Am I enlightened?

Am I enlightened?

By Desmond Yeoh SC

Ceramic Products Manufacturer in Malaysia

Ceramic Products

One of the popular questions in the spiritual world is, “Am I enlightened?” or “How do I know when I become enlightened?” Ajahn Brahm’s book, ‘Mindfulness, Bliss and Beyond’ gives a very good explanation, based on the Buddha’s teachings, of what a person goes through before becoming enlightened. I will try to provide a brief summary here.

In the initial stages of deep meditation, he may see a bright light which may take different shapes or colours. As his meditation deepens, his senses drop away and he is not able to hear, feel or even think. He only experiences bliss. This stage is called ‘Samadhi’ or ‘Jhana’. The bliss gradually becomes more refined and eventually falls away, turning into profound peace. As he progresses even deeper in his meditation, he begins to perceive absolute one-pointedness in space; space is experienced as infinite and empty or no-space. That slowly deepens into the perception of one-pointedness in consciousness whereby it is perceived as infinite, empty, immeasurable and undefined. Consciousness then falls away and there is a perception of no consciousness or one-pointedness in nothingness. In the final stage, even the perception of nothingness disappears: Not even ‘nothing’ remains – Well, we have to experience it to understand what this means.

Ramana Maharshi use to sleep very deeply when he was a young boy. When he was asleep he could not hear or feel anything. Because he was very strong and good at fighting, his friends who had issues with him would beat him when he was asleep to take revenge. They did not dare to fight with him when he was awake! These experiences appear to be very similar to the Buddhist description of ‘Jhana’ discussed above.

A person who goes through these experiences will naturally drop the delusions which he had been attached to in the past.  The teachings in the scriptures have been changed from beliefs into actual experiential truths. We will not be able to tell if someone is enlightened but we can definitely tell when someone is not because an enlightened being will not be capable of doing certain things or acting in certain ways.

An enlightened person will display the following characteristics:

1)    One has no desire for sense pleasures or achievement because one clearly sees that they are causes of suffering. The happiness that comes from sense pleasures cannot match the bliss experienced in deep meditation.

One is not affected by praise or blame because one is no longer ‘self-conscious’. Osho said, “Self-consciousness is always afraid, always trembling. And you always need support from others; somebody to appreciate you, somebody to clap, somebody to say how beautiful you are or how intelligent. You need somebody to say these things to you like hypnotic suggestions, so that you can believe that yes, you are intelligent, you are beautiful, you are strong. But see the point; you depend on others. We go on searching in the outside world to find some support for our ego, somebody to give a little support, to become a prop. Otherwise there is always the danger that our ego will collapse. So we have to support it from this side and from that, and continuous worry arises[1]”.

2)      One does not even crave for the bliss that comes from meditation. This differentiates a person who is truly enlightened from one who is very close to enlightenment.

3)      One has no ill will at all and is not capable of getting angry. One may use harsh words in order to trigger beneficial changes in another but it is not done out of anger. The listener will be shaken but will not sense any anger.

4)      Because one has penetrated the delusional self, one does not fear death. One will see it as liberation. One is capable of looking with compassion at another person even if he is threatening one’s life. One is not able to perceive a self or anything as me or mine. One is can no longer perceive the term “I am”. They see the mind and body as impersonal processes.

5)      One cannot store up possessions. One will keep only basic necessities as exemplified by Paramahansa Ramakrishna, Ramana Maharshi and Ajahn Chah. They were give many gifts at the height of their fame but kept none for themselves.

6)      One is not able to intentionally kill any form of life.

7)      One is not able to steal.

8)      One is not able to perform sexual intercourse.

9)      One is not able to tell a deliberate lie.

10)    One is not able to act in any way out of desire, ill will, delusion or fear.

11)    Although an enlightened being still suffers, his suffering is merely a small fraction compared to the suffering of the masses (see Enlightenment made Simple).

These are very specific standards and make up a fail-proof benchmark to determine if we have achieved enlightenment. There is no way we can cheat ourselves.

But how do we evaluate if someone else is enlightened? A person can pretend to display the above characteristics to give an impression that he is enlightened. So how can we tell? We cannot be 100% sure but our emotions may give us a clue. An enlightened person draws others to him with his love and compassion. When we are with him, we just want to be with him and do not want to leave his presence. His words are penetrating and are able to shift the views of even highly evolved persons. However, these are very subjective guidelines and are not infallible.

Nevertheless, we need to ask ourselves, does it really matter if the other person is enlightened or not? I can still benefit from an unenlightened person’s teachings due to our karmic connection. I may have something I need to learn from his past experience so that I do not make the same mistakes that he did.

Another question which the Buddha was often asked was, “Where an enlightened person goes after death?” The Buddha responded that this question is similar to asking where the flame goes after the lamp burns out. This answer may be very difficult to swallow for most of us because of our attachment to the self. We still want some form of subtle existence even after we are enlightened. Enlightenment is the end of rebirth. It is the complete disappearance of the self. We (the flame) arose out of causes and conditions (the wick and the oil) and will disappear once the causes and conditions burns out.

Now that we understand what enlightenment is, we need to put it out of our mind because the very desire for it can become an obstacle. Osho said, “Like a hollow bamboo, rest at ease with your body. Rest at ease – don’t desire spiritual things, don’t desire heaven, don’t desire even God. God cannot be desired – when you are desire-less, he comes to you. Liberation cannot be desired because desire is the bondage. When you are desire-less, you are liberated. Buddhahood cannot be desired because desiring is a hindrance. When the barrier is not, suddenly the Buddha explodes in you. You have the seed already. When you are empty, when the space is there – the seed explodes[2]”.

We can see this from our own experience. Whenever we try to keep our mind quiet, it resists and refuses to remain silent: But if we just watch with awareness, the mental chatter drops away on its own. Whenever, we make sleeping a big deal and try hard to get to sleep, that very effort keeps us up all night. Our desire for something becomes a liability instead of an asset.

Osho said, “Desiring, you miss. Let desire subside and become a silent pool of non-desiring and suddenly you are surprised; unexpectedly it is there. And you will have a belly laugh, as Bodhidharma laughed. And Bodhidharma’s followers said that when you become silent again, you can hear his roaring laugh. He is still laughing. He has not stopped laughing since then. He laughed because (he thought), ‘What type of joke is this? You are already that which you are trying to become! How can you be successful if you are already that, and you are trying to become that? Your failure is absolutely certain. How can you become that which you are already?’ So Bodhidharma laughed”.

I am not saying that we should not meditate or engage in any spiritual practices. All I am saying is that we can still do all these practices without desire. We can meditate without any desire for spiritual experiences. When we do this, there is no such thing as a good or bad meditation; we just meditated and had a relaxing time. We just need to be more at ease and be happy with ourselves; be contented.

There is really nothing to desire because we already have the divinity within or the Buddha Nature. We just need to remember. Striving for it only takes us further away from it.

See List of Articles

[1] Source : ‘Creativity: Unleashing the Forces Within’ by Osho

[2] Source : ‘Creativity: Unleashing the Forces Within’ by Osho

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. chiaab
    Oct 08, 2012 @ 07:29:59

    There is a certain person who claim that he is a Bodhisattva,and will react angrily when told he is not…..


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