August 22, 2010
What exactly is Enlightenment? On this blog I’ve discussed various ‘Enlightenments’ – both the Western and Eastern variety. In the West, the ‘Enlightenment’ had to do with the evolution of humanistic thinking – that ‘man is the measure of all things’, and science can and must defeat superstition. The rational mind and the scientific method would liberate humanity from the shackles of superstition and oppression foisted on us by the patriarchal church and its backward views.
In the East, the Enlightenment of the Buddha and Indian Masters is quite a different thing from that defined in the West. First, rarely, if ever, will an Enlightened being state that they are Enlightened. If anyone says someone is Enlightened, it is the students of the Enlightened, and this label of Enlightenment may, in fact, be counterproductive. How?
By definition, if one claims to be Enlightened that means another is not. This, however, is antithetical to non-dual thinking. Rationality, in fact, takes us to a place where we must, by sheer logic, admit that Enlightenment is in fact extant everywhere, in everything, at every instant. The rational mind, applied in such a way to the task of Enlightenment and not focused outward on ‘taming’ the environment but instead of understanding the nature of being, brings us to this place, as it should. When students call their teacher Enlightened when they feel they themselves are not, they are in fact re-enforcing their own ego-driven notion of separateness from what is. And while such devotion may take them quite far on the path, it can eventually have its limits.
Let me restate this. If the Buddha is correct, a non-dualistic state of understanding reality as an interdependent whole is what Enlightenment brings us. Once realized, he did not say ‘I am Enlightened and you are not’. He in fact was saying that we are all part of Enlightenment. Put another way, how can we separate ourselves from the whole? This is in fact, on rational reflection, an impossibility. We cannot.
Enlightenment, is, therefore, not a place we go. It is not, moreover, a claim we make. It is not, when all is said and done, achieved by some and not by others. Enlightenment is, in actuality, the natural state of being. It is the ‘suchness’ or ‘isness’ of reality. Enlightenment is the inter-dependent wholeness of the entirety of reality in a non-dual state. We are part of it. It is us. It permeates us. We cannot, no matter how hard we try, separate ourselves from it. T0 do so, or to attempt to do so, is called illusion. If we call one Enlightened and another not, we are just re-enforcing this illusion.
We are reaching a point in evolution where, as a society, non-dual understanding is critical to overcoming our various social ills. For out of a non-dual understanding, a natural flow of change would and should occur. As people wake up to and accept their own natural mind – their own Enlightened awareness – the world will change and the old masters of ego will disappear. They will disappear like the Berlin Wall disappeared, and like a caterpillar sheds its wings and the butterfly appears. This is the ‘Son of Man’ talked about it in the Bible. It is the New Man and Woman, the new society of natural enlightenment.
All of this can occur not as a violent overthrow, but as a whisper, a poet’s insight, an artist’s skilled craft, or a lover’s embrace in the morning. It can occur as if in a wave, a discovery, as if time stopped and the light shimmered through the leaves of eternity, asking us to return home.
While it seems impossible, it is not. It is simply accepting who you are. You are eternity, you are the Enlightened. But do not tell anyone, for in doing so you imply ‘I am and you are not’. We all are. And it is in a glance that we know. It is in smile we know. It is in embracing each other in love that we know.
We are all the Enlightened, and always have been. Now is the time for that reality to be revealed. It is not the time of a single Christ or Buddha. It is the time to realize the dream of the Enlightened – for all of us to see our oneness and unity with them and with the whole of eternity.