I was thinking the other day about the Christian concept of rapture. As I understand it (and I may very well have it wrong), at a certain moment designated by God all those who have been admitted into the ranks will be seized and transported to Heaven. The rest will be left behind. A year or so ago, Anna and I watched part of a movie on television about this subject, and in it, those enlisted were literally lifted skyward out of their lives — whatever they were doing, whether driving a car, eating a meal, walking along a sidewalk, POOF! they were gone. Those left behind were aware of the absence of those gone; that is, moving cars with suddenly absent drivers crashed into trees, half-eaten meals are discovered left on the table, and so on.
I have read that the biblical basis for the concept of rapture is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 – "And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air". I am not sure Paul meant those words as they have since been interpreted, but as I see it, the currently popular concept of rapture is not convincing. It is far too personal, too much "me not you", too personality-focused, too separative. As such, it becomes essentially an extension of the "I am me, and you aren't me" egoic reality.
Self-Realization, on the other hand, is about ego transcendence, annihilation of the egoic self. That fits the lesson at John 8:21 far more closely and neatly than the rapture concept. When the Gospel Teacher tells us “Where I am going, you cannot come”, he does not mean that we cannot come because we are excluded, as if heaven is a select club, but because there, in “heaven”, there is room only for one, the One, and as long as we believe we are “we”, we cannot go there. The separative egoic personality "I am me, and you aren't me" cannot go where the Gospels Teacher is.
Considering these matters the other day reminded me of a concept which occurred to me some years ago. Back then, I wondered why it was that there seem to be so few Self-Realized Teachers. To be sure, the spiritual path is difficult, but all the same, after millennia of human existence, millions even billions of persons on the planet, why is it, I wondered, that there are so few men and women like Buddha, Jesus, Nisargadatta, Ramakrishna, Rumi, and the like. Surely, there must have been more; but if so, who were they? Why don’t we know their names, their story?.
All the Teachings I am aware of seem to agree that when an average seeker reaches (if that’s the proper verb) Self-Realization, he or she realizes that he or she does not exist as a separate, separative, egoic personality. The “me” in the expression “I am me” is seen to be, and to have always been, an illusion. Knowing that, I wondered is it possible that what happens to the “average” seeker upon Self-Realization is that he or she literally ceases to exist and — and this is the crux — ceases to have ever existed. The annihilation of the "me" self is instant, permanent, and pervasive in all directions, spatial and temporal. That is, at Self-Realization they are gone POOF! every trace, every memory, everything related to his or her life, is wiped clean off the slate. It is quite literally as if he or she never ever existed at all..
Now, that idea raises two questions. First, if Self-Realization results in the complete annihilation and total disappearance of the Realizer, how do we explain the evident presence in our lives of Self-Realized Teachers, those like Buddha, Jesus, Nisargadatta, Ramakrishna, Rumi, and others? The answer is, they are Bodhisattvas, Teachers who have reached Buddhahood or Self-Realization, but chosen not to take the final step into nirvana until all the rest of us do so. They choose to remain behind in our presence to act as guides and teachers. Thus, we are aware of them because they will it so. And there are only a relative few of them (compared to the billions of humans who have lived and are living) because only a few are willing to make that Supreme Sacrifice.
The second question is, if Realizers (other than Bodhisattvas) are wiped clean off the face of the earth upon Self-Realization, not only they themselves but all memories and traces of their having been “here”, then what happens to those of us who may have known them or seen them or otherwise become aware of them while they were ordinary persons and "simply" seekers? How are our lives altered by their being “erased” from ever having existed, and therefore from our memory.
My answer to that is what I call “infinite spontaneous simultaneous realities”. What I mean by that term is precisely what it sounds like: An infinite number of spontaneous realities co-existing with one another simultaneously. Thus, everyone of us exists simultaneously in an infinite number of self-generated, spontaneous realities. In each of those realities, we are aware only of that one (except possibly in dreams?). That is, in my life in Reality A, I am consciously aware only of Reality A, in my life in Reality B I am consciously aware only of Reality B, and so on. I exist as "me" simultaneously in an infinite number of realities, but in each one of those infinite realities I am aware only of that one.
So, suppose that in one of my realities there is a person with whom I have been friends for decades, and who in adulthood achieves Self-Realization. In that instant, he or she ceases to exist as a separate and distinct person, both in the present and in the past. All traces of his or her separative egoic existence are erased. And with his disappearance, the reality in which he existed disappears, too, in its entirety. What happens to me?
And not only is the reality which I shared with that erstwhile person erased or annihilated, so are all the other realities in which that person appeared. What about all the other personalities who existed in those realities? What happens to them?
Simply this: The disappearance of the reality I shared with the erstwhile person now Self-Realized has no effect on “me”. As far as I am concerned, the disappearance of that reality, of “my” reality, is painless. I am not even aware of its happening. The personality I call “me” continues to exist untroubled, uninterrupted in an infinite number of other realities. The personality I call “me” is not even aware of the “loss” or disappearance of the reality shared with the erstwhile person now Realized. That reality is erased without a remaining trace; there is no awareness of its having happened, no memory of its ever having been, no impact whatsoever by its disappearance. It is, quite literally, as if it never was. And as for what I call "me", that continues to exist in an infinite number of other realities, until … Self-Realization appears there, too.
And, in the interim, I am never aware of the fact that my erstwhile friend in a shared never-having-existed reality achieved Self-Realization.
(I have posted this item also to TZF's Gazebo