Enlightenment and Awakening

“enlightenment is a state of freedom from the ignorance that causes suffering. There is no necessity to attain mere belief in God, but it is necessary to have profound knowledge of the truth which lies behind the concept of the word God. The idea is not to know God as a different being but to know one’s own real self and its essential nature, which is the self of all. The preachings of religion make a person dependent on priests,temples, idols, blind faith and dogma and dependence on these is a habit of the lower mind. Such crutches may be useful at a certain stage for some people, but they do not lead one to ultimate truth. A dependent mind is not free, and without freedom, enlightenment is impossible. Religious dogmas are full of beliefs and myths that do not satisfy the human intellect and that bind believers to a narrow view of life and human potential. Such preachings instill more fear than love in the hearts of masses”.

Spiritual Enlightenment is not a mental or intellectual shift, it is an energetic shift.

Realization is nothing to be gained anew….Realization consists of getting rid of the false idea that one is not realized.

–Ramana Maharshi

That which is before you is it, in all its fullness, utterly complete. There is naught beside. Even if you go through all the stages of a Bodhisattva’s progress toward Buddhahood, one by one; when at last, in a single flash, you attain to full realization, you will only be realizing the Buddha-Nature which has been with you all the time; and by all the foregoing stages you will have added to it nothing at all.

–Huang Po

Enlightenment is devastatingly simple….Enlightenment is what we are. There is nothing to gain, only its recognition….Awakening to enlightenment is a journey from here to here, not from here to there. There is nowhere to go and nothing to be attained. Enlightenment is simply an awakening to what has always been the case. There is only the seeing through of our own ignorance.

–Gary Crowley

Those who have great realization of delusion are buddhas; those who are greatly deluded about realization are sentient beings.

–Dogen

The discovery of truth is in the discernment of the false. You can know what is not. What is — you can only be.

–Nisargadatta Maharaj

Only an object can be “bound.” Subject can neither be bound nor freed, hurt nor flattered, touched nor neglected….Free, we are not number One, the first of all our objects, but Zero — their universal and Absolute Subject.

–Wei Wu Wei

Whatever needs change is a thought, an idea, a phantom….Even though you’re full of desire to improve or change, really see that there is not now, nor will there ever be, a way out of what you are. You can never become what you already are! The next sip of coffee is not worth less than the highest experience of enlightenment.

–Karl Renz

Whatever happens, there is only Being. You can’t put a foot wrong, because nothing and no one is going anywhere. ‘You’ are not a character on a journey to self-realisation. It’s all a play of appearances.

–Nathan Gill

The hope for spiritual enlightenment is usually the hope of avoiding what we are, the hope of avoiding the pains and confusions of existence, but enlightenment is the realization we can’t avoid them.

–Darryl Bailey

Enlightenment is not like a sudden realization of something mysterious. Enlightenment is nothing but awakening from illusions and returning to the reality of life.

–Uchiyama

Enlightenment is nothing more than this: to be fully present, to see the grasping nature of our own minds, and not to act out of that grasping. It’s to see ourselves not as separate, not as lacking, not as in charge, not as weak and helpless.

–Steve Hagen

Spiritual awakening doesn’t require a new experience; it’s simply seeing clearly what’s already happening.

–Darryl Bailey

Whatever you can realize is a dream….That is realization – that whatever you can realize is a dream.

–Karl Renz

If you need time to achieve something, it must be false. The real is always with you; you need not wait to be what you are. Only you must not allow your mind to go out of yourself in search.

–Nisargadatta Maharaj

Enlightenment is nothing we can ever understand or think our way into, so drop the idea that you need to figure out anything and be simple, as you are, without further seeking. Relax the tendency to understand, and naturally recognize what is seeing… already… always…

–Bentinho Massaro

Awakening in its essence is simply being here.

–Jon Bernie

There is an eternal, ever-present One Life beyond the myriad forms of life that are subject to birth and death. Many people use the word God to describe it; I often call it Being….To regain awareness of Being and to abide in that state of ‘feeling-realization’ is enlightenment.

–Eckhart Tolle

Waking up is a continuing process. No one wakes up once and for all. There is no limit to wakefulness, just as there is no limit to aliveness….The surprise within the surprise of every new discovery is that there is ever more to be discovered.

