By Dr. Tan Kheng Khoo
“Being is the eternal, ever present One Life beyond the myriad forms of life that are subject to birth and death. However, Being is not only beyond but also deep within every form as its innermost invisible and indestructible essence. This means that it is accessible to you now as your own deepest self, your true nature. But don’t seek to grasp it with your mind. Don’t try to understand it. You can know it only when the mind is still, when you are present, fully and intensely in the Now… To regain awareness of Being and to abide in that state of ‘feeling-realisation’ is enlightenment.”
This essay is not to discuss methods of enlightenment but what comes after the psychophysical organism has realised his true Self. Enlightenment basically means to the enlightened that he is not separate from the rest of the world and that no one is enlightened. He is still composed of the same physical body, emotions and mind, but the thinking mind is no more in existence. That means there is no more ‘me’, ‘I’ and ‘mine’. He does not think, say or do things for the sake of himself. After enlightenment, the Absolute or Totality acts through his psychophysical organism as an instrument.
How does he come to this state? There is no sadhana (spiritual practice) for that individual to undertake to realise his Self. What has happened is that he simply retraces back to his source of origin, and realises his true Self as pure Consciousness. This moment of enlightened is almost like an accident. There is no method, technique or path, which can bring the individual to his source, but there are sadhanas to bring the yogin to the edge of the river. At the edge he just waits for enlightenment to happen. Enlightenment means destruction of the thinking mind, after which he lives in impersonal Consciousness. When circumstances demand it he will move back to personal Consciousness from time to time. Under these conditions in duality he still needs a working mind. The working mind is necessary to drawback on memories, etc for the individual to function. There is an old idea that when a person becomes enlightened he is quite helpless and has to be looked after hand and foot. This is not true. We will go into this later.
There are many similes of the process of enlightenment. Here are some of them. (1) Cosmic Consciousness is equated with that of electricity, which is neutral and is all-powerful. However, as soon as the electricity is plugged into a fridge, a computer or a bulb, the electricity lights up the individual equipment as a separate item. The computer is different and separate from the fridge, and if there is sentience in them, they will deem themselves as separate individuals. (2) A cabdriver in the city thinks that he is in total control of the taxi. In reality, the owner of the taxi-company is in full control of all the taxis and the drivers through the radiotelephone. He directs the drivers to the customers and pays their salaries. The owner of the taxi-company in fact owns everything on earth, animate or inanimate. The taxi is the body, the driver is the mind and the owner of the firm is Cosmic Consciousness. (3) The large cinema screen is taken as Cosmic Consciousness or the ground substance. The film projects a story line onto the screen, and the animation makes the characters seem real. The room has to be darkened for us to see the story. While the film is being projected we are being deluded that the characters are real and true. The minute the film is finished, the lights come on; we realise that they are merely shadows on the screen. Without the screen, Cosmic Consciousness, there would not be any characters or story. (4) The ocean represents the universe and therefore it includes everything. When ripples or drops of seawater come up onto the surface, the ripple or droplet assumes that it is separate. When the droplet is evaporated by the sun to form part of a cloud and then becomes a raindrop, it is more likely to deem itself as separate. At the end of a long journey when it understands that it is part of the ocean this understanding will destroy this ignorance. Then it knows that it is not separate. When this happens the droplet becomes self-realised i.e. enlightened. The last simile is the best. It is very apt.
What happens at the time of enlightenment?
The descriptions here are all from recent enlightened advaitists.
The person cannot hasten the process. When it is going to happen, it will happen. No amount of spiritual practice, sadhana, can bring on enlightenment. Other people are unable to see the transformation in the enlightened (jnani). Some times, the jnani himself realises it only days or months after the event!
What transpires at this event varies from person to person. Ramana Marhashi and Eckhart Tolle both had great fear at the time of enlightenment. With Ramana it is fear of death. Ramana lies down as if his body is dead, but his Consciousness is still aware of a current of energy playing on his rigid body. The fear dropped off, and from then onwards he is ‘perpetually absorbed’ in that current of energy in his daily chores. In Eckhart Tolle’s case, he felt reborn. His deep depression (with suicidal tendencies) was replaced by bliss and peace. He remained in this state of peace and bliss for the next 5 months. Tony Parsons was just walking in the park, when it happened. The stillness and presence descended upon him as the timeless eradicated ‘him’, the experiencer. From thence onwards ‘he’ did not exist. R. Balshekar was translating a talk for Maharaj, when he suddenly became almost like an automaton: the translation was being done for him and his voice became louder and clearer. Most of these people have various grades of bliss, rapture and peace. All of them finally either got used to these states or they wear off. Some of them cry out with joy. Some of them realise that they have finally returned to their original Self. Some behave as if they are insane. There is no uniform formula.
