Thursday, August 2, 2012

What is the Difference Between Enlightened and Ordinary?

This question has come up for me recently, probably because I’ve been feeling absolutely ordinary.  Yet I also know that the last 50 or so years of my life, I have studied and trained and practiced the principles that supposedly lead from ordinary to enlightened.  If the end result of being enlightened is to arrive at being absolutely ordinary, what does this say about the whole idea of ‘spiritual growth’?  Is there such a thing?

Something on the inside changes—an expansion of awareness—yet nothing on the outside changes, where other people will readily notice.  Personality traits remain basically the same, and we tend to have the same general preferences.  Yet, we remain quite ordinary.  Enlightenment is not becoming a ‘Super Hero.’

I stumbled across yoga and meditation and the power of thought at the age of 15, in 1960, in Vicksburg, MS, of all places.  I did not meet anyone else who also studied or practiced such things until I moved to Manhattan in 1968.  There, various teachers and groups were available, and I entered a long period of spiritual promiscuity, going to as many gatherings and classes as possible, going to the talks of all the well known teachers and yogis, trying to assimilate everything anyone had to offer.

Right from the beginning the goal was enlightenment, liberation, Mastery.  We could go through a process that would transform us from being an ordinary person to being a person of the miraculous.  We would go through a process from being ordinary to being a Master, a Siddha, a Perfected Being, one with universal Consciousness, free from all ego and samskaras—except that which is necessary to keep him or her in the body.  When we completely run out of karma, we leave the body.  The body is basically a cycle of karma.

What will be the difference when we get there to that point of perfection?  Supposedly there will be a great ‘improvement’ over how we are now.  We will become better if we practice diligently.  Some have the mistaken idea that if they ‘try hard,’ success will be won.  However, nothing of value is ever gained from the illusion of ‘trying hard.’  Intention plus attention plus will power might accomplish something of value, but there will be no ‘trying hard.’

Anyway, finally, after all these years, I have come to see myself as completely ordinary in all ways.  At first there was disillusionment, as I had previously bought into the idea that I had actually become something and that now it was lost.  Following this was a great sense of relief, a lightness, a sense of freedom unlike any other.  If enlightenment was anything, it was nothing.  There was nothing to attain except just this.    

Perhaps enlightenment is a more expanded way of seeing and understanding things.  This is a simple way of glimpsing enlightenment.  I say glimpsing, because we really can’t comprehend it with the mind, which is a contraction of pure Consciousness.  In addition, enlightenment includes freedom from the mind, and how is the mind going to grasp that?

Recently, on my Facebook page, I posted the following: 

This pure Consciousness has taken all these forms that appear in the physical, emotional, or mental universe.  It manifests as the cosmos, which includes all universes, all worlds, all realms, and all levels of existence.  It includes all of life, all of death, and it also exists beyond the polarity of life and death, as well as all polarities.  Light and dark, wrong and right, good and bad, pleasure and pain, spiritual and mundane, are all included equally within it.  It is the Absolute.  We experience it within ourselves as our own Awareness of Being.

Someone replied that this was only a subjective belief.  This gave me cause for contemplation.  Is the above paragraph only a subjective belief?  To me it is intuitively obvious and is supported by the authority of respected ancient scriptures.  In short, it is simply the way I see the world.  Remember, I began reading and studying such things when I was 15, so it feels very natural now to see the world this way. 

To myself I seem like a totally ordinary guy, and yet the experience of light and love is always present to some degree.  Just going by this, the line between ordinary and enlightened is quite thin and possibly irrelevant. 

I used to think of enlightenment, or the endgame of the spiritual path, as some kind of consistently exalted state, with light and love gushing, bliss pervading each and every moment.  I got to the point where I could experience all that, but then something would come up that would capture my attention all over again, and the love, light, and bliss would be forgotten. 

So I realized I had to work on consistency, and that consistency is necessarily a primary aspect of enlightenment.  We can’t be immersed in God in one moment, and then take someone’s words personally and react defensively in the next moment.  Enlightenment is being consistently in harmony with whatever is. 
It is impossible to disturb or distract the equanimity of the enlightened, for enlightened remains always the same.

Is ‘enlightenment’ simply being our ordinary selves in our ordinary lives, having attained nothing that was not always already present in the first place?  Is it like the T. S. Eliot poem about arriving at the place we first began, but understanding it for the first time?

