Seeking Enlightenment

“…his (the Buddha’s) face and his step, his peaceful downward glance, his peaceful downward-hanging hand, and every finger of his hand spoke of peace, spoke of completeness, sought nothing, imitated nothing, reflected a continuous quiet, an unfading light, an invulnerable peace.” From Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

Amongst spiritual teachings, there are few greater puzzles than the teaching that instructs us that there is a Buddha or Christ within us. Every human looks for happiness, fulfillment and purpose in their lives. We look around us hoping to find what we seek in success, power, importance, status, wealth, possessions, entertainment, self-indulgence, affiliations, relationships, achievement, even good works and religion. We seek the good life, maybe even, the meaning of life. We may seek God.

We seek some sense of peace and harmony amidst the difficulty and travail of living. Sometimes we think we have found it, only to have it slip away, and so we seek again. All too often, the journey is so frustrating we may cease seeking and accept unhappiness and disappointment as our lot in life, settling into a cynicism that is all too common. Does not there remain though, even for the most discouraged, the glimmer of a secret hope? So the seeking continues, sometimes in very subtle and even perverse ways.

In the remarkable novel, Siddhartha, set in the time of the Buddha’s life, Hermann Hesse engaged in an intriguing literary devise writing the main character, Siddhartha, as a parallel and bifurcated personality to the Buddha (historically, Siddhartha Gotama), referred to in the book as Gotama. In one passage, Siddhartha, now an old man who had found enlightenment, says to his old friend Govinda, who had become a disciple of Gotama and is still seeking, “Perhaps you seek too much, that as a result of your seeking you cannot find.” This is the irony and tragedy of human existence. We seek ever so fervently for fulfillment, for the realization of lasting happiness, but cannot find it because we look in the wrong place.

The secret of Hindu and Buddhist teaching, and what I believe is the original intent of all spiritual teaching, including Christian, Jewish and Muslim, is that what we seek we have never lost. What we seek we already possess but are blind to. What we seek outside ourselves can never be found outside ourselves, but we keep seeking anyway, believing that the next acquisition, position, relationship, affiliation, religious/spiritual teaching will finally give us lasting happiness only to have it slip away again and again. So, we keep on seeking, and we are like the proverbial donkey being led by a carrot on the end of a stick, the prize always just out of reach.

Buddha and Christ were avatars, humans that realized their own infinite capability to be free and awake in the world, human ideals. In both cases, nothing was found outside themselves, but rather in the realization of their own inherent completeness. To the degree that others find divinity in them, it is because the humans Gotama and Jesus discovered their own divinity reflected in their recognition of the divinity in all of life. They became Buddha (The Perfect Awakened One) and Christ (The Anointed One, fully divine and fully human) in their recognition that there is no separateness, but rather one divine Life that all are within. Jesus is written to have said, “The kingdom will not come by watching for it. There will not be said, ‘Look here’ or ‘Look there.’ Rather, the Kingdom of Heaven is spread out upon the Earth, and men do not see it.”

Buddha’s enlightenment and Jesus’ Kingdom of Heaven is to be found within ourselves, but only at our deepest level, a level that the vast majority only stumbles upon by accident and does not recognize for what it is. It happens in moments when our obsession with our personal and separate self dissolves into perfect harmony with the moment just as it is. It happens in a profound moment of connection with Nature, with a moment of “in the zone” athletic or artistic performance. It happens in moments of religious ecstasy and in moments of complete connection with another person. It is known to happen as death approaches. It happens in accidental moments, and so we pursue and seek to recreate these moments, sometimes successfully, but always, ultimately, they fade, and we are left with our empty longing. So we seek again. “Perhaps you seek too much, that as a result of your seeking you cannot find.”

Awaken into the Buddha, the Christ within. Look outside yourself only to see that ultimately there is no outside yourself, that as Buddhism specifically teaches, beneath the self that functions in the world, there is no self. There is only Life, all-sacred, that you are within. See not only the objects of the world separated by spaces, but experience the space that connects all objects as your own consciousness. This energy of consciousness happens through us, connecting all seeming forms, including the form we experience as our separate self. We have bodies comprised of physical energy. We have functioning, thinking minds filled with thought forms of mental energy. Can you recognize that all energy is patterns of energy within a vast system of energy that is the Universe? Seeking happiness in the forms that come and go, come and go is the seeking that cannot find. Enlightenment is in the cessation of seeking, to discover “The peace that surpasses all understanding.” “The Kingdom of heaven is spread upon the Earth.”

The 14th Century Persian Sufi Moslem poet, Hafiz, wrote, “Look in a clear mountain mirror / See the Beautiful Ancient Warrior / and the Divine elements/ you always carry inside / that infused this Universe with Sacred Life / so long ago / and join you Eternally / with all Existence / with God!” The great psychologist, and a Jew, Abraham Maslow, one of the few psychologists who fully grasped that a true psychology must contain a mystical understanding said, “The Sacred is in the ordinary. It is to be found in one’s daily life… in one’s own backyard… To be looking elsewhere for miracles is a sure sign of ignorance that everything is miraculous.”

To be enlightened is to realize the connectedness and sacredness of all life, and that includes you and me, as recognized by the mystics of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism. It is already in you. Stop seeking in the outer forms of the world, and realize it lives right where you are, within you and all around you, within all form and through the formless that connects all forms. As the Hindu tradition acknowledges in salutation, “Namaste” – As God abides in me, I greet God abiding in you. Do not let this be merely an inspiring idea. Find it as a felt reality. There is no seeking, only finding and living in the light – enlightened.

Bill Walz has taught meditation and mindfulness in university and public forums, and is a private-practice meditation teacher and guide for individuals in mindfulness, personal growth and consciousness. He holds a weekly meditation class, Mondays, 7pm, at the Friends Meeting House, 227 Edgewood. By donation. Information on classes, talks, personal growth and healing instruction, or phone consultations at (828) 258-3241, e-mail at

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