Question: Why are some Paths so seemingly complex, and time-intensive and others so seemingly simple (Advaita Vedanta) whilst the "goal" is the same? Why am I attracted to different Paths, and how can I focus on what is True?
Leonard’s Answer: You say that the goal of each path is the same. What is the goal? If you are really clear about that, it will cast light upon which path is most suitable for you. What is it that you are seeking on the path? How will you know when you have arrived at the goal?
In some ways, it would be better for you if I stop at this point and let you meditate on this and come to your own answer.
But I will proceed.
The goal of the spiritual path is simple. It is to awaken out of the illusory world of the thinking human mind into the truth and reality of life lived in the present moment. The world of the mind is a world of the remembered past and imagined future. It is a world of illusion and yet almost every one on this planet believes this illusory world to be the truth of life. The simple truth is that there is no life outside of the present moment. It is impossible to live life outside of the present moment. We must come to terms with this simple truth.
I do not mean to imply that life at the level of mind should cease. That is not possible, nor desirable. What is possible however is that we become so awake and deeply grounded in the present moment and the awakened state of Being that we never lose our connection with the truth of life, even when we do venture into the world of the mind. In other words, we no longer believe in our thoughts, memories, ideas, beliefs and opinions as the truth. We know that only this moment is the truth and everything else is a kind of play within time.
The world of the mind has developed its own version of God. It is the ego and it is deeply committed to being in control of your life. Initially its motivation was to protect you in this world of painful illusion. But eventually, that changed into a deep commitment to protect its self, and to ensure the continuance of its dominant role in your life. The ego likes sitting on the throne of God and will not vacate the throne easily.
The ego wants to elevate itself in any way it can. It will happily set off on the spiritual path because it enjoys the feeling that is becoming more spiritual. It loves spiritual knowledge and power. It will continue on the path as long as it continues to accumulate more spiritual knowledge or power. In other words, the ego is becoming spiritualized, which is most unhelpful for one who is truly committed to full awakening.
If you happen to get too close to the truth or to a true teacher, the ego will have you out of there as soon as possible. It will have you reading other books and visiting other teachers. In other words, the ego needs you to remain the seeker. It does not want you to arrive at the goal.
And once again, what is the goal?
The goal is to be still and silent. To be awake in the present moment and know yourself as the One who is fully present. It is known in Silence. It is known as Silence. There is nothing left of you from the past or future. There are no thoughts. Just a silent Presence in a breathing body, which is fully present with that which is present.
Know this state of Presence just for a few moments and you are free. There is no more seeking. As you become more grounded and settled into the present moment, your whole life will begin to change. The Eternal dimension of existence will begin to reveal itself through the doorway of the present moment.
I speak in some detail about how to become present and remain present in the three books that I have written. I cannot repeat it here, but I do suggest that you will find them easy to read and most enlightening.
Now, to that part of your question about the true path.
Beware of paths that fill you with too much spiritual knowledge. You are just feeding your ego. Beware of teachers who elevate themselves above you. Look to their actions and their presentation and not just what they say. Some teachers say that they want no followers and yet, they are surrounded by followers.
Beware of too many practices. No practice will deliver you. Being present is immediate. It is now. Just remember to be present with that which is present and you are free, at least, in that moment. Each moment that you are fully present, you are awake. You are enlightened. Each moment that you are not present, you are not awake. It is that simple.
The Advaita Vedanta tradition is simple and very valuable. Through a process of self enquiry, you can liberate yourself from the illusory world of the mind and ego, into a state of pure consciousness. This state of pure consciousness is the "I am" Presence that I speak of in my books. It is an experience of no-thingness. It is the essence and source of all existence.
To awaken into pure consciousness is to attain liberation, but I have noticed with some of the followers of the Vedanta tradition who have attended my workshops, that there is sometimes a misunderstanding about the true nature of existence. There is a tendency to dismiss manifested form as illusory in nature. That is unhelpful, for what is the point of living in a world of illusion. We might as well leave.
God is both everything and nothing. Everything in physical form is the Body of God. It is God as everything. When I am at the deepest level of Presence, I am in Nothing-ness. I am nothing-ness. Nothingness is another word for full and silent Presence. It is another word for the "I AM" Presence of God. It is pure consciousness without form and without content.
The perfect balance between God as everything and God as nothing is expressed in a line from my third book, Bridging Heaven & Earth which simply states …. "When I am in nothing, God is in everything."
We have to be careful not to make "nothingness" yet another concept which the ego seizes hold of. It is a great way to make sure you never awaken. We are here to wake up into full Presence and behold the beauty of God's creation. Who are we to dismiss the Body of God as an illusion?
The illusion that we need to awaken from is the world of the thinking mind, which includes all our spiritual knowledge and concepts.
Even the spiritual path will ultimately prove to be an illusion.
Finally, you ask how can you focus on what is True. Just focus on what is here now. If you can see it, hear it, feel it, taste it or smell it, you can focus on it. To focus on that which is actually here now (present) with you will bring you into the truth of life. The tree or the flower in front of you has more power to bring you present than all the books in the world and all the teachers who have ever existed. All you have to do is bring yourself present with that which is present.