What Is Enlightenment?
I would like to share an article by Neile Donald Walsch, author of the ‘Conversation With God’ series. He has a way of articulating deep concepts and ideas in a simple manner. I enjoyed his thoughts on Enlightenment and I hope you do as well! Here’s Neile:
Let’s talk about Enlightenment—that elusive magical mystical experience for which many people seem to be searching.
We have not only been search-ing for Enlightenment, we have been searching as well for a definition of Enlightenment, because we know intuitively that we can’t get to that destination until we know where we are going.
And so the first step for most human beings has been to try to define what Enlightenment is, or what it looks like, or feels like, or what it is like to experience that.
As we look around us in this world we see that many “Paths to Enlightenment” have been suggested, recommended, created, expressed, experienced, shared, and put into the space of our collective lives.
The Buddha said that he knew a way to Enlightenment. Bahá’u’lláh said that he knew a way. More contemporarily, Paramahansa Yogananda said that he knew a way to Enlightenment.
Yogananda taught in the West from 1920 until his death in 1952. He published his life story, Autobiography of a Yogi, in 1946. and created the Self-Realization Fellowship.
When Yogananda, or Master, as he was called, came to America he brought a technique for “self-realization,” which was his phrase meaning Enlightenment.
“When you realize who the Self is,” he said, “you become enlightened.”
You are more aware. You are more at peace with the world. You are internally serene, totally content, and thus, wonderfully empowered . . . in a quiet, gentle sort of way . . . to move through life, to experience Divine Presence in you, as you.
Yet how can we arrive at this place of Self Realization?
Well…God says, “No one calls to me who is not answered.” And I believe that each of us will be answered by that which we call Divine, in the way which most effectively responds to the vibration that we hold and create from the center of our being.
For Paramahansa Yogananda, the way was, chiefly, meditation. But God says that God, or Divinity, or Enlightenment, if you please, appears in the lives of every person in a form that is most appropriate to their background, their culture, the level of their desire, and their willingness.
So there are many disciplines: physical disciplines, mental disciplines, spiritual disciplines, and some disciplines that involve all three — the body, the mind and the spirit.
We spoke of The Buddha earlier. One day Siddhartha Gautama — the man who came to be called “Buddha” — said:
“I’ve tried everything. I’ve done all the physical discipline, all the training, all the exercise, all the starvation, all the diets, all the fasting, and all the meditation. Now I’m just going to sit here beneath this tree and I’m not getting up until I’m Enlightened.”
And there he sat, doing nothing. No exercises, no meditations, no fasting, no nothing – – just sitting there doing absolutely nothing.
Now that is hard for many of us to do, because we think there is something we are suppose to be doing in order to be Enlightened.
Suddenly Siddhartha said with a start: “I’m Enlightened.” And people came to him and cried out, “What did you do? What did you do? Teach us, Master! You have become the Buddha, the Enlightened One. What is the secret? What did you do?”
And the Buddha said something quite extraordinary, which I paraphrase here: “There is nothing that you have to be, do, or have. Simply BE what you have always been . . . and don’t deny it.”
Imagine. After all that time. After the life he had lived and all that he did and saw. After all the luxury and then all the self-denial, after wearing a silk shirt and then a hair-shirt, after thoroughly satisfying his body and then starving his body, after no spiritual or physical discipline and then tons of discipline…after all that time, he realized it was not about doing or having anything, and it was not about not doing or having anything. It was about the middle way.
It was about just living life, non-attached to anything in partic-cular. Not attached to your luxuries and joys, and not attached to your poverty and tragedies. It was not about any of that.
It can be if you want it to be. It can be if that is what suits you. It can be if that is your path, but it is not necessary to be, do, or have anything in particular.
The Buddha said, in effect, “I’m Enlightened because I have realized that Enlightenment is knowing that there is nothing you have to do to be Enlightened. Just be your True Self.”
Isn’t that interesting? Think of all the effort that people are putting in, with years-long programs and trainings, only to find out that Enlightenment requires nothing at all — except letting go of what you are not.
What you are not is anything that is not Love.
I hate to be so simplistic here, so predictable, but Who You Are is Divinity, physically expressed — and what Divinity is . . . is Love.
If you simply love everyone whose life you touch endlessly, unconditionally, with nothing needed or wanted in return (what can God possibly need in return?), you have become Enlightened, you have achieved Awareness. AND . . . you have shown everyone else how they may do so as well — as fast as any other mental system or spiritual discipline that exists, like that.
