And now, after a long and busy day, it was time to rest.
We left base camp early in the morning just as twilight started to break. My friend Giuseppe and I (Cristofer) were leading a group of eight climbers on a trek up the southwestern face of Pico del Aneto, a peak 3,404 meters high, in the Pyrenees Mountains which borders France and Spain.
Five of the climbers were somewhat experienced as they had traversed mountain passes before. But the newcomers, three young ladies, were lured to the trek by the open air and sense of adventure.
Over the past sixteen years I have led expeditions to Monte Perdido, the Tena Valley, Vallée de Barétous and the Piedmont Plane, Sant Maurici Lake, and dozens of other mountain sites. That’s because I love the great outdoors and the excitement of exploring new world vistas.
By mid morning we stopped just short of the tree line (2,300 meters). After a snack and brief rest we left the virgin forest of majestic Beach, Silver Fir, and Scots Pine, and followed the ascending path of prior travelers. The trail was marked by a few distinctive piles of rock (cairn) arranged in a pattern pointing the way to the summit.
Around noon we encountered our first glacial escarpment. We rested and ate a hearty lunch.
The view from this altitude was astounding. We saw snow covered peaks in every direction. The thin wispy white clouds overhead sparkled as the rays of the sun bounced off those high altitude floating ice crystals.
Equipped with survival gear, ice picks, and crampons (spikes) for our boots, our team carefully made way over the frozen landscape that we encountered. My watchful and experience eye steered us away from any overhanging snow cornice or gulley that could present a mortal danger.
After traversing the ice for two hours we neared the mountain summit, and were now leaving the white panoramic terrain behind us. More and more rock formations (nunatak) were protruding through the snow drifts.
We had a round of team pictures and then set off for the summit. After two more hours of climbing, skirting a rock chimney, multiple adjustments to the belay line, sidestepping a crevasse, and just plain old fashion walking, we approached the summit plain. We would camp here tonight, away from the snow and protected by the winds, before attempting the final push to the summit tomorrow morning.
After dinner we watched the sun set amidst a blaze of red and crimson hues of color. The sparkling clear sky soon filled with the myriad stars of the firmament. Our beautiful planet Earth nestled in the Milky Way between the Sagittarius and Perseus spiral arms speeding through the universe, on an oasis of life and intelligence, the higher manifested expression of cosmic design.
I have always thought that we are not individuals born and thrust helplessly into this world. Rather, we are nature’s begotten expression of the divine manifestation of life.
Although everyone was asleep I was still awake. That seems to be the norm for me, at least for the past three years. I do go to bed at night and lie down, but I sleep only for about 4 ½ hours, if you could call that sleep. I lay down and my body rests but my mind is awake inside. I don’t drift off to unconsciousness. Rather, it’s an eternal, silent wakefulness, that permeates my awareness at all times.
This started rather abruptly about three years ago. One day I was out with my friends at the restaurant. After dinner I had my usual dessert, which is a chocolate ice cream Sundae. I like hot chocolate fudge and whipped cream on the top.
But after that I started to feel afraid and just not right. Disparate images flashed through my mind. I felt a sense of impending doom and that something horrible was about to happen to me. Then suddenly bliss dawned.
I later learned that this was the last gasp of my ego. One final attempt to hang on and keep me imprisoned in the field of time and space.
Here is what others have said about Enlightenment …
“The true value of a human being can be found in the degree to which he has attained liberation from the self.”
“…the past gives you an identity and the future holds the promise of salvation, of fulfillment in whatever form. Both are illusions.”
(Eckhart Tolle, from the Power of Now)
“It is not that we love to be alone, but that we love to soar, and when we do soar, the company grows thinner and thinner until there is none at all. …We are not the less to aim at the summits though the multitude does not ascend them.”
(Henry David Thoreau)
“What should I do—how should I act now, this very day . . . What she would resolve to do that day did not yet seem quite clear, but something that she could achieve stirred her as with an approaching murmur which would soon gather distinctness.”
“The sea is only the embodiment of a supernatural and wonderful existence.
It is nothing but love and emotion; it is the ‘Living Infinite…”
“Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance from another. This immaturity is self-imposed when its cause lies not in lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without guidance from another. Sapere Aude! ‘Have courage to use your own understanding!’–that is the motto of enlightenment.”
“Feel nothing, know nothing, do nothing, have nothing, give up all to God, and say utterly, ‘Thy will be done.’ We only dream this bondage. Wake up and let it go.”
“Not till your thoughts cease all their branching here and there, not till you abandon all thoughts of seeking for something, not till your mind is motionless as wood or stone, will you be on the right road to the Gate.”
