‘Church Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption’ – La Grave (France)
All the religious and spiritual traditions of the world, with their complexity and variety, and all the myriads of words attached to them, are in fact only pointers to one simple, living reality that can be experienced here and now in every human being. Every Purana, Surah, Gospel, Sutra, Psalm, Hadith, Sermon, Teaching, are one global attempt at pointing or describing the most common experience of our humanity: the nature of our present experience. The truth of our being.
Although the very vehicle with which our experience is known, this instrument — let’s call it consciousness — is ignored and taken for granted. This is what the world’s religious scriptures are here for: to explore this simple reality of ourself which — although experienced faintly or unknowingly — is hidden in the clamour of objective experience. This labyrinthine network composed of our thoughts, feelings, and senses, mesmerises us, hypnotises us, conditions us, and finally renders us like separate beings craving for their lost happiness.
So don’t be intimidated by the grandiloquence of religion, or the mystery of spiritual attainment. All these pointers are simply about the present reality of your own being. Don’t be put off by words, their grandiosity, their contradictions, their inherent confusion. See them as imperfect little friends trying their best. They are pointers. Religion is a pointer. Nothing more. We may have made it into a puzzling, even ugly thing at times, but this is only because it has failed to understand, and apply to itself the very commandments that it is so proudly advocating. And there is one of these commandments that is universally accepted. One pointer that works miracles if you bend yourself and bow to its precious advice. It simply says: ‘Go within’.
Such a pointer doesn’t engage you. It is so innocuous. You cannot go wrong with it. So don’t brush this one aside. If a pointer says: ‘go within’, it means it. Don’t conceptualise it, brandishing it like a trophy. Do it. Take it at its word. Go within. Stop the reading. Be present. Don’t think you are wasting your time. The chances are that most of your reading time is the wasted part of this inquiry. Your practice — which is nothing but the careful observation of your own being — will show you here and now what words will never give you in a thousand years. Words are only the invitation cards. Honour the gift with your presence.
But again beware of practice. For it can be turned into methods, with no better value than the words that gave rise to them. Don’t take the means for the end. This is not about practice. It’s about being what you are now naturally. Stripped from all that is not truly yours — the passing thoughts, the lingering feelings, and the endless round of sensations. These are just little clowns trying to steal the show. They cannot truly represent you. Don’t trust them — they will be your loss. Don’t be seduced by the surface of being. If you go within, you will find a presence which you could never have suspected. Some call it the presence of god, but you can call it simply being. And should you delve into this presence deeper and deeper, that it will open itself more and more to your gaze, reveal its soaring qualities, and its precious identity as your very own self.
The immense body of spiritual literature, including the vast array of traditions, practices, rituals which they gave rise to, are only pointers to yourself. They simply say: look at your self. Explore the nature of your being. Inhabit this temple. This is where the cacophony of these endless pointers finally merge into their described reality, into the space and silence of being.
Forget all that you have learned about god, and all the paraphernalia of churches and temples, of long-bearded meditation postures. You have it all just as you are. It only needs a gentle clarification, a patient probing into the reality of your self. That will cover it all — all the churches, the sacred books, the exotic rituals, god, the kingdom of heaven, happiness. It is all inside you. As simply here as your very present being is. But also as extraordinary. As promising. As ravishing.
By the way, there are many more such fecund pointers — should this one be not quite enough.
Text and photo by Alain Joly
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