What is Enlightenment?


Obtuse Kineticist
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What is Enlightenment?

One of my favorite periodicals is Andrew Cohen's What is Enlightenment? magazine. Like Parabola, I can count on very thoughtful essays, interviews, and points of view. I remember there was an issue discussing enlightenment specifically, and the dozen or so spiritual leaders from global disciplines gave a dozen or so different definitions. Some were similar, and some were quite varied. I read this issue after I had come to see myself as awakened, so it was an interesting dialogue between me and the writers/interviewees. I noticed a lot of similarities to my own experiences, but also noted in the articles, and in my interactions lately, that enlightenment - with its multiple definitions - no longer appeals to me as a pointer to my own awareness.

Claiming that you are enlightened or awakened in any public forum is kind of like running for president. You can expect the snipers to come out of the woodwork to scrutinize every word spoken, and every action done. The motive behind this is not very deep - it is to take you down in an appearance scandal. You can have conceptual discourses about enlightenment or awakening to your heart's content, but mention you are enlightened or awakened, and the dialogue will quickly deteriorate to a rote debate. I was able to read others' definitions of enlightenment or awakening with an open mind so long as they were coming from a place of experience. But if they were just repeating what they had read, or been taught, then the person left the conversation. You cannot have a practical dialogue with someone who does not experiencially know what is being referred to.

I have walked a rather unprecedented path these past 9 years. From the beginning of my journey to Self awareness I have been guided solely by direct communication between me and that which I am a part of. But it began many years earlier in that I am an explorer by nature. As a child I was always questioning the status quo, or consensus reality. As an adult I knew the mundane world did not satiate my need to see what lay beyond the horizon. I journied 14,000 miles on a horse to get the pace of the rat race off of my back. At 3 miles per hour a person can contemplate beyond the next familial responsibility and employer demand. So when it came time for me to be called to Self awareness, the idea of exploring through my own senses and perceptions, without the boundaries of pre-formed destinations, came naturally to me.

I do not think most people realize how virtually their entire personal reality has been defined, not by them, but by others. From the first cognition of language - the female gendered person pointing at herself, and telling you, the infant: "mommy", to this very day, you have likely had reality defined by others. The entire educational system is set up on the premise that you need to be told what consensus reality is. Well for mundane lives this is likely necessary, but when a person enters into the world of Self discovery, it becomes a tremendously difficult handicap for most aspirants to overcome. That transition from believing words, to experiencing what the words mean in metaphysical experiences is hard to navigate. Some never do and die with their lives being a collection of concepts in cardboard boxes...where eventually time and space run out.

What is enlightenment? I have had many dialogues, and backed away from many more debates regarding this word over my 4 years online. Prior to that, the word never really entered my thoughts. Why it became an important word in my present understanding has to do with how I arrived at awakening, and recognizing that the word was not applicaple for someone not versed in traditional disciplines. I was guided to have the experience of transcendent meditation. Over a period of a few months I began to feel impulsed to dabble into meditation. I did not read about it, nor did I ask anyone's advice. Truth is, since it was prior to owning a computer, and me living in a very non-spiritual environment, I did not have anyone to ask. Today I know that I was very fortunate to not have anyone set boundaries by defining what meditation was or was not.

I began my meditation discipline by lying down. I had seen pictures of the ramrod straight back lotus position, but it was very uncomfortable for me. I was impulsed to feel certain parts of my body with my mind - which I later found was a great way to manage pain. Eventually after a few trippy wormhole type experiences, energy body parts slipping out of physical body parts, and far out energy expanding states, I slipped into the void. I know now to call it the void, but at the time I didn't label it at all. I simply went what I referred to as "pre-form". My body and my chatterbox thoughts, and the world around me dissolved (over a period of an hour in the first experience) into one substance...one undifferentiated state. I in this seemingly infinite environment just witnessed the joy of it...the wonder of it...the absolute non-activity and non-defining of it. I simply was, and it simply, was perfect.