–Brother David Steindl-Rast

What Is Spiritual Enlightenment or Spiritual Awakening?

A definition of spiritual enlightenment or spiritual awakening is hard to pin down. This is, in part, because “spiritual enlightenment” and “spiritual awakening” have been used in so many ways to describe so many things, similar to the way in which “love” is used to describe everything from a preference for ice cream to a merging with everything. And it is also because spiritual enlightenment and spiritual awakening are such rich and complex experiences that they are innately hard to define.

Some definitions are very specific and narrow. One such definition for spiritual enlightenment is the complete dissolution of one’s identity as a separate self with no trace of the egoic mind remaining. This sets the bar very high and means that very few people qualify as enlightened.

The opposite approach is to say that everyone is enlightened, that there is only awake consciousness. In this view, it’s only a question of whether this natural awakeness has been recognized or not. Of course, when a word describes everything or everyone, it loses some of its usefulness. If everyone is enlightened, then why even talk about it?

Combining perspectives on spiritual enlightenment

Perhaps there’s a definition that includes both of these perspectives, which recognizes that consciousness is always awake and enlightened, but the amount of awakeness, or aware consciousness, that is present in any moment can vary. This definition acknowledges that there’s a difference in the amount of awakeness, or enlightened consciousness, that different people experience or that one person experiences at different times but still suggests that the potential for full awareness or becoming enlightened is the same for everybody. If every apparent individual consciousness is infinite in its potential, then each can also be infinite both in its capacity to expand or awaken and in its capacity to contract or identify with a narrow or limited experience.

If all consciousness is made of the same essential awareness and light, and if everyone has an equal potential for enlightenment, then all expressions of consciousness are equally valid and valuable. Everyone truly is a Buddha or enlightened being, at least in potential. So defining enlightenment in many ways now makes sense, depending on what is being pointed to. One may use the word enlightenment to point to the state of self-realization beyond the ego or to point to the innate potential for this realization in all of us.

As for differentiating between the words enlightenment and awakening, “enlightenment” implies a more finished and constant state of realization, while “awakening” has more of the active quality of a verb and therefore suggests a movement or shift in consciousness. An awakening may be defined as a sudden increase in the overall amount of consciousness an individual is experiencing. There can be small awakenings and bigger awakenings. Not only does consciousness have unlimited potential for the amount of awakeness, but it also has an unlimited potential to shift in any way, at any moment. Consciousness can and sometimes does shift from contracted states of fear, anger, or hurt to expanded states of peace and joy in an instant. Unfortunately, it can also shift in the other direction. Consciousness has no fixed state.

What are the causes of spiritual awakening or enlightenment?

Consider the miracle of a flower. What is it that causes a plant to flower? Does sunshine cause a plant to flower? Does lots of water? Or is it good soil? Maybe all of these together? Or is there really something more subtle in the nature of the flower itself that causes it to flower? Is it something in the DNA of the plant? Does that mean the whole process of evolution over eons of time is involved? What other factors might cause the flowering? Does gravity play a part? The season and the temperature? The quality of the light? (Some plants will not flower under glass or artificial light.) What about animals that eat the fruit and spread the plant? Or the birds or bees that pollinate the flower? Do they cause the subsequent flowering of the newly established plants? Are there even subtler influences? What about presence and love? The intention and attention of a gardener? And is the existence of the world of form itself necessary for a plant to flower? And what about consciousness? Is there an ultimate force that directs the creation and unfolding of all expressions of form that is behind the appearance of a rose or a daisy?

Read More What if it is a combination of all of the things mentioned? And also what if they have to all be in the right proportion? Is that proportion different for every species of plant? Some plants need lots of water or light to flower. Others will die with too much water or light. There is a unique formula that is involved with the appearance of the simplest apple blossom and the most complex orchid.