As fast as Transcendental Meditation, like that. As fast as joining the Self-Realization Fellowship, like that. As fast as taking est, like that. As fast as Brain Education and Dahn Hak and Vibrational Attunement and any other process or mechanism or path you can name.
And if you learn to love yourself unconditionally, as well as everyone else, you will heal your entire self without lifting a finger.
Now I want to discuss this thing called health, because many people believe that you are not enlightened unless you are in good health.
Does Enlightenment mean being in good health? And what is “good health” anyway? Is good health having a body that has nothing wrong with it? Is good health living until you are 90 or 100 or 200 or 500? ?
Ernest Holmes was the founder of Religious Science, and wrote a book called The Science of Mind. He was said to have found the way to create a perfect and wonderful life. Yet he lived only until he was 73. Why did he not live longer, if he was so spiritually “healthy” and aware? Half the people that I know have lived longer!
Is Enlightenment, and “good health”, having no pain and nothing malfunctioning with your physical form? Is good health the absence of anything that is not perfect in your physical experience?
Or — now listen to this carefully — is good health being very okay and in a place of joy and peace no matter how things are?
What is health, what is optimum health, if it is not happiness?
I know people who exercise every day, lifting weights and running and working out, eating well, doing all the right things, and their bodies are in great health, but their hearts and their minds and their souls are very ill and desperately sad. They are incomplete, unfulfilled, unexpressed, and deeply unhappy.
And I know people who are hardly able to lift a toothpick, their bodies are in such bad shape . . . but their hearts and their minds and their souls are bright as a shining star, and they are happy.
I know such a man, whose name is Ram Dass. Do you know of whom I speak? Ram Dass is a Master, and I was vastly privileged to have met him personally. He has taught many people for many years. He wrote a book called Be Here Now, among others.
A number of years ago now, Ram Dass had a stroke. He was a young man; he was only 63 or something like that. I met with Ram Dass after his stroke, in a hotel room in Denver, and I want to tell you something. I’ve never met a healthier man.
I sat in that room with a Master. I said, “Ram Dass, how are you?” And he sat there in his wheelchair and said very slowly and very carefully, “I am won-der-ful.”
He had to pronounce each syllable as if it was a separate word. His mouth, his tongue, couldn’t work any faster than that. But he looked at me and smiled and said, “I-am-won-der-ful.”
Now that’s health…that’s health. That’s peace. That’s joy. And I cried. Not for Ram Dass. Who would cry for a person who said something like that? I cried for myself.
How could I have missed it? How could I have walked right past this wisdom for so many years?
In the end,. We came here to understand Who We Are, and to experience it.
We did not come here to somehow “get better” or to “work on our stuff.” Consider the possibility that all the work you will ever need to do is finished. All you have to do now is demonstrate that. Ernest Holmes left when he left because he had demonstrated what he came here to demonstrate.
So this moment is the moment of your liberation. You can be liberated from your life-long search for Enlightenment. You can be released from any thought that it has to look like this…no, no, it has to look like that, no, no, you have to get to it by this path, by that program, by the other process or activity.
If Enlightenment is outer joy and inner peace, outer ease and inner tranquility, outer consciousness and inner awareness, and you are experiencing that — then you have found Enlightenment.
So set yourself free today. Stop working so hard on yourself that you don’t even enjoy it anymore. Do what works for you, but make sure it brings you joy.
Enlightenment is EnJOYment. It is the pouring of pure joy into Life.
Now here is what I know will bring you joy. Decide that the rest of your life — every day, every moment, every word — is something that you will share with everyone whose life you touch in a way that ensures that they will know there is nothing they have to do, nowhere they have to go, and no way they have to be, in order to be loved by you right now.
Let them know that they are perfect just as they are, just as they are standing there.
Spend the rest of your life giving people back to themselves, that they might love themselves, and know that there is nothing they are lacking, nothing they are missing, nothing they need, nothing they are not.
It has been said that the other is your mirror, and you will see there naught but what you see in yourself. Yet I tell you this. Do not wait to see yourself as perfect before you see The Other as perfect. See The Other as perfect first . . . then you will see perfection in yourself.
Forgive the other first, then you will forgive yourself at last. Do unto others as you would have it done unto you. This is the Law and the Prophets.
For there IS no Other, save You. And when you know this, you save you. You become . . . your Saviour.
What I am talking about here is simply sharing love, which is who you really are. And if you learn and choose and decide to share love — endlessly, unconditionally — with everyone, you will find that there is nothing else to do to seek Enlightenment. You will have achieved it.
So, with that as our determination and that as our choice and that as our decision, let us join together and experience our own ‘Enlightenment’.
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