by Michael Maciel
There is only one mind
The analogy is true—there are many mountains but only one summit.
Religions are vehicles custom-tailored to the people for whom they are made. And like all vehicles, they are designed to get you from point A to point B. Religions bind us to a task—they harness the unconditioned forces of our natural mind and then move them in a particular direction.
The word “religion” has the same root word as “ligament.” Without a connecting tissue, our bones would be useless. The word “yoga” means to yoke two oxen together so that they can pull a cart down a path. Direction is implied—why hitch up a team if you don’t have a destination in mind?
But vehicles are limited to their purpose, just as religions are limited to theirs. If you’re driving your cart from the field to the barn, once you get there, the cart’s purpose is done. The oxen can be unhitched and allowed to graze in the pasture. They know exactly how to do that. They don’t need your help. So it is with religion. When you reach your intended destination, you no longer need it.
What do you do when you get there?
When you reach your destination, you have two choices. You can either abandon your vehicle and explore your new home, or you can be like a bus driver and go back and pick up others who would like to be where you are. In this analogy, bus drivers are priests. They have devoted their lives in service so that the directionless can also find their way home.
But each time you return, you bring a little of the air of that place with you. You become a little lighter, a little less troubled by the sorrows of the world, more perceptive, and less reactive. Your presence in the world gets stronger, your words clearer, and your mind less conflicted. Disturbances affect you less, your joys are more exalted, your sorrows deeper, and the direction of your will more defined.
There is no “there” there—or is there?
Language is tricky. It’s a tool made for a particular plane of consciousness. But you always want to use the right tool for the job. This is why the farther your religion takes you up the mountain, the less useful language becomes. It’s simply the wrong tool.
Meditation, you might say, is moving beyond the world of words into the world of pure consciousness. It’s becoming aware that you are aware and then just being that. The Christian vehicle does this through contemplative prayer. They call it “union with the Divine.” The Buddhist vehicle does it by eliminating the contents of awareness in a process they call “neti, neti,” which means, “not this, not that.” By a process of elimination, they clean the slate. And when the slate is clean, they get rid of it, too.
The two vehicles are doing essentially the same thing. They are carrying the practitioner away from the world of words into the world of ecstatic union. What is that, you say? There are no words. There is no “there.”
Words are the visible manifestation of the matrix of meaning that holds this plane of consciousness together. This is why some people say that we create our own reality. That’s true, but only insofar as we can create our own language. Most people can’t do that. So they share the reality that has been spoken for them.
Sharing a meaning matrix is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it saves a lot of time. Each person can build on what others have figured out. They can learn what works best and avoid what has been proven to be pointless. And since there are so many vehicles to choose from, they can shop for the one that suits them best. Usually, it’s the one that they were born in. For them, the vehicle is a bus.
Nothing facilitates this better than identifying with the vehicle—not as a matter of pride but by consciously taking it on. As does any apprentice, you identify with your trade. You look, act, and speak like a carpenter, a nurse, an accountant, etc. By doing this, the accumulated knowledge and experience of everyone in your field (your bus) becomes yours by osmosis. It’s an enormous advantage.
But it has a downside. You can get locked in. You can become a traditionalist where nothing is true that hasn’t already been tested and proven. This has obvious disadvantages, in that mistakes can become institutionalized. You can also become siloed in your thinking where you’re only aware of your trade and no one else’s. This creates an unrealistic loyalty to your bus. Your actions become more and more disconnected from the real world. You lose sight of the big picture. Everyone else becomes irrelevant at best and annoying at worst. Your thinking (and your language) become insular and laden with jargon.
If your vehicle becomes who you are, you won’t be able to leave it. You will always be on the road, never reaching your destination. You won’t be able to think (or speak) in any other terms but your own. And you can’t be a good priest because you will only be able to pick up passengers without ever taking them anywhere.
How to hijack the bus
If you want to destroy a meaning matrix, destroy its language. Take certain keywords and change their definition. Take other words and prohibit their use. Introduce new words that have no meaning. In this way, you destabilize, dismantle, and deconstruct the matrix.
By doing this, you also destroy the vehicle, because the vehicle needs words in order to orientate its passengers. Subvert the meaning matrix that words support, and you destroy people’s sense of direction. Then, in the midst of the utter chaos that this generates, you step in with a new language, a new direction, and a new vehicle—a new bus.
Understandably, the bus driver isn’t going to like this. He knows the route, the schedule, and the destination. He’s been there before. So the bus drivers have to be removed. You do this first by discrediting them, by questioning their abilities, and by telling people that the destination doesn’t exist. In short, you get the passengers to throw him off the bus themselves. As a strategy, this works amazingly well. It’s organic.
The problem with this is that you lose the accumulated knowledge and experience of those who have gone before. And while you might have the noblest of intentions, the odds that your ad hoc solutions will ultimately succeed are close to zero. No one is that smart, that prescient, or that noble. The new dawn you point to will most likely turn out to be the glow of a forest fire. And people will naively rush into it with a jihadic frenzy.
Buddha Consciousness, Christ Consciousness—The Great Reset
Everyone needs a break from the world of words. At least once a day, we all need to go into the silent part of our mind and sit there without an agenda and without the need to go anywhere. Words are inextricably linked to time. That’s their domain, which is why they cannot describe timelessness. They are specific to place, which is why they can never describe the Already Everywhere.
Christians attempt to describe timelessness with the term “eternal life.” But this is usually misunderstood as being a really, really long time. They don’t have words for the Eternal Now. In a pictorial way, they get close to it with Christ’s death on the cross—the utter failure of an ignoble death, the “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” When there is nowhere left to go, your only option is to surrender to the present moment. The ego is slain. All of its sins are wiped clean. And when anyone does this, they do it for everyone. Even the bus driver has to get off of the bus at the end of the line.
So, take the time to step outside of yourself, outside of your time and place, and be replenished by the infinite—the unbounded, the unspecified. Gaze into the eyes of your lover and see yourSelf, the Sea of Awareness that you are. But then, come back. Engage. Be here now in the world. Pay attention to what you’re up to. Keep your eyes on the goal you have set for yourself.
As Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Take it on. It’s okay to identify with it, as long as you’re able to take it off at the beginning and end of every day. It’s not what you are, it’s what you do that counts. But you kind of have to be it, too. Play the part. And know your lines. But then know when to get off the stage.
Your life is Life’s longing for Itself. Get out of the way and let it realize Itself in everything you do and say.
“For it is only the finite that has wrought and suffered; the Infinite lies stretched in smiling repose.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson