Some spiritual teachers claim that the path to enlightenment is long, arduous, and challenging. It requires great personal sacrifice.
Others claim that no path is necessary at all. That’s because you are already there. They reiterate that only a slight shift in awareness to the “ever present now” is all that is needed.
So which viewpoint is correct? Does enlightenment require years of meditation practice and tapas (penance, physical austerities), or none at all?
Let’s explore this a bit further …
Minutes after I was born my father gave me the name Nizhoni, which means beautiful. It is an appropriate name for a young Navajo girl like me.
Although outsiders know us as the Navajo, we refer to ourselves as the Dine, or Children of the Holy People. Other Indian tribes consider our home in this rocky desert to be too demanding, but we have flourished here for hundreds of years. When I look at the surrounding majestic rock canyons, the mountains and buttes, I’m in awe at the grandeur of this landscape and give thanks to the Great Spirit.
At a young age I worked with my Mother on daily chores to help keep the family feed and clothed. Our major staple is corn (naadaa) but we supplement that with wild plants and game. When the Spanish explores arrived here 100 summers ago they introduced us to sheep; so mutton is now also a part of our diet.
I grew up like most girls in our village, except for the fact that my grandfather was the tribe Shaman. He often wanted to teach me such things but I was never interested. Instead, I prefer the wind in my hair and the warm sun on my face in this real world.
At age 18 I was married to Toh Yah. He is a strong man with a good hunting eye for game. He learned tracking skills at an early age and often accompanied the elders on extended period hunts. When I was near him he smelled masculine. He always made me feel safe. Later when we had children he took keen interest in our three sons and always gave due notice to our daughter.
I love a gentle caress from my husband, and seeing my children at play.
In this harsh desert climate it’s hard to keep your hair looking good, but I try my best. I often spend time making nice clothes and gathering eucalyptus to use as a perfume. Although my ancestors wore deerskin, hip-leggings and moccasins, today we also wear woven cloth and colorful small blankets laced together – but leaving room for our hands (i.e., like a poncho).
As the years passed I watched my children grow and have families of their own. We didn’t stray very far from the canyon lands where I lived. We traded with other tribes and the Mexicans from the South. After Toh Yah passed I am ready to follow.
In 1850 my family moved from Ireland to Chicago to escape the great famine. For some unknown reason one of our main food staples, the potato, was savaged by the blight. People were starving to death by the hundreds of thousands.
I was born in the Windy City in 1870, and joined my clan of four other brothers and three sisters. My name is Jason. My parents raised us as Protestant, and following that strict work ethic I found my first job at the mill when I was but 14 years old.
When I was eighteen I placed our King James Version of the bible on the kitchen table, along with two other versions. I read the same verse in all three. The words conveyed somewhat different meanings.
Is this why people point to the Bible in support of their own personal opinion? Do we interpret verses to suit our own needs and justifications?
After comparing many other verses I started to question the authenticity of the Protestant text. Was this truly the word of God, or a human manuscripted interpretation?
Is there such a thing as “the word of God?”
I did some research at the library and learned that the Bible as we know it today was largely put together at the Council of Nicea, in 325 AD. Books such as the Gospel of Judas and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene were left out. Many other stories about Jesus were omitted. Some say that during his missing years (age 12 – 30) Jesus traveled in the East. I guess that today’s Christianity was sculptured more by the apostle Paul, than anyone else.
In 553 AD the Roman Emperor Justinian convened the Second Synod to remove the many references to reincarnation espoused in the Bible. That’s because his wife was an ex-prostitute and concerned that if reincarnation were true, she would have to atone for her actions in many future lifetimes.
So I was a Protestant by birth, but left the religion when I reached the age of reason.
In September of 1893, when I was 23 years old, my true spiritual education and quest began. That month spiritual luminaries from around the world gathered in Chicago for the World’s Parliament of Religions.
Worlds Parliament of Religions – Chicago 1893
I heard many speakers but the words of Swami Vivekananda struck a resounding chord in my soul (https://meditationandspiritualgrowth.com/?p=1529). By some stroke of luck (or was it my karma) I heard that the Swami was staying with a family near the outskirts of town. I went to the house and was invited in. The Swami was in the living room speaking to other people. I sat down to listen and asked some questions. His eyes were alive and a heightened sense of serenity pervaded the room. That evening he initiated me into meditation. I have been practicing meditation ever since.
The following year I visited the Swami in New York City, around the time that he established the Vedanta Society. In June of 1895 I sat at his feet as a disciple for two months, at the Thousand Island Park in New York. When he traveled back to Sri Lanka in 1897 I was but one of many followers who accompanied him. When I learned of his passing in July 1902, my heart was broken, but I vowed to continue on in my quest.
In all, I was able to practice meditation for over 40-years before lying on my death bed. I was disappointed that I had not reached the exalted state of enlightenment, but looking back I marveled at the progress I had made. My mind was now blissfully silent and no longer mired in random thoughts. Peace and serenity was upon my face.
My name is Isabella and I remember taking lovely summer vacation trips with my family to Playa de Las Canteras, and the other Spanish beaches. As a young girl I also enjoyed the sun, sand, and my friends.
I am the first child of four, and therefore my parents had high expectations for me. At the very young age of five I was enrolled in Suzuki violin school. I studied hard and gave several performances, but I was not going to be a virtuoso. That was not part of my DNA.
