The enlightened state is nothing to scoff at, for it is a direct and continuous meeting with the God Source itself. Wherever you go, wherever you are, you feel this gentle flowing sacred breath of life coursing through your body, allowing your mind to experience complete harmony and unity with all that is. The enlightened state is a very real experience. It is a perpetual state of expansion into a divine state of bliss.
– Jafree Ozwald
Introduction to Enlightenment
The word enlightenment is often misunderstood as something we must strive towards, a goal somewhere in the future. For a Tantric, enlightenment is simply recognizing the divine perfection that is already within you. When that happens, there is no activity in this world that will be capable of taking away from your glorious radiance. A true Tantric understands that many eons ago, a conscious choice was made (by the power of your own free Will; see Tantra) to forget and conceal your true inner nature. A universal game of hide-and-seek.
According to some ancient texts, between the state of non-Realized humans and the exalted state of perfect Enlightenment, there are no less than 330 million divine positions, each higher than that of a human being but inferior to Shiva, for each is but a temporary manifestation of the supreme Shakti, lasting no longer than the duration of one cosmic cycle.
What does an Enlightened Being Look Like?
Someone who is enlightened, has merely recognized the divinity within. Therefore, their perception of the world is also divine. When a being realizes the Self he transcends the path. He is completely free. Enlightened masters come in all styles and personalities—they may be immersed in the world or not, they may be ascetic or not: the attainment is inside, a state of being. No appearance or concept can limit a Perfected Being—he transcends the mind. He always retains the capacity for wonder.
For him who is established in the Self, it is the same whether he refrains from worldly activities or not. For him who is free from attachment to things, it is the same whether he practises asceticism or not. For him who controls his mind, it is the same whether he partakes of worldly pleasures or not. For him who is unshakeable in his love for his teacher, it is the same whether he lives with him or not. For him who has attained the ultimate it is the same whether he is able to exercise siddhis, psychic powers, or not.
– Gampoppa, a Tibetan master
Real masters are far from the typical “enlightened being” stereotype; they are vivid, spontaneous and full of life, and thus cannot be categorized. To illustrate this, we need only examine the behavior of those perfected beings who have lived before us. Trying to pin down and label such a being is like trying to lasso the wind. Some have lived like kings, while others have resided upon garbage dumps; some have dressed in royal robes, while others have gone naked or even smeared their bodies with filth. Some were constantly surrounded with material wealth and yet they begged for crumbs in the streets, while others who had no possessions at all would throw away anything offered to them in charity. Some were great rulers over vast domains, while others were humble tradesmen: some delivered profound philosophical discourses, while others behaved as if they were idiots or madmen. Some gave their blessings with a caress, while others did it by throwing stones. Some never stopped traveling all their lives, while others hardly ever moved at all, lying around on stone slabs like great pythons. The life-styles of such beings are often quite eccentric and bizarre; thus, the yogic scriptures advise us that it is extremely difficult to recognize a perfected being simply by the way he looks or acts.
Siddhas, realised beings, behave in countless different ways. They teach scholars and learn from fools. They fight with heroes and run away from cowards. If people give them gifts they renounce everything. If there is no one to give them gifts they go begging. Those in whose heart the master of the world has taken residence behave in contradictory ways. Siddhas, enlightened beings, do not have to pretend because they are saturated with divine bliss. Their senses fall slave to them; they don’t fall slave to their senses. There is no distinction for them between self and other, between sin and virtue; between great and small. They may live like beggars but they are not, they are kings. A Siddha is drunk on the knowledge of the spirit. He knows, ‘Aham Brahmasmi‘, I am God, I am the Absolute reality, while also knowing that everyone is God also. Knowing this he soars with intoxication.
– Bhartrihari, famous poet
No passage I know better describes the paradoxical nature of a realized Being. It is a state of complete freedom (or awareness). It is not an act, nor is it predictable or limitable. Since perfected beings are living embodiments of the supreme cosmic principle, what could any of them possibly consider to be imperfect or profane? Perceiving the cosmos from the viewpoint of Shiva, they experience everything in Creation to be nothing less than their very own Self; thus, it makes little difference to them where they lay their heads or how their bodies are adorned. To such exalted beings, all things have become equally blissful and divine.
Freedom and Awareness should be used interchangeably for they both are the same. Awareness always has the power to choose, regardless of outer physical circumstances. To be completely free, we must be completely aware. Of what? Consciousness. Aware of the Self.
– Mike Yap
The enlightened masters had the vision of perfection. They experienced God as a constant outpouring forth of one’s experience. Nothing to be attained other than pure conscious experience, nothing to be avoided. In that state, even the harsh realities of life are understood from a higher perspective. When we understand things only from a personal perspective, our life is filled with tragedy and misery. The more expanded our awareness becomes, the more acceptance we have. A Siddha sees everything as the will of God or the play of Consciousness. He is at peace with this human condition.
The great MahaSiddhas are doing an astonishing and miraculous thing. They are changing the very tide of time and creating an extraordinary time of awakening, of dawning for humanity. In this dawning in myriad ways, human beings will come to recognize their own inherent perfection, divinity, greatness, their very own self. And then they will live life freely in every possible way that human beings can live life in relation to that self.
– Paul Muller-Ortega
What are the Pitfalls of Enlightenment?
Sometimes I reckon it is better not to think about enlightenment, because one is bound to fall into confusion or delusion. Trying to think the unthinkable, can lead to either feeling like you will never ever get “it”, or get all confused about what it’s all about. If you think a Great Awakening exists, you’re caught in a formidable trap, which will make you confuse an awakening with that final state. You’ll remain blocked by mistaking it for what it’s not. In nature, nothing ceases to evolve, to be infinitely transformed. To look for a stable state is to cut yourself off from reality. Everything is based on respiration. Can you breathe in for three hours? No. You breathe in and breathe out. We follow the cyclic movement of the universe, going in and out, opening and closing, expanding and contracting. All activity takes place in these two modes, and it is their perfect comprehension, their perfect integration into our practice, that allows consciousness to breathe. Never forget that consciousness breathes.
Even worse, thinking about it all may lead to a case of “doing enlightenment”, walking around pretending to be in the moment, acting out being non-attached. If you find yourself walking with your head above everyone else’s you are bound to have fallen into this delusion. Because, after all, enlightenment is about recognising our Oneness, not our superiority.
In Tantra it is possible to cultivate states in which one experiences dissolving into something greater than self, a state of ecstasy. However, an experience is an experience, the very definition of it is that it comes and it goes. So at some point the ecstasy passes and we may return to being “normal” once more. A pitfall is to get over-attached to the experiences, and to mistake them for something you are trying to attain. Then you become addicted to ecstasy, grasping over and over to repeat them or to cultivate a new experience. Experience can be seen as a mirror; it helps us to know who we are. But we do not need to hold onto the actual mirror, we do not need to cling to the experience. Fortunately for us, the beautiful thing is that each time you have (even a brief) encounter with the divine, little by little, it will slowly remove sanskaras, clear the malas, and soften your identify of being a separate individual. You can open to new possibilities that maybe you are part of the universe, an interconnected web, a oneness after all.
We sometimes carry the unquestioned assumption that enlightenment is an experience that will someday start and never end. We imagine one day we wake up and fireworks are going off, and we will forever see life though rainbow glasses. But if your enlightenment was a permanent mind-blowing ecstasy, the type that you generate from certain practices, it would be very hard to get the laundry done!
May you hold a remembrance of the divine Self that already exists within, unfolding perfectly into form, in each and every moment.