What is the world to someone that is dependent upon belief for survival? That is what is feels like, doesn’t it? The world revolves around whatever the particular beliefs happen to be. What would happen if the person could not believe in anything? What would be the result of that loss?
Evangelical Christians place quite a literal interpretation on the words of Jesus to the rich merchant Nicodemus:
3Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
4Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
5Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
Many evangelicals insist that a true Christian must have had an intensely emotional conversion experience, which they describe as “being born again”.
I had such an experience at a Methodist youth camp at the age of 13 – an intense, almost hysterical euphoria and a sense of what I knew then as the “presence of the Holy Spirit”. I can say, in all sincerity and with certainty, that at the time, and for many years afterward, I was what is frequently described as “a born-again Christian”.
While I was a Christian, I interpreted my experience using the mental framework I had been taught, or according to my “beliefs”. Today, I would interpret it differently (although I’m not quite sure exactly how to describe it). I don’t claim that my experience was foolish, bad, or delusional; I felt something real that night. I just wouldn’t describe it the way I used to, because I no longer use the same framework.
This is something that confuses so many people. They get to the end of the line, as far as the self is concerned, but get pulled back into themselves out of fear of loss. They have so much energy invested in the self, that they cannot fathom life beyond it. It seems like death, they say. It IS death, I say.
I struggle with this. I understand intellectually that all I really need is food to eat and a place to sleep, and that everything else is nonessential. At the same time I often get quite upset about my lack of professional accomplishments, about how little money I earn, about how my life and social status compare with old friends my own age – about all these aspects of my self.
People have romantic notions about enlightenment. They think they’ll be in peace and have everything they need. They will gain what they want to gain. And while that might be true to some extent, there is nothing that is gained. Enlightenment is the end of the line; nothing is gained and everything is lost. Adyashanti said something very interesting on this same topic. He said (about enlightenment), “Don’t go for it unless you absolutely have to.” Wise words, but I don’t think too many people will listen.
Enlightenment is an accomplishment of the self. How can you transcend your self, lose yourself, while you are pursuing enlightenment? I am confident, from reading Takuin’s writing, that he already understands this.