When I was eight years old my elementary school teacher called my parents for a conference. Mrs. Pérez told them that I was an extremely bright student, kind, and loved by my fellow classmates, but that I seemed to be engaged excessively in day dreaming during class. Mrs. Pérez said this was a problem that needed to be addressed. So she gave my father the name of a psychiatrist for me to visit.
I told them all that I would get lost, while spontaneously experiencing inner silence. It was as if my senses had shut down and there was no input from the outer world. My mind was awake inside and I felt that time was suspended. Then I would snap out of it and hear Mrs. Pérez talking at the front of the class.
The doctors didn’t know what to do. They told my parents not to worry because I would outgrow it.
At the age of twelve I started playing soccer with our middle school team. My father was an avid player himself when he was younger, so he accompanied me to all my games. He liked to also serve as an assistant coach, always eager to give me pointers to help my game. Since all four of us kids turned out to be daughters, I guess that I was the son he never had. Although I didn’t like the idea that there had to be a winner and a looser, rough and tumble sports were OK with me.
During the summer of 1961 we traveled overseas for the very first time to the Big Apple, New York City. We visited Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, and Radio City Music Hall. When we took a walk at the Thousand Island Park, I suddenly felt very strange. While strolling down Garden Avenue I realized that I had been here before. A left turn on Rainbow Street, all the way down to the end where it intersects the junction between Prospect Avenue, Sunset and Coast; and then forward to Grenell. Later on Eden Street I found the house of silence and peace.
My parents were not avid Church goers, but we made our rounds during the Christmas holiday anyway. They did not believe in that kind of stuff, but they showed up more as an insurance policy. Just in case there was some truth to it, they wanted to be certain that they had good credentials to get thru the pearly gates. As for me, I don’t know if the Good Book and its stories are true or not, but in any event I believe in helping everyone out and sharing love whenever possible. We are all connected to each other. The words “conflict” and “hate” were never in my vocabulary.
At night during sleep I seemed to dream a lot more that my sisters. They could hardly remember anything. But for me, I seemed to remember dreaming most every night.
I often dreamt about flying like a bird over the majestic countryside. Below me were rolling hills covered in lush verdure and tall trees. Small cities and large cities would past under my sight. And occasionally I would fly up high and see the Moon under my wings.
Once I was a soldier fighting the Moors who invaded my country. Once I lived in England and was an attendant to a Duke and Dutchess. I was a farmer, and a mountain man. I was a blacksmith’s daughters, and a gypsy girl. I was an Indian girl named Nizhoni living with my family in the American Southwest. I often dreamt of different people and different places. It was all soothing and peaceful.
I quickly learned that life often gives you the exam before the training lesson. We may call that learning by trial and error, or just gaining experience and becoming wiser over time. But either way, it seemed to me that a better way was needed. We do need to stand up after we fall down. But is this the school of hard knocks, or is there a better way?
I graduated from college and started my newfound career in marketing. It was exciting to work in the big city and I made many new friends at the office.
For lunch I often went outside to site on the bench in the sun. But something startling happened one day. I was lost again in that inner silence, but when I came out of it the world was unlike anything I had experienced before. Although my eyes were open and I saw people walking and I heard the sounds of car traffic, that inner silence did not go away. Now I was that silence, looking out at the world, at my own body and mind, as a spectator.
The experience is oh so blissful. I’m wide awake and witnessing activity along with silence. What is this? How did this happen? What does this all mean?
I spent the next few months enjoying my newfound freedom and trying to understand what had happened. I went to the library and found some interesting books by someone call Swami Vivekananda. I liked his books so I read everything that I could. So this is what enlightenment is, I thought.
Well here I am now sitting at the airport waiting for my flight to Pretoria, South Africa. I left my marketing job and I’m working for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Once in Pretoria I’ll meet up with the Foundation’s HIV team and spend my days working to prevent the spread of aids.
Although everyone is searching for happiness and the meaning of life, virtually no one recognizes that the pursuit of enlightenment is germane to that end. Clouded by the enslavement of the five senses, deluded by cravings and wants, we live life after life is search of riches; as cattle remaining in their stalls.
The story of Nizhoni is one of spiritual awakening, taking place in the year 1620, in the American Southwest.
The story of Jason is one of purpose driven spiritual development; meditation, sacrifice, and a life of virtuous progress toward enlightenment.
The story of Isabella is one of innocents and goodness, spontaneously wakening into the timeless reality of enlightenment.
For Jason the path to enlightenment is long, arduous, and challenging. For Isabella it is a pathless path. Both prescriptions for attaining enlightenment (path or pathless) are correct. What you are faced with depends upon your viewpoint of life, and your current state of consciousness.
There is nothing to be acquired or gained. Referring to enlightenment as “self realization” highlights that only the fog of ignorance (not knowing) needs to be dispelled.
It’s not the divine that must be found, but rather that which deludes you that must be released.
I am neither created nor uncreated, for I have always been here. I am neither deluded nor undeluded, for I have always been here. I am neither of light nor of darkness, for I have always been here. I am the Bliss, I am the Truth, I am the Boundless Sky.
The eternal absolute bliss consciousness is not in the realm of what can be acquired, or not acquired. IT is not in the jurisdiction of time, space, or causation. IT is beyond the arena of mind, concept and thought.
We are all connected to the universe which celebrates life. Today was given to you as a gift. Happiness is inherent to man. Retrace your steps and return to yourself. Slay the false notion of I and mine (ego) and awaken.