Here’s some further thoughts about spiritual investing, a subject that I’ve enjoyed pondering since writing my post of a week ago. I advised that, just as it makes great financial sense to invest in index funds that mirror an entire market, a person’s spiritual endeavors should be similarly widely diversified.
However, there’s a difference between worldly and other-worldly markets that I neglected to address sufficiently before. When you buy a monetary index fund such as the Total U.S. Stock Market, you end up owning a piece of every single company stock in the United States. Thus diversification is accomplished in a manner that is easy to understand: own a little bit of everything.
But to invest one’s soul in the Total Cosmic Spirit Market means taking an exactly opposite approach: owning nothing. You diversify widely into the One by not clinging to any part of the Many—anything that can be demarcated by name or form.
“God,” after all, isn’t part of this world. Whatever or whoever God is, the unknown ultimate reality that is given this utterly meaningless name (which is why I like to put it in quotation marks) obviously isn’t something that we can point to and say, “There it is! And this is what it is like!” If knowing God were that easy, there wouldn’t be any divine mystery to unravel.
Companies listed on stock markets are easy to identify. They exist in the physical world of time and space. You can buy shares in them. God is hidden, beyond the reality we know now. If you think that anything you can grasp with your body or mind is divine, you’re mistaken. You’ve bought into maya, illusion.
Such is the teaching of Hinduism and Buddhism, as well as the message of mystics outside these traditions—who use terms other than maya to mean the same non-ultimate reality.
Alan Watts, in “The Way of Zen,” explains that maya is “derived from the Sanskrit word matr-, ‘to measure, form, build, or lay out a plan,’ the root from which we obtain such Greco-Latin words as meter, matrix, material, and matter. The fundamental process of measurement is division…Definition, setting bounds, delineation—these are always acts of division and thus of duality, for as soon as a boundary is defined it has two sides.”
So, he says, you can’t grasp the really real world “in the mind’s net of words and concepts….It is precisely the realization of the total elusiveness of the world which lies at the root of Buddhism.” And, I’d say, of every other genuine mystical path that claims to lead to a direct experience of God—not just a conceptual description of what God might be like.
Total elusiveness. No exceptions.
Most religious believers like to think that the mystery of God is elusive except for the special revelation to which they, and they alone, are privy. Not true. There are no exceptions to maya. If you can give it a name or a form, nama or rupa, it’s part of maya. A revelation, by definition, is something revealed. That means you can point to it, describe it, define it, delineate it.
Thus the Bible is maya, illusion. All of it, New and Old Testament alike. Ditto the Talmud, Koran, Dhammapada, Tao Te Ching, Upanishads, Adi Granth, Course of Miracles, Conversations with God, and, naturally, the Church of the Churchless. Everything I’ve written on this weblog is part and parcel of maya, including that last sentence.
There’s only one way out of maya: nothing. You get out of an enclosure by finding the empty space—a door. The door is useful because it is empty. It isn’t composed of the same substance as the walls, floor, and ceiling. If it were, then it too would be part of the enclosure.
Something empty and hidden connects everything that can be sensed or conceived of. That something we don’t know is what we really want, not all the things and ideas we do know. It alone will satisfy, because only it is permanent, real, substantial. It goes by lots of names: Spirit, Tao, Buddha Nature, countless others.
By all accounts—the testimony of mystics who seem to know what they’re talking about, since they claim to have experienced this Something—it’s main distinguishing feature is that it isn’t akin to anything of this world. How could it be? It is what supports this world, what keeps it going, what gives it order, what unites its separate pieces. If it were part of this world, it couldn’t do all those things.
So I’m convinced that spirituality is, purely and simply, the embrace of Nothing. Nothing, that is, of the world of illusion. Which means everything of the world of reality.
It’s a damn good deal: Nothing for Everything. The only trick, and it’s damn difficult to figure it out, is how to acquire that spiritual investment capital, Nothing. Seemingly you should be able to find it anywhere just by letting everything else go. Sounds easy enough.
But I’ve been looking for Nothing inside my head during more than thirty years of daily meditation. I always end up with something. The search continues. I’ll keep you posted.