I Hope you all are faring well and having a wonderful day. This week is a very special week for gaudiya Vaisnava’s around the world because Thursday marks the appearance day of the Supreme Lord on this planet over 5000 years ago.
It was my original plan to write about the descent of the Lord on this planet however just yesterday a friend requested that I kindly write something about Enlightenment, so I readily complied as it is my duty to serve you all by writing on whatever topics you need clarification on.
He asked about three specific questions viz. what is enlightenment? How is it attained? How can it be sustained or maintained?
Before we proceed I must say it is imperative that I say I’ll try my best to speak on this subject matter with the use of less technical jargons, especially words in sanskrit as my audience is diverse. Bearing this in mind I hope my gaudiya Vaisnava readers excuse me if they find more of English based references.
Without further ado, let us look at the term Enlightenment.
To Enlighten someone means to clarify an idea, to expose details, to reveal information etc about a particular subject matter. When someone has thus been enlightened he is said to have achieved some enlightenment on that particular subject matter. There is a famous sanskrit proverb which says tamasi ma jyoti gamaya; meaning step out of darkness and come to light. So the question we should naturally ask is what is darkness and what is light? Only after understanding these two concepts can we proceed to get information on the “light” and thus become Enlightened. In simple words, darkness is nescience, or ignorance and Godhead is light. Darkness and Light can not exist side by side, thus ignorance and wisdom can not coexist.
So what is Enlightenment from a spiritual or metaphysical perspective? Call it Enlightenment, or samadhi, or salvation, or self realization, the name only differs but the essence is more or less to achieve something beyond the physical. Now it is worthy to clarify that there are different levels of enlightenment based on different levels of realization, also according to ones spiritual practice.
For some, enlightenment means going to heaven, for some it means acquiring mystic opulences, for some it means merging into the impersonal aspect of the Supreme being and for some like we gaudiya Vaisnavas, it means becoming self realized. Becoming self realized means understanding who we are in our eternal spiritual constitution and thus serving the Lord eternally in that capacity.
Due to the fact that this exposition is for a wider audience most of which are non gaudiya Vaisnavas, I would restrain from speaking about the esoteric confidential aspect of gaudiya “enlightenment” and thus speak from a general perspective that we all can follow from. I hope this doesn’t offend anyone.
Furthermore, the next question follows suit; how is it attained? To properly answer this question, I’ll quickly narrate a short story about Buddha. Once a disciple came to Him and asked ” Master how can I attain Enlightenment? ” ( It is worthy to note that the Enlightenment of Buddhist consists of merging into the impersonal aspect of the Supreme, and this story is more about the importance of the process. We as gaudiya Vaisnavas respect everyone however we do not adhere to this particular type of Enlightenment).
Buddha replied, ” Tomorrow come with me to the sea, I’ll show you how”. The disciple been extremely happy went home and could hardly wait for the next day, in his mind Buddha was going to show him some magic or miracle or something of that nature but there was more in store for him.
The next day he was there at first sun light,and Buddha took him into the ocean up to about chest deep level. He grab his disciple’s neck and shoved it under the water, held it there for about 10 secs brought out his head and asked him, ” would you like to have a house? The disciple could barely even talk, again he shoved his head back and held for a little longer. He pulled him out and asked, would you like to have a beautiful girl? The disciple was confused, breathless and shocked, unable to even breathe talk less of speak, again for the last time Buddha shoved his head again underneath the water. He brought him out and asked ” would like to have some money?” Now his disciple was almost out of breathe and practically passing out. Buddha pulled him back ashore and after he regained his breathe, Buddha looked at him and asked. ” when I dipped your head underneath the water, what was on your mind? The disciple who was amidst shock, breathlessness and confusion said, “Master the only thing I Could think of was air. How could you possibly ask me if I wanted all those things when I was clearly drowning? Buddha smiled and replied, “Exactly, when your desire to achieve Enlightenment becomes so strong that it is all you think of and all you want, then you can attain it, not otherwise.
The moral of the story, enlightenment is not something we achieve by sitting in a few yoga poses, or attending a few spiritual functions, or just going to temples, churches or mosques. It is attained when we live, breathe and think about it as our topmost priority. Now thinking alone wont help, but then we approach those who are enlightened, tad viddi pranipatena, we approach a spiritual master who can guide us. Why? Jnanina tattva darsina, the spiritual master has seen the truth about enlightenment and can show us. For gaudiya Vaisnavas, attainment of “enlightenment” starts with vaidhi sadhana bhakti, or regulated spiritual practices and then culminates in Ragamarga bhajan, or Raganuga shadana bhakti, spontaneous devotional practice. Similarly anyone in any spiritual disposition must learn patiently from all the masters in that religion how they attained enlightenment. In the Bible,one of the nine beatitudes says, ” blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God”. So the criteria is set, thus naturally we should strive to become pure in heart. How..? Knowing what is good action and what is forbidden action?(One can refer to my last two post on yama/ niyama for a little guidance on this.)
Last but not least, my friend asked how can Enlightenment be sustained or maintained? By accepting those things favorable for our quest of enlightenment, which is to ultimately serve the Supreme Lord and by rejecting all those things unfavorable towards the service of the Lord. Anukulyasa sankalpa, pratikulasya sangraha.
This topic is a very interesting one and we definitely cannot do justice to it in just 1000 words, however in order not to make this too lengthy I’ll stop here and hopefully expanciate more if my friend asks specific questions later on.
Thank you for the questions, Saso I appreciate. Thanks to all my readers and subscribers for tuning in every week and following my blog. Please do share this with family and friends.
Till next week, do have a blissful week ahead.