Enlightenment - From here to Enlightenment
by Suma Varughese
Deepa Kodikal, a spiritual adept whose profound inner experiences were documented in her book Journey Within The Self, is back with a new book, Teachings Of The Inner Light. Echoing the latter's lofty insights on the nature of life and god, it is a valuable reference book for the seeker.
What is the central message of your book?
The central message of the book is the oneness of an individual with the Ultimate. The Ultimate Divinity is all-pervasive. It pervades us too as the mysterious, true Inner Being, as the illuminating Inner Light of Consciousness. Because of this, there is a firm possibility of experiencing and knowing intimately this Inner Light, the Ultimate, as much as we do our joys and sorrows. The book also stresses that the discerning of this Inner Light should be the goal of our life. Further, it points out that it is our impure mind that covers this Inner Light, hence to purify our mind should be the focus of our spiritual endeavor.
The other very strong vein that runs through the book is the importance of taking responsibility for one's actions. One cannot dismiss one's circumstances as the will of God. There is a direct correlation between our thoughts and actions and our destiny. In a very simple way this correlation can be termed as the law of karma. Good actions bring good circumstances, and wrong, bring misery. Understanding the grand pattern of life, readjusting our attitude towards life and about life, helps us to grow and move towards spiritual upliftment, towards divine bliss and true and lasting knowledge.
Is that state free of anger?
Yes. In daily life when one sees injustice an emotion forms which makes one feel, 'this is not correct'. And there is an impulse to correct that situation. But one must have sufficient control not to act on the force of that emotion which might be tilting towards slight anger and prejudice. It is important to go beyond emotion and respond appropriately, to act in proportion to the misdemeanor; to maintain the right perspective, to act without cruelty or prejudice. Conversely, you may love your child, and being carried away by this emotion, fail to discipline it, guide it correctly, give it proper values, and thereby fail in your responsibility of being a good parent. Emotions blur one's vision and make one act wrongly.
I am myself exploring this whole concept of going beyond emotions. Can you give some pointers on how to achieve this?
Feelings and emotions are part of human nature. They are natural. However, the crux of the matter is not to base one's thoughts and actions on them. One must base them on the inner guidance that comes when the mind is free of emotions. One has to exercise strict self-control and discrimination to be so just. This purity and this control alone will guide one properly for one's greater good. Besides, emotions make one act like a pendulum. They make one a victim of moods. If one day you go heavily towards goodness, towards joy, you are prone the next day to go equally the opposite, towards dejection, towards negativity. You may have a very good friend whom you like and trust very much. But when a misunderstanding arises, and the sublime relationship breaks, the negative backlash will be equally intense.
It is better to keep a watch on emotions and remain balanced and unruffled. With this detachment, understanding comes. You acknowledge willingly that your friend is entitled to make a mistake. That it could be your own mistake also. The negative reaction ceases. It allows space in any relationship for the other person to be herself or himself. Only an understanding free of emotions can give that space. When there is understanding, misunderstanding ceases to be.
But what do we do with our feelings? How can we reach the stage when they cease to control us and dictate our actions?
Different paths of spiritual endeavor are supposed to lead one to specifically this end. Emotions are based on ego and desires. This makes up the mind of an individual. The intent of any spiritual path is to help an individual transcend his ego, emotions and desires. The mind forms a barrier between an individual and the Ultimate. Any path suitable, appealing and inspiring to an individual should be followed. Watching emotions as they arise creates a gap between them and us. This gap loosens their grip over us and renders them impotent. We are then free of their influence. They cease to dictate and influence our actions.
Can you throw some light on the ego?
Self-perpetuating, unworthy and misguided desires, the methods we pursue to satisfy them, the habits we form over time making them our nature, the erosion of our self-control and our power of discrimination, our greed and an impulse to accumulate and show off, all these merge together, forming a colossal force, an entity almost independent of our control. This entity establishes itself as an ugly self-worth which forms the essence of our ego. This ego sheath blocks our inner divine nature from being the source of our thoughts and actions. This ego becomes the matrix for our motivation, thought and action.
It is the ego that generates in us more and more desires causing us to strain for and endlessly acquire things to enjoy. It is our ego that experiences hurt, hatred, anger, jealousy and all the other emotions. It is also the ego that inflicts hurt and insult on others. Ego makes us commit wrong by distorting our true sight and poisoning our hearts with hatred and prejudice.
The ego-based self alone has thoughts, and these are based on self-worth, desires, emotions, attachments and on past and the future. This makes for the constant chatter in the mind even amid solitude as also the constant and full activity of daily living. The higher Self on the contrary is still, silent, free of thought, yet fully knowledgeable, dynamic, and inspired to do intuitively the right thing at the right time. And is ever in peace and bliss. There is no ego in the Higher Self. There is only peace, harmony, goodwill and a feel-good factor there.
Your book is a stunning eye-opener on the nature of God. What for you is the attribute that you find most awe-inspiring?
The sheer magnitude and scale of the Lord. His most unfathomable depths, awe-inspiring complexities woven in utter simplicity, unimaginable fund of knowledge, flair for art, beauty, spectacle, and prodigality scattered in His creation. Also His power, His mastery over science of everything so conspicuous in creation, the play of life He has created, everything. Everything about Him is awe-inspiring.
