“We prepare a tray with cups and cream and sugar and some sweet stuff and carry it all back to the couch in the living room, which is positioned to provide an unobstructed view of the turbulent clouds through large west-facing windows.
This conversation is more interesting to me than many because I’m clarifying it for myself as we go along. When the topic is enlightenment, I can speak with the perfect authority of a true master and my only real challenge is how to transmit thoughts and ideas more succinctly. But when the topic is the nature of delusion, the ego, false constructs, and human nature, I’m just a guy with a little experience, a lot of interest, and good seats. Yes, I’ve gone through the transformative process and yes, I remember a good deal from my own before and during periods, but whereas enlightenment is exactly the same for anyone, anytime, anyplace, the journey to it is as unique and varied as there are people to make it.
Of course, battling past the ego to get to the truth has been at the heart of countless spiritual teachings in countless countries for countless centuries. Ego-death as a means to no-self—abiding nondual awareness—is what this journey is all about. That’s the reason behind the devotion, the prayer, the meditation, the teachings, the renunciation. Anyone headed for truth is going to get there over the ego’s dead body or not at all. There’s no shortcut or easy way, no going under or around. The only way past ego is through it, and the only way through it is with laser-like intent and a heart of stone. The caterpillar doesn’t become a butterfly, it enters a death process that becomes the birth process of the butterfly. The appearance of transformation is an illusion. One thing doesn’t become another thing. One thing ends and another begins
And why do so few succeed in this greatest of all journeys? For the simple reason that success, within the context of the dream, is pointless, whereas failure, or, at least, struggle, is very much to the point. Chasing enlightenment holds as many lessons for the unawakened soul as any other pursuit in the dreamscape of ego-bound reality; as any other ride in the park. The supposed mega-bliss of spiritual awakening is a carrot dangling from a stick no less than love or wealth or power. In other words, actual enlightenment is seldom the point of the quest for enlightenment. And why should it be? Success in realizing one’s true nature is absolutely assured because, well, because it’s one’s true nature. The greatest wonder isn’t that you’ll make it back, it’s that you made it away. Returning is the motion of the Tao. Struggling to achieve truth is, in its own way, as preposterous as struggling to achieve death. What’s the point? Both will find you when it’s time. Should we worry that if we fail to find death, death will fail to find us? Of course not, and neither death, nor taxes, nor gravity, nor tomorrow’s sunrise is as certain as the fact that everyone will end up fully “enlightened,” regardless of the “path” they take.
So, if I have to be interested in something, this seems like a good choice; watching the homeward migration of souls. And if I have to have a job, this seems like a good one; standing on the distant shore, keeping a beacon fire burning, helping newcomers ashore, offering a welcome and pointing out some of the sights.”– Jed McKenna, Spiritual Enlightenment, The Damnedest Thing