The Confusion Around Spiritual Enlightenment

There seems to be great confusion about enlightenment in the spiritual circles. The popular idea is that enlightenment is something that changes the person by immersing him or her permanently in a state of bliss offering complete freedom from the never-ending cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. It is also known by other popular names, such as Moksha, Liberation, Mukti, or Nirvana. It is the word “Bliss,” used in this context, which is at the helm of confusion.

Ramesh Balsekar would often ask this question, “What do you expect enlightenment to give you that you have not experienced before?“ How can the persona, which is a flux, attain a permanent state? The notion of a person is an image that continually changes. No matter what it acquires, it is nonetheless a changing entity.

The characteristic feature of phenomenality is that the change itself is the permanency here. Therefore, no state is permanent, not even Samadhi. Not even the greatest experience of ecstasy. Everything comes to an end, and there is no breaking the cycle of pain and pleasure. Nisargadatta Maharaj said that pleasure happens in the background of pain. It is our common experience that moments of pain are usually more than moments of pleasure.

So what exactly is Enlightenment? True enlightenment is the complete recognition of the fact that the endless cycles of pain and pleasure in duality cannot be broken through an individual’s effort. Therefore, it boils down to the basic understanding, beautifully put forth by Buddha, that Nirvana and Samsara are one and the same. What one truly desires is the peace of Nirvana, which has to be recognized while living in Samsara, and not outside of it.

It does not imply that one has to kill the person or get rid of the persona, but only to see it for what it is – an illusion that changes with changing conditions. Hence, the persona cannot be the ultimate Truth. The only cause of our suffering is our belief in separate existence, whereas, from nature’s perspective everything is an interconnected whole.

Enlightenment is the recognition of this wholeness – the One reality that functions through all my mind-body organisms. The consciousness that powers you, me, and the rest of the world is not different. It animates this world but remains unaffected by what’s happening. It is both the source and the substance of everything.

This understanding hits the ego mind like a lightning bolt. However, it takes time to penetrate into the deep recesses of the mind (which Ramesh called deliverance). The result of this understanding is not a permanent state of peace or bliss, but the acceptance of things the way they are. it is not passivity or rejection and does not lead to inaction or sloth.

On the contrary, it leads to intelligent and spontaneous action, which comes from the source and not from the individual with a sense of personal volition. The person to whom this understanding has happened sees everything as happenings and not as the “doings” of individuals.

The Traditional Concept of Enlightenment

The traditional concept of enlightenment is that something has to be gained through an effort by following someone who is considered to have attained (speaking relatively) it, and therefore, has the power to give it to you. Something that has a permanent state in phenomenality – usually referred to as “Bliss.” That on acquiring it, all your questions will be answered and you’ll be free for eternity. That is the perfect solution to all your problems.

It is not that the traditional concepts or what’s written in the scriptures is wrong. Who am I to validate or refute scriptures written by the great sages? However, I do feel that there is a fundamental misunderstanding in our interpretation of the ancient texts which has brought about great confusion, conflict, and chaos for centuries.

Not only that but many unscrupulous elements readily take advantage of this ignorance that we have in our understanding of the concept of enlightenment. The scriptures give statements (Mahavakyas) like, That Thou Art (Tat-Twam-Asi), I Am Brahman (Aham Brahmasmi), or “I am that I am” (Bible), and we feel that this is the starting point of our spiritual exploration.

That’s not the case. On the contrary, this is the culmination or the fundamental understanding of the Sages that has come through ages of spiritual exploration that have been written in the scriptures. Therefore, do not mistake such statements to be the starting point. Even they are merely pointers to the absolute.

People who claim that they can show or give you the perfect method for self-realization are either delusional or operating with devious intentions. There is nothing to gain anywhere. Who wants to gain what? This message is not about gaining anything but losing whatever is left. When everything is gone, Nothing alone remains.

Anything that “you” gain is a self-enhancement that continues involvement in the drama of phenomenality. No guru can give That to you. All the guru can do is point. You have to discover the Truth through your own personal experience and investigation. The investigation that eventually culminates into the one fundamental inquiry: Who wants to be enlightened?

The following text is from my book, The End of Me & My Story

Especially In India, a person wearing a robe with a shaved head and living life like an ascetic is worshipped by people as an Avatar of God. The idea of renouncing the world for higher spiritual attainment – call it moksha, freedom, enlightenment, or whatever you like, is appealing to the common man. The message by the masters is that do as I tell you, and you will get it. I have the perfect recipe to enlighten you, mere mortals. I have the mantra to give you immortality – freedom from the suffering of the endless cycles of birth and death.

To be honest, some of these are genuine masters with good intentions. For example, Nisargadatta Maharaj’s Guru, Siddharameshwar Maharaj instructed him to stay with the “I-thought.” Nisargadatta Maharaj earnestly followed his instruction and attained self-realization. Even Ramana Maharshi advocated self-inquiry to his disciples. The intention behind such instructions was not to make the “person” realized, but to enable their minds to discriminate the unreal from the real. Such masters do not come across as authority; as all-knowing. They are simple in their ways and one feels peace in their presence. They do not rely solely on words to deliver the message. For the ripe minds, their presence is enough.

However, there are some people who proclaim themselves as perfectly enlightened masters with the special power to awaken others. They spend decades studying scriptures like the Vedas and Upanishads. They flawlessly recite verses from the great scriptures with pride and enthusiasm. They claim that they are above all worldly desires, and prescribe the same to others, but remain surrounded by wealth themselves. They claim to have something special that others don’t have. They create non-profit organizations and run them like corporate businesses with complete political support.

And all of this spiritual showmanship appeals to the ordinary people because most of them have a poor self-image. They project their own desirable traits onto these masters and create expectations. When the enlightened masters falter, these people are the first to push them from the pedestal.

The End of Me & My Story, Jagjot Singh

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Jagjot Singh
Jagjot Singh

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