Mudita Journal

An enlightened view of enlightenment

December 13, 2010 · Filed under: Adyashanti, Buddhism, Eckhart Tolle, Intellectual, Mindfulness

I haven’t written much on Mudita Journal about the concept of enlightenment, but it’s been in the background for me for several years, ever since I discovered the teachings of Adyashanti (and Eckhart Tolle, before him).

Perhaps I should write a post about it, sometime, for the benefit of those who are unfamiliar, who see it as a “mystical” concept, or who are skeptical that it has any value. Meantime, I know a few of my readers are acquainted with Adyashanti — or “Adya,” as students often call him — and his teachings.

In any case, a friend said the following to me today during a chat conversation, and it struck me as worth repeating:

nobody can choose to be enlightened

but spirituality is not so black and white

enlightenment is a gradient

even adya says the once and for all sudden enlightenment is extremely rare

it’s a gradual process of openings

that, i’m committed to

continuous opening

curiosity about my experience and how it unfolds

and all the great things that come about as a result: adventure, discovery, love, peace, etc

thats both a spiritual life, and a worldly life

Very well said — and something I agree with entirely.

  • For a secular view of enlightenment, you might want to explore these possible explanations:

    http://www.shaktitechnology.com/enlightenment.htm
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5474604744218568426#

    (Not necessarily agreeing to the contents of the links, but I believe they may be of interest and spin off further interesting thoughts)

  • I’m testing the Disqus commenting system now…

  • Svein Olav Nyberg

    For a secular view of enlightenment, you might want to explore these possible explanations:

    http://www.shaktitechnology.com/enlightenment.htm
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5474604744218568426#

    (Not necessarily agreeing to the contents of the links, but I believe they may be of interest and spin off further interesting thoughts)

  • Svein Olav Nyberg

    For a secular view of enlightenment, you might want to explore these possible explanations:

    http://www.shaktitechnology.com/enlightenment.htm
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5474604744218568426#

    (Not necessarily agreeing to the contents of the links, but I believe they may be of interest and spin off further interesting thoughts)

  • Anonymous

    Joshua, in the spirit of your inquiry, some worthy contemplations:

    Can the unenlightened discern who is and isn’t?

    How can the unenlightened make any claim with veracity that his guru is enlightened?

    By what criteria can one say “I am enlightened” or “John is an enlightened being?” How are the rest of us who are not enlightened able to discern the veracity or meaning of the declarations?

    People engage in practices and disciplines with a goal to be enlightened. Being unenlightened, how can they know that becoming enlightened is a worthwhile goal? How will they know when they have achieved enlightenment; i.e. how can they discern with certain knowledge that their perceived enlightenment isn’t illusory?

    How will their lives be different or how will they be different when they have achieved a state change from unenlightened to enlightened?

    If enlightenment is a gradient, what are the discernible gradations? How can the unenlightened know that anyone defining gradations has any idea about what they are talking about? When the unenlightened are presented with differing gradations by different individuals declaring their enlightenment, how does the unenlightened decide which, if any, of the declared gradations are real.

    Why should someone struggle to become enlightened?

    On what basis can the unenlightened suggest that it is worthwhile for others to invest some or all of their lives in becoming enlightened?

    If nobody can choose to be enlightened, on what basis can it be claimed that practice to become enlightened has any value? What IS the value?

    If nobody can choose to enlightened, is it unreasonable to assume that becoming enlightened is simply a matter of random chance, somewhat like winning the lottery, or being blessed? If this is not a reasonable assumption, what would be, for the unenlightened, a reasonable one?

    These questions are not offered to ridicule ideas about enlightenment or to make assertions or declarations about enlightenment one way or the other. They are meant as contemplations. Perhaps it is unfair, but I would generally tend to suppose that anyone promptly offering and defending answers hasn’t contemplated much. Being unenlightened, however, I can’t assert I’ve really got grounds to challenge. How could I know? On what basis can I judge the quality and accuracy of their assertions and declarations?

    : – )

    • Does the subject interest you much, Byron, on a personal level? If so, I’d be curious to know why.

      • Anonymous

        Joshua,

        An appropriate response, two appropriate questions.

        The answer to the first question: It interests me sufficiently to have been engaged with these questions with varying degrees of intensity for almost the entirety of my life. I am 62 years old. In my engagement I have participated with thousands of others likewise engaged in their own and varying ways.

        The answer to the second question, not meant to be flip or toying, is “I don’t know”. Another answer I can offer is “Because I am.” These answers may not be helpful and may appear shallow and disingenuous. But they best characterize where I’ve landed contemplating your second question for thousands and thousands of hours.

        I make no claims to enlightenment nor make any claims to having anything of value to offer to your conversation. I do have personal experiences, observations, and questions.

