Maturing in our spiritual search: from experience to knowledge

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Most of the great spiritual traditions claim that there is something eternal and supremely infinite, something that is all-knowing, all-powerful and present everywhere (omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent).

If that is the case, then this Infinite must already be here, right now. If it isn’t already present right now, then it is not omnipresent. This is a vital point to grasp – if there is such a thing as the Infinite, then it must already be fully here, right now, otherwise it is limited and therefore not infinite.

It is not that certain mystical or transcendental experiences are experiences of the Infinite but our normal everyday experiences are not. No, all our experiences must be of Him. We must always be experiencing the Infinite.

This has several ramifications for the spiritual seeker. This means that the problem we face is not that we are apart from God and need to find Him or experience Him. No, the issue is that we are already always experiencing God but do not know it.

The issue is not one of acquiring a special experience or state of mind. It is that we do not correctly understand our current experience as it is right now. Even traditions that do not admit a God such Buddhism acknowledge that understanding, or insight, is what is key:

“If you do not have insight into the way you yourself and all things actually are, you cannot recognize and get rid of the obstacles to liberation from cyclic existence, and, even more important, the obstructions to helping others.”
Dalai Lama (from How to See Yourself as You Really Are)

Armed with this knowledge, we can mature in our spiritual seeking. So-called materialistic or worldly life is characterised by chasing experiences such as pleasure, power, fearlessness, pride and security. Many spiritual seekers just transfer this same pattern of yearning for worldly experiences into their quest for spiritual experiences. However as we mature in our spiritual search we can stop chasing states of mind and experiences – all of which are temporary – and instead start to try and understand our direct experience as it is right now.

This understanding or insight, whilst based upon our direct experience, is not a search for a particular experience, but an understanding of experience itself.

“That is why the insight that can liberate you from these afflictions is the key to happiness…Insight brings love, and love is not possible without insight, understanding. If you do not understand, you cannot love. This insight is direct understanding, and not just a few notions and ideas.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
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