What is Spiritual Enlightenment? A Guide to Nowhere Except Now and Here.
After working on this site for a few years now and getting to know and converse with many of you that seek awakening/enlightenment there’s a clear emerging pattern in the cycle of seeking. The gist of what this exploration has shown me is outlined below:
At the centre of Spirituality lies a profound paradox. There is a perpetual motivation to seek liberation, yet seeking is the very act that obscures the realisation that liberation is already present.
WHAT IS SPIRITUAL ENLIGHTENMENT?
A simple description can be summarised as simply not perceiving through distortion. Often described as our natural state of being since it is to see things as they are – Not an altered state of consciousness but a non-altered state of consciousness. To perceive without any lens of conditioning.
So where to begin? Well the good news is, you don’t have to go anywhere.
TEACHERS AND EXPECTATIONS
Everyone has their own ideas, concepts and beliefs about what enlightenment or liberation is. Expectations about how things might be when we are enlightened or who it might be that’ll show us the way. This path is often linked to mental depictions of a past or present god-like manifestation that we hope may rescue us. Perhaps an elderly Indian sage wrapped in a white tablecloth or a modern day Jesus figure with a man bun who speaks in metaphors and claims to be channelling another entity. Names like Jesus, Buddha, Ramana Maharshi, Bashar, Eckhart Tolle and Krishnamurti come to mind. They are all unique manifestations with valuable lessons for sure, but so are you.
The mind may conjure up the characteristics of an enlightened being or how happy one might be once enlightenment is experienced. But, it’s these expectations and projections of how things should be that can keep us ignorance. There’s literally no concept that is of any real use here because they’re all mind-made, all form, and the general premise is to perceive that which precedes any distinction.
KICK OFF THE PEDESTAL
In all those seekers I’ve crossed paths with most have held a deep underlying belief of unworthiness. A lack of faith in one’s potential. Replaced instead, by a hope that one might obtain some idealistic situation in a future that hasn’t arrived yet. This is the great game of ‘hide and seek’ and I for one spent countless hours pouring over information, intellectualising what has been realised, only to realise it can’t be intellectualised – what a ride!
Furthermore, this perhaps reveals the underlying motivation for putting the Guru on the pedal stool, where by default, we position ourselves lower than the teacher. In a very subtle way this can allow us to instil our ideal version of ourselves in an-other, and we therefore need not embody the same qualities but instead worship that otherness.
Think Christ ‘the one and only son of God’ or Muhammad, the ‘one great Prophet’ – these commonalities thread through each path. We are free to choose whichever particular visual mentation we want to project our idealistic self onto. Any suggestion that they are just ordinary human beings that shared the same potential as any of other being is often met with great friction and rejection. But after all, how long would a religion last without a deified figurehead?
“Embrace nothing: If you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha. Only live your life as it is, Not bound to anything.” – Gautama Buddha
At a 10-day vipassana retreat last year there was an experience of what is traditionally described as Samadhi – defined briefly as a meditative absorption with everything in existence. It was a totally immersive cry-your-eyes-out sense of love and gratitude for everything in existence – and like all sensations it was temporary. Excited to share my experience with the teacher I approached him the following evening “I had an experience of total ecstasy yesterday and I want to thank you for that” hoping that it would again continue in today’s meditation “Forget about that experience. Just be happy.” he replied. I smiled and walked away feeling like he didn’t quite understand and was devaluing what felt like a defining turning point in life. But it hit me hard months later when I realised the essence of what he meant. That an experience is just that, an experience. Which has no relevance to now. Right now. I was clinging to that by hoping I’d repeat that experience again and ‘make more progress’ unaware that this was perpetuating an unnecessary cycle of seeking to be something more than what already is.
“To ask the right question demands a great deal of intelligence and sensitivity. Here is a question, a fundamental question: is life a torture? It is, as it is; and man has lived in this torture centuries upon centuries, from ancient history to the present day, in agony, in despair, in sorrow; and he doesn’t find a way out of it. Therefore he invents gods, churches, all the rituals, and all that nonsense, or he escapes in different ways. What we are trying to do, during all these discussions and talks here, is to see if we cannot radically bring about a transformation of the mind, not accept things as they are, nor revolt against them. Revolt doesn’t answer a thing. You must understand it, go into it, examine it, give your heart and your mind, with everything that you have, to find out a way of living differently. That depends on you, and not on someone else, because in this there is no teacher, no pupil; there is no leader; there is no guru; there is no Master, no Saviour. You yourself are the teacher and the pupil; you are the Master; you are the guru; you are the leader; you are everything. And to understand is to transform what is.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti
IMPORTANCE OF SEEKING
This will all seem very hypocritical but seeking is necessary until you directly understand why to stop seeking. Seeking has a purpose. You’ll hear teachers say “what’s stopping you is seeking” or “you are the one you are looking for”, but it can be premature to take that advice without first exploring yourself.
A reservoir that is necessary during a drought is not necessary during a flood. – The Bhagavad Gita
It’s like if someone gave you a huge mansion and told you about all of the rooms and then said, “So, now that I’ve told you, just stay in this one room because it’s the best, and don’t worry about actually looking at the rooms I just told you about.” You wouldn’t know anything about this grand house you’re living in or why this room is supposedly the best. Seeking is exploration, and in my experience, the act of seeking that will help you recognize when the seeking is over.
YOU SAID THIS WAS A HOW TO GUIDE
This is where the idea of self-improvement misdirects us. Sure you can get better at doing things by repeating logical processes but, if it’s in the interest of liberation, self-improvement is the unnecessary hamster wheel. I started this website as a platform for self-improvement, only to come face to face with the ultimate paradox. There’s really no self to be improved. Only false beliefs to be dropped.
The solution lies in awareness. In awareness there is no judgment, no conflict, no separation from the problem, no self to be improved or fixed, no direction. It is open, relaxed seeing. Available right here – right now.
Quite simply, the most important thing is to be 100% true to where you are. Not where you want to be. Not to discipline awareness a certain way, but to observe all that arises in your experience. Your teachings are right there and they are entirely different for everyone. No one can guide you because there’s no set path. You are the path.