“Failure is all about you while you seek for goals that cannot be achieved. You look for permanence in the impermanent, for love where there is none, for safety in the midst of danger; immortality within the darkness of the dream of death...” Workbook, page 239, Lesson 131.
In this lesson we are told that as long as we have goals that are based in this world, we will only end up with failure in the end. We all have goals—the most common ones being getting a good education, finding a job, buying a house, having a family, going on holiday every year, etc. And although these goals do give us some pleasure, they can only ever end in failure because of the impermanence of life in the world of duality.
“The finiteness of life is its futility” said Ken Wapnick in his book From Futility to Happiness. He pointed out that all our goals will ultimately fail because, sooner or later, they will all come to an end. This is what Lesson 131 warns us about: “Goals that are meaningless are not attained. There is no way to reach them, for the means by which you strive for them are meaningless as they are...” Not only are our goals meaningless because of their impermanence, they are also meaningless because they can, unless we’re vigilant, keep us trapped in the world of the ego. If we devote all our energy and time to our everyday goals, we won’t have much time left over for the one and only really meaningful goal: awakening.
Everyone is searching for meaning at some level—everyone “who wanders in the world uncertain, lonely, and in constant fear,” T668. And even though we may not feel that we are in constant fear, if something were to deprive us of the things we rely on for shelter and security, e.g. our homes or jobs, then we would feel uncertain and fearful. Lesson 258 in the Course, states: “Let me remember that my goal is God.” This is, in fact, what enlightenment is all about.
Describing how he actually managed to achieve an enlightened state of awareness, the great spiritual teacher David Hawkins said, in his book Discovery of the Presence of God – Devotional Nonduality, that he had a very intense desire to reach it; he was also compassionate towards others and towards himself and he acted with “constant and universal forgiveness and gentleness, without exception.” He also said he kept all desires under control and turned them over to God. In this way he was able to transcend the chattering of his mind and experience the “Silence,” as he called it.
The emphasis on forgiveness is of particular interest to students of A Course in Miracles, as forgiveness is the key to salvation according to its teachings. Lesson 99 of the Course instructs us to repeat the following: “Salvation is my only function here. Salvation and forgiveness are the same.” Then we are advised to: “Forgive all thoughts which would oppose the truth of your completion, unity and peace….Forgive what you have made and you are saved.” What we have made is the ego and the world of time and space. If we can recognise that this is just an illusion, and if we can forgive ourselves for believing in the ego and for thinking that we are separate from each other, we have a good chance of achieving salvation upon the completion of all our forgiveness lessons.
In Chapter 29 of the Text Jesus asks us: “How willing are you to forgive your brother? How much do you desire peace instead of endless strife and misery and pain? These questions are the same, in different form. Forgiveness is your peace, for herein lies the end of separation and the dream of danger and destruction, sin and death; of madness and of murder, grief and loss. This is the ‘sacrifice’ salvation asks, and gladly offers peace instead of this.” This passage shows that there is a direct link between forgiveness and the Atonement—recognition that the separation from God never occurred. Forgiveness brings with it the peace of God because it enables us to remember our unity with Him and with all other beings.
James Swartz, in his interesting book "How to attain Enlightenment – the Vision of Non-duality," stresses that those keen to become enlightened should be: “...discriminating, dispassionate, calm of mind and endowed with a burning desire for liberation” and possess devotion, faith and perseverance as well. And he points out instead of being extroverted and focusing on the unreal world of form, we need to use yoga and meditation to help the mind, the intellect and the ego turn within and achieve self-awareness.
Of course, whilst we believe we are living in the world of duality, it is normal to have goals such as a job, family, career, etc. One doesn’t have to give any of these things up. But it is important to remember, nonetheless, that there is a more important goal, unless we really want to remain trapped in the world of duality—a world that is unreal, according to many spiritual teachers.
The more one watches the news on television the more one realises that there is something extremely wrong with our world. Lesson 131 refers to our “strange world” and states: “Heaven remains your one alternative to this strange world you made and all its ways; its shifting patterns and uncertain goals, its painful pleasures and its tragic joys. God made no contradictions. What denies its own existence and attacks itself is not of Him.”
But the good thing about Lesson 131 is that it offers us hope. We can succeed in our quest for immortality, if we follow the advice given to us. We are asked to watch all our thoughts and let them go, and then beneath them is a door which will lead us from illusion to truth. We are guided by the Holy Spirit, who walks with us and we should be happy because: “This is a day of gladness, for we come to the appointed time and place where you will find the goal of all your searching here, and all the seeking of the world, which end together as you pass beyond the door.”
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