- Dec 28, 2006I thought this was interesting.
VivekEnlightenment has been an important subject for many people for a very long time. Those who are deeply interested in the meaning of life, the spiritual search, and religious teachings, have been questioning what it is all about. Centuries of trying to understand what those who seemed to be enlightened have had to say about it, has led most people to totally misunderstand what it is. It cannot be understood with the conditioned mind. It has to be experienced directly to have any real understanding of it. However, even those who have had a taste of it can still mislead themselves and others if they do not have a framework of understanding before they have an experience of enlightenment. Of course enlightenment can never be put in any framework, but if one understands the root cause of why we are not all enlightened it can be far more clearly understood and communicated to others who are interested.I can say this out of my own experience of enlightenment. Even to say I had an enlightenment experience is misleading. There is no one to have such an experience, there is just reality seen clearly without the illusion of self in the way. Our language is dualistic and not very helpful in expressing that which is whole and complete. So please bare with me and keep in mind this problem of language.In the fall of 1970, after having spent a few years of trying to understand our relationship to the spiritual, but not really understanding much, and I had never heard of enlightenment in the spiritual sense, I had an awakening. It was a time of tremendous change and I was living a very counterculture lifestyle. My family and I were staying in a converted school bus/motor home in a beautiful State Park on the coast of Northern California. In hindsight, it is clear that the mind was ripe for a breakthrough. One night I walked with my wife over to the restroom. As I waited out side, I was drinking in the magical beauty of the forest. I felt an intuitive feeling that this one tree wanted me to go to it. It was a very powerful feeling. So, I walked over to it. As I stood there, the same intuitive energy clearly said to smell the tree. I bent over and inhaled deeply the wonderful fragrance of moss and damp bark. Half way through the inhalation the mind just turned inside out and I knew without any doubt that I was one with the Universe, that I had never been anything other than this totality of life. It was not just an insight or feeling. It was a transformation of everything I had ever thought or felt about reality. It was also a state of complete joy and love.This state lasted for about two weeks, then gradually became normal again. Not that the feeling/knowledge of oneness changed but life was back as it was before. If I had stayed at that level of insight, it would have been wonderful in itself. However, this mind is always probing and trying to go deeper into everything. The experience left the mind with more questions that could not be answered with the mind as it was. So the search went on to try to find more answers. Some teachers say to stop looking for answers, to just let go, but in my experience it is very difficult to let go when you do not understand why you should. It is a letting go that is needed and if you can just do that and free the mind that easily then do so. We each teach from the perspective that worked in our lives. So I go into these things from the perspective of my life experience. Ultimately it is always letting go that frees us from the dream of ego.For eight years the mind went into every aspect of the human condition and the way the mind works. I observed how conditioned everyone's mind was, how we were so locked into beliefs that made no sense at all. I looked at all the violence, hatred, and racism taking place everywhere in the world. This was not just a mental search. I have been blessed with a very strong intuition and learn more from that level than the thinking mind. But even the thinking mind opens to a much deeper level of understanding and creativity after awakening. The thinking surface mind can let go and drop far deeper into a state of Wisdom than the thinking mind could ever reach.After that eight-year search, and having had many other deep insights into our reality, I was living in the woods with my family. I had been working hard for many weeks developing a spring fed water system, starting a garden, and clearing a building site for a new home. Then I just relaxed for a week or so. One day I started having this feeling like I was being pushed out of myself. It was, and still is, impossible to really express to others what I was feeling. I couldn't even understand it. It was not a comfortable feeling at all. It went on for three days, getting worse in the evenings. Each evening we would have a campfire and sit around it talking about all the things we found interesting and all of our plans with this new property we had bought. But during those three days, all I could think of was this powerful feeling. It just would not let up.On the third night, it got so bad I could not sleep. In the middle of the night I got out of bed, got in my car, and drove a mile or two to a high hill over looking the small town below. I sat there trying to understand what this was but nothing came to me. It got so bad for a moment I felt like driving off the steep hillside and ending my suffering. I could not do that. I had people who depended on me and needed me. So, I went back home and back to bed. After a couple of hours, I fell asleep.When the eyes opened the next morning I was Awake! The person who went to bed was dead, the ego that is. In its place was Life Itself, Awareness Itself. This was not a momentary