Saturday, February 26, 2011

The nature of enlightenment teachings

The nature of enlightenment and possible ways to reach it


David Howard LLB (Hons) Dip Counselling


My interest in enlightenment began when I was introduced by a friend, after already being interested in the supernatural and higher levels of consciousness for as long as I remember. When I discovered the possibility you could raise your consciousness permanently to its ultimate level I was quickly hooked. So I took the normal route of visiting teachers, reading books and trying whichever practices I was shown hoping sooner or later to see a result. I’d already just learned meditation from one of the biggest groups worldwide but could see whatever that offered it wasn’t likely to produce enlightenment so while continuing with that for its own benefits also continued to go for the ultimate change.


Rather than find a single teacher and stick with them I went to whoever was around in London at the time, and if I liked them and they returned may go and see them again. Most gave fairly similar methods and ideas, although some gave no methods at all besides satsang- listening to them and sharing their presence hoping something in you would shift as a result. Most others did some form of focusing on what was happening in the present as their techniques. There was also Ramana Maharshi’s dual methods offered by his own school of teachers, adding to this self enquiry and a mantra which are also offered in many similar groups. Since I began learning directly in 1997 I have yet to find much more than these three methods plus the potentially most powerful one of receiving the master’s power directly through the transfer of shaktipat. A relative few offer this, and it is not usually enough on its own to cause enlightenment in one or more applications, although can be capable of causing a permanent change. But it does show the recipient a direct experience of what they are to be aiming for, when it is felt, but it only works at the level of readiness the student is.


My own enquiries showed me I preferred the simple methods of putting my awareness in the present, with a number of variations. Self enquiry is basically asking yourself who you are and waiting for the answer to come. Some teachers have taken this as a vigorous and exclusive method but others say you only need methods to show you directly without needing to actively chase the answer in that way. But in the end the techniques themselves are numerous and the persistent use of your chosen ones is far more important than the methods themselves. As in yoga the reason there are so many different methods is that they are all designed to suit the individual rather than a one size fits all, whereas if a single one worked the best it would probably be well known throughout the community already. So the best method is to look around and find a teacher and teachings you resonate with and stick to them, and if necessary (as many teachers themselves did) move on when you find someone more suitable, as one teacher isn’t always sufficient to take you the whole way.


Focusing on the present, as with mantras, can be done formally or actively, meaning you both choose to sit and practice for a given time, and then when you think of it practice while doing whatever else you are doing as well. You can always be aware of what you are feeling regardless of your activities. I believe I may have found a teacher who has discovered the solution to the age old problem of dedicated students who may follow teachers and practices faithfully, often for decades, with little or no results. He spent some time investigating this and found ultimately they were using effort to practice the methods as an end in themselves rather than a means towards something else. His solution was to relax and only follow the methods in a more passive way and not use the mind and try and reach the result yourself. So rather than become an expert on concentration, mantra repetition or breath following but possibly in a tense way which blocks any changes, you passively carry them out in a relaxed way simply because they are doing something that’s good in itself. All meditation can be likened to sleep in this way, in order to become enlightened you cannot make it happen directly, any more than you can sleep at will, but create the best possible conditions for it to take place.

So overall all the different methods do not compete but go from the toughest and fullest regimes to the most passive and undemanding depending on what suits you as an individual.


The next barrier to enlightenment is the mind. I believe I have overcome my own doubts that enlightenment may not even exist, which would have stopped me progressing, as well as learning that we do not need to understand the process at all mentally for it to take place. Many teachers use complex technical and intellectual lectures which tend to do little more than confuse. Gangaji summed this up well. What they are doing is describing the world from an enlightened perspective which no one can understand until they are enlightened, as before then it means nothing. Telling you your pain and suffering is an illusion and you are never alone does not compute in duality and is pretty much superfluous information to give a student besides as an inspiration to what you may receive, but as that’s the experience of an enlightened teacher they tend to forget it is not universal and may do more harm than good when it does not chime with the students’ own experience. For me my only issue there was not believing enlightenment existed as a true state, as unless you find a master to give shaktipat and feeling a result, it is only a nebulous and unknown state almost impossible to imagine and not a lot easier to describe. I use ‘master’ in the sense of anyone who is enlightened, while not all teach when I use ‘teacher’ it does not guarantee they are also enlightened. My clearing came when a newly enlightened teacher came online and described his own feelings which were totally new to him and constantly changing as his enlightenment grew and sank in, and could at last relate to something which was indeed as good as what I had been hoping for and never described anywhere near as clearly and directly until that point. Until then I’d simply relied on the phrase ‘Whatever it’s like it’s better than now’, which meant I had something to aim for but not a clue what. Now I have a pretty good idea now and dare I say it may even have had fleeting moments when I may have spotted an element of it myself.


So the next point gained here is enlightenment is like a rebirth rather than a switch to a higher consciousness. This is because it is a new beginning where like a child you learn and grow but as an enlightened individual rather than within the illusion of duality. The shift isn’t from black to white but once enlightened you continue to evolve but in enlightenment. Louix Dor Dempriey, a shakti master in California describes enlightenment both as a shift and experience as the point where love takes over from fear. When your being is driven by more than 50% love or loses more of its fear to leave the love you cannot return to the fear. It is probably a fairly poetic and idealistic description but would certainly encourage me to find it. You can still learn once enlightened, take initiations and retreats and all the other methods used by students, as it continues to expand throughout life. Evolution appears to be infinitely built in all aspects of existence. Adyashanti describes it as returning to your natural state of conciousness from an altered state of the illusion of duality. There are in fact two stages towards enlightenment, as there is for many a transitional state of oneness before you get there. This is where you lose the boundary between you and outside, but there is still a you to experience it. True enlightenment or liberation only occurs when there is no illusion of a separate person to experience oneness, hence the Sanskrit ‘advaita’ – not two. That specifically does not refer to one as that leads to the idea I am one. Otherwise there is still an individual who is able to suffer. Some mistake oneness for enlightenment while others are happy to stop there and not go further.


