One of the admins of one of the Facebook pages that I post on, is a respected master in another tradition, and he wanted me to answer the question above, plus give a history of my own path towards Enlightenment. He wanted a ‘step by step’ description of the process, which I immediately knew was impossible, since the process began at 15 when I questioned the faith of my parents and began a conscious exploration of other paths and faiths. I am now nearly 63!
There was no tidy linear progression as in some of the venerated Buddhist traditions, although I have experienced each of the Buddhist jnana meditation fruits, if my self-evaluation is correct. They just weren’t in the expected order! Also, something I found out today that they recognize, which is meditating on the Anahata Nadam (or Unstruck Sound, said to be the sound of the Aum vibrating in the Universe), I have been doing unconsciously since 1980 or so when I started to hear it, and consciously since 2000.
I wrote a whole book about the pathway I took to awakening, and revised it sometime after 2010; it’s called An Ordinary Being. This book holds the more detailed version of the story. I never publicized the book and it sold very poorly. I’m not ‘pushing’ it in this post either, it’s just to let you know there is a record, and to let the Buddhist Master know that too.
Even since 2010, however, there have continued to be changes to ‘my’ experience and understanding of what Enlightenment is. I doubt that I could even summarize those changes in a step-by-step, linear progression.
There was a lot of adversity after the initial awakening in 2001. There was dissatisfaction with my path, at almost every juncture, too. My dissatisfaction drove me to finally question every last truth that I’d been taught, including the truthfulness of the ego’s existence. My experience of enlightenment is that there is no ‘person’ who awakens. No ‘ego’ gets to claim Enlightenment. Enlightenment is about Emptiness being embodied in form to use Buddhist language. To use Hindu language we would say that Consciousness/The Absolute/Brahman is being embodied in human form. From my perspective, Enlightenment is a never-ending horizon…there will always be more growth.
However, there was a time recently, when the understanding finally dawned that there wasn’t anything that could be done to make Realization clearer than it was. There was not another practice, another set of words, or another teacher that would un-do the ‘ego’ anymore than it had already been undone. Consciousness/Emptiness exists in this form, and there is no permanent ‘self’ here. There never has been, but, this mind just wasn’t aware of that until the last year or so.
It is now possible to watch the entire arising of an ephemeral ‘ego self’ that wants to be identified with. In this bodymind called Jonathan, that usually occurs when there is a ‘problem’ or ‘challenge.’ I began to be able to do this at a six-day silent retreat with the teacher Adyashanti in September 2016. It still occasionally can arise in the mind even today, for a few moments, if the ‘problem’ is ‘serious’ or gets the emotions involved. However, there is no self here. It is clear now that there never was one, just a very fixed illusion or delusion that there was one.
So, even the question ‘can you tell me what your enlightenment is for you as a person?’ is a tricky question to answer. There really is no person to be enlightened. There is spontaneous action, speech, compassion, peace, love and rest that arises. The mind and thought-generated emotions arise and are generally ‘seen through.’ This bodymind now knows that the nature of reality is that it is impermanent, and therefore that all pleasure and pain is impermanent. It also knows that all experiences, whether physical or spiritual are inherently unsatisfactory because they are temporary and don’t create any change in a ‘self’ that doesn’t exist.
To live like this in the three-dimensional world of people, places, and things is tricky business. “I” had wished that I could just live my life out in a cave, or someone would build an ashram around me but, such things are unknown in the West as appropriate ways to live. While knowing that All are Emptiness or Consciousness, it’s clear that most people are asleep to their True Nature. Mostly, compassion arises for those not awakened, and certainly spontaneous ‘help’ seems to arise. Other emotions also arise including anger, and fear, and sometimes there is grief at how much suffering there is in the world. The emotions are generally as ephemeral as the ego is in general, and the bodymind no longer attempts to build an identity around them. That’s the best “I” can do to answer the revered master’s question in a short form. May all beings Awaken to their True Nature!