Spiritual enlightenment is one of the most elusive ideas in our lives. Nobody actually knows what it is, apart from a few people who are indeed enlightened. We don’t know who they are, as we don’t know what enlightenment is, and whether those people are honest or not, after all. If they are truly enlightened, they don’t talk about it, as there is no need for that, or it’s simply indescribable.
We could even say that every attempt to explain enlightenment or talk about it is rude or presumptuous. Maybe it is, but sometimes we simply are too curious and bold to do such things.
Nonetheless, if we want to talk about enlightenment, we have to define it in the first place. It’s not an easy task, however, and in this article I will use two sources: enlightenment as considered by some of the eastern spiritual traditions (as western traditions can have a completely different understanding of this term), and spiritual symbolism that can be found in modern physics.
If we want to talk about enlightenment, we have to define it in the first place.
The idea of spiritual enlightenment is present in all of the eastern spiritual traditions. The main four of them are Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, and Jainism, which offer these terms:
Although differing greatly in their views on enlightenment and one’s supposed path to it, these ancient spiritual traditions seem to agree upon this: enlightenment is a permanent, irreversible state of highest happiness, perfect stillness, inner freedom, liberation from suffering and rebirth, and realization of the highest truth.
Ancient spiritual traditions seem to agree upon this: enlightenment is a permanent, irreversible state of highest happiness, perfect stillness, inner freedom, liberation from suffering and rebirth, and realization of the highest truth.
Stages of Becoming Enlightened
In my opinion, it is not possible to distinguish any levels of enlightenment itself, as it is the final stage of awakening, the absolute liberation (whatever that means) and as such unequivocal and definite.
However, as there are many paths leading to it, there are numerous stages leading to that state, too. For example, in Theravada Buddhism, there are four stages of enlightenment. In this case, I would re-formulate this overview as the stages to enlightenment, except the fourth stage, which refers to the attributes of an enlightened human being.
These stages represent signposts on the gradual path of expansion of consciousness that leads toward the final goal, liberation.
Some spiritual traditions, however, like Zen Buddhism or Dzogchen, have a rapid or sudden approach to attaining enlightenment. Through their practices, they are trying to swiftly leave the mind behind and realize the Truth. While that approach is simpler and seemingly faster, it has its traps and may easily lead to a false sense of enlightenment.
 Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_stages_of_enlightenment
Some spiritual traditions, however, like Zen Buddhism or Dzogchen, have a rapid or sudden approach to attaining enlightenment.
There are also people, for whom the spiritual work is not necessary for achieving the final liberation. These relatively rare individuals apparently have mysterious inherent abilities and pre-conditions for attaining enlightenment. They usually achieve liberation suddenly, with little or no effort at all.
Here is an amazing story of Eckhart Tolle’s awakening:
“One night not long after my twenty-ninth birthday, I woke up in the early hours with a feeling of absolute dread. (…) ‘I cannot live with myself any longer.’ This was the thought that kept repeating itself in my mind. Then suddenly I became aware of what a peculiar thought it was. ‘Am I one or two? If I cannot live with myself, there must be two of me: the ‘I’ and the ‘self’ that ‘I’ cannot live with.’ ‘Maybe,’ I thought, ‘only one of them is real.’ I was so stunned by this strange realization that my mind stopped. I was fully conscious, but there were no more thoughts. Then I felt drawn into what seemed like a vortex of energy. It was a slow movement at first and then accelerated. I was gripped by an intense fear, and my body started to shake. I heard the words ‘resist nothing,’ as if spoken inside my chest. I could feel myself being sucked into a void. It felt as if the void was inside myself rather than outside. Suddenly, there was no more fear, and I let myself fall into that void. I have no recollection of what happened after that.
I was awakened by the chirping of a bird outside the window. I had never heard such a sound before. My eyes were still closed, and I saw the image of a precious diamond. Yes, if a diamond could make a sound, this is what it would be like. I opened my eyes. The first light of dawn was filtering through the curtains. Without any thought, I felt, I knew, that there is infinitely more to light than we realize. That soft luminosity filtering through the curtains was love itself. Tears came into my eyes. I got up and walked around the room. I recognized the room, and yet I knew that I had never truly seen it before. Everything was fresh and pristine, as if it had just come into existence. I picked up things, a pencil, an empty bottle, marveling at the beauty and aliveness of it all. That day I walked around the city in utter amazement at the miracle of life on earth, as if I had just been born into this world.
Nebo D. Lukovich
“The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don't tell you what to see.” ― Alexandra K. Trenfor
If we want to talk about discerning genuine spiritual teachers from the false ones, we must first define what a spiritual teacher is. Generally speaking, it is a vague term and may cover a broad range of spiritual masters, coaches, mentors, or advisers.
We could even differentiate spiritual teachers by the levels of their spiritual awareness:
Setting aside the levels of teaching mentioned above, for this purpose, I will define the spiritual teacher as the person who is helping a student in their spiritual path, in a trustworthy and reliable manner. The teacher is doing that by pointing the student to the spiritual liberation, in the most suitable way for her/him.
Although these teachers themselves cannot do the spiritual work for their students, they still have an enormous responsibility for many people. They are usually in a position to be giving various practical advice and offer spiritual leadership, so if they are impostors, that could ruin the lives of their followers. And their own lives also. Unfortunately, there are too many deceivers in this field today.
The danger of misleading spiritual guidance
The most obvious motive of these impostors for deceiving others is gaining material benefit, as “spirituality” has become a huge business today. But there are certainly other reasons as well: they can temporarily satisfy their ego and vanity; they try to suppress their feeling of inferiority, or they are sometimes even split personalities.
Although their practical advice on dealing with numerous kinds of life situations can really be helpful occasionally, the subtle background of their instructions is flawed. Therefore, even if their directions were correct, people who listened to them would, at the deeper level, sense the fundamental inadequacy of their guidance and would often subconsciously undermine their own subsequent actions based on that guidance. The results are almost always unsatisfactory, sometimes even disastrous.
How to recognize genuine spiritual teachers?
Luckily, there are quite a lot of authentic spiritual leaders around. How do they behave? What are their recognizable traits?
Genuine spiritual teachers must be the best examples of their own preaching themselves. They ought to be genuinely benevolent, conscious beings, in contact with their True Nature. Hence, their spiritual messages must be stemming from that inner Truth. They can impeccably point to the direction which is just right for us.
First, they are almost always calm and peaceful. In their daily life, they are honest and humble. You can feel their benevolence and kindness, they simply radiate love. They don’t talk about themselves, never boasting about anything. They are not domineering, forceful, rude or unkind to people around them. When we are in their presence, we spontaneously become peaceful and confident.
If a person offers to be our spiritual guide, and we know nothing about their everyday lifestyle, we just have to calm down and feel their presence with our inner body. If we don’t feel an increasing inner peace or love, if we can’t relax in their presence even if they are seemingly kind to us, then they are not genuine, at least for us at that moment. We have to withdraw and find another teacher.
For example, you want to ask a spiritual teacher how to deal with a concrete problem. You are close to them and feel confident and peaceful in their presence. You feel their benevolence. That’s the sign for you to trust them. If you suddenly felt fear or anxiety in your belly while thinking of the issue itself, don’t retract. It was simply your pain, not some sensing of the teacher’s delusion. Go ahead and ask. Trust them, their directions will enable you to solve your problem.
However, don’t expect them to be absolutely perfect. If they were perfect, they couldn’t exist in this material world at all. They would apparently disappear from this material plane, as their frequency would be too high for it. Thus, they all have some imperfections, some flaws that anchor them to this world of inertia and matter. Whether held on purpose or being simply neglected, these inadequacies are typically insignificant, almost unrecognizable in the ordinary lives of those genuine people. They also have their inner struggles, but they are still completely honest and determined in their path.
Yet, the whole responsibility for our life lies upon us. They can only point to the ways in which we take that responsibility.
Inner struggles are always reflected in the outer world
Meanwhile, we shouldn’t forget that we are the best teachers for ourselves. In fact, our everyday life is the perfect spiritual teacher. As the Holographic Principle tells us, all people around us, including all life circumstances and events we find us in, are symbolical projections of our inner being. Every suppressed trauma or emotion that needs to be resolved, every obsessive thought that needs to be overcome, every inner obstacle to the path of inner freedom—all are mirrored in our body and life circumstances. Therefore, our friends and enemies, our problems and desires—all are our genuine spiritual teachers who are showing us the path toward the final liberation.
All the right knowledge is within us and the external teachers and guides are simply manifestations of our inner Truth. We must be honest with ourselves and the world outside will be honest to us. If we can recognize and admit to ourselves our mistakes and inner flaws, we will be ready for the right spiritual teacher who will sooner or later appear in our external world.
On the other hand, if we are often too proud or arrogant to see our inadequacies, if we are dishonest and prone to keeping many secrets from our friends, we will get similar people in our surroundings. Such people will unconsciously teach us (the hard way) some basic lessons of spiritual life.
We should open our hearts, be modest, honest, and open-minded. If we haven’t yet mastered these harsh lessons, we might even meet a “spiritual teacher” who will represent exactly the issues we should deal with—he or she will be full of “secrets,” ego-trips, vanity, and lies. Such a “teacher” will “help us” in getting very painful, but necessary life lessons. That would also be a vital step toward our final spiritual liberation.
Nebo D. Lukovich
I had been trying for many years to anchor myself in the present by utilizing many methods originating from various spiritual traditions, but ultimately, to no avail. After a temporary success, there would always emerge a setback, and I would find myself at the beginning of the road again. Or it seemed so. Anyway, it was obvious that my strategy was not well-grounded.
I have learned the lesson the hard way. After many attempts and consequent failures, I have finally concluded that I must take a comprehensive approach: meditation, mindfulness and extensive inner work, concurrently. That was the cornerstone.
Why should we take a wide-ranging approach to our personal transformation?
Many inner structures in our psyche are opposing our life in the Now. Occasionally, due to their apparently cunning behavior, we could even say that they have some sort of consciousness or mind. As I said before, in many periods of my life I temporarily succeeded to anchor myself in the here and now, but it seemed that each time some unexpected event, person or inner issue expelled me out quickly from this blissful state.
Therefore, if we don’t take into account those structures, we will always be getting back to the same old troubles and behaviors. We must face them, not through fighting, but through accepting, transforming and re-integrating them into our personality.
Consequently, to get into a relatively stable state of abiding in the here and now, we should deal with these subconscious structures of our personality. Otherwise, they will continuously be preventing us in our efforts to be mindful.
How to achieve this?
With mindfulness and meditation, we will be transforming ourselves from within, subtly changing our personality and its various parts. Whatever comes into our field of perception, we will reintegrate it through our Pure Consciousness or Presence, which has a divinely transformative effect.
With the reintegration work, we will be changing ourselves outside, by using the various mental and emotional techniques for subconscious parts’ integration into our being.
An excellent method to develop the practice of everyday mindfulness is to set up triggers for it. These triggers will actually be various situations or activities that you are usually engaged in during the day, so every time the condition occurs, it will trigger you to become mindful or fully conscious of yourself and the present moment.
For example, your triggers could be: walking along a familiar path, cleaning teeth, opening or closing the door, sitting down or getting up from a chair, arriving at a specific location or even thinking a particular thought. You can actually make anything a trigger. Repeat these triggers as many times as possible, every time shifting your focus from the trigger to the present moment, until each trigger becomes habitual “launcher” of your mindfulness.
Generally, you should try to be aware (i.e., mindful) of every motion of your body, sensation, texture, sound, taste, and smell. From time to time pause and direct attention to your sense of self. Sustain that state of self-awareness during every activity. You will enjoy every task; you will become light and, in a strange way, even transparent.