(Huang Po, The Zen Teaching of Huang-Po: On the Transmission of Mind)
“Knowing others is Wisdom, knowing yourself is Enlightenment.”
“Whoever sees me sees the teaching.”
“If you would listen, sir, in the sense of being aware of your conflicts and contradictions without forcing them into any particular pattern of thought, perhaps they might altogether cease.”
(Jiddu Krishnamurti, Book of Life, the Daily Meditations with Krishnamurti)
“There is no enlightenment outside of daily life.”
(Thich Nhat Hanh)
“He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.”
“Before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment; chop wood, carry water.”
“No one saves us by but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”
“I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion.”
Here is how others have described their final transition to Enlightenment …
Eckhart Tolle, from The Power of Now:
One night not long after my twenty-ninth birthday, I woke up in the early hours with a feeling of absolute dread. I had woken up with such a feeling many times before, but this time it was more intense than it had ever been. The silence of the night, the vague outlines of the furniture in the dark room, the distant noise of a passing train – everything felt so alien, so hostile, and so utterly meaningless that it created in me a deep loathing of the world. The most loathsome thing of all, however, was my own existence. What was the point in continuing to live with this burden of misery? Why carry on with this continuous struggle? I could feel that a deep longing for annihilation, for nonexistence, was now becoming much stronger than the instinctive desire to continue to live.
“I cannot live with myself any longer.” This was the thought that kept repeating itself in my mind. Then suddenly I became aware of what a peculiar thought it was. `Am I one or two? If I cannot live with myself, there must be two of me: the `I’ and the `self’ that `I’ cannot live with.” “Maybe,” I thought, “only one of them is real.”
I was so stunned by this strange realization that my mind stopped. I was fully conscious, but there were no more thoughts. Then I felt drawn into what seemed like a vortex of energy. It was a slow movement at first and then accelerated. I was gripped by an intense fear, and my body started to shake. I heard the words “resist nothing,” as if spoken inside my chest. I could feel myself being sucked into a void. It felt as if the void was inside myself rather than outside. Suddenly, there was no more fear, and I let myself fall into that void. I have no recollection of what happened after that.
I was awakened by the chirping of a bird outside the window. I had never heard such a sound before. My eyes were still closed, and I saw the image of a precious diamond. Yes, if a diamond could make a sound, this is what it would be like. I opened my eyes. The first light of dawn was filtering through the curtains. Without any thought, I felt, I knew, that there is infinitely more to light than we realize. That soft luminosity filtering through the curtains was love itself. Tears came into my eyes. I got up and walked around the room. I recognized the room, and yet I knew that I had never truly seen it before. Everything was fresh and pristine, as if it had just come into existence. I picked up things, a pencil, an empty bottle, marveling at the beauty and aliveness of it all.
Sri Ramana Maharshi recounted:
One day while sitting quietly in his Uncles house Venkataraman unexpectedly was filled with terror and fright. He felt that death had come to claim him. He was in good health up to now and so was perplexed as to why this was happening.
He lay down stretching out his hands and legs. He held his breath and closed his eyes.
The shock of the fear of death drove my mind inwards and I said to myself mentally, without actually framing the words: Now that death has come; what does it mean? What is it that is dying?
This body dies . . . But with the death of the body am I dead? Is the body I?
The body dies but the Spirit that transcends it cannot be touched by death. That means I am the deathless Spirit.’
All this was not dull thought; it flashed through me vividly as living truth which I perceived directly. . . From that moment onwards the ‘I’ or Self focused attention on itself by a powerful fascination. Fear of death had vanished once and for all. Absorption in the Self continued unbroken from that time on.”
Saint Teresa of Avila:
“The hour I have long wished for has now come.”
The Venerable Ananda, one of the principal disciples and a devout attendant of the Buddha.
Ananda was the only one left at the time of the first council of Buddha’s own disciples who didn’t become an Arhat. He was Buddha’s attendant. He heard every word that Buddha taught, and memorized them all, but he didn’t meditate much because he was too busy.
Sometime after Buddha’s death, there was a meeting of all the Arhats, but since Ananda wasn’t an Arhat he couldn’t go. So he kept meditating, trying at the last minute to become enlightened, and it got to be midnight, 2, 3 o’clock in the morning of the first council of Buddhist Arhats, but still he couldn’t make it, even though he was the repository of all of Buddha’s words. All the other Arhats wanted him to go, but he couldn’t since he wasn’t an Arhat.
