3 – Is It Possible to Become Enlightened?
The word ‘enlighten’ is burdened by misinformation, it’s been overlaid with all sorts of beliefs and projections, and this makes using it problematic. The general image of an enlightened person is of a guy sitting at the top of a mountain – it’s usually a guy – who’s reached a level of understanding that makes him almost superhuman. He’s omniscient, detached from pain and radiating with eternal bliss. It’s as if he isn’t subject to the same laws as ‘normal’ people like us.
For those interested in finding out what is true, for those with a Yearning towards freedom, this image causes no end of misunderstanding. For a start it suggests this sort of freedom can’t happen to you, it’s exclusive to some divinely appointed, superhuman breed. The word ‘enlightenment’ has come to refer to an idea of human perfection.
Enlightenment has nothing to do with being superhuman; rather, it’s about being fully human. One of the essential characteristics of being human is our capacity to feel. It’s true that detachment arises, but it’s a detachment from Personality, not a detachment from feeling the Joy, the sadness, the whole gamut of human experience.
The idea of reaching a perfected state is hardwired into the spiritual search and it’s simply not accurate. It’s a glittering toy for the Personality to play with, to hope for, to fixate on and to use to distract itself from Suffering. However, the reason for this confusion doesn’t just lie with the Seeker’s misinterpretation of the word ‘enlightenment’; it also arises from the way some teachers use it. The literal meaning of the word ‘en-lighten’ is to ‘dispel darkness or confusion’. It’s a beautiful and accurate application of the word; symbolically the ‘darkness’ of the Dream of Personality (the Suffering) is dispelled by the light of awareness. This is what happens when identification with Personality falls away. However, when the word ‘enlightenment’ is used as an adjective, when someone says: ‘I am enlightened,’ a fundamental inaccuracy enters the picture. Why? Because no one gets enlightened. For someone to claim something called ‘enlightenment’ there has to be a Personality there who is claiming it. So anyone who claims to be enlightened is simply displaying the fact that they have not seen beyond their Personality.
In this Understanding there is a Seeing through of the ‘I’ that could ever claim to be enlightened. When Waking Up happens, it doesn’t happen to a ‘me’; it happens because identification with that ‘me’ has fallen away.
Think of it this way: If a baby had the power of cognition and speech, would it go around saying: ‘I have achieved the original state of Being’? That would be ludicrous: The baby has not achieved the original state of Being, the baby is Being. Did the baby do anything to be it? No, that’s why it’s called the Natural State. It exists before any self or Personality can claim it.
Remembering and returning to the original state of Being as an adult is essentially the same; the only difference is that adults have self-consciousness. We know what it’s like to be identified, and we’ve been liberated from that identification. That liberation brings with it many blessings, but it doesn’t turn us into some superhuman breed of man or womankind. What we’re talking about here is recognising what we already are. When this is known, all the myths and projections about enlightenment, and the people who play that enlightened role and believe they’re somehow special, start to look a wonderfully ridiculous.
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