When it comes to discussing the quest for spiritual understanding, you probably know by now that the parable of Jesus that I find most helpful is that of the treasure hidden in the field.
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field” (Matthew 13:44).
One reason I think this simple presentation is important is that it sheds a healthy light on a subject that has become a stumbling block to many. The subject is spiritual enlightenment. The term signifies a state of consciousness that, when reached, promises to give us the ability to see through all the many material distractions that stand between where we are and where we think we need to be. Attaining this state of consciousness represents the fulfillment of the promise of peace and security that we seek.
The mistake most of us make is that we attach the label of spiritual enlightenment to the treasure, the end we seek. When I’m enlightened, I’ll be happy. In the parable, enlightenment does not occur when the man comes into possession of the field. Enlightenment occurs the moment he stumbles upon the treasure. What changes when he does this? He now knows where the treasure is. He knows where to find it. His value system changes instantly. This change is not based on speculation or on the well-intended or highly educated opinions of others. It is based on his own first-hand experience. He now understands that the value of this treasure exceeds the value of everything else he owns. This is his moment of true knowing, his moment of enlightenment. His life shifts from a quest for joy to a joyful quest, one that begins, not with acquisition of yet another thing, but with a letting go of current possessions.
Spiritual enlightenment is not a thing to be acquired. It is the understanding of knowing where to focus our awareness. The moment you truly get this is the moment you achieve spiritual enlightenment. The mistake most of us make is that we cling to and add to our possessions rather than sell them.
If you are interested in reading this post, it is probably because you subscribe to the idea that the answers you seek in life are found within you. But what does this mean? What is the basis of your acceptance of this idea? Does it appeal to your logic? Is this idea supported by other authors whose writings make you feel good? Is it now your quest to accumulate as many books and hang out with others that support the idea? Is it merely a strong worldview that you now hold or is it actually the basis of your world experience? Is it a belief you hold as you wander through life hoping to one day stumble upon a level of inner meaning that is sure to change everything?
If you take a hard look at your so-called quest for truth, you will likely find that you are doing the exact opposite of the principle illustrated in the parable. Instead of selling possessions, you are frantically seeking more. You learned of this “kingdom” within, you love the idea, and now you set out to gain more knowledge about it so you may come into possession of it. The books you read to do not bring you closer to the experience you desire. They actually take you away from it. The wisdom espoused by your favorite authors only highlights and emphasizes what you believe you lack. You love what they say while affirming you have a long way to go before you actually get it. You do not translate this inspiration into actionable knowledge that closes that eternal gap between where you think you are and where you think you should be.
I recently read a short message intended to inspire hope: Every day is a new opportunity to change my life. Far from inspiring hope, such statements actually perpetuate the problem we’d like to solve. If every day is an opportunity to change my life, then this means that every day I must wake up to a life that I dislike so much that I need opportunities to escape it. So I look for new bits of information, new possessions that add to my escape route.
A good item to sell is this belief that every day is a new opportunity to change my life. When we even vaguely grasp the truth of omnipresence, we see that days and their passage have nothing to do with the opportunity to change anything. We like the sound of the idea that the answers we seek in life are already within us. So what ideas do we hold now that are blocking a meaningful experience of this truth? We say we want change, but we don’t want to change. We do not want to sell the possessions that provide justification for our continued suffering. We want to maintain that finding that soul mate or getting that better job or hitting some jackpot is going to furnish us with the kind of sign that proves we’re getting closer to enlightenment.
Take an honest look at your spiritual quest. Are you any closer to your perceived treasure today than you were five or ten years ago? Is it still just out of reach? From my observation, most will agree that their treasure is still as much a distant hope now as it ever has been. But let’s not stop here. Do you know where your treasure is? My guess is that you do. You understand that the treasure you seek is you, your very essence, your soul. If you can agree that you know this is true, you are spiritually enlightened. You know where to look. So now what? You know where your treasure is but you don’t feel it, you don’t possess it. What un-truths about yourself need to go? What do you need to sell to bring you into an actual experience of what you know is true?
The need is not to change life. The need is to live your life from what you know is true. If you truly believe that unearthing your soul is the answer you seek, then make this the focus of your life right now. Nothing can be added to your already complete soul. If you know this and you are acting from this knowledge, you are enlightened. And you will find this very day the proof that this is true.