        Best,
        Byron

        • What are the nature of your personal questions? Or are they the ones you asked above?

          Have you read anything by people who make a (credible) claim to enlightenment?

          I’ve gotten a lot out of Eckhart Tolle (Power of Now), Jed McKenna (Spiritual Enlightenment: The Damnedest Thing), and Adyashanti (Spontaneous Awakening). I can speak to what I’ve learned from them and in my own life, but was just first trying to get a sense of your frame of reference and the depth of your interest and/or skepticism.

          What do you take enlightenment to be, insofar as people like that say they are enlightened?

          • Anonymous

            Hi Joshua: taking your questions in order:

            1. Exploration of the Self (as a loose way of saying it). Certainly they are among the questions I have asked myself and others. I find them helpful questions when rigorously addressed. My observation is these are obvious questions that have value for any exploration into ideas about enlightenment yet are rarely engaged, Their value isn’t in finding a right answer. Their value, if there is any, is in seriously pondering them.

            2. I have encountered dozens of people including famous and acknowledged masters in their traditions and disciplines who claim to be enlightened and who other people claim are enlightened. I do not personally know if their claims are credible. I can say many of them are without a doubt incredible people. I have been fortunate to encounter them in person or through their writings.

            3. A lifetime of engagement may be taken as expressing a considerable depth of interest. I seem prone to skepticism, but the questions are not meant to invite or express skepticism. They are REAL questions, unambiguous, thoughtfully asked and thoughtfully expressed. .

            4. Making no claims to it, I am not sure what I take enlightenment to be “insofar as people like these who say they are enlightened”. I can say I have had experiences that are often described throughout history as moments of enlightenment. These are common themes such as being connected to everything in the universe, to being one with all, to being everything and nothing, to seeing myself in all others, to being stripped of all desire, feelings of seemingly eternal bliss, acceptance of all that is, surrender, and such. As experiences, they are transient. Let’s call them places I have visited. Likewise I have visited other places that would not normally be described as enlightenment experiences, like hate, envy, jealousy, desires for vengeance, seemingly endless torment, intolerance for anything and everything, extreme pettiness, cowardice, being disconnected from everything in the universe, being a transient “thing”, and of course, everything else that people experience day in and day out – the normal experiences common to everyday people every day. I do not view any of the preceding as exceptional or abnormal. These seem common experiences to most people in varying degrees of length and intensity over the course of a lifetime and seemingly, for some people I have met, over the course of week. Having said that, putting all else aside, my general demeanor seems to be gratefulness for being. I land their a lot.

            Personally I believe I have benefited enormously from engaging in these questions and with all these various people. I owe much of my general well being to their being, expressions and efforts. I would encourage anyone to explore, with the most valuable exploration being to challenge your most cherished beliefs, to challenge in yourself (forget about others) every premise that you believe to be true rather than investing your life in shoring up what you believe or are certain is true. I’m not saying to change your beliefs willy-nilly or to not act in accordance with your beliefs. I’m suggesting a particular kind of walking meditation – taking the lead challenging your fundamental premises. One way of doing this is sympathetically exploring the thoughts of others whose beliefs you find challenging or threatening, a meditation attempting to see the world through their eyes. I digress here a bit into particulars rather than generalities, but maybe it puts some flesh on the bones since you asked about me.

            As the author of this subject here, what about you, paraphrasing the questions you have asked me? How would you answer?

            Best,
            Byron

  • byroncallas

    Joshua, in the spirit of your inquiry, some worthy contemplations:

    Can the unenlightened discern who is and isn’t?

    How can the unenlightened make any claim with veracity that his guru is enlightened?

    By what criteria can one say “I am enlightened” or “John is an enlightened being?” How are the rest of us who are not enlightened able to discern the veracity or meaning of the declarations?

    People engage in practices and disciplines with a goal to be enlightened. Being unenlightened, how can they know that becoming enlightened is a worthwhile goal? How will they know when they have achieved enlightenment; i.e. how can they discern with certain knowledge that their perceived enlightenment isn’t illusory?

    How will their lives be different or how will they be different when they have achieved a state change from unenlightened to enlightened?

    If enlightenment is a gradient, what are the discernible gradations? How can the unenlightened know that anyone defining gradations has any idea about what they are talking about? When the unenlightened are presented with differing gradations by different individuals declaring their enlightenment, how does the unenlightened decide which, if any, of the declared gradations are real.

    Why should someone struggle to become enlightened?

    On what basis can the unenlightened suggest that it is worthwhile for others to invest some or all of their lives in becoming enlightened?

    If nobody can choose to be enlightened, on what basis can it be claimed that practice to become enlightened has any value? What IS the value?