When you consider all of these influences and even more that were not mentioned or can’t even be known or imagined, then it truly is a miracle when a flower happens. It is impossible to say what causes it to happen with any certainty or completeness. Yet, it’s an act of incredible grace whenever all of these diverse, subtle, and gross influences come together in just the right way for an iris or a bird of paradise to open its unique petals to the sky. Ultimately, if you trace all the factors back to all their causes, you find that everything that exists is somehow intimately connected to the cactus flower or dandelion in your front yard. We need a vague and powerful word like “grace” to name this amazing interplay of forces and intelligence. Obviously, to reduce it to a formula doesn’t come close to capturing or describing the vast richness of variables and forces at play. There is no formula complex enough to capture the whole mystery of a magnolia blossom…

Spiritual awakening is a kind of flowering of consciousness. When consciousness expands and opens into a new expression, we call that a spiritual awakening. And while there are as many kinds of awakenings as there are flowers, they are all equally mysterious. What is it that causes a child to start to awaken to the nature of words and language? What causes the awakening of sexuality in a teenager? How does one suddenly know they are falling in love? Or even more profoundly, how does one explain the birth of unconditional or divine love?

Finally, what are the causes of the most profound spiritual awakenings, where consciousness suddenly recognizes its ultimate true nature? Why does that type of flowering appear in one consciousness today and another one tomorrow? If the formula for a simple petunia is a vastly complex interplay of earthly, human, and even cosmic forces, then imagine how complex the formula is for the unfolding of a human consciousness into full spiritual enlightenment as one’s true nature. The good news is that we cannot and do not need to know the totality of the formula involved to grow some petunias, and we cannot and do not need to know the formula for spiritual enlightenment. Yet, we can be curious about all of the factors involved and even play with them to see what effects, if any, they may have in our individual experience of consciousness unfolding.

Sometimes the mysteriousness and unpredictability of the whole process of awakening leads us to shrug our shoulders and say it is all up to grace or to God. And, of course, that is true; and yet, does that mean there’s no place in this unfolding for our own actions? Is there a place for spiritual practice? What about meditation, self-inquiry, or study of spiritual texts? And how about devotional practices or the transmission of presence from being with a great teacher or master? We can easily become disillusioned with any or all of these activities because the results they produce are so unpredictable and varied, and it can seem simpler to avoid the question of their role altogether. Ask any gardener if it works every time to water and weed and fertilize a plant? Or does a plant sometimes fail to flower no matter how well it is cared for? But does that mean you never water or fertilize your plants?

At other times we can be overly convinced that our practice or inquiry will lead to the desired results, often because it seemed to work at least once for us, or for someone we know. The only problem with spiritual practices is that they occasionally work! Then we think that we have the formula and that every time we sit down to meditate or ask, “Who am I?” we will have that same experience of expansion or awakening again. That is like thinking you will always have a bumper crop of marigolds every time you plant them.

There is a middle way between denying the importance or role of spiritual practice and having unrealistic expectations that self-inquiry, meditation, or devotional practice is going to, by itself, cause an awakening. We can experiment and play with these processes, just as a gardener will experiment with different fertilizers or watering patterns to see what happens. It ultimately is all up to grace, and yet, what if grace works through us as well as on us? What if spiritual practice is as much a part of the mystery of existence as anything else?

Maybe we can hold the question of what role inquiry, devotion, effort, surrender, transmission, meditation, gratitude, intention, silencing the mind, study of spiritual books, involvement with a teacher or master, ripeness of the student, karma, grace, and luck play in our enlightenment with an openness and curiosity, instead of a need to define their roles once and for all. The flowering of consciousness in your own existence is as unique as every flower, and ultimately we are all here to discover how it is going to happen uniquely this time around. What is your consciousness like right now? How open is the flower of your awareness? Is it still budding or has it blossomed? Just as every flower fades and another comes along, what about now? And now? What happens this time when you meditate? What happens now when you inquire “Who am I?” How does it feel right now to open your heart with gratitude even if nothing much is happening? What impact does reading this article or any other piece of writing have on you? Every stage of a plant’s existence is valuable and even necessary for its flowering. Your experience is always adding to the richness of the unfolding of consciousness in this moment. May you enjoy the garden of your true nature, including when spiritual awakenings are blooming, and when spiritual enlightenment seems far away.