Enlightenment is an impersonal understanding that there is no 'one' being enlightened. It is an understanding that there is no comprehender; there is no longer a separate entity or a doer. It is a surrender to the fact that there is nobody surrendering to anything. It is a vertical impersonal experience. It now becomes an awareness witnessing the functions of the psychophysical complex. The witnessing is like a mirror with no separate entity mirroring the events or actions of the individual. He still functions in duality for the rest of his life, but he does not experience dualism anymore. Duality is a condition of the phenomenal world in which the opposites are mandatory, but dualism is the delusion that one is separate. There is only Consciousness acting through everything in all the universes. Nothing is separate and there isn't an 'I' or 'me'.
Suffering of the corporate body.
Physically there is no change. In time to come he may age more slowly, because there are now no more worries, anxieties or problems of a personal nature. The Absolute functions through his psychophysical complex, whether the individual realises it or not. This is true also with the unenlightened. Physically the body suffers and feels the pain and joy, but there is no one suffering the pain. The pain is there, but there is no suffer. The psychophysical complex may even groan or scream with pain, but there is no 'person' suffering. The pain and the screams are merely witnessed by the impersonal Consciousness.
As the psychophysical organism is free of a personal entity, there is no involvement in others and their problems. Similarly there is no mental projection of enjoyment in good company or listening to music or eating good food as before. The pure awareness merely witnesses the situation as it arises, and there is no involvement in that situation. Love and wisdom prevail in those with these qualities prior to enlightenment. If the individual was an angry one, after enlightenment anger still prevails as a reaction when irritated, but no one is angry.
The Mind and Intellect
Mentally and intellectually, the individual may be just as intelligent as before, but his aim in life may change. From a menial worker, he may be transformed into a teacher of spiritual growth. The individual, who was never interested in writing, suddenly becomes a consummate writer. Public speaking becomes second nature to a former shy and fumbling talker. In the religious line, they are converted into tireless workers in their respective religions with insurmountable energy. Some may resign from very onerous jobs to go into seclusion. Some may suddenly start to heal. With the grace of enlightenment, most of them accept and surrender to the Tao or G-plan.
Enlightenment means not identifying one’s psychophysical organism as a separate doer, but its impersonal Consciousness must still continue to identify the organism as an individual for the rest of his life. Otherwise he cannot function. He must answer to his name and know where he is living and who are his friends and relatives. He is now merely acting as a psychic operating-centre to activate his thoughts, voice and body movements. The Absolute is the functioning centre of his pure Consciousness. This is what Ramana Maharshi meant when he said that there is a centre of energy working on his body. Another good example is when a man gets an out-of-body experience while performing a complicating task, like a surgical operation. Although his spirit is not in his body, he is able to perform the surgical operation impeccably. The spirit outside his body is the functional centre and his shell of a body is the operating centre. The enlightened man (jnani) is truly in this world and not of this world.
The Ego and Mind
In the unenlightened, the ego is composed of the body, emotions and a mind, which can be notionally divided into the working mind and the thinking mind. In the enlightened, the ego is devoid of the thinking mind. This thinking mind is the conceptualising component, which is always separating the ‘me’ from the others. It draws on memories to project fears, worries and anxieties. It also forms images of future successes and failures. The working mind is only concerned with the functioning of the moment. It also draws on memories to work for the present. It does not judge or differentiate. So in the enlightened the thinking mind is no more in existence, and the mind becomes silent. Words just flow out without prior imaging. The thinking mind is the source of trouble: all negative thoughts arise from the thinking mind. It therefore interferes with the smooth functioning of the working mind. When an unenlightened uses only a working mind, as when he is totally engrossed in what he is doing, time goes by very rapidly. In no time three hours have passed by. Neither is he tired. The working mind does not exhaust a person. In an emergency, the enlightened does not panic being devoid of a thinking mind. He acts quickly and instinctively with only the working mind. The mental chattering and daydreaming are both of the thinking mind. The working mind is a silent witness, if there is anything to witness. If there is nothing to witness, it goes deep into pure Consciousness. In one’s practice of the spiritual path before enlightenment, the thinking mind gradually gets subdued on the way. When the ‘me’ becomes less obtrusive, the working mind takes over more and more. Of course the working mind also must use memory to bring in judgement for the execution of the present action. In identifying with the body and there is no image of a doer attached, then it is still the working mind. Habits are not necessarily that of a working mind only. If there is judging or evaluating a situation from the personal point of view it is from the thinking mind. To help staying in the working mind is to truly believe that flowing of one’s G-plan or Tao is beyond one’s control. Just do it without worrying or anticipating the consequences.
