Dr. Vijai S Shankar MD.PhD.
18th April 2008
The word enlightenment is not modern; it is ancient. Nobody is sure, or can be sure, when this word surfaced in man’s psyche. But it is present and well preserved through aeons of time and has not been erased from man’s spiritual vocabulary. It has lived the test of time and time has not been able to abolish it. In fact, it is now revered as much as it ever was, if not more. It circulates very much in spiritual circles that have mushroomed abundantly to date; it is found in spiritual scriptures; it is a topic in social gossip and the subject of ridicule or baloney to some. It is also the content of debate over a cup of tea amongst philosophers and thinkers alike.
It is the promised goal offered by satsang-givers, as they are popularly known. The lure of enlightenment draws one and all from far-off lands, across seas to lands distant from their own that are renowned for enlightenment. The concepts about enlightenment are numerous, convincing and enchanting to the ego. These concepts, more often than not, become a barrier to enlightenment and, maybe, that is what they are meant to be, as man needs to understand. The attraction towards enlightenment is great for it promises what is beyond this world.
Where there is demand there will be supply to fulfil the demand - and so it is with enlightenment. It makes room for business of a spiritual kind to flourish. There is nothing wrong with this for it is profitable to the spiritual leader, but the promised returns remain as promises and never get fulfilled. Enlightenment cannot be given from one to another, though it is a common belief that it could be given or transferred. The world is divine and divinity is enlightenment and this applies to every speck of it, which includes man. History has records of enlightened beings and so their presence is not disputed, but what is it that makes them stand apart from other men? Is any serious thought given to their proclamation that the world is illusory?
Not really, for scientists, the spiritualists, the religious, the philosophers, the man on the street, in the office and in every house, in fact, every man believes that the world he lives in is real. Furthermore, enlightenment is believed to be about experiences that are not of the daily kind. The experiences are supposed to be extraordinary, to put it mildly, which man can only imagine. Maybe they remain as imagination and, before long, the imagination, which is a kind of a spiritual dream, becomes a reality to man and he is not aware that he is dreaming about enlightenment.
To man the world is real. But is he certain what real means and could be? Real is that which never changes and is eternal and everywhere. In which case the world as man sees it could not possibly exist, because everything and everyone in this world changes, is temporary and eventually disappears, including man. If everything is real to him, one wonders what he is searching for. He believes that another form of real, which is much superior and powerful, having the potential to override the reality of the world which he rejects or does not wish to have, exists. He terms this God or enlightenment and this reality is what he wishes to achieve. Hence, the attraction towards enlightenment knows no bounds. Man believes enlightenment offers him the utopian world, the world of God.
But who created this world? Is it not God who has created it? If so, would not the enlightened world be the same as the present one in which man lives? Why would God create two different worlds? Could He? - is the question. If God were loving and compassionate, as He is thought to be, He certainly would not have created a world that man sometimes rejects and at other times rejoices in.
Man experiences happiness and sadness as well in everyday life. The contrast provided by sadness to what happiness is inspires him to long for permanent happiness. He thinks enlightenment is the way to go for permanent happiness, and so begins his search for truth or simply a world that is unlike the present one in which he is. During his search he comes to hear that the world is illusory and that he needs to get out of this illusory world - and that this is enlightenment. To do that man believes that he has to do something to get him out of this illusory world.
Many paths are available to man from which to pick and choose, with promises in abundance that will lead him from the illusory world to the real. These paths have been present ever since enlightenment was in man’s vocabulary. They have undergone modifications and new ones keep sprouting ever so often. If they had the potential to deliver enlightenment they would have done so by now and, if the paths or the techniques involved in them were real, they should and would deliver enlightenment at the very first attempt. But they do not, for it is a belief that they need to be practised, and practice contradicts its own validity of authenticity. Practice only ends up in not being able to practise anymore. This is the only gift it provides and not enlightenment.
Practice only breeds the desire to practise more. Years pass by and man gets old, but remains the same, with enlightenment nowhere in sight. All that is lacking is an understanding of the illusory nature of life. If the world is illusory, the paths and their related techniques, no matter how popular or attractive they may be, have to be illusory as well. This is what life wants man to understand and, when this understanding happens, that is the moment of enlightenment. Life is very intelligent and it preserves its illusion very efficiently. It does so by making man believe the paths and techniques offered by the spiritualists and the religious are real. Life has to maintain the illusory so that man can understand that it is illusory.
The most pressing question is this: if the world is illusory, what is the meaning of illusory? Illusory means that the world is not what the mind says it is. Therefore, actions spiritual, religious, mundane or skilled cannot be real for that is what the mind says they are. How are they illusory? They are illusory because an action is an optical illusion of light.
How can man be convinced that an action is an optical illusion? To understand this one needs to understand what the world is made of. Science informs man that the world and everything in it, including man, is made up of energy. This energy (which is a loose term) is infinite and does not have mass. It cannot be seen, heard, tasted, smelt or touched. How can man see the unseeable, hear silence, smell the unsmellable, taste the tasteless and touch the unweighable? How can he appreciate no force? How is it then possible for such energy to become something that can see and be seen, hear and be heard, have smell and be smelt, have taste and be tasted, feel and be felt and also be the natural forces?
Understand that all there is in this world is light. This is pure light and remains as such and never changes. This pure light is intelligence or God, to express it poetically. This intelligence, silence or pure light is sight, seeing and the seen; sound, hearing and the heard; smell, smelling and the smelt; taste, tasting and the tasted; touch, touching and the touched - and also the natural forces. It is beginningless and endless; it is without cause or effect. This intelligence or brilliance of this pure light is reflected light. Reflected light is also known as consciousness or soul. The reflected light is therefore the first illusion of pure light. Reflected light projects an optical and auditory illusion of form, shape, consistency, colour, sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, knowledge and the natural forces.
