Before you react too strongly to the title of this post, secular or religious, I want to propose an idea. Suppose you were an explorer back in the days before every piece of land had been charted and recorded. Suppose, also, that you encountered a strange land unknown to your fellow countrymen.
Your first desire upon seeing this land is to share the experience with everybody back home. So what do you do? Perhaps you create a detailed map, or paint a portrait of the landscape, or even take samples of the local fauna and preserve them.
But when you go back home with your recordings of this enchanting place, something unexpected happens. Your countrymen cannot appreciate the place as you did. They hold up the maps and cherish them. They stare at the painting and mistake your depiction for the reality of what it’s like to “be” there. They even equate the place to the leaves and roots you preserved for them.
Obviously, this is silly. All you wanted to do was show this place to the other people—instead, they’ve mistaken the individual items and representations for the thing in itself!
This same phenomenon happens in culture, religion, philosophy, and more. One of the most loaded “places” to represent is God. Those who experienced God, or the Absolute, had no way of representing it to others aside from using symbols and metaphors.
The trouble is, these symbols and metaphors have become equivalent to the thing being represented. This is the root of misunderstanding and ignorance. To actually understand and grasp the idea of the Absolute, or enlightenment, or anything else, we must abandon all labels, metaphors, and symbols, and seek the object in itself.
Only then will our understanding be authentic!
To learn more, watch my video on this topic:
Love and peace to all beings.