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What Is Enlightenment?
Alex: Hello, James.
First, I want to tell you that I love you. Now I need to tell you that I am enlightened. I don’t need to do anything. I will know what has to be done when something needs to be done. You have said that you will help me spread the truth but first you need to know what I know. Now I know everything. I want to know your plan for me. Now, as I am writing this I realize that you were waiting for the plan to become clear after you had evaluated me.
One other thing that I want to tell you is that your idea that a man is not enlightened until his self-knowledge is complete is entirely wrong. Enlightenment is the moment when a person realizes there is no danger. This moment is unique and unrelated to anything else. Enlightenment is a very good word because it describes this moment just as it is. An enlightened man is hard to recognize because enlightenment is connected to an invisible process in man’s development. It does not change the behavior of the person. But that person is able to tell others that there is no existential danger.
Your idea that you first have to realize that you cannot help before you help is also wrong. An enlightened person will not be affected, because he knows the whole world is an illusion. This is impossible for an unenlightened person. The impact of an enlightened person is often profound on an unenlightened person. An unenlightened person lives in fear; he can feel it. When he meets an enlightened person, he feels a powerful effect.
The realization of the self is not something to be desired, it is the end of the ego’s game, and an unenlightened person is terrified. Something horrific has to happen for someone to get enlightened. Once you get enlightened, you have no choice but to realize that you are realized.
You said, “Great!,” when I told you I am realized. I do not share your excitement.
You and I are the same. I don’t think we will talk though. I love you at a personal level to. A personal love is a great thing, but in order for it to be enjoyed it has to happen spontaneously. If you love a person, you love them the way they are. You don’t feel the need to change them. Even one word from you means that you want them to change. I love you but I cannot do anything except to enjoy that love. If I try to do something with it, it goes away.
James: That’s all very cool, Alex. I’m happy to be wrong. I love you too.
How about the view that there are no enlightened beings because there is only one being- – existence/awareness? According to this view, if someone says they are enlightened it is their ego claiming enlightenment for itself. If you are the Self, you would never say you got enlightened, because you have always been the light of existence/awareness, the “light.” I think that if someone goes around saying it to others, he or she is suffering enlightenment sickness!
Isn’t that a good one?! Of course this does not apply to you. I agree completely with you because you seem to know so much more about enlightenment than I do that I thought that I would humbly ask your opinion about this. Here is my doubt: If you got enlightened at some point, your enlightenment is going to end because anything that begins ends. Or put another way, if you think you were not enlightened before, then you cannot be enlightened now, because there is only one self and it is not a person. So are you a person who is enlightened or are you the limitless, eternal, non-dual awareness, the “light”? I’m just a little confused and I need you to help me toward full enlightenment.
Alex: Sorry for keeping you waiting for my answer, but being enlightened is a new reality and I had to figure out how to answer. It is a wonderful question you have. Well, every human being is trying to reach perfection, no matter what their spiritual status is. A person who is realized enjoys the experience of being human and takes life as it is. The realized person will enjoy the world until his last minute of life and then he will enjoy it in whatever state he will have after.
Now, let’s get back to the reaching perfection that we were talking about. The real self is not looking for perfection, because he cannot be convinced that he is not complete. Everything else is trying to complete itself.
An enlightened person will be able to check himself and see that he is enlightened. He will choose to share his conclusion about his enlightenment – or not. Whether he chooses to share or not depends on the moment. If it becomes obvious that he should, then he will. If he considers that he might give false hope to someone in their quest for enlightenment or that people will only like him personally, he will not do it.
James: I am saying that an enlightened person should not share with others unless he is asked about his state. As you can see from your own experience on the internet, people just think you are another spiritual nut case. How is anybody going to know what your actual experience and knowledge is? Experience does not transfer from one person to another. It stays with the person. And if it does, it doesn’t last, because no experience lasts. And when you set out to tell others, they immediately understand that you have an agenda. A lot of people who have epiphanies like yours do feel genuine compassion for the suffering of others, but how is anyone to know that you are not just trying to make some kind of career as a guru, which is what most of this kind of “enlightened” people do?
Alex: An unenlightened person thinks it is wrong to say you are enlightened for reasons known only to them, but an enlightened person does not have that concern. If an enlightened person thinks he should do something, he does it. He does not think about the morality of his actions, although he still has a sense of what is good or bad. For a realized person, everything is pure. Desire is desire, hate is hate, action is action; he does not think love is good and hate is bad.
