Rather than reading about enlightenment, each person has to clarify what he
or she understands it to be. I would say that the more you know yourself, to
that degree you are enlightened. If you really know yourself, you might know
that you are not able to put everything into perfect action to the satisfaction
of other people. But you are not here to please other people, to project an
image. Enlightenment in that sense has as many levels as awareness.
The other term we can use is Liberation. If you can liberate yourself and if
you welcome anybody who helps you to liberate yourself from your limitations,
you have already achieved a degree of understanding. There is no enlightenment
without understanding. But if you immediately shrink back and react instantly
when someone points out a weakness, you can be sure your ego is involved. Give
yourself time to overcome that spontaneous, immediate reaction. You have to
accept your reactions, but you don?t want to carry them around for the
rest of your life. You also have to accept your own divinity.
In other words, you first have to honestly admit where you are. If you don?t
know yourself, how can you be enlightened? Naturally your understanding of yourself
will become more than a psychological knowing. You will become more open to
Divine inspiration and eventually to a wisdom that radiates from other sources
to which, by your own efforts, you have made yourself available.
Liberation is an ongoing process, not an end state. It is a refinement, which
language cannot express fully. It is like going down into a mine and finding
diamonds. In their original, rough state, the diamonds are not beautiful and
sparkling, and you may not even recognize them at first. They have to be cleaned,
cut and polished. On the individual human level, cutting and polishing is the
process that may seem to grind away your strength, energy, mental and emotional
powers and endurance. But, upon reflection, the same events that could wear
you down can actually contribute to greater clarity if you have the good will
to observe the potential and to learn about yourself. Besides good will, you
need to take action based on what you learn, and to recognize that there is
wisdom in insecurity. All the senses have to be sharpened and developed to grow
to a point of being truly useful. And we need to develop the sense of discrimination.
The path of Liberation is an extremely difficult one. Different incidents will
occur and as we tackle one area, we lose sight of another. When we are unskilled,
we may use an axe when we need a fine scalpel. Learning takes time, and before
we?ve learned one thing the next is already demanding our attention. How
do we retain what we have already learned? It?s not so different from
trying to keep track of essential information in our modern information age
when there is a barrage of input. We may think we need to specialize, but the
moment we do we lose the input that may be relevant at some later date.
In the beginning it may appear impossible to manage this challenge of continuous
learning, but again we have to look at an example from ordinary life. When we
learn to drive a car, there are so many aspects to pay attention to ?
the handling of the car itself, the mechanical side, looking into the rear-view
mirror, watching the street and the traffic. In the beginning it feels as if
we?re trying to be in too many places at once. Yet eventually driving
becomes easy and smooth. What seemed impossible is achieved. It is the same
on the path of Liberation. Awareness will expand.
Self-reflection is very important. You may do mantra, meditation, Hatha Yoga,
all of the spiritual practices, but if it doesn?t settle in the depths
of the mind, the lotus will not make even one shoot. Many gymnasts and figure
skaters move beautifully; why don?t they have realization? Reflection
is essential. Any practice will have little result if it becomes an automatic
routine. Use mantra chanting to express your emotions and as a way to let go
of your intellect. Say to the Divine, ?Here I am. You have given me these
feelings. I have not handled them right. I need help.? That is where humility
comes in. If you don?t have humility, somebody else will have to come
along and humiliate you in front of others. If that happens, instead of getting
angry, see if you can thank that person for being Divine Mother?s instrument
in liberating you from your monkey mind.
The power that we obtain through mantra or meditation is neutral, and what you
do with this power is entirely your decision and your responsibility ?
an awesome responsibility. You will come to the edge more than once in your
spiritual life where you can switch this power into the opposite. And this is
why your commitment is so very important. In the proportion to your commitment,
grace will sustain you. If the ego takes over, your so-called enlightenment
means nothing. All the power that is acquired ? and many people have very
strong, powerful personalities ? is hooked into the ego and self-will.
So the responsibility is entirely the individual?s. Sticking to your commitment
means really dealing with your ego and self-will. It?s as simple as that.
And there is nobody and no power that can release you from that responsibility.
In my first few years as a sanyasin I read the eighteenth discourse of the Bhagavad
Gita many times, and tried to motivate everyone with Krishna?s words:
?If you will fix your mind on me, and devote yourself to me, you will
come to me.? We can use whatever words are in fashion: concentration,
focus, imagination and visualization, but they all fall into the same category
of really being present with what you are doing.
The Light, the life force, is permanent. Everything else is impermanent. The
energy that sustains the whole universe can take all shapes and forms. We give
that energy shape and form through our speech and actions. See what an awesome
power you really have?