While using the working mind, one must totally be present and the mind is not a blank. One could call it an intuitive mind. Most imaging especially when projecting the dire consequences of the future is of the thinking mind. However, drawing images from the past to execute the task at hand is that of a working mind.
Summarising the above, the Absolute or Cosmic Consciousness acts through the psychosomatic organism of either an enlightened or unenlightened individual. The enlightened merely reacts to the situation or external circumstances without the thinking mind and there is no 'me' or 'mine' involved. The unenlightened on the other hand will deem himself as a separate self, acting out his experiences with a 'me' and 'mine' fully in the background. As less and less of the thinking mind is being used, the individual will be less and less stressed, worried and anxious until one day he functions only through his working mind. The ego is still there, but this ego is devoid of the thinking mind.
Can an enlightened individual perform criminal acts?
As the enlightened person does not deem himself as a separate individual and all his actions are unselfish, it is highly unlikely that he will perform criminal or antisocial acts. All his actions are for the benefit of other people. If in order to save 100 people he hurts one or a few, he will not hesitate to do so. All his actions are spontanesous and he has no malice aforethought. None of his actions are premeditated except at that moment of execution. He has no worries for his future. He does not seek gain or fame. There is no self-gratification in his actions. In this way, humility, compassion, love and wisdom are his guiding principles.
Although the enlightened does not resort to criminality, his reaction sometimes do not conform to social mores, e. g. his predilection to sex. To explain away his promiscuity, he tends to say that he is above the social etiquette of the general public. Or a more likely explanation is that it is merely the psychophysical organism's normal reaction to that organism's instinct. It is like when he is hungry he just eats. When he is sleepy, he sleeps. When he is sexy, he likes to have sex.
To those who can see auras, they will be able to visualise that the jnani’s auras are much larger than normal. They are also clear without smudges. The main colour would be purple. Any body remaining in the same room as the jnani would be embraced by his auras, which can fill up the entire room. This embracing aura is very healing, especially if the jnani is a healer. Otherwise peace and tranquillity will be emanated by this aura.
Enlightenment is also being with his soul, which has its 5 sheaths. The soul is also known as Sat-Chit-Ananda. Sat is being. Chit is consciousness and Ananda is bliss. Having disassociated oneself with the body-mind complex (body, emotions and mind), he is left with his auras and the 1st covering of bliss. The auras are just his normal armour, which he cannot discharge. He is now left with bliss, which is also a component of the soul. That is why the very first reaction of enlightenment is the utter bliss and joy, but having entrenched himself in the pure consciousness of his soul for sometime, the bliss becomes a normal accompaniment and it is nothing special.
How does the enlightened view the world?
The enlightened realises that Totality or Cosmic Consciousness is the same as individual consciousness, and therefore he is not a separate entity. He and the myriad of entities, vegetation and insects are activated and powered by the same Consciousness. However, the unenlightened does not know this, and he identifies himself with his psychosomatic organism with its attendant suffering. He has the erroneous view that he is separate and that he controls his life. That is why some sages deem the entire world as unreal, because the trillions of ‘things’ are merely the manifested shadows of the Unmanifested, Cosmic Consciousness. These diversity of beings and other ‘things’ are the ripples on the surface of the ocean: everything is part of the ocean. Everything in the universe is powered or activated by the same electricity (Consciousness). All there is, is Consciousness. Every mineral, vegetable, animal and human has the same Consciousness. It is only the human that has ‘self-consciousness’, and therefore he suffers the most, because of his thinking mind. With enlightenment and the destruction of the thinking mind, there are no more concepts with its trail of fears, doubts and worries, because the ‘me’ is not present.
How does the enlightened react?
He reacts spontaneously with no aforethought, but according to the genetic makeup of that particular psychosomatic organism. A large dose of his samskaras (innate tendencies) is infused into this makeup. So if the particular jnani has characteristics of impatience or anger before, he will still be impatient or angry after enlightenment. If he is addicted to cigarette smoking, he will continue to smoke cigarettes after enlightenment. If he has a predilection to sex, he will continue to be attracted to sex. But after all his activities are witnessed and finished with, there is no more attachment after the event. There is no pining or stalking of the sex object in the intervening period. His basic understanding is that he has no control over his reactions: he cannot predict how he will react to his addiction or succumb to a weakness, which comes with his psychosomatic organism. The Absolute or Cosmic Consciousness simply acts through that psychosomatic organism with that failing or addiction. He accepts the changes that come about in his daily life. He does not plan for the event to come about and therefore there is no disappointment. He does not follow a discipline or become a recluse because it conforms to a jnani. As there is no personal doer and as he may have to live with other people, his natural behaviour will have to include co-operation and harmony. His surrender to circumstances is spontaneous and not because of an image he has to build up. He does not have to lead, or to teach or to heal. If doing nothing all day long is his style of living, then he will be seen as a loafer, even if he had been a most industrious worker before enlightenment. There is no telling what transformation or changes a jnani will make to his life. Every conversation, action or thought is spontaneous and his lack of control makes him look like an automaton, but he is not. He merely witnesses the events as a mirror.