James: I agree with your statements about the purity of intent of a truly enlightened person and the non-attached way he views his or her emotions, but what about the self-deluded enlightened people? I have been in the spiritual world for a very long time, and my experience is that most of those people who claim they are enlightened are self-deluded. Look at how Osho and Da Free John and many others ended up. If someone realizes outside of an established tradition – they had no proper guru who could point out the errors in the way they were thinking – they will imagine that the experience of enlightenment is something great and special – and it is, in many ways (and in other ways it is nothing special), and they will make a fatal mistake – they will think that they are very special because of this experience. But the truth is that whatever experience they had did not come from them at all. It was the grace of God, and if anyone should get credit it is God, not the realized person. Usually, when a young person has some kind of deep experience, his or her mind still has unconscious content – even Ramana Maharshi sat in caves for twenty years after his enlightenment, purifying his mind of what ignorance was left. He did not rush off to the internet to “help” people. He kept to himself. This is the proper way.
And finally, the idea that if an enlightened person feels like hurting someone else, thinking that it has no effect on him because he is the Self, and goes ahead and does it, is completely bogus because he or she has nothing to gain by breaking dharma. Individuals, enlightened or not, only do actions because they stand to gain from the results.
Alex: I was able to get enlightened without knowing what enlightenment meant.
James: If I go out in the street and say that I am enlightened, people ask me, what does it mean to say I am enlightened? It means whatever a person wants it to mean. What does “America” mean? It means what you think it means. What does the word “Alex” mean? What does it refer to? When I see you I do not see an Alex. I see a conscious being in a body. Nothing more. Enlightenment is like that. It is simply a concept that anyone can project anything onto. In the East they have had spiritual freaks running around claiming all sorts of ridiculous things for thousands of years and they know that just saying you are enlightened is not a sign that you are enlightened. In fact the holy books say that the one who says he is enlightened is not enlightened. If he was enlightened, why would he feel the need to say it? Think about it, Alex. Who cares? Enlightenment means that you are non-dual, limitless existence/consciousness for whom there are no others.
Alex: Those Indian guys that you are talking about are killing the subject of enlightenment. They say that if you are enlightened you will not talk about enlightenment and if the enlightened can be only be recognized by another enlightened being. So there is nobody to recognize them. I don’t think that it is wrong to kill the subject of enlightenment. It is only fear. God is something that cannot be talked about, and enlightenment and realization are very close to that. So if you would choose not to talk about enlightenment, you would be close to being fair. But the subject of enlightenment creates joy for so many people that I hope it won’t be killed.
James: I agree, but there is a way to talk about it that does not involve telling people that YOU are enlightened. You did not actually answer my question, however. Let me try again. What do you think about my idea that if you got enlightened at some point your enlightenment is going to end because anything that begins ends? Or put another way, if you think you were not enlightened before, then you cannot be enlightened now, because there is only one self and it is not a person. So are you a person who is enlightened or are you the limitless, eternal, non-dual awareness?
Alex: I would like to comment on the following from your previous email: “They say that enlightenment is the realization that you are the Self, and the Self would never say that it got enlightened, because it was always enlightened.”
By saying that a realized person would not do something, you are saying that a realized person will restrain himself from enjoying life to the fullest. I assure you that it is not the case. Created form was made to be enjoyed. God got bored of enjoying his perfection and now he is enjoying every one of his parts.
James: I agree, but there is a problem with this. What if an enlightened person enjoys hurting others? He is beyond good and evil. He is free. He can do whatever gives him pleasure, so why won’t he injure others, if this gives him pleasure? But if you take the Vedic view of enlightenment, you don’t run into this problem, because an “enlightened person” is actually the Self, not a person that is subject to pleasure and pain. So “he” or “she” would have nothing to gain by seeking pleasure or inflicting pain. Finally, being the Self means that you are limitless pleasure (paramasukka in Sanskrit). So there is no way you can add any pleasure to the pleasure of being who you are.
If I accept your view of enlightenment, I will have to justify all the suffering caused by enlightened people just doing what they feel like doing, usually in the name of helping them.
James (from the previous email): “…you are so very confident that Alex got enlightened.”
Alex: I am not confident that Alex got enlightened, but it is the only way I can talk about it. God has only one state, which people cannot understand. There is nothing to say. If you want to be right, say nothing.
James: That is exactly my point. You should actually be ashamed to claim that you are enlightened because it only calls attention to a long stay in ignorance. You are not getting something that you did not have all the time. When a very fat person loses a lot of weight, they usually make a big deal out of it as if they did something wonderful. But the fact is that they did not do anything wonderful at all. They simply acknowledged their greed and controlled themselves, which is what normal people do. Didn’t this enlightenment experience just send you back to normal?
