Heaven is imagined as a place free from the bonds of earthly life where gravity no longer holds down the body. In heaven there are no cares or attachments. Eternal joy is the soul’s constant state. Without having to imagine them, all these qualities can be traced back to the experience of waking up. The great difference between this experience and heaven is that the virtual domain isn’t outside us; one doesn’t “go” there either in body or soul.
A famous anecdote in India tells of the ascetic who goes to the mountaintop to become enlightened. He fasts and prays constantly; he gives up all worldly desires in favor of meditation. His renunciation goes on for many years until the day when he realizes he has finally arrived.
No matter where he looks, he senses only the unbounded bliss of pure awareness, without attachment of any kind. Overjoyed, he rushes down into the village below to tell everyone, and as he is going along, he runs into a crowd of drunken revelers. Quietly he tries to thread his way through, but one drunk after another bumps him and makes a crude remark. Finally the ascetic can’t stand it and cries, “Get out of my way!” At that instant he stops, turns around, and goes back to the mountain.
This anecdote is about how easily we are fooled into thinking that we can escape our own anger and frailty, but the larger point is that using the personality to get to the absolute is a contradiction. Certain parts of ourselves are designed to live in this world of time.
It takes resolve and purpose to succeed in loosening our bonds enough so that pure awareness feels totally comfortable, and in the face of conflicts we instinctively fall back on anger, as we fall back on stubbornness, self-centeredness, righteous certainty, and so forth.
Yet at another level we do not even possess these qualities, much less feel tied to them. Religious seeking, whatever form it takes, tries to regain that unattached level.
Adapted from How To Know God, by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 2000)