Pic of the day: Whenever we enter a "hot state" of the mind - anger,
fear, desire or disgust - we immediately believe that these feelings come
from the other and not from inside ourselves. But this is NOT the mystic
unity of enlightenment.
Four years ago I wrote about enlightenment. In my opinion at the time, enlightenment was to realize that I choose my actions, regardless of what the others choose to do toward me. I am always responsible for what I use my body to do, no one else is. This is indeed a very important revelation, and one that has the power to completely change our lives, if we don't forget it when emotions cloud our minds. Without this, it is impossible to live a life with integrity, since your life is drifting on the currents and blown by the winds. As revelations go, it is a pretty big one and bright one. But enlightenment has another and very specific meaning in today's spiritual talk.
There is a related word which is much more expressive: Nonduality. (As in non-duality, but it seems to be common to write it in one word.) Usually we think of the world as consisting of two parts: Me and the rest. Various things are attached to me and important to me, sure, so it is not like we live in some kind of bubble isolated from the world. But there is still a big difference, and ironically it becomes bigger as we take control of our own lives. This is still recommended, though, as a temporary measure. But the goal of modern spiritual practitioners is nonduality: Being one with everything.
In the state of nonduality, you realize that there is no difference between your consciousness and the Ground of Being, the all-pervading consciousness that exists outside of time an all the way through it. (Some people refer to this greater consciousness as God, but this of course conjures up images of some old guy on a chair, in the minds of people with little knowledge of spiritual matters.) This experience of unity is the core of mysticism, and with practice it can follow you into daily life. You are perfectly aware of your body and can control it as before, but at the same time you are aware that it is simply a part of the world and that you are simply part of the spirit. There is no distinction. There is only One with no second. There is no you and I, only the One. But for the sake of people who don't know this, you still have to go through the forms of pretending to be separate. But you know you are not.
Frankly, I'm not sure what's so great about this, except that it removes fear. Since you are eternal, the individual "I" just a ripple on the surface of the greater being, life and death are no longer a big deal. Or so they say.
Unfortunately no one else can see this, so all we can do is take your word for it that you are enlightened. This makes me seriously wonder how useful it is, given the number of enlightened gurus who live in luxury, humiliate others and take advantage of their female disciples.
One interesting aspect of this neo-Advaita philosophy is that you're finished with your salvation. There is nothing more to achieve. Actually there has never been anything to achieve. Everything is already part of the eternal, and everything that happens is meant to happen. There is no reason why anyone should want to improve anything, since it is already perfect. This kind of thinking may be comforting but it flies in the face of the focus on actual, real compassion that even the Buddha taught and practiced, not to mention Jesus. Talk about opium for the people.
As a reaction to this, Andrew Cohen and friends started the magazine WHAT IS ENLIGHTENMENT, which was not a rhetorical question. They are still trying to find out. But generally they have concluded that nonduality is only the beginning. Time is not an accident, a kind of disturbance on the surface of eternity, which we should wait until subsides. Rather time and the universe are intentional. The Ground of Being is timeless, but branched out into time for a reason. The part of the Ground of Being that is active in time they call the Authentic Self, but this seems to be just a phrase they have invented to avoid using names from any specific religion. Anyway, this entity has a purpose with time. Rather than just ride its coattails, we should embody it.
The result is something disturbingly similar to the New Testament, only without the miracles (and definitely without the death and resurrection of its founder), and rewritten for the 21st century. It is kind of hard to believe that Cohen came up with this entirely on his own, given that he grew up in America where people bandy about Bible quotes thoughtlessly, even though they rarely understand them. Be that as it may, the question "What Is Enlightenment" is still not answered.
Neither is it for me. I know a lot more about it than I did four years ago. But in its more extreme form, it does not seem like something I'd want to have in my brain. Drifting through life convinced that nothing matters seems, to be honest, a fate suspiciously similar to death. And instead of the Authentic Self I think I would prefer the Holy Spirit, given that they have roughly the same backstory, roughly the same agenda and roughly the same effect on the people who partake in them. I'd be interested (to say the least) to see what happens when the two meet. But that's beyond the scope of this little entry.
In conclusion, four years ago I wrote about things I did not understand, and to some degree I probably still do, although I have researched the topic in earnest lately. But my advice from then still stands: It is better to Not Blame Others than to curse the darkness.
Visit the archive page for the older diaries I've put out to pasture.