‘Eternity is the prize’, we might grandly say, speaking of the fruit of our inner work, our spiritual practices. This is misleading, however – if there is a prize then this means that there is ‘an attaining’ and if there is an attaining then there must be ‘one who attains’, and there isn’t. The ‘fruit of our inner work’ is to see that never was anyone who is to attain this (or any other) prize and that they never could be.
The ‘prize’ is to see that there is no such thing as a prize, in other words. When there is this thought that there IS a prize to be attained then this inevitably creates a type of excitement, it inevitably gives rise to a state of anticipation and this state of anticipation is our bondage. ‘The one who seeks a reward is never free‘, says Krishnamurti. The one who wishes to attain a goal is always a prisoner of that wish.
If there is no thought of any prize that may or may not be attained then there is no excitement at all, no anticipation at all, and so as a result of this state of profound equanimity Everything is attained, just as the Daoist sages tell us. This is ‘non-doing’. Everything is attained, but really there is no such thing as ‘attainment’ – the idea is a perfect absurdity. Why speak of ‘Everything’ (or ‘Wholeness’) as are an attainment? What a perverse way of looking at things this would be! There’s no attaining going on. Reality has nothing to do with attainment; reality (as we have just said) is when we clearly see that there is no such thing as ‘an attainment’ and no one who could ever attain it.
If we could see things clearly then we would see that when we talk about ‘the prize’ we’re actually talking about the self – it’s a type of opaque code word or cypher. We don’t want to draw attention to what we’re really talking about (because that would give the game away) and so we displace all the attention onto ‘the prize’. We displace all of our attention onto the prize and then we can go on and on about how great the prize is, how important it is to attain it and so on and so forth, and that’s perfectly fine – we’re safe that way. Nobody (and this includes us) what we’re really enthusing about.
There is a covert manoeuvre going on here therefore and what this manoeuvre is all about is promoting the self without looking as if this is what we’re doing. All of our games are examples of this covert manoeuvre – we get all enthusiastic about ‘winning’ and keep on talking about how great ‘winning’ is but really we’re just trying to get the self to seem more real, more solid to us. This is highly suspicious activity of course – it is suspicious because the fact that we are working so hard to make the self seem real very much suggests that it wouldn’t seem real unless we put all this work into it. It is because this non-stop ‘fixing’ business is so suspicious, if spotted for what it is) that we have to divert all attention away from it and onto this business of winning’ or attaining’ (which equals ‘successful fixing’). It’s not really the prize that matters to us but the one who is to (supposedly) attain it. When we see the goal glittering enticingly at us (whether it’s ‘heaven’ or ‘eternity’ or ‘mystical ascension’ or whatever else) what we’re REALLY seeing (and falling under the spell of) is the illusion of the self. The irresistible compulsion we are being controlled by is the compulsion to make this illusion be true but we never can.
Any talk of ‘attaining’ is therefore a bright red herring; it’s guaranteed to put us wrong. Just as long as we’re thinking in such terms were always going to be wrong-footed; we’re going to be wrong footed in the sense that we have become ‘trapped in a polarity’ and polarity is the most awesomely effective trap there ever was! Just as soon as we say that ‘freedom is so something to be attained’ (or that ‘eternity is something to be attained’, or however else we might want to put it) we create the old, old polarity of success versus failure. In this situation there are the two mutually exclusive possibilities ahead of us: <the possibility of winning freedom> and <the possibility of not winning it>. This is a Great Deception though – it is a deception because we are now under the spell of a compulsion (polarity always puts us under the spell of a compulsion). We are after all still striving to obtain the one opposite (freedom) and escape from the other close (slavery) and this itself is the absence of freedom. We are ‘the slaves of the need to attain an unattainable goal’; we are ‘slaves to the need to escape from slavery’ and there’s nothing ‘free’ about this situation at all!
There’s nothing free about this situation and neither can it ever lead to freedom. Freedom can never come out of the lack of freedom; unity cannot ever come out of a polarity. We cannot be compelled to seek freedom because this is a contradiction, an absurdity. Another way of looking at the process by which we ‘lose freedom by seeking it’ is to say that whenever we experience a compulsion to obtain one opposite and avoid the other (and act on it) then the self is created, and once we start perceiving and acting with the self as our unexamined basis then we are in the most fantastically effective trap there ever could be. This is the most fantastically effective trap there ever was or could be and the reason it is so effective is because we absolutely can’t understand it. This is therefore a trap you simply can’t tell anyone about…