By Swami Veda Bharati July 2005 Enlightenment is a progression to an awakening, an expansion towards infinity, towards becoming boundless. The virtues he radiates brands the seeker on the divine quest. Transcendent reality, call it Brah-man, Shunya, Ishvara, anarchy from which God created the universe, Tao, or anything else, is entirely attainable. Indeed, it is our true nature, one that only needs to be unveiled. What has veiled it? On this there may be a variety of views and intricate systems of theology and philosophy. How to unveil it? Even to this end there may be innumerable paths. But that it can be experienced, on this there are no two views among the mystics and saints of any religion or culture. In fact, experiencing this reality as one’s own nature is beyond the boundaries of the requirements of religious dogmas and rituals. This transcendent reality is beyond any names and forms ascribed to it. What exactly is this experience beyond experiences? What is this phenomenon that defies definition even by those who have attained it? What does it consist of? And who exactly is an enlightened individual? Let’s not be mired in definitions. Rather, let us look from within traditions that consider enlightenment to be the only goal worth pursuing. Traditions that in the very next breath also tell us that it is no goal at all, that it is not somewhere to get to. That it is within you, nay it is but you, as your very own self sui epse. The self has no ego, they say. Some go further and add that this ‘self’ has no selfhood at all. Again, let us abandon the discussion on what it is and what it is not. It is the sound of a baby’s finger growing. It is that moment the bud becomes the rose. It is the sound of one hand clapping. Instead, we shall examine the question from within the traditions, from within the lineage of masters and disciples – what the masters have told the disciples, what the disciples have garnered from the masters. As evinced by spiritual scriptures such as the Upanishads, Jaina sutras, Buddhist pitakas and sutras, psalms of David, the Sermon on the Mount, gathas revealed by the Sun to Zarathushtra or revelations given to Arjuna and Nachiketa – the experience could only have burst forth in a revelation. These could have only emerged from the internal spiritual experiences of such reality by these prophets and saints. Its power must have been such that those around the saints simply had no option but to accept that it came from a depth of reality beyond their ken but for which they can only strive. And, strive so many of us indeed do. Enlightenment is not a one-time dramatic event. It is progression to an awakening, an expansion towards infinity, towards becoming boundless. At present we are asleep to our boundless nature, to our limitless consciousness. We are confined to limitations of time and space and direction. As we progress towards enlightenment, the boundaries gradually drop and like the abandoned snakeskin are finally left behind. We are told that as a bird flying leaves no feather print in the sky nor the fish leave fin prints in the sea, so a saint ascending the ladder to these heights, diving to these depths, leaves no marks. But the observant disciple does notice some characteristic changes. Let us consider the question, ‘What is enlightenment?’ in two stages. One, the visible changes that progressively occur in an aspirant. Two, the changes in consciousness that are not visible to an observer but are experienced internally. The two go hand in hand. It cannot be stated as to which one is a prerequisite of the other. Take, for instance, the first of the two. We can have a few glimpses from Christian, Mazdayasnian, Buddhist, Hindu, yoga literature, replete with the description of these changes that are evident in the spiritual aspirant. Absolute compassion, non-violence, the inability to become angry and the ability to observe the causes of someone’s anger and the quiet power to pacify it are the most obvious changes. Sensitivity to what is causing someone to become frustrated, then helping him/her to the utmost of one’s spiritual ability, total abandonment of ego, utmost humility, the ability to become very small and absolute selflessness are other characteristics. To an enlightened one, only the ‘other’ counts. After a while the concept of ‘another’ ceases. The individual will then progress to using a wilfully generated display of emotions, like anger, to help, guide and purify others. He or she will exhibit a peaceful (saumya) presence so that even the most agitated person coming into contact with such presence goes away pacified. The individuals are equanimous, completely at peace when obvious causes for agitation, frustration, anger or other such triggers are at work. They side with those others would view as opponents, having no concept of ‘adversary’ or ‘opponent’ or ‘outsider’ anymore. They do not feel the need to defend themselves. They have no fears – not because of bravery but because of confidence in their own lovingness. They pose no threat to any living being. They do not differentiate between one life form or another. They forget instantly whatever benevolence they have conferred yet remember what benevolence they have failed to confer. No returns are sought for selfless acts. They display a mildness, even when helping and guiding or purifying others. They accumulate no karma. All acts are performed altruistically. There is total concentration and absorption so that external noises or such factors fail to distract. Every moment they display an awareness or consciousness of the entire universe simultaneously. They gain mastery over the three states of consciousness – wakefulness, dream and sleep. They attain mastery over desires. They are capable of having a sense experience and switching it off at will. Sense experiences are viewed as doorways to inward perception – all sensations on the body surface become pathways to enter the inward consciousness. They have easy access to knowledge – all vidyas present themselves to them upon internal evocation. They gain mastery over the forces of time. They are able to guide one or a million persons, close by or in intercontinental distances, into a state of meditation by their ability to transcend the boundaries of space and time. They are in total awareness of beauty in the universe and science becomes a poem. All their acts being aesthetic and refined; such a person’s walk is a dance and any gesticulation is a divine mudra that attracts all. They develop an ability to remain on both shores simultaneously – a married yogi(ni) may be in the arms of a spouse giving full attention to lovingness and at the same time be fully merged in the divine consciousness, without the spouse suspecting. They speak only when in silence; sleep only when awake; eat only when fasting. Once enlightened one can even choose the time of one’s apparent death, and leave the body consciously. No longer does one identify oneself with bodily states. One is not mentally affected by the presence of disease, understood as a mere chemical reaction in the body’s test tube. They are careful to conceal their spiritual attainments. They attain the means to liberate others from their fears, angers, limitations, ‘opponent’ concepts, and from all that binds and delimits our consciousness. They gain the ability to know the minds of others but do not exhibit that ability; they only use it to help others. They are able to evoke peaceful, benevolent states of mind in others by their presence, demeanor and speech. When their power over nature is evident they choose to ignore or renounce them. These are only sparingly used to help others. These are just some of the symptoms of gradual enlightenment, not an exhaustive but a demonstrative list, as stated in the texts like Bodhi-charyavatara and dasha-bhumika-sutra. The paths to this state have been shown by sages like Patanjali and numerous others. They have been stated over the ages in impressive unanimity among the sages of all countries and spiritual climes. As for full enlightenment, perfect awakening, what is it? Think of any limits and finitudes there are in your being; drop them and try to imagine what that delimitation into the infinite consciousness might be, and you know what is enlightenment. You will also know an enlightened one by the flawlessness and perfection of the traits that have been described above. Well, I can never get there – some reader might say! Others have attained it, so why can’t you? – is the standard reply of the enlightened. Start learning to climb your neighbourhood hill, and one day you may climb the Shimla hills, and another day the Pindari glacier, and, congratulations, the tallest mountain on earth is the next step. You will indeed make it. The Korean Buddhists often part from company with the greeting: May you be enlightened! May you be enlightened. Swami Veda Bharati is a recognized authority onPatanjali’s Yoga Sutras and guides over 100 meditation groups worldwide.Contact: (91) 0135-2450596; www.swamiveda.org
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