insight that left a deep understanding, as had happened eight years prior. It was a total revolution. The ego was dead; I had become nothing, yet that nothing was everything in the Universe. Every moment was a powerful insight. The brain did not have to work at all. In fact, when thinking did take place it was as though it was a ghost image off in the far distance and was rarely paid any attention. Unlike the first awakening that only lasted a few moments with two weeks of transformation, this was every moment from the time the eyes opened early in the morning until they closed in bed late that night.This state lasted, in varying degrees, about two years. I would get very busy doing some project and would not pay much attention to it for awhile, but then it would reappear. After that two years it just became the normal state for most of the time. I will go into more detail later.The process of awakening is an on going one as well as an instantaneous enlightenment. I am still learning from day to day and it has been 25 years since the dream of ego died. What have I learned during all this time, and from the Awakening itself? I will go into it as best I can. Keep in mind that the words only point to something beyond any reality the conditioned mind could ever understand, yet it is completely simple.There is a lot of misunderstanding about enlightenment. There, understandably, are too many people thinking about cosmic and mystical experiences connected to their ideas of what enlightenment is. This misunderstanding has been perpetuated by would be gurus and writers on the subject who have not awakened themselves. It is like the carrot on a string in front of the donkey pulling the cart, while the gurus ride the cart at their student's expense. There are many so-called mystical experiences one can have but they have little or nothing to do with enlightenment.Many people tend to put all sorts of psychic experiences into the same box with enlightenment. This, too, is a mistake. Just as the ones who try to fit the latest findings of physics into it. I have been very psychic both before and after awakening, but it clearly has no relationship with enlightenment.Chanting, praying, or following some religion is meaningless to enlightenment. Meditation of the Zen flavor can help quiet the mind so it can see more clearly, which may be of some aid to awakening. I did not meditate, chant and certainly did not follow any religion. Religion is a part of the ego dream and has nothing to do with reality. I will go into this more deeply in another part of this site.I also never had a teacher. Throughout history there have only been a few really good teachers. Today we have more claiming to be teachers who clearly have not awakened unless you call a spiritual hiccup awakening. For the most part they are so-called Moon Buddha's; reflecting what they have read or heard but with no real experience. It seems like many, too many, of the teachers today are what I call Conclusionists. They have a mental picture of what it is all about and plant these images into the minds of their students. Then the students come to a conclusion, which makes them high for a moment, and they think they are awake. Enlightenment is never a conclusion. It has nothing to do with the thinking mind. Except the clear need to go beyond it.Enlightenment has no words. It is never an image of any kind. It is not in time, it has to be now. It is a direct seeing into Reality as Reality Itself. It can never be named or expressed in anyway. It is in a totally different category than anything the mind is used to. It is Pure Awareness, Pure Wisdom, Pure Simple Life, with out the shadow of the conditioned mind. It is not other than what you see before you, yet it goes beyond all objectivity and subjectivity. It is a clear seeing of how the mind has separated itself into fragments of images, ideas, concepts, beliefs, and dreams. That is what dies, that is ego.When one has truly awakened you need no confirmation from anyone else. You know beyond a shadow of a doubt what has happened and it is completely clear that it is an Awakening. I recently read about this 15th century Zen master, who had an awakening, or so he thought, and afterward went all over Japan looking for someone to confirm it. If he had really awakened, he would not have needed to do that. He was a Conclusionist and that is how he taught what he felt he knew.Too often people believe all sorts of nonsense about those who have become Enlightened. They think that somehow these "Awakened Ones" are so holy and beyond the normal human being. This is not true. An Enlightened person is just a person who has awakened to the facts, as they have always been, no more. People seem to think the Enlightened are infallible and perfect in every way. Not so. They are whole and complete but they are just human beings, no better and no worse than anyone else. They make mistakes, make fools of themselves, and most of the things all people do from time to time. They cannot see anything as being outside of their Being. They cannot hate or cause harm to anyone, they do have more compassion than most other humans, they do not get lost in mindless dreams or beliefs, they are secure, and for the most part happy.I have a page out of a Zen calendar that reads," When the ordinary man attains knowledge, he is a sage; when a sage attains understanding, he is an ordinary man." Enlightened people are ordinary people. Not perfect, but who cares?Melvyn Wartella
Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.
Vivek Ramakrishnan Ph.D.
Technology Transfer Fellow
Office of Technology Transfer, Suite 325
National Institute of Health
Rockville MD, 20852
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