The difference between ordinary and enlightened is that the ordinary wants more and experiences restlessness and frustration, while the enlightened is content to be ordinary, content with ordinary life, needing nothing to be whole and complete, and having no need to be better or to seek improvement.

Being ‘spiritual’ is not going beyond the physical world, transcending it somehow.  If we were supposed to do that, we wouldn’t have been given a physical body in the first place.  True spirituality is seeing God, or the play of Consciousness, in and as the physical world, in and as all these other beings, and in and as us.  It is not changing anything.  Things constantly change all on their own without any help from us.

This is a very large subject.  To fully explore it would be to participate in the Course of Training via email, yet here and now we can look at it and contemplate it and realize the Truth for ourselves.

Some people might question participating in a course written by a totally ordinary person.  This is when we realize that the course has nothing to do with the one typing it.  If teachings of Truth or transmissions of energy flow through an individual being, they have nothing to do with the person functioning as the teacher. 

An ordinary person has firm conviction in his or her personality and personal life.  Enlightenment is realizing they are not who we are and actually have nothing to do with us.  It is witnessing with a lighthearted state, witnessing the play of this world with full compassion for the pain and suffering that exist in this world.  There is unconditioned love, and the total absence of being judgmental regarding others.

As is our tradition, we will have some responses to questions in last month’s comments, without necessarily quoting the question.  Yet anyone who reads this gets exactly what they need at this particular time.  It’s a long story.

Soon the things you question will become obvious.  The Upanishads, one of the great texts of the East, say that God is the Witness of the mind.  God also witnesses everything without judgment, for He knows Himself as pure Consciousness, and knows that this entire universe is a play of Consciousness.

Each individual experiences their just and rightful karma.  You might not be able to see in this particular incarnation why something is so, but if you saw their last three incarnations it would be obvious why they are going through whatever they are experiencing.

God, pure Consciousness, sees everything as an extension of Itself.  There is nothing separate or different to consider—there is always only One.  This is our true and eternal state.  Everything else is the play of the mind, the experience of all thoughts: cause and effect, as the Law of karma.

The numbness between your eyebrows could mean anything you believe about it.  My ‘advice’ is to be the One observing the experience.  It doesn't matter what the experience is.  The only thing that matters is our conscious at-one-ment with the Witness or Observer.  Our true nature is the Knower or all that is known and the Seer of all that is seen.  This is how we eventually learn to see and experience ourselves, as our true Identity.  Such is the state of the enlightened.

Fearlessness is an attribute of the enlightened.  As long as there is fear, we are limited to individual ego.  Fear, according to the Upanishads, arises when we see ‘another’.  When we experience the Oneness and Unity of all, there is no fear, there is only contentment.  Constant contentment is enlightenment.

There might be harder days ahead, yet there will also be days so glorious you might never have thought you could experience something so grand, or that you were worthy enough, which is where many people have a problem, thinking of themselves as unworthy, often without realizing it.

It is good to be adaptable and to develop tolerance and endurance.  These are each essential aspects of spiritual evolution.  Enlightenment is being established in contentment.

Justin, what you say is true for all of us.  We are never going to be ideal, and our lives will certainly never appear to be ideal in all ways.  We will continue making the most stupid mistakes and saying embarrassing things that we have no idea what or where they came from.

This is just human life happening.  The secret is to stop identifying with it and caring about it.  Our basic reason for being here is to know, feel, and experience our own true Nature, which is the Reality even when we're totally off the wall on a personal level.

In the course we explore the 'superficial and superfluous realm of thoughts and emotions' that are part of being a human individual, and come with the incarnation as much as the physical body itself.  Our work is not to get rid of it, improve it, or change it in any way.  The true inner work is the present moment awareness of the Self, the pure Awareness of Being.

When we are aware of the Truth, and LIVE in the Truth of the Present Moment, it won't matter what is happening in the realm of karma.  It is simply how the movie of this individual life is manifesting right now.  Everything passes except the Witness of all that happens.  The seen constantly changes, but the Seer remains eternally the same.

We don't have to 'do' anything except remain lighthearted and loving and appreciating the humor in the appearance of this world.  You will find this easier and easier as you go along.  In the physical realm in particular, such things 'take time.'  Maintain a strong conviction regarding the conclusion, if you know that it is in the best interests of everyone involved to do so.  This is dharma.  Dharma is living for the whole rather than for the part.

For information about the Course of Training written by D. R. Butler and available by email, including a sample lesson, write: