Full realization is very, very rare. As they see it in the East, the perfection of consciousness does not come in one birth, but through thousands and thousands of incarnations. Sometimes we may see the culminating birth, the finishing touch, as in the case of Buddha. Otherwise most of the beings who are called “saints” in India or by the Catholic church are not perfected beings. We may be seeing them in very advanced births, where, as my teacher Hari Dass Baba used to say, there’s only “a transparency left of the veil of illusion.” For example, when Ramana Maharshi was seventeen years old, he lay down on the floor of his uncle’s study and imagined his own death, finding in that experience the core of his true Self.

Imagine a mountain of solid rock six miles long, six miles wide, and six miles high. Once every hundred years a crow flies by with a silk scarf in its beak, just barely caressing the top of the mountain with it. The length of time it would take to wear away that mountain is how Buddha described the journey to enlightenment. That’s the game of incarnations. In the vastness of time any one incarnation is like the blink of an eye in relation to a seventy-year life span. Every time you blink, that’s like another incarnation. Every thought form is like a lifetime. A realized being is so completely in the present moment that every time a thought appears, there is creation, preservation, and destruction of the entire universe.

Of course, that’s only a description from within our limited view of relative time. It goes from the smallest unit of thought, perhaps a billionth of a second in duration (called an asta kalapa), to a human life (perhaps seventy years), to an astral life of perhaps five hundred or a thousand years, to an entire cycle of the universe of form, four yugas, called a Day of Brahma, millions upon millions of years.

How you see this chain of incarnations is a function of where you are standing in relation to time. Its illusory nature (now you see it, now you don’t) becomes more apparent when you reconsider your concept of time. Realization is beyond time and space, so at another level nothing is happening anyway. When there is no attachment to the past and no expectation of the future, there is only this moment – the eternal present, here and now.

Both Hindus and Buddhists say human birth is highly auspicious, because it has the elements for liberation. You have everything you need to work with in a human birth to become realized: consciousness or awareness, conceptual understanding, the emotional heart, joy and sorrow. When Buddhists talk about the preciousness of a human birth, it’s the awareness associated with human birth that’s the opportunity. We become aware to bring ourselves to higher consciousness. Suffering is part of it too; it’s all grist for the mill of developing awareness. What’s here in front of you is what you can be aware of; it’s food for enlightenment. It’s your part in this passing show of life…

Excerpt from Be Love Now 


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