There is also the kundalini explanation used by certain branches to describe the spiritual process and related changes involved. The life force within us all is normally restricted to perform survival alone, and the chakras along the meridian of the physical and associated energy bodies are solely carrying out their physical and emotional functions for that basic level. The yoga practices (as describe virtually all aimed towards enlightenment in that tradition) safely awaken the dormant power in the first chakra at the base of the spine, until once complete all seven are opened and with the final opening at the crown enlightenment occurs. The powers arrive with each chakra opening but are to be watched and passed by while on the journey to open them all otherwise you can get caught in one and not progress any further.


Knowing who is qualified or entitled to be a teacher is a tough question. There are two clear views here, either the conventional one that only an enlightened master is able to teach, and in the past many required many years under a master after enlightenment to allow it to settle and learn how to teach before being approved to yourself. As I pointed out, as it is impossible to show someone what it feels like to be enlightened it is also technically impossible to prove you are. Yet their masters claim to always know when a student is or not as they know exactly what to look for and will so far accept their better judgement.

The other view is anyone with the knowledge to teach and who can create results in students should be able to, and besides not being able to speak from the true state if you can still move people on then you are performing the function perfectly well. There are also many teachers who either became enlightened spontaneously or used so many methods they simply don’t know how they got there, so may be talking from the correct position but not have the theory to pass it on adequately. To me whatever works should be permitted- I am probably one of many students authorised to pass on at least one teacher’s work officially as he knows me well enough and I clearly get his work well enough to be trusted to spread the word and do work on his behalf in places he would be unable to cover additionally. I can always refer back to him if required and if uncertain would get him to fill the gap so not working alone anyhow. But there must be many teachers some of whom do not even realise they are not enlightened and I’d be interesting to know if their own results are any worse than those who definitely are.


I will try and explain what I have learnt now directly, and show the readers some methods (none my own as I am far from a master myself) that may point them in the right direction themselves. From my own enquiries enlightenment involves direct experience of our true nature. The exercise for this is for someone to ask you who you are, but you must answer before the mind comes in to answer with a name, a body or all the things we’ve learnt to associate with being a human individual. The direct answer before the mind and personal history comes in is ‘I am aware of this’, or variations of. You are only truly aware of your present experience and any more has to come from memory or external knowledge. If you look ahead or close your eyes can you see a body? No. You see whatever is in front of you or relative darkness. Where are you? Here. How old are you? No age, just now. Without a birth certificate reference or memories of years with numbers how do you know your age in years? Are you your name? Again, how can you have a name before you are given one? Or your job or profession. Are you doing it now? No. What are you doing now? Nothing- looking- feeling-  thinking. Who is doing this looking/feeling/thinking? No answer, if you eliminated the name, age, body etc already all you have is the awareness now of what the senses are providing with passing thoughts. That’s all there is and that’s all there ever was. Once this becomes apparent it is not so easy to slip back into the thought of duality unless you either choose to or stop reminding yourself every now and then before it becomes natural. This in itself is not enlightenment, but an exercise clearing the first blockage from it, the identity with the body and its associated history. But you are not your CV any more than the paper it is written on, you are just the awareness, as what is within that awareness changes the only thing that is constant so can be permanent is the awareness itself. So it pretty well covers the point of the illusion of ego, the separate self as a body-mind organism, as when you look directly it simply isn’t there. There is therefore no need to ‘destroy’ the ego as there was never one in the first place, which makes it a lot easier as a result.


The religious description of enlightenment is ‘God Realisation’, as it is equally impossible to experience God outside the individual’s awareness, enlightenment itself is called by many schools such as God is not a being outside us with a will of its own, but our own being once we become aware of it, as is all creation which we create while we are aware of it and which vanishes when we are asleep and not dreaming or unconscious. Some go as far as to say we can also create consciously, like waking up in a dream and becoming lucid. Yogananda and Sai Baba are the main current proponents of this view as is prevalent in and around India. In fact nearly all religions aim for enlightenment through their mystical branches, while Buddhism has this as its sole aim the mystical branches of Judaism- Cabala, Islam- Sufism and Christianity all teach the same thing but has ended up on the relative fringes. Jesus never set himself up as a special or superior being above others but said everyone could be as he was if they followed his path. He also demonstrated the siddhis or powers, and oneness is said to produce them as once we become aware we are all one we are then able to manipulate all around us as no longer separate. But you are taught not to linger or revel in this as it is the penultimate stage and not the end in itself. Buddhism in particular emphasised the long time it took for most to become enlightened, and as such used reincarnation as an explanation to continue the process over as many lifetimes as were needed. Liberation was therefore both from karma and reincarnation itself, although the bodhisattvas postponed their final enlightenment in order to stay here and teach.


I am in very little doubt this is a clear state we are all equally able to reach. The fact many teachers know the exact time and date it happened to them tells me there is a line which is crossed and can only trust the teachings of millennia that it is indeed genuine despite only affecting a relative handful of people and impossible to prove to outsiders. I have used the clues I have picked up over time to maintain my own trust and I like all hope one day as I continue to practice will know directly myself.

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