pseudo-subject (“me”) trying to change things through effort. In that, the mind does not jump to abrupt conclusions, but there is a sense of surrender to What-Is.
It is a recognition that the one who wants to wake up never slept in the first place. True enlightenment is the end of spiritual seeking and dissolution of the seeker (“me”) and not them becoming better in seeking or advancing in spirituality.