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All major religions, at least in their more esoteric forms, place great emphasis on becoming liberated while in the body. Realizing the God that dwells within lies in transcending the individualized personality with its greedy, grasping, self-serving nature and merging with the higher Self, pure Awareness, changeless, deathless, ever free.

But if the end result for the worldly individual and the realized master, of the sinner and the sage, is the same - namely, the death of body and the individual consciousness merging like a drop of water back into the ocean of pure Awareness, then why go through the trouble of being holy? The lonely path to pure consciousness is so difficult it has been compared to the razor's edge, and the strenuous solitude it requires can endure for years. Men have lived in caves, served gurus, begged for food, mortified their flesh, abandoned the security of home, all in the name of finding God. This while their contemporaries are raising a family, living comfortably in the world, enjoying its simple pleasures, possibly even aging gracefully and dying peacefully.

So, why bother?

The difference lies in the individual personality. Those of the mystical bent are particularly suited to solitude, asceticism and steadfast worship of the highest ideal. While others worship through love, of nature, of family, of community, and in its highest form, unconditional love of all. Either path, that of the holy person and of the householder, leads to fulfillment. It's the ones in the middle who have it rough. One foot in the higher realm, another rooted in worldly concerns, spread thin, pulled apart, not knowing which way to turn and stuck. These unfortunate souls aren't content living an exclusively ascetic life, which doesn't stimulate their senses enough, and are often bored by the drudge and drear of marital concerns.

And so the discontented majority must choose for themselves how much spiritual practice is enough, and none may suffice. Ignorance can bring bliss, in the short term. It is these who are not purified by meditation nor by unconditional love who have need for religion, a personalized God, and the moral code a system of worship provides. Finding no meaning within, it must be imposed upon them from without. Those who are fixed in Reality, filled with blissful love, have no need for a moral code. Goodness flows freely from them, for the divine is their nature. Once you have established your identity with the Self, source of all that is, once you not only feel love but are Love, being kind to one's neighbor flows automatically.

The individual path is a personal problem with as many answers as there are people. Is there an afterlife where the sage is rewarded with heavenly realms and the dutiful householder may enjoy some effects of past deeds before journeying back to Earth, while the sinner is scorched by undying flame? So the scriptures in their various manifestations would have us believe. But these philosophies were developed by individuals like you and me, individuals grappling with notions of good and evil, struggling to obtain answers in a world of confusion, men and women who took an interest in personal safety and wished above all to preserve it.

In the interest of peace, notions of heaven and hell and reincarnation evolved. As Karl Marx once said, religion is the opiate of the masses. And yet, for the spirit to be realized in its fullness, religion along with worldly trappings must be left behind. For how can one, however "inspired" or "enlightened," speak authoritatively of an afterlife without having experienced it firsthand? Are visions and voices any proof? We all hear visions and voices in dreams which when we awaken are revealed to be fancies and figments of the imagination - however real they may have seemed!

Scientists have even debunked out-of-body experiences, where souls are said to elevate and experience the environment. But without organs of sense, the eyes and ears, what is seeing and hearing? These experiences are pieced together from memory, like the events and articles of a dream. Before you were born you had no mind nor organs of expression. You as pure consciousness assumed this bodily vehicle at birth, and after death these reductive organs will be discarded. What the nature of the afterlife is we cannot say, since the very organs which seek to understand life after death, the mind and senses, won't be around to cognize it. Ask the fish what the world is like outside of the water that surrounds and runs through it. How can the minnow know? How can it even speculate? Such a life is not within the realm of its experience. It won't know dry land until it's dead, and then it won't be around to formulate an opinion.

So why, if we cannot fathom the future without a mind and body, are we so preoccupied with its nature? Thus is the nature of the mind, ever curious, always doubting, seeking to establish personal identity and to preserve this separateness at all costs. I want to live forever, the mind says, mistaking itself for the individual form and psyche. But this I does live forever. This I always exists. It is God. And it is all around, shining in the heart, radiating in the eyes, running through all that is.

Perhaps we can access the unfathomable realm. To do so we must stop fathoming. In meditation, when you subdue the senses, still the mind, and center the attention within, you enter the realm of pure Being, of Oneness, freedom from mind and the senses and the world, the Absolute. This is an out of body experience in real time. Conscious immortality. Whether this experience changes what comes after you leave your body is a matter for speculation. We'll leave it to the "inspired writers" to judge. But it doesn't really matter, since without a mind you have no concern for the notions of space and time.

Here on earth we know that as humans we tend to be products of our prior thoughts and creatures of habit. With practice, things become second nature. If you get used to dwelling in the Self maybe after leaving your body and exiting this imagined realm of space and time it is as the Self that you'll spend eternity. Make it second nature. And remember, you're not really human.


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