A meditation teacher was describing two approaches to attaining enlightenment. One, he said, is like showing someone a picture of a cake and telling them “Go make this.” The other is like giving someone a recipe. I understood what he meant. He was suggesting that the instructions in the recipe would be more helpful than a photo with no directions. But something kept lurking at the edge of my consciousness, something that seemed a bit off.
So I sat on my cushion and contemplated this whole cake metaphor. And suddenly I knew what was bothering me. Both approaches describe a way to attain or produce something, something you don’t already have.
What if, instead, I don’t think in terms of making a cake, but rather in terms of realizing that I am the cake? I don’t need to make anything, produce anything, attain anything. I only need to remember who I am. I only need to allow my true nature to manifest and be expressed.
Does that mean that there is no purpose to practice or process? No, I don’t think so. Our practice is not so much about attaining enlightenment as it is about releasing everything that blocks our awareness of our natural enlightened state. I don’t need to get from here to there. I need to remember that I’m already where I want to be. I always have been. I never left.
In a temple in Thailand, there is a solid gold Buddha that was encased in a plaster statue for so long that its true nature was forgotten. As I wrote in an earlier blog post, its priceless truth was only rediscovered when it fell from a crane moving it and some plaster chipped off. When all the plaster was then removed, the brilliance and magnificent beauty of the golden Buddha shone forth.
Some speculate that the Buddha was covered in plaster to protect it from invaders. We do that too. We encase ourselves in layers of what we think of as protection, so many layers that we forget what is underneath. We pretend that we are in control. Safe. Until life drops us and some of that protection is chipped away. And if we dare to look, we see something shimmering in the darkness.
What then? Here is our choice. We can cover it back up, or we can begin to loosen the protection and strip it away, freeing ourselves from all our false imaginings. Until we see that there was nothing that needed protecting in the first place. For as A Course in Miracles teaches:
Nothing real can be threatened
Nothing unreal exists
Herein lies the peace of God