Life is basically an illusory manifestation of light and sound, just as the sages have proclaimed it is. Everything that is known is a thought, including time too. If time were real, it would have no time, for no man can decide which time should or could be real and, if time were real, it would be just one particular time. Life is timeless, just as the enlightened beings have said it is. Since time is required for an action to be present and life is timeless, an action just cannot be real - it has to be illusory and that is what it is, an optical illusion.
Since a spiritual action or any action is not possible in life, could man know what enlightenment or the real is? How could he know what enlightenment or the real is or could be as he has no direct knowledge of it and could not have either? If he had, then enlightenment would become the known. The real or enlightenment can never be known for any form of the known is based on duality. Even the poetic description of real or enlightenment is not without duality. The enlightened beings have reiterated that enlightenment is a timeless and thoughtless state, and man’s proclamation that he knows what it is would be a contradiction. So, enlightenment or the real, subjective, objective or divine, can never be known. If they are known, they are illusory and not real.
Life is enlightened and, therefore, everything in it has to be in an enlightened state - and that includes man. The world is enlightened and has to be if God is the creator. Anything created by God has to be enlightened if God is considered to be God. From an enlightened state only the enlightened can be created and this is what makes God and life enlightened. There is no need to change the world to a better world, for the world in which man is is already enlightened. There is no need to change for the world is changing every moment whether man likes it or not. If the enlightened world needs to be changed, what could it be changed to?
Spiritualists who want to change the world to a better place show disrespect to God, for it is He who has created it in the first place. His creation is illusory but appears real to man, who has to be illusory too, for he is in this illusory manifestation. It might well be that the world that God has created has not been understood to be illusory and that is what makes man want to change it to a better place, because he thinks it is real. The changed world would be dual too as this is the basis of recognition and, if duality were present, the changed would be the same as the world that was changed.
The technique that the spiritualists offer has to be illusory in an illusory world and cannot be real, although each spiritualist claims that his or her technique is real. The market-place is wide open and the cash tills are ringing, but the real can never be known or explained - it is only the illusory that can be known or explained. The real cannot be practised: it is only the illusory that can be and this makes practice illusory too. The known can never be real for the known depends on duality of the mind and any form of dependency steals independence away. The real is independent and not dependent. This independence is enlightenment.
No man is good or bad for it requires an action for such a classification to exist and actions do not exist in life. Life cannot have mind functioning within it either, for that would require time too. Man is illusory, but not his aliveness, for his aliveness is God and this is what it means that God is everywhere. This understanding is enlightenment.
Life is just a moment. There cannot be another moment which can be separate from the moment that is. The moment includes the other moment within it, since life is a process of transformation of energy. This moment is eternity and it is not a geometrical point. The moment is beginningless and endless, without cause or effect. Hence, action and the known cannot exist in the moment that is timeless. This world disappears in the night when man retires to bed. If the world is real, it needs to be present in his sleep for he is as much alive during sleep as he is during the waking state. The world that man experiences is a world of thoughts, including the experience. This understanding is enlightenment.
The waking state too is just a moment and the transformation process manifests a drama of life spaced in time. Everything, including man, disappears finally and this disappearance is a transformation to another form of energy. He simply ages and the aging process is an indication of the disappearing act of man. Aging happens every moment and this is the only thing that happens and this is not in man’s control either. It is not possible for any action, spiritual or otherwise, to replace the aging process taking place in the moment - and a moment is all there is in life. If an action, spiritual or mundane, were to take place the aging process would need to stop so that the same moment could be available for the action and, if aging stopped, man would not be alive. Who could stop aging? Definitely not God, for God is the process of aging, which is the transformation process. This understanding is enlightenment.
Mass spiritual gatherings are not an indication that enlightenment is being given or transferred. It is not possible to give or transfer enlightenment, for life is energy, which is in a continuous process of transformation that is spontaneous, uncontrollable and unpredictable. Masses are required to maintain the illusory; the real does not need any support. The illusory does need support and life provides this in abundance in the form of belief-systems that encase spirituality. Enlightenment and bondage are present in the same moment. The illusory is bondage and the understanding of the illusory is enlightenment. Enlightenment is a timeless and thoughtless state, which life is, in every moment eternally. An enlightened being is he who realises that truth or enlightenment cannot be spoken, achieved, given or transferred, but explains in every detail that the world, man and mind is illusory.
Author: Dr. Vijai S. Shankar
© Copyright V. S. Shankar 2008.
Countless are the words available to man as the means for communicating whatever is intended. This article is a remarkable insight into the power of words and of one word in particular: ‘enlightenment’. The significance of the word ‘enlightenment’ in determining the beliefs and practices of generations of men and women is gifted here. Here is a deep understanding of the authority of the spoken or written word over the thinking mind which seeks a spiritual alternative to the supposed realities of daily existence. In man’s quest for change and betterment, even for the enlightenment that already lights his every moment, he is unaware of the aliveness that gives and maintains his very being.
Julian Capper. UK
German Translator‘s Note:
To seek enlightenment results from the hopelessness of striving for lasting happiness in the world of mind, of duality. However, the spiritual offers that are made available to man on his path are based on premises that have not been examined for their reality: Time, action, cause and effect. The Enlightened Beings, like Dr. Shankar here, explain this misunderstanding, which can imprison a person forever in the labyrinth of his mind, no matter what he thinks he is doing about it. A deeper understanding of enlightenment reveals itself in the moment when the mind with thoughts is spontaneously understood as an illusion. So the unknowable moment remains as enlightenment, which is life, and this living moment also includes the human being.
Marcus Stegmaier, Germany.