Your chapter on karma is also extremely enlightening. How can karma be seen as a beneficial force in our lives?
Karma can be seen as a beneficial force in our lives only if we know its ramifications and act accordingly. Otherwise, our karmas only put us in a groove and make us perpetuate our wrongdoings and wrong thinking, subjecting us to perpetual misery and hardship. Understanding the law of karma and basing our lives on that helps us to correct our thinking and our deeds. This correction clarifies our vision, so essential to move towards divinity, towards bliss, and towards freedom from stress, misery, hatred and hardship. Our wrongdoings might be missed by society, by the law of the land, but not by the Ultimate. Fear and awareness of this divine repercussion will make us better humans and make us work towards harmony and brotherhood.
What is the most important attribute to attain enlightenment?
Purity of mind. Our job is to attain purity of mind through any path. There should be no negativity in our hearts. We have to become as pure as the Divine Himself. Then only is oneness possible. The experience of this oneness is enlightenment. We should be free from ego, prejudice, desires and attachment. Once these go, the nobler, inherent qualities of divine consciousness, our true self, automatically come to the fore.
You mention in your book that maya can ensnare you even after enlightenment…
Maya is eternally all-pervasive. It is a force of the Almighty, like the kundalini and is far-reaching. It has a mighty task, to perpetuate life on earth. It does it through binding individuals within the cycle of birth and death, by diverting people away from divinity. This force is needed in the world and exists by divine design. So yes, maya can trap one even after enlightenment. It is a great tempter. One has to be firmly established in this state, learn to abide in it, become disciplined enough to constantly garner self-control and the power of discrimination. Then enlightenment becomes a natural part of one. Maya then can be kept at bay. Here again, the most important thing is purity of mind. One may have attained enlightenment but because of the tendency of ego and desires to resurface again and again, one may find oneself slipping back into the arms of maya.
But if you still have ego and desires, are you enlightened?
Enlightenment can happen in moments of total purity when ego and desires have ceased to be. However, ego and desires have the power to regenerate unless one is careful. Maya offers very tempting fare and it does that with subtlety. It is very easy to fall back in its trap. Constant watchfulness must be there unless the intensity of purity is such that it will not allow impurity.
But surely enlightenment has to be a permanent stage for it to have any meaning?
Enlightenment is the experiential perception of this unity, this oneness. It is the state of purity of mind, in which enlightenment happened, that has to become permanent to become meaningful. Once enlightenment has occurred, the benefits of enlightenment, mainly knowledge and the inner silence, largely remain with the individual even if other impurities set in. However, from now onwards his thinking and actions may be questionable. Yes, this purity of mind has to be maintained forever for this state to be meaningful.
What is your definition of enlightenment?
Enlightenment is when you have experientially perceived that you in your purity are one with the Ultimate. That the Ultimate is you and that the cosmos is the same as you and the Ultimate, in a different form. There is one unbroken continuity. And in that oneness, you become a partner of the Ultimate and partake fully of his different attributes. You become one with him. For enlightenment, we need to get established in purity.
What is the state of your own mind?
Right now I am enjoying my spiritual freedom. My mind is at peace and at rest. I have no ambitions, goals or plans. No specific ideas about anything. Most of the time, my mind is a blank, absorbed in its own bliss. Whenever I am free, I am automatically drawn into samadhi. Whenever I feel moved to do anything, there is a natural urge to do to the best of my ability. Knowledge keeps pouring in which I write down. My children have grown up and my chores have lessened. I am going toward freedom, getting established in that state. At the moment, I think I am not in the hold of maya, but what is in store for me tomorrow I have no idea. However, because I have this knowledge and have been made aware of maya, hopefully I will keep my balance.
Does creativity naturally surge on attainment of enlightenment?
Yes. Creativity is an inherent power of the Lord. The creative urge is there as well as the power to make it happen. Also, this creativity is backed by knowledge, science, aesthetic sense, beauty, and dynamism. This is a facet of the Lord's spectacularness. This facet is in us too and can manifest when we shed all negativity. Creativity surges forth naturally. Things create themselves. In this state there is no doership. Things happen on their own. I have had no training in art but people like my paintings. I have had no training in writing, but people say that my books read like a piece of literature. There is a distinct feel that you have not done anything, that things have got done themselves. I have felt this all my life.
Are there different types of enlightenment? A dualistic one for the bhaktas and a non-dualistic one for the jnanis?
No, enlightenment is only one, to perceive the oneness, non-duality. Whoever has perceived this oneness is called a jnani, which means one who has the ultimate 'knowledge'. The knowledge is of the manifest and the unmanifest, and oneness with both, with Totality. The nectar of oneness is with the Ultimate, with the Higher Self.
In bhakti, there is duality. There is a personal God, with a name, but with or without form. There are two distinct beings. One being God, and the other, the individual. There is no intent of merger here. No seeking out of God, bliss or knowledge. Bhaktas are content with duality and even without any progress towards enlightenment, derive immense joy and intimacy with their chosen God. They perceive the presence and a hand of God in everything and everywhere. God is not to be sought out, but already exists for them.