    If nobody can choose to enlightened, is it unreasonable to assume that becoming enlightened is simply a matter of random chance, somewhat like winning the lottery, or being blessed? If this is not a reasonable assumption, what would be, for the unenlightened, a reasonable one?

    These questions are not offered to ridicule ideas about enlightenment or to make assertions or declarations about enlightenment one way or the other. They are meant as contemplations. Perhaps it is unfair, but I would generally tend to suppose that anyone promptly offering and defending answers hasn’t contemplated much. Being unenlightened, however, I can’t assert I’ve really got grounds to challenge. How could I know? On what basis can I judge the quality and accuracy of their assertions and declarations?

    : – )

    • Does the subject interest you much, Byron, on a personal level? If so, I’d be curious to know why.

      • byroncallas

        Joshua,

        An appropriate response, two appropriate questions.

        The answer to the first question: It interests me sufficiently to have been engaged with these questions with varying degrees of intensity for almost the entirety of my life. I am 62 years old. In my engagement I have participated with thousands of others likewise engaged in their own and varying ways.

        The answer to the second question, not meant to be flip or toying, is “I don’t know”. Another answer I can offer is “Because I am.” These answers may not be helpful and may appear shallow and disingenuous. But they best characterize where I’ve landed contemplating your second question for thousands and thousands of hours.

        I make no claims to enlightenment nor make any claims to having anything of value to offer to your conversation. I do have personal experiences, observations, and questions.

        Best,
        Byron

        • What are the nature of your personal questions? Or are they the ones you asked above?

          Have you read anything by people who make a (credible) claim to enlightenment?

          I’ve gotten a lot out of Eckhart Tolle (Power of Now), Jed McKenna (Spiritual Enlightenment: The Damnedest Thing), and Adyashanti (Spontaneous Awakening). I can speak to what I’ve learned from them and from my own experiences, but was just first trying to get a sense of your frame of reference and the depth of your interest and/or skepticism.

          What do you take enlightenment to be, insofar as people like these say they are enlightened?

          • byroncallas

            Hi Joshua: taking your questions in order:

            1. Exploration of the Self (as a loose way of saying it). Certainly they are among the questions I have asked myself and others. I find them helpful questions when rigorously addressed. My observation is these are obvious questions that have value for any exploration into ideas about enlightenment yet are rarely engaged, Their value isn’t in finding a right answer. Their value, if there is any, is in seriously pondering them.

            2. I have encountered dozens of people including famous and acknowledged masters in their traditions and disciplines who claim to be enlightened and who other people claim are enlightened. I do not personally know if their claims are credible. I can say many of them are without a doubt incredible people. I have been fortunate to encounter them in person or through their writings.

            3. A lifetime of engagement may be taken as expressing a considerable depth of interest. I seem prone to skepticism, but the questions are not meant to invite or express skepticism. They are REAL questions, unambiguous, thoughtfully asked and thoughtfully expressed. .

            4. Making no claims to it, I am not sure what I take enlightenment to be “insofar as people like these who say they are enlightened”. I can say I have had experiences that are often described throughout history as moments of enlightenment. These are common themes such as being connected to everything in the universe, to being one with all, to being everything and nothing, to seeing myself in all others, to being stripped of all desire, feelings of seemingly eternal bliss, acceptance of all that is, surrender, and such. As experiences, they are transient. Let’s call them places I have visited. Likewise I have visited other places that would not normally be described as enlightenment experiences, like hate, envy, jealousy, desires for vengeance, seemingly endless torment, intolerance for anything and everything, extreme pettiness, cowardice, being disconnected from everything in the universe, being a transient “thing”, and of course, everything else that people experience day in and day out – the normal experiences common to everyday people every day. I do not view any of the preceding as exceptional or abnormal. These seem common experiences to most people in varying degrees of length and intensity over the course of a lifetime and seemingly, for some people I have met, over the course of week. Having said that, putting all else aside, my general demeanor seems to be gratefulness for being. I land their a lot.

            Personally I believe I have benefited enormously from engaging in these questions and with all these various people. I owe much of my general well being to their being, expressions and efforts. I would encourage anyone to explore, with the most valuable exploration being to challenge your most cherished beliefs, to challenge in yourself (forget about others) every premise that you believe to be true rather than investing your life in shoring up what you believe or are certain is true. I’m not saying to change your beliefs willy-nilly or to not act in accordance with your beliefs. I’m suggesting a particular kind of walking meditation – taking the lead challenging your fundamental premises. One way of doing this is sympathetically exploring the thoughts of others whose beliefs you find challenging or threatening, a meditation attempting to see the world through their eyes. I digress here a bit into particulars rather than generalities, but maybe it puts some flesh on the bones since you asked about me.

            As the author of this subject here, what about you, paraphrasing the questions you have asked me? How would you answer?

            Best,
            Byron