Anything that distracts you, or pulls you out of mindfulness, you should accept as such, and not react to it at all (unless you are threatened somehow). Then continue with the activity, being fully conscious of it and yourself simultaneously.
Every conscious moment in the Now will gradually accumulate and make your whole life easier and abate or even prevent challenges.
Mindfulness dissolves your inner conflicts softly and almost imperceptibly. And whenever you are in that state of Presence, you will be at perfect harmony with the world; your body will move lightly and flawlessly; your mind will function impeccably whenever needed, and all your actions will be done in the most effective way.
Without regular meditation sittings, your mindfulness can quickly lose its foundation. So it is very recommended to practice them concurrently.
You have countless varieties of meditation at your disposal. You can choose one of the modern types of “pure awareness” or “body awareness” meditations, for example like those presented by Eckhart Tolle. But, you can also stick to traditional approaches, like many Buddhist or Yoga meditations; some of them can indeed be suitable for you. Keep in mind, though, that some of these traditional methods require the practitioner to stick with all other practices within that particular system.
One example of “pure awareness” meditation technique is the following:
First, you relax, using one of the many relaxation techniques. Then ask yourself: “What will be my next thought?” Then just wait for the next thought, being curious and alert. This will easily bring you into Pure consciousness, a state of Presence. Whenever something comes into your mind and disturbs your Presence, accept it wholeheartedly and go back to your question which will return you to the Presence. After some practice, you will be able to enter the state of Pure consciousness without using any questions. The goal is merely to stay in this thoughtless state as long as possible.
It is essential to discipline yourself and have at least one, 15-minute meditation session every day. However, I would recommend creating an everyday habit of meditating twice a day, at least 15 minutes in the morning and the same duration in the evening. These sitting sessions should be scheduled for the same periods of the day, if possible.
Meditation will release huge “amounts” of inner obstacles to any of your life goals, and will gradually erase all your negative tendencies, including laziness. What’s more important, the steady meditation practice will give you extra love, health, strength, calmness, creativity, and smoothness in your life.
Reintegration of inner parts
If we really intend to achieve permanent results in our personal transformation, the work on our subconscious structures must be comprehensive and continual, always accompanied with meditation and mindfulness.
There are countless approaches to this subject also. The mainstream psychology is one of them. It is scientifically approved and confirmed, and consequently pretty safe. But it’s also very slow. On the other hand, there are many alternative methodologies, which could be much more efficient and faster but burdened with higher risk. It’s up to you to choose.
However, I will offer here one of these alternative approaches to personal transformation, the Reintegration System, which is a methodology rooted in psychology and holographic model of reality, which has proven to many people as being systematic, yet the extremely effective method of human development.
Here is the list of our personality’s aspects that we should deal with in accordance with the Reintegration System’s methodology:
These aspects are parts of our personality that merely need the most of our attention in our inner work. You may find that some of these parts are actually sub-sets of other, more general ones. We could classify, for example, our desires, fears, and guilt under the umbrella of ‘emotions’, or we might instead assume that emotions are only part of traumatic memories; beliefs can be habitual thoughts backed by emotions, etc. Each could be right or wrong, depending on your point of view, but for our purposes they are listed according to practical reasons.
So, what to do with all these elements of personality? In short, we should always face them, accept them wholeheartedly, and finally, transform and reintegrate them entirely into our being, using an appropriate technique. We should never fight them! All these aspects have deeply hidden genuinely positive intentions for us, but those intentions have been gradually distorted into apparently negative behavior during extended periods of time, because of numerous misconceptions, limited perception, and challenging environment.
A lot more on this you can find at www.re-integration.com, or in “Inner Peace, Outer Success” and other Reintegration books.
Additional note on inner work
For some people, though, this three-fold work is not necessary for achieving the lasting bliss. Indeed, some relatively rare individuals have mysterious inherent abilities and preconditions for attaining the permanent happiness or Enlightenment with little or no effort at all. They have done most of their inner work probably in other incarnations.