Once the affects of these experiences started spilling into my day, my life changed dramatically. I was aware of the experience of the present moment - where my awareness would brush up against objects, but my mind would not chatter out a long litany of definitions and past experiences. I emanated a presence. With exploration and experimentation I began to control its manifesting to incorporate its affectiveness into my healing and teaching service. I knew what others were feeling or thinking like they were nearly transparent (although this is not an area I have devoted much exploration to, aside from discerning motives of others).

Just as quickly as the meditation practices began, they abruptly ended in me not being impulsed to do them anymore. Shortly thereafter I discovered (or was led to) the discipline of contemplation. The natural evolution of this seemed self-evident to me. I had discovered what the illusion was, and what my relation to it was, and now I was being guided to experience the properties of the Self that realized its separateness from creation. Thus I began the second half of the journey to Self awareness - my recognition of being a cell of the creating organism (active principle) contained within a sensual form that had been created from the pre-differentiated substance that is the passive principle.

Having witnessed pre-form in transcendent meditation I knew I was separate from it. As I was still learning from my experiences, and expanding in awareness, I knew that my state of Witness was not that of pure consciousness, or omniscience. I only state these perceptions because they became part of my sharing of my experiences when I got this computer and began to have communication with other spiritual people. Eventually finding myself in more advanced forums, I soon learned that for many it was like a race - or a beauty contest, where one concept was used to "prove" the other concept was erroneous. Of course when everyone's eyes and ears are closed, all imagined themselves victorious in these skirmishes, but nothing was shared.

I began to share my perceptions, and being a newbie to the world of the conceptual intelligensia, I was repeatedly told (often very colorfully) that I did not know anything and was completely incorrect in my perceptions. If I tried to explain my reasoning to not accepting their truths as my truth, I was almost always met verbatim with, "some day you will understand." That always appeared to me to be the indicator that negotiations were called off, and that I was dismissed. It wasn't until a few years of frustration that I began to realize that these folks were not using their own words. After hearing the standard paint-by-numbers, rote quotable quotes, and debating tactics used over and over I soon knew I was dealing with people that had no experience of awakening, but an arsenal of words and definitions of meanings of definitions, to defend what they believed it was.

So again, I return to that issue of Cohen's magazine where the global "experts" defined enlightenment in slightly, but often dissimilar ways. They, like all enlightened people, have several things in common. First, although they may sparingly quote from their teachers or their philosophy's writings, they mostly communicate using their own words. An experienced person will relate their experiences to another in their own language. An inexperienced person only has other people's experiences to draw from, and have to either quote them openly, or quote them covertly hoping no one sees they are borrowing their heavily defended beliefs. Secondly, an enlightened person will never tell you that your version of enlightenment is wrong, unless you have challenged their's first. Then a dialogue ensues if both parties are mature, or a debate if either party is not.

So you can see that I cannot answer the question, "what is enlightenment" in a conclusive way. I can only give you my perceptions of my own awakening, which happen to be based on my personal experience. My perceptions may be limited, however, in decribing those experiences. Over the past few years I have come to discover the folly of using words already established in religious or spiritual traditions to describe my own journey. They often cannot be seen or heard outside of the context of whatever the listener has been told to define them as. I no longer refer to myself as enlightened, because it is simply a word with too much baggage attached to it. There are many different definitions of it across different traditions, and it creates a distraction from what has been for me, a very authentic experience of awakening from a body-centric consciousness.

One thing about being awakened is that a person should never be concerned about their appearance. If you are extra careful to dot all your i's and cross all your t's in fear that someone might think less of you, then you are attached to your projection. I smoke. I masturbate. I murder the english language daily. I am intimately familiar with the taste of my foot. I am heavily weighted with a sense of humor that often I am the only appreciative witness of. And yes, I am awakened, too. None of my varied human characteristics or foibles detract from my experience and emergent properties.

©2004 DC Vision

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