Many people equate this evolutionary journey of the human species with ‘enlightenment’, and I feel it is important at this stage to distinguish between the two.
Enlightenment is a state of consciousness where we are no longer identified with the personal ego, and is a glimpse of freedom from the restrictions imposed by our conditioned mind. However, the evolutionary journey I am referring to is a collective event, a genetic transformation of the human species, and a process of planetary evolution initiated by external galactic factors.
Given this distinction, it may be useful here to define enlightenment, and what it means in context of our evolutionary journey. One of the most mystifying of spiritual concepts, it is important to understand clearly what it means, and also what it does not mean.
Enlightenment is not about becoming superhuman, turning into light, manifesting spiritual powers, or transcending the murkiness of daily life and emotions. It is not about cosmic bliss, instant clairvoyant abilities, or escaping from human responsibilities. It is not about losing the ego, stopping the mind, or even somehow changing the nature of the mind.
There are many layers of the mind relating to many layers of consciousness. In our current state of development, we are conditioned to perceive reality through just one of these layers, the thinking mind. The thinking mind has an essential role to play in our journey of embodiment, but somehow we have become conditioned to believe that this is all there is.
The thinking mind perceives reality through its ability to compare and analyze information. It clothes itself with a set of subconscious beliefs and emotions, which we all inherit from a collective web of human conditioning. It is based on memory, and creates a sense of self based on a sequence of events in linear time. We refer to this sense of self as the ego. Our ego based personality sees itself as a fixed identity starting with birth and ending at death.
The thinking mind helps us think and to survive. It is not designed for the perception of subtler realities that are the domain of the soul. It is only one aspect of who we are as a multi-dimensional entity, but due to the vibrational density of our body-mind organism, this is the aspect of our being that we tend to identify with, and become fixated with. Enlightenment is simply about breaking through the layers of subconsicous conditioning that keeps us fixated in the thinking mind in order to reconnect to our multi-dimensional presence.
As we become aware of attachments and addictions based on the thinking mind, we seek to come out of our suffering. For many spiritual seekers, this involves endless seeking, constant self-analysis, fleeting triumphs, and inevitable failures. This is all part of our human condition. Our incessant needs for comparing, analysing, justifying, and judging ourselves are all within the natural domain of the thinking mind.
Ironically, even our identity as a spiritual seeker is sourced in the duality of the thinking mind, which is forever attempting to create expectations and judgements based on good and bad, right and wrong, spiritual or unspiritual. We think we are somehow flawed, and engage in a quest to change ourselves. We discover it is impossible to change the nature of our mind, and end up suffocating in guilt and shame.
Our identification with the thinking mind will dissolve the instant our vibrational frequency lifts out from our attachment to third-dimensional realities. It is part of our evolutionary journey, our divine destiny. But it cannot happen by trying to make it happen. The simple truth is that enlightenment is not something that can be achieved, however hard we try. All our trying, all our efforts, only arise from that aspect of ourselves which is identified with the thinking mind, the same thinking mind we try so desperately to disengage from.
Enlightenment is the recognition that we are not this web of conditioning inhabiting a bodymind organism that we think we are. Enlightenment is to break past the duality inherent within the personal ego, and to understand that things are simply what they are, without craving for something that seems desirable or pleasant, without resisting what we consider painful or unpleasant.
Enlightenment is accepting the reality of things as they are in this moment, simply because our identity is no longer attached to the mechanisms of comparison and judgement inherent within the thinking mind. Freed of the web of conditioning, it is the ability to express ourselves spontaneously in each moment, living from our authentic self rather than from conditioned responses. Freed of the burdens of the past and expectations of the future, it is the ability to engage with life fully in each present moment. Freed of our identification with the thinking mind, or personal ego, it is the ability to incarnate through these bodymind organisms as spontaneous expressions of divine consciousness, or soul.
The question inevitably comes up, “Okay, all this is fine, but what do I DO to get enlightened?” We must understand that our personal ego is based in doing, and the thinking mind cannot stop the thinking mind. Once we truly understand this, paradoxically, we can cease our efforts, accept our failure and pain, embrace our inconsistencies and shadows, relax in the truth of what already is, and make peace with the universe. As we do so, we realize that in the very act of letting go we have already found what we have long been looking for.
