What many religions usually offer the faithful is a passage to Heaven, Valhalla, Paradise. They promise the winning of salvation, redemption, the reward of the just.
Usually the faithful will go to Heaven if they follow the ways of a particular religion. Implicit in that is that others who don’t follow them won’t go to Heaven, be with the elect, etc.
That is a caricature of the truth. What is the truth? What piece of that story is in any way accurate?
Well, we are on a spiritual journey so that part is accurate. It’s a journey from God to God.
But it isn’t just the followers of a certain religion that will complete the journey and realize God. Everyone will. Sri Ramakrishna taught that:
“All will surely realize God. All will be liberated. It may be that some get their meal in the morning, some at noon, and some in the evening; but none will go without food. All, without any exception, will certainly know the real Self.” (1)
Krishnamurti agreed: “One day you will have all knowledge,” he said. (2) And Mata Amritanandamayi concurs as well: “Whoever it may be, he who has sincere interest can know and see God.” (3)
Thus there’s no foundation in truth to the statement that only the true believers of one religion will attain heaven or be ushered into the presence of God, etc.
To us, all that’s knowable and noticeable from our ground-level view is that we progress from one dimension of consciousness to another. This is the microcosmic view. The macrocosmic view is that we’re returning to God, whence we came.
To be totally accurate, what the early Christian masters meant by “Heaven” was the Fifth Dimension that we’re headed to. What others meant by Valhalla and Paradise is not as clear.
What’s being vaguely and obliquely referred to is the experience we call “enlightenment.” Enlightenment is what carries us from one dimension to another.
If we’re to get to Heaven, Valhalla or Paradise, it’ll be because we became enlightened. And enlightened to a certain stage because there are stages to enlightenment.
Enlightenment itself is virtually (that is, to all intents and purposes) endless. It goes on so far down the road that it’s pointless to talk about its end. Can you imagine life just getting better and better to an unbelievable extent? And yet that’s what awaits us.
I haven’t been enlightened in this lifetime. It’s implicit in what I know about myself that I have been in others (as have you). But that knowledge is not available to me at this time.
Therefore my intellectual understanding of enlightenment combined with perhaps two dozen spiritual experiences of a lesser nature than illumination is all I have to go on in defining enlightenment.
For me, enlightenment is a radical discontinuity in knowledge and experience that lifts a person, temporarily or permanently, to a higher plane of life. It may involve the seeing of a light or a cherished form of God. Or it may involve an event in consciousness such as a heart opening x 100.
When temporary, it leaves its traces like increased confidence, increased ability to love and experience bliss, certainty that one is immortal, etc.
Enlightenment, Krishna has said, is the reward of all action. (4) Very few desire it and, of the few who do, very few again have the discipline or perseverance to carry that wish through to the end. (5)
“Ascension” refers to a “movement” of sentient beings from one plane of consciousness to another. In Jesus’s case, it was an individual phenomenon. In our case, it will be a mass or collective phenomenon.
Ascension is unto itself the attainment of a stage of enlightenment. But of what stage I have no certain knowledge. If we were in the Third Dimension, I’d say that sahaja samadhi catapults us from the Third to the Fifth. But the Mother has said sahaja comes deeper into the Fifth Dimension.
The paradox that situation creates is that, without sahaja, ordinarily we would need to be reborn into the Third. But I cannot conceive that we, being in the Fifth and not having had sahaja, would somehow return to the Third. So it’s a gap in my knowledge as to exactly what stage of enlightenment triggers Ascension.
However, the celestials remind us that the journey goes on well past Ascension to the Fifth.
Archangel Michael says that he speaks to us from the Transcendental. Swami Vivekananda also came from the Transcendental and was an Elohim. So here we have the phenomenon of two exalted beings living in the domain of the Father and yet retaining their individuality and showing their up-to-the-moment knowledge of Earth’s ways.
It does explain however how Archangel Michael could say that we can return to the Father and then emerge again when needed, much as Swami Vivekananda did in coming to Earth.
While I look forward to enlightenment, I also know that everything about me – my desire to serve, my love of writing, my relaxing into composition – has increased with a simple heart opening.
It allows me a kind of measuring device: if this experience I had was this sweet, can I imagine what Ascension must be like? I admit I cannot.
(1) Paramahansa Ramakrishna in Swami Nikhilananda, trans., The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1978; c1942, 818. Hereafter GSR.
(2) J. Krishnamurti, At the Feet of the Master. Adyar: Theosophical Publishing House, 1974; c1910, 27.
(3) Mata Amritanandamayi, Awaken, Children! Vallicakavu, India: Mata Amritanandamayi Mission Trust, I, 49.
(4) “The reward of all action is to found in enlightenment.” (Sri Krishna in Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, trans., Bhagavad-Gita. The Song of God. New York and Scarborough: New American Library, 1972; c1944, 54. Hereafter BG.)
“The glory of the Lord shall be thy reward.” (Isaiah 58:8.)
“By contacting God in the world and in meditation you will find all your heart’s desires fulfilled. Then you will be a true man of renunciation, for you will find that nothing is more worth-while, more pleasant or attractive than the all-beautiful, all-satisfying, all-thirst quenching, ever-new, joyous God.” (Paramahansa Yogananda, The Second Coming of Christ. Three vols. Dallas: Amrita Foundation, 1979-86, 1, 17.)
(5) “Who cares to seek For that perfect freedom? One man, perhaps, In many thousands.” (Sri Krishna in BG, 70.)
“Only one in a million sincerely longs for God, and few sustain that longing.” (Swami Brahmananda in Swami Prabhavananda, The Eternal Companion. Brahmananda. Hollywood: Vedanta Press, 1970; c1944, 194.)
“Then tell me how many
Of those who seek freedom
Shall know the total Truth of my being?
Perhaps one only.” (Sri Krishna in BG, 70.)
“The Divine Mother … gives freedom to one out of a hundred thousand.” (Paramahansa Ramakrishna in GSR, 136.)