The World’s Illusion, Spiritual Awakening and Enlightenment

The world around us looks so real, and to proclaim that it is only an illusion may seem sheer nonsense. How can it be? Yet, it is possible to accept this idea. I believe you agree with me, if I say that the body is some sort of an extraordinary machine. It is made up of a combination of materials, but it functions as a unit. Can you say confidently that you are the body? Are you the hair that is cut and thrown away when you go to the hairdresser? Are you your fingers nails, nose, legs or thighs?

The body changes through the years, do you really feel that you are this changing form?

Many thoughts pass through the mind every day. Can you say that you are any one of these thoughts? They are like a movie that plays in front of your eyes. Do you remember what you thought one hour ago? Yesterday? How can these thoughts be the real you if they always come and go? You think them, but you are not them.

The same thing goes for your feelings. What do you think is more correct to say, “I am angry”, “I am sad”, “I am happy” or “I am letting feelings of anger, sadness or happiness to occupy my consciousness for a while”? As with thoughts, feelings and emotions pass through you, they come and they go. You cannot be your feelings, which constantly change.

Who are you, then?

After reading the above, do you still believe that you the body, feeling and thoughts, or something beyond them? To know who you really are, you have to take your awareness beyond the mind. The answer comes when you are able to transcend your mind. Spiritual traditions and experience say that you are an inseparable part of the eternal, impersonal consciousness that created the world and infused life into everything, including this conglomeration of body, feelings and thoughts that you call “me”.

This homogenous, indivisible, impersonal Consciousness manifests in and through everything. It is the life principle of the manifestation that you consider to be yourself. The manifestation, which is the combination of body, thoughts and feelings, is nothing without this life principle. This Life Principle – Consciousness, is the only real thing, and every manifestation is created by it, and therefore is dependent on it.

Can you become aware of this Consciousness? When you develop a certain degree of inner detachment and inner peace, you will be able to turn your attention within you, instead of turning it to the external world, and then you will become aware of the Consciousness that is beyond the mind.

Silence of the mind is the prerequisite for becoming aware of this Consciousness. Only when the mind is silenced and there are no thoughts, you realize who you really are – the vast, eternal Consciousness.

Becoming aware of this Consciousness means leads to enlightenment. This is what yogis, saints and seekers on the spiritual path seek. Through constant meditation the mind is made quiet. Then, from deep inside will rise great silence, peace, bliss and consciousness. Then you will know who you really are. This is enlightenment.

The way to spiritual awakening is open for everyone. Only attachment and erroneous thoughts and concepts hide it. It can come suddenly, and it can come gradually. The funny thing is that you do not have to search for it, and you do not need to reach anywhere. All you have to do is dive within with a quiet mind, become aware of this inner, eternal underlying consciousness and stay there.

If you watch a movie with inner detachment, you can still enjoy it, yet you are not agitated by what happens in it. You know it is just a movie, the projection of light and color on a screen. After gaining inner peace and silence, and becoming aware of your real I, you see the world and live in it, but yet, at the same time you understand that it is not real. This helps you stay calm and detached in all kinds of situations.

When you are spiritually awakened, nothing can affect your mind and moods. You may still need to work and interact with other people and the world around you, yet you will do so while remaining uninvolved in consciousness, as if outside of the world.

The mind and its thoughts create your world – the illusion you are living in. Thoughts and imagination are creative, and therefore mold and affect your world. As your thoughts are, so is your world.

When you awaken to your real Consciousness, you will be able to master your mind and thoughts, and therefore if needed, be able to change your illusion – your world, through the creative power of your mind. By focusing your mind on the thoughts you choose, you can affect your “reality” accordingly.

You might say that after spiritual awakening you will be beyond the world’s illusion, and material things will not matter any more. This is true, but yet, the illusion has to be lived. You have to eat, pay bills and take care of the body. It is true, you will approach these matters in a completely different way, but you will still need to take care of them. Even an enlightened master has to eat, drink and sleep.

Going beyond the mind, beyond the illusion of the world, puts a great power and responsibility in your hands, for then you have the power to affect the world. Your awakened consciousness is an immense power that can stimulate the spiritual awakening in others. As all Consciousness is one, calming down your mind, going beyond it, and becoming conscious of your real being, to some extent, affects the whole world.

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