Finally, isn’t it a contradiction to say that you are not confident Alex got enlightened, but you keep telling me that you got enlightened. So WHO did get enlightened?
James (from the previous email): “…you seem to know so much more about enlightenment than I do.”
Alex: Everybody knows everything in the same exact measure. When you get realized, your information aligns in such way that you resonate with God and you cannot convince yourself that you are not God.
James: This is true, but I think you missed the irony and sarcasm in my statements, Alex. I am telling you that you should keep your mouth shut about your enlightenment. If you want to help people to enlightenment, you need to find a way that does not involve them believing that you are enlightened. How is that different from religion? You already tried the approach of telling people and it did not work, by your own admission. The best way is to say that you are not enlightened or unenlightened and – as I show in my book in great detail – use an impersonal means of enlightenment like Vedanta to show them that they are the Self and therefore beyond experiential enlightenment.
The next thing I would like to know is: What is this God you refer to? I agree that there is God, but what does that mean to you? You say, “God is something that cannot be talked about, and enlightenment and realization are very close to that.” If you can say that you are enlightened, why can’t you say what God is? It is my understanding that the Self is beyond God and that enlightenment is the hard and fast realization (by the self – which apparently forgot who it is) “I am limitless, non-dual, ordinary awareness.” It is the realization of the non-duality of everything. It seems to me that you think that you and God and the self are somehow different – which to me means that you are not enlightened. So how would you respond to that?
James (from the previous email): “I thought that I would humbly ask your opinion about this.”
Alex: I am very happy you did.
James: I think we have a bit of a language problem, Alex. It is understandable because English is your second language. I think you did not pick up on the irony in my statements. What I am actually saying is that you are not very humble. That you write to me – a complete stranger – supposedly for advice or for my knowledge, and then you proceed to argue with me without actually understanding what I am saying. I think you are arguing because I told you in our last exchange of emails – as I am doing here – that you should not go around saying you are enlightened. In some cases it is okay to do so, but it is a general rule to keep it to yourself. Let me tell you now in a straightforward way what I think.
I think you have had a deep and important spiritual experience that has showed you something very valuable. I do not doubt what you have experienced. At the same time I can see a number of contradictions and doubts in you. It is quite natural. It is my opinion that you should not try to teach anyone enlightenment for several years. I think you should keep your mouth shut and let the knowledge of who you are cook inside. You are still very young and you need some gray hairs before you will be able to actually give serious help to others seeking enlightenment. Did you order my book? If you cannot afford it, and you will promise to read it carefully, I will send you a copy free of charge. I don’t want to talk with you any more about enlightenment until you have read my book. I cannot teach you the whole science of enlightenment in emails. I am too busy and there are many people who I am teaching right now. From what little I know about you, it seems you are about 90% enlightened. Enlightenment is a little like water: it only turns to steam at 212˚F [at sea level]. At 211˚F it is still water. Your enlightenment is only complete when your Self-knowledge is complete.
If you agree to read the book, I want to make a request. Please put all your ideas about enlightenment on the shelf. You can take them back when you are finished if you think that what Vedanta says is nonsense. Please read it with an open mind. Follow the logic. If you can accept the logic – based on your own experience and knowledge – not just your interpretation of your enlightenment – I think this book will be very helpful for you.
Alex: You are not doing anything else but transmitting the state in which you are in. In your case, you are in doubt and you are transmitting doubt.
James: When you read my book you will see how something that can be transmitted is not real. I will not argue with you on this or any other topic.
Alex: I am full of love and I want you to know that you are wonderful. It really doesn’t matter what words you choose. What you are transmitting is all the same.
James (from the previous email): “So are you a person who is enlightened or are you the limitless, eternal, non-dual awareness?”
Alex: I am not the awareness, I resonate with it. If you want to be entirely fair, then you can say that I am the awareness, but I consider this to be futile; you still have a hand and you can see it.
James: I agree, but I disagree. If you elect to read the book, you will understand what I mean.
Alex: It seems that you need to think that you are right all the time.
James: The idea of enlightenment I am presenting to you is not my belief. It is the view of non-dual Advaita Vedanta. Thinking one is “right” without the backing of an independent means of Self-knowledge is very dangerous. It is the kind of mentality that caused the Crusades and the Inquisition. There is a saying in the spiritual world that I think is quite excellent: “Believe nothing you think.”