However, we must not rely on such hopes. The determined, persistent, yet profoundly joyful effort, is definitely recommended as our final choice.
Viewing your Face in the Mirror of the Universe
Based on the first pillar of the Reintegration System
“Knock, And He'll open the door
Vanish, And He'll make you shine like the sun
Fall, And He'll raise you to the heavens
Become nothing, And He'll turn you into everything.”
Moving from belief to awareness
This passage by the poet Rumi, is both inspiring and profound, yet it is more than that. Rumi was describing the essential aspect from which all of existence arises from. It is this aspect of which humanity has been aware of since the dawn of its existence. For the most of this span of time, this aspect has been referred to as being a deity or the universe. Both of these terms have been widely used for as long as there have been discussions on creation or the nature of existence, though no person has ever seen a “god” or a “universe”. It is like the discovery that the world is round or that the Earth is not the center of the solar system. Unless you are a former astronaut, who has actually witnessed these things first hand, the best we can do is to accept it through faith and the credibility that we give our science community.
The evolution of human consciousness is approaching a level where we are coming closer to answering all of its existential questions as never before. It is not that this level of consciousness was not there before; it is our awareness of it that is creating a seismic shift in our understanding of what it is to be human or the nature of existence.
How do you know anything?
How do you know of god, or the lack of existence of one? How do you know if the universe is just a concept or if it actually exists? How do you know if the Earth is round or flat? How do you know of the solar system, this blog, or even of your own existence? The answer to all of these questions is awareness. Nothing can exist if there is a lack of awareness of it.
Taking it a step further, you are not aware of god, the universe, the Earth, the solar system, this blog, or yourself, you are aware of the thought of it. When we go into deep sleep, we have no experience of it, which is why you have no memory of experiencing deep sleep, when you wake-up the next morning. Though you have no memory of your experience in deep sleep, there is a lingering awareness that you did spend time there.
There is a reason why you lose all sense of self or sense of experience during deep sleep. The essence of who you are is awareness, not a mind and body. Further, your sense of personhood or “I,” is perceived by awareness as well. The truth of who you are is awareness or consciousness; everything else is just a thought. This is why you lose all sense of identity or experience in deep sleep, the awareness that is you is free from thought; all it knows is of itself. This is why you have appeared as a mind and body.
In order to expand itself, consciousness needs to experience contrast, which can only happen if it creates separation by manifesting itself as phenomena. As humans, we have been gifted with both thought and self-awareness. Thought allows us to experience contrast: We can learn the difference between light and dark, pain and pleasure, transcendence and suffering, or connection and isolation. It is through that which we focus on that informs pure or universal consciousness of itself. In response to this understanding, pure consciousness manifests the people, circumstances, and situations that are consistent with that which we are focusing on. It is this dynamic that is the heart of the Law of Attraction.
Uncovering the truth of your being
Everything is an aspect of consciousness. Since you are aware of yourself, the only thing that you can be is consciousness. You are the localization of universal consciousness experiencing itself as you, the “person.” With this understanding also comes the understanding that you are not in the universe; rather, the universe is within you. Everything that exists is appearing in your awareness, which is the most essential aspect of your being.
A useful metaphor for your relationship with consciousness is the ocean. The ocean is vast and mysterious, yet a drop from the ocean may seem insignificant. However, the drop is inseparable from the ocean, containing the exact same composition and ingredients as the ocean itself. All the rivers of the world drain into the ocean, and traces of all rivers can be found in the drop. The ocean is universal or pure consciousness, and you are the drop, the localized expression of it. But even this analogy is inaccurate as you cannot discriminate the drop of water from the ocean when the drop merges back into the ocean. Similarly, the belief that you are separate from consciousness is just that, a belief.
Here is a simple self-inquiry exercise to assist you in coming to this realization.
Returning to the last line of Rumi’s poem:
“Become nothing, And He'll turn you into everything,” the “He” is you as consciousness.
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