Authentic spiritual life is a path of luminous ecstasy. Everyone wants perfect joy, perfect pleasure. All human beings have a vision of the highest happiness and a desire to attain it. Pursue this vision, and we experience the natural ecstasy that is our real life. This is the highest value and the greatest satisfaction.
In ordinary conditioned life, ecstasy is kept far away. We find ourselves trapped in a drab world of routine, working hard to make others rich. Our choices and opportunities are limited to the offerings of corporate intermediaries. We are fallen into the world, alienated from our own happiness, even from our own selves.
But even in such a condition, when we are sincere we can hear the Call of the Friend. It encourages us to be ourselves, to be real, to make and own choices based on our authentic values. We may hear and be attracted to this Call in art, in music, in love, religion or in our own conscience. It calls us away from the grind of everyday labor toward the peaks of ecstatic experience.
If we follow the Call of the Friend, eventually we meet the Friend: a person speaking with that Call. The Friend has been walking the Ecstatic Path for a long time. He is willing to show us how to move from drudgery to ecstasy, from slavery to freedom.
Beware of false friends. Some people want to entice us to give up one kind of slavery, only to accept another. We may free ourselves from dependence on corporate overlords, only to become entangled in a religious organization. Or we may practice renunciation externally, while remaining self-fettered by wrong views.
The authentic Call of the Friend offers a way out of conditioned experience without imposing any new requirements or dependencies. It gives techniques, and encourages us to use them well. It counsels us with experienced wisdom. What a wonderful place this world would be if everyone would hear the Voice of the Friend, projected from their own most authentic self! For this Voice is our own indwelling conscience.
The sacred purpose of the Path is to minimize or eliminate suffering without creating dependency. So many times we are promised relief from suffering, but there is a price: commitment to dependence on some individual, organization, cause, designation or other abstraction. Such relationships seem to offer a free pass, but the karma of our choices always catches up with us.
Robust spiritual health is when we can be happy with nothing. In fact, we can only be happy with nothing, because things are always imperfect. They have to be obtained for some exchange of value, they are always imperfect or disappointing, never our real self, and they tend to disappear in time.
For all our success in adjusting our circumstances to our being, we remain unfulfilled if we cannot also adjust our being to our circumstances. Such deep command of one’s own essential nature is a skill from which we can derive great satisfaction. This facility is given by the process of becoming taught by the Buddha.
Living happily with nothing in the middle of everything sounds paradoxical. But what about our space of awareness, in which the whole universe, God and everything shows up! We are much more, and much less, than we seem. The purpose of life is to realize this, both in meditation and in action.