Week 31 – Awakening

Going Deeper
We have arrived at a state of being, awareness and a relationship with God. Yet there is further to travel. Now is the time to deepen our relationship with God, to go deeper into the experience. This is not through our effort, nor through effort on God’s part. The very process of being with God deepens the relationship. Being is a relationship with God, which we can create, but as we deepen we realise that the relationship, as we have understood it, is not real and therefore does not exist.
There is a process now for re-evaluation, when we examine our position. This is a challenging time in that we challenge everything we do. We challenge our beliefs, our support, our activities, to see what is real and what is not. Very little may change, but fundamental change takes place. Little need change externally but internally our whole motivation is re-examined and challenged. What can and should we do for others? What can we teach and what can we learn? Everything should be challenged.

Self Realisation
“I cannot be enlightened, we are enlightened. I am enlightened is the sound of one hand clapping”
The spiritual journey’s conclusion is self realisation or enlightenment, understanding who we truly are. We may believe that this state is only for special people and that we are not worthy of it, but it is our birthright. More importantly it is the purpose of life itself. It is our purpose here on earth to discover who we are and to experience it through our earthly body. It is our only purpose. When we discover who we really are, we learn that we are not alone, that we are part of the whole and therefore we want everyone, every part, to experience truth also.

The experience of this true self, is always the same, it is peace, joy, love and compassion. It is the discovery of inner peacefulness that is permanent. It is already within us. We do not have to believe in God, Allah, Buddha, Krishna or any form of religion to find it. Religious concepts may help us to reach a state where we are able to experience it but are not needed to cross over.

The spiritual journey, this self realisation, is ultimately an experience, and as an experience it is very personal. Nobody else can experience it for us, we can only feel it for ourselves. The experience is ours, it is inside us. It is not an intellectual experience, it cannot be understood, it is something that has to be experienced completely and wholly. Do not give away the ability to experience to anybody else, seek it inside. Do not seek it intellectually, seek it with body and soul.

Experiences of Enlightenment
From The Complete Book of Zen by Wong Kiew Kit

Of her deepest religious fulfilment, Saint Teresa experienced that: “God establishes himself in the interior of this soul in such a way that when she returns to herself, it is wholly impossible for her to doubt that she has been in God and God in her.”

In his religious realisation, the great Muslim master, Mansur al-Hallaj, expressed the same in a way that lesser minds would regard as blasphemy: “I am He whom I love and He whom I love is I.”

The famous Taoist master Chuang Tzu said: “the cosmos and I live together, Everything and I are one.”

Here the famous Taoist saint of the 7th century, Lu Dong Bin, describes his own cosmic experience of the highest Zen. “In the stillness, there is infinity, freedom and freshness of consciousness, as if intoxicated in a blissful shower, perfect harmony of body and environment, golden shower blossoming, yet everything in perfect quiescence, full moon in the sky, the whole great earth is a realm of brightness and clarity, the mind and body clear and open, golden shower expanding …. in the perfect silence everything is fully revealed before the eyes, pure soft whiteness as if opening the eyes in clouds … Looking at the body finds that the body is not there, everywhere is pure soft whiteness, the internal and external being transparent.”

The following is another example of perfect enlightenment from the Christian saint Marina de Escobar. “When in deep ecstasy, God unites the soul suddenly to His essence and when he fills her with His light, He shows her in a moment of time the sublimest mysteries. And the soul sees a certain immensity and an infinite majesty – the soul is then plunged, as it were, into a vast ocean which is God and again God. It can neither find a foothold nor touch the bottom.”

In this example, the modern Zen master Tai Xu describes his enlightenment experience, which is at the meditative level of the ‘manifested mirror of reality’: “One day, while studying the (Great Prajna) sutra, suddenly I found myself dissolved into a realm without body and mind. In this tranquillity and spacelessness a spiritual light shines brightly, and countless worlds reveal themselves like mirage and illusion, illuminated without end. I sat there for a few hours, but it appeared like a flick of a finger. For many days afterwards, my body and mind appeared to exist in light, purity, peace and happiness.”

The experience of the Confucian philosopher and chi kung master of the Song dynasty, Zhang Dai is awe inspiring. In his meditation he discovered that: “ The cosmos is a body of energy. Energy has the properties of yin and yang. When energy is spread out, it permeates all things; when it coalesces it becomes nebulous. When this settles into form it becomes matter. When it disintegrates it returns into its original state.”

