Lesson 20: The Error of Escape
I can’t be that different from anybody else in that even at an early age I often thought about the after-life. My upbringing in the Episcopal church placed me in the middle of the extremes and without thinking for myself, assumed that what I was taught was true. There is a Heaven and there is a Hell but unless you really screw up, you’re going to Heaven. I was 10 years old.
I can’t be that different than anybody else in that when I was young, I tried alternative escapes from my confusion by the use of self- medication. After I had a bad trip from doing hash that was laced with LSD and thinking that a water tower was actually a giant squirrel wanting to eat me, I abandoned that route of discovery. I was 20 years old.
I can’t be that different from anybody else in that after I realized that I would not find God in church or self-medication, I considered the alternatives. I studied Buddhism and a host of other approaches and maintained a very disciplined meditation practice for 10 years. I assumed that what I was taught was true and that Nirvana was attainable. After I tripped the light fandango, had some out of body experiences, I saw the irreconcilable discrepancy between being in a state of nirvana and actually walking the earth. I was 40 years old.
In all religions, an escape exists. One day you won’t be here. After you die, you’ll be there. And “there” is better than “here.” Blow yourself up and a crowd of innocent people along with you and there will even the added benefit of 27 virgins waiting for you when you get “there.” And as we all know, it doesn’t get any better than that. Even the Episcopal church doesn’t promise virgins. Why are we taught not to be here? What is wrong with being here? As Stephen Hawking recently argued, it is time to colonize the moon and Mars because according to him, it’s not going to be a lot of fun being here before too long. How brilliant.
Savitri, too, made a choice. She made a choice to be here because of her love for Satvayan. She decided that heaven was not “there” but “here.” She changed directions. Is it possible that a directional problem exists that lies at the heart of your confusion about what you are doing here? Is is possible that death will not be your reprieve as you have been taught? Is it possible that it is not about you going to heaven but about heaven coming to you? The error of the Church, of self-medication, of escape is that what you seek does not lie outside of you…but inside of you. It is who you are. If you understand this, you can solve some really big issues for yourself. Example: The reason that no one and no thing can complete you is because you were never incomplete in the first place. And that’s just for starters!
“Abolished is the burdening need of life:
Thought falls from us, we cease from joy and grief;
The ego is dead; we are freed from being and care,
We have done with birth and death and work and fate.
O soul, it is too early to rejoice!”
The meaning of this great, mysterious experience of life cannot be death nor can it be escape to another realm whether that be through death, self-medication, religion or meditation. The grief, the freedom you seek from work and paying your bills, the silent struggle of your fate, the burden you face in your daily pursuit to come with the terms of your existence, the losses…they all contain within them the heaven you seek.
“Thou hast leaped into a glad divine abyss;
But where hast thou thrown Self’s mission and Self’s power?
On what dead bank on the Eternal’s road?
Once was within thee who was self and world.
What hast thou done for his purpose in the stars?
Escape brings not victory and the crown!
Something thou cam’st to do from the Unknown,
But nothing is finished and the world goes on
Because only half God’s cosmic work is done.
Only the everlasting No has neared
And stared into thy eyes and killed thy heart:
But where is the Lover’s everlasting Yes,
And immortality in the secret heart.”
Heaven is not there. It is here. You can only get “there” by being “here.” It’s a simple error of direction to be corrected. “Half of God’s cosmic work” with you is done. It is time for the other half of you to begin.