Finally it got to be 3:45 in the morning, 15 minutes before the 4:00 wakeup call. Finally, Ananda just gave up and said, “Oh ********, I’m not an Arhat.” Then he got enlightened, because he saw things as they were. It was the end of the struggle. No more trying to become an Arhat, and he became an Arhat.
One day in 1912, while Merwan was sitting outside his house, suddenly his inner sight opened. He saw the divine effulgence of God most clearly and immediately lost all bodily consciousness. Although his eyelids remained open, he was merged in divine bliss.
According to Buddhist tradition, he sat through the night until a glimpse of the morning star suddenly provoked a state of perfect clarity and understanding. He experienced unexcelled, complete, awakening.
We all enter this world to fulfill dreams.
If your dream is selfless service to humanity, chances are you entered into this world as an enlightened child.
If your dream involves personal growth and more earthly experience, chances are you have some work to do before becoming enlightened.
If your dream involves trying to survive and being on top of the world no matter what the cost, chances are meditation and spirituality do not resonance within. Such activities probably appear to you as folly.
What is your dream?
Enlightenment does not happen somewhere else. There is no special heaven or magical place/time that you need journey to. It happens here and now. Any moment is the right moment. Today is the right day.
Depending upon your level of consciousness at the time of birth, your path to enlightenment may be gradual or sudden.
Cristofer’s path was sudden.
Having been born already vastly evolved, Cristofer was just a hairs breath away from transcending that final gap between thought and silent bliss consciousness. Most likely Cristofer never practiced mediation or gave spiritual growth a second thought. That’s because he was always living a naturally innocent, pure, and benevolent life.
Things always seemed to go his way, and he was always there at the right time to lend friends and strangers a helping hand.
After eating his Ice Cream Sundae his mind suddenly became very silent, and his small self, recognizing the coming extinction, made a last gasp. But the small self dissolved to become the large Self, and time/space/causation was transcended forever more.
It’s not that eating ice cream brings on enlightenment. But rather it was the right time for Cristofer to transition, and eating ice cream just happened to be what he was doing just then.
The uniqueness of the individual remains intact after the Enlightenment transition. Everyone retains their memory, life preferences, and cherished ideas.
Spiritual teachers who have gained enlightenment in a SUDDEN manner are usually the proponents of:
– you are already enlightened so nothing needs to be done
– just let go of your small mental image and you will be there
– be here now, fully in the present
– no teacher or guru is ever needed, just look within yourself for guidance
– just realize that Thou Art That, and bliss consciousness will dawn for you.
On the other hand, the majority of Earth’s human inhabitants are fully ensnared in the music of the spheres (the illusion of Maya) and need to be shown the way.
Half of the world’s population (Christians, Jews, Muslims and others) believe that the goal of life can only be achieved in another realm, aka heaven. There is only one lifetime, so reach for heaven, your eternal reward.
The other half of the world’s population (the Eastern religions) believe in personal transformation, reincarnation, and continuing on until enlightenment is reached.
Logically these views are diametrically opposed. Either there is one life on Earth and at the end you spend an eternity in heaven or hell, or there is no afterworld so you cease to exist, or there are multiple lives to be lived in search of perfection.
So half of the world’s population is wrong? Or maybe everyone is wrong?
What do you believe?
Most people are on the gradual path toward enlightenment; some more gradual than others.
Spiritual teachers who have gained enlightenment in this GRADUAL manner, thru practicing mediation and other spiritual disciplines for years, are usually the proponents of:
– seek out a person (guru) who has found the way, and ask him/her to teach you
– the path to enlightenment takes time, as the mind and human physiology need to change
– needing to work at becoming enlightened
– using some technique to quite the mind and advance spiritual growth
– perseverance will eventually triumph over illusion and suffering
– bearing your karma as best you can
– triumph over pain, suffering, and limitations occur through continued and persistent effort
For those on the GRADUAL path, the contrast between meditation and activity lessens day by day.
Remember when you first started meditation and you experienced deep rest and significant relief from stress? But then over time that restful alertness during meditation made its way into your physiology, and benefitted your daily activity.
Day by day the mind and body act from a more restful and dynamic platform. And eventually you reach a point where almost nothing seems to be happening anymore during meditation. During meditation, and during activity, you feel the same.
You are now a hairs breathe away from enlightenment. Your status now is the same as someone prepped for the SUDDEN path. Enlightenment can come at anytime.
It’s important to meditate every day, no matter where on the spiritual path you are, even if you feel nothing is happening. It will smooth out your life experience and unfold more happiness.
Meditate every day to unfold your full potential, and blossom into a life of blissful awareness.