The extract below from the famous Heart Sutra shows that Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva (Guan Yin Pu Sa in Chinese) attained the highest level of enlightenment.”Form is not different from emptiness, and emptiness is not different from form. Form is emptiness, and emptiness is form. Feeling, thought, activity and consciousness are also thus.”

From The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

“I cannot live with myself any longer.” This was the thought that kept repeating itself in my mind. Then suddenly I became aware of what a peculiar thought it was. “Am I one or two? If I cannot live with myself, there must be two of me: the ‘I’ and the ‘self’ that ‘I’ cannot live with.” “Maybe” I thought, “only one of them is real.”

I was so stunned by this strange realization that my mind stopped. I was fully conscious, but there were no more thoughts. Then I felt drawn into what seemed like a vortex of energy. It was a slow movement at first and then accelerated. I was gripped by an intense fear, and my body started to shake. I heard the words “resist nothing,” as if spoken inside my chest. I could feel myself being sucked into a void. It felt as if the void was inside my self rather than outside. Suddenly there was no more fear, and I let myself fall into that void. I have no recollection of what happened after that.

I was awakened by the chirping of a bird outside the window. I had never heard such a sound before. My eyes were still closed, and I saw the image of a precious diamond. Yes, if a diamond could make a sound, this is what it would be like. I opened my eyes. The first light of dawn was filtering through the curtains. Without any thought, I felt, I knew, that there is infinitely more to light than we realise. That soft luminosity filtering through the curtains was love itself. Tears came into my eyes. I got up and walked around the room. I recognised the room, and yet I knew that I had never truly seen it before. Everything was fresh and pristine, as if it had just come into existence. I picked up things, a pencil, and empty bottle, marvelling at the beauty and aliveness of it all.

Enlightenment, what is that?
The word enlightenment conjures up the idea of some superhuman accomplishment, and the ego likes to keep it that way, but it is simply your natural state of felt oneness with Being. It is a state of connectedness with something immeasurable and indestructible, something that, almost paradoxically, is essentially you and yet is much greater than you. It is finding your true nature beyond name and form. The inability to feel this connectedness gives rise to the illusion of separation, from yourself and from the world around you. You then perceive yourself, consciously or unconsciously, as an isolated fragment. Fear arises, and conflict within and without becomes the norm.

I love the Buddha’s definition of enlightenment as “the end of suffering.” There is nothing superhuman in that, is there? Of course, as a definition, it is incomplete. It only tells you what it is not: no suffering. But what’s left when there is no more suffering. The Buddha is silent on that, and his silence implies that you’ll have to find out for yourself. He uses a negative definition so that the mind cannot make it into something to believe in or into a superhuman accomplishment, a goal that is impossible for you to attain. Despite this precaution, the majority of Buddhists still believe that enlightenment is for the Buddha, not for them, at least not in this lifetime.

What is enlightenment? It is valid to ask ourselves what is the state of enlightenment, even though we know we cannot actually answer the question. In certainty we know that it is simpler than we think it is, not less, but certainly not more than we imagine. In truth we must also know that it is easier to achieve than we imagine it to be, because it is a natural state, not an impossible one.
We know that it is a change of perception, yet so complete a change that it cannot be imagined or intellectually achieved, as though the whole premise or starting point is different. Our every thought and concept derive from a position of self, of unique identity. It is in all that we think and do. To conceive without self is so totally and completely alien to us that it is beyond comprehension. Enlightenment is revelatory because our sense of who we are has to be blown away in order to change the basis of perception.
Everything is simpler than we think it is. The aim is to bring into consciousness the simplicity of truth, without consciousness making it complex. In trying to understand and explain the simple becomes complicated. Words, images, symbols, explanations all assist us in communicating but cannot adequately communicate truth. If we can first comprehend the simplicity of truth then we are limited in understanding and explaining it.
Truth is simple, there is only one and truth is everything. To state this is easy but to know what it means is an incredible leap. To really know what it means, in its simplicity, is so far removed from our perception of reality and our comprehension of the world that it seems impossible.
Even though from experience we may know that there is only one, to perceive that in a conscious state is removed from our current perception. “I know the truth, but I cannot comprehend it”. Truth needs to be comprehended from a different standpoint that is not from a position of “I”.