James (from the previous email): “I am sorry to trouble you.”
Alex: I see that the desire of another person is being my desire. By helping you I am helping myself.
James: It was sarcasm, Alex. I am not sorry to trouble you. I am trying to help you clear up some of your enlightenment thinking. You are a good guy, but in my opinion you are too close to your “enlightenment” and things will not work for you until you calm down a bit. God is in control of this universe and you are just a tiny fly speck in it, and if you stick your enlightened head out, it will get chopped off. I am sorry to have to speak plainly to you but you are a bit pig-headed. This is one of the symptoms of enlightenment sickness. You can read about it in my book.
I’d like to know what you mean when you say you love me “personally.”
Alex: Yes, I love you personally. The fact that I love you gives me a personal pleasure every time we interact, every time I think of our experiences together. No matter what you do, when you interact with a person you get a feeling. If that feeling has something in it that is very close to your heart, then you consider that person to be a part of you. That is love. Friendship is nothing else but a love affair without sex. Unfortunately, I cannot act on that love, as I have previously told you my feelings and my ideas are only feeling and ideas. When I have an urge to do something I do it, but that urge is coming from nowhere, it does not have a causality to it. What I can do is tell you that I love you so that we can both enjoy that feeling; me because I have love, you because you are appreciated.
James: A nice thought, apart from the idea that urges come from nowhere. If there is an urge it comes from Alex. You, the Self, have no urges. Additionally, if you are the Self you are not a doer, so you can’t act on the urges that appear in you.
James (from the previous email): “…so I figured that you would be happy to remove my ignorance.”
Alex: I am more than happy to help you, but not because I love you at a human level, but because the problem exists and it has to be removed. About removing your ignorance, I am sorry, I cannot do that. Have fun removing it yourself.
James: I hope this last statement was said with a sense of irony, but if it wasn’t, it is cool anyway.
Alex: You are right; I did not understand the irony of your email. I thought that asking me in that way was just as good as any other way. When I told you that you are wrong I did not want you to think that you are wrong, I thought that we are just continuing the play.
James: I didn’t really think of it as a play. It is sometimes hard to figure out quickly what a person’s state of mind is in an email, so I just ask questions and take the statements literally. Usually people write me to ask me something, not to tell me something or, if they are complete strangers, to just play.
Alex: You did help me, but in this help we had a debate that was very dear to me. I just wanted to continue that debate.
James: All you have to do to continue the debate is respond to my questions and statements. I presented an alternative theory to your idea of enlightenment but you did not refute my argument. I asked about your idea of God but you did not reply. It is important in a debate to reply specifically to the point that your opponent is making, not rely on dogmatic statements of a personal nature.
Alex: I am very sorry if I led you into thinking that we have a conflict.
James: I didn’t think that. I feel that it is really impossible to communicate on a particular topic unless both people stick to the topic. Many of your statements about the self and an enlightened person were correct. But I think you are not clear exactly why they are correct. And there are other statements that you made that are not correct. When you did not reply to my arguments, I figured that you did not have a proper counter-argument. So it stopped being a communication.
Alex: These days I am still trying to figure out what to do, but teaching enlightenment does not have such an appeal to me anymore.
James: Well, if you are the Self, there is no question about what to do once you are “enlightened.” But for Alex, it is good that you are not going to try to teach enlightenment. Teaching enlightenment should not be a job. You should not take money for it. If you are going to be a teacher, you need to be taught and assimilate the knowledge of Vedanta. You have to do your homework. I am a disciple of a great mahatma. I have been properly trained in Vedanta. I know how to teach, and it works. I discovered who I was long before I was a good teacher. I wanted a way to express my realization that was impersonal and would benefit everyone so I learned the methodology of Vedanta.
Alex: Thank you very much for all your help.
James: You are welcome.
Alex: Thank you for still offering to help me, but now I have no desire to ask for help.
James: That’s fine. I have no desire to teach either. I only do it when I am asked. I have a very nice life apart from it. It is just a hobby for me.
Alex: If I have ever upset you with anything, please forgive me.
James: No, you did not upset me at all. I enjoyed the conversation. Don’t worry about it.
Alex: If you have any interest in talking to me about anything, just write to me.
Alex: I have just realized that my love for you was turning me into a queer. I am sorry but I will have to pass on loving you.
James: That’s good. It does not break my heart. ☺ However, if you have any reason to be upset with me, please tell me what it is so that I can apologize.
Alex: No reason at all.