The last time Grace and I were in India, we attended a satsang with Ramesh Balsekar in Bombay. Still going strong in his early 90’s, he was a close disciple of Nisargadatta Maharaj, and is considered an enlightened master in his own right. I had been recently engaged in researching the possibility of simultaneous multiple realities in an evolutionary context, and without preamble asked him to please expound on the nature of consciousness, multiple realities, and time.
I cringed as soon as I finished asking the question, realizing how irrelevant it was in this context, and that as an advaita teacher he was about to rip this questioner to shreds. He did. Why is that question so important to Kiara, he queried. How is the mere accumulation of knowledge going to make me happy?
“Our basic problem is the identification with ourselves as the ‘doer’”, he went on to say. “As long as we are identified with the ‘doer’, we think we have choices in life, chasing pleasures, avoiding pain. We think we are making wrong choices and feel guilty. Or we make choices because we are afraid to live out our own truth. But every action we take is simply a result of our current conditioning and our genetic inheritance. They are all choices based in fear. Do we really have free will?”
“We are free only when we no longer identify with the doer,” he went on to say. “Then we become a doing, and life becomes a happening. No longer identified with the doer, we no longer live in fear of making the wrong choices, or that somehow the universe can do us harm. We release our guilt and our fears, and engage spontaneously with life in the present moment.”
“To be enlightened is to accept the divine flow as it moves through us without identifying with a personal doer. To be enlightened is to no longer live in fear. To be enlightened is to recognize that there is nothing and no-one to blame for anything we might encounter in life, since everything that happens is part of God’s will, divine destiny, and cosmic plan.”
“The problem is not with the ego,” he emphasized. “We are all subject to the subconscious influences of the personal ego, the psychopath as well as the sage. The difference is that in the case of the enlightened sage the sense of personal doership has been uprooted.”
“If we are not the doer”, he went on to say, “how can there be karma? Karma is only real for us if we are identified with the physical form, trapped in a world of duality, subject to the wheel of responsibility and consequences. Once beyond this limited identification, we are free to manifest the full power of our divine destiny.”
“Once we recognize that we are not the doer, everything changes. Our identity shifts to someplace beyond, we recognize that everything is governed through cosmic law, and therefore there is nothing to resist, nothing to fear. The doer becomes one with the doing, and our destiny unfolds each moment in a spontaneous flow of life.”
“A personal ‘entity’ and enlightenment cannot go together,” he concluded. “There is no ‘me’ or ‘you’ to seek enlightenment. Indeed, there is no such thing as enlightenment, and to truly grasp this is itself enlightenment!”
Thus, the essence of enlightenment is to understand that I am not the doer, simply a vehicle for doing to happen. If I am not the doer, then ‘who’ remains to feel guilty, fearful, or judgemental about anything life has to offer?
Our memories of the past, our hopes and fears for the future, all arise from our identity as the doer. Life is meant to be lived in the eternal moment of spontaneous doing birthed in our identity as multi-dimensional consciousness. We become trapped in a world of time, however, once we identify with ourselves as a doer.
We are simply a witness to divinity passing through us, creating itself in each moment fresh from infinitely creative source, according to its own wisdom, its own timing. As we practice shifting our identity from the doer to spontaneous doing, from ego to soul, we realize that it is ALL divine will. This is a perspective that our limited body-mind organism cannot easily grasp. Enlightenment is simply realizing that this has always been true, and not resisting the perfection of what already is!
Ultimately, from this perspective, we realize there is nothing we can do to silence the ego, drop the mind, or gain our enlightenment, because all these attempts to change ourselves come from resisting the perfection of what already is. All we can do is simply to love and understand the perfection of our place within the whole, exactly as we are. As soon as we acknowledge this, the curtain lifts, and we realize that we are not so much the actor on the stage of life, but life itself desiring to express itself in each moment of existence.