The above are the views of an enlightened advaitist.
How does a jnani see the unenlightened (ajnani)?
A jnani does not differentiate between a jnani and an ajnani (unenlightened). To a jnani everybody is powered by the same electricity or Consciousness, and therefore he views all sentient beings as the same. The ajnani, who is veiled by ignorance, cannot recognise a jnani and sees him only as a person who performs action like any other person. So he treats the jnani like any other person without realising that the jnani is devoid of the essence of a personal self. This jnani is propelled and activated by Cosmic Consciousness without a doer performing the acts. A jnani knows that it is the same Consciousness that acts through every sentient being and every form in the universe. Both (jnani and ajnani) are equal to him. Every single individual is unique in that its psychosomatic organism has inherited characteristics from his genes. Every individual must also act out his own G-plan with his samskaras. These do not change with enlightenment. Even his addictions remain.
Is the jnani subjected to karma and cause and effect?
The psychosomatic organism definitely is subjected to karma and causality. If he breaks a law, that law will punish his psychosomatic organism. Jesus Christ was a good case in point. He was crucified according to the law of that country at that time. However, as there is no being or doer in him, he went headlong into Jerusalem on that day knowing full well that he would be crucified. Being a jnani, the ‘me’ was not there and therefore ‘he’ did not suffer. The psychosomatic organism suffered, but not ‘him’. This reminds us of a Buddhist Zen Koan, in which a monk was asked whether an enlightened person was subjected to karma. He answered wrongly: ‘No’. As a consequence of this mistake, the monk had to be reincarnated 500 times as a fox! The retribution of course was an exaggeration, but the lesson was well taught. A jnani does not create future karma, but its psychosomatic organism is subjected to past (prarabdha) karma. Of course after his death there is no more karmic effect because he will not be reborn again unless he has decided to be a Bodhisattva.
Witnessing is just Being.
In witnessing, there is no observer. It is the state of Consciousness witnessing when there is something to witness. If there is nothing to witness, Consciousness goes deeper into a state of rest of non-witnessing. Ramana Maharshi calls this the ‘natural state’. It is like the automatic gear in a car. In witnessing, the car automatically changes gear when accelerating. But Consciousness automatically goes back to neutral i.e. non-witnessing when there is nothing to witness. In this non-witnessing state, the jnani hears the sounds and sees the sights without any personal involvement at all. If this state continues, he goes into samadhi. However, when a reaction is required, the non-witnessing state moves back into a witnessing state again. It is automatically smooth and spontaneous. In the jnani, his Consciousness is impersonal and is similar to the Consciousness of an ajnani in deep sleep. In deep dreamless sleep, the ajnani does not identify his Consciousness with his psychosomatic organism but he does so when awake. The jnani does not identify with his psychosomatic organism when awake. To him it is an awakened dream, when awake. In this state he does not witness his thoughts. His thought gets witnessed. This means there is no one witnessing. In this pure witnessing, there is no ‘me’ involved and therefore there is no judgement or comparison. The jnani is just like a mirror: what is mirrored does not effect him. He mirrors only what is presented to him, who himself is a non-entity.
The Inherent Characteristics of the Jnani
Due to his G-plan and prarabdha (karma to be spent in this life), the jnani still has to suffer or enjoy the effects of karma. Additionally due to his samskaras he also has desires and anger. When desires and anger arise, he may or may not succumb to them. However he does not hold any lingering anger against what makes him angry, neither does he scheme and plan to acquire the objects of his desires. When these desires, thoughts and anger are over, they are all totally forgotten. If the psychosomatic organism has inherent fear, the jnani may also have fear and even terror, but then it passes. That means pain, pleasure, grief and gratification etc will all arise depending on the individual organism. All these will be witnessed and acted upon if necessary and then they are all cut off. If he is hungry, he eats. If he is thirsty, he drinks. If he is sexy, he may or may not go and look for sex, for this process involves some one else. If the above emotions arise with accompanying personal involvement then he is not a jnani. The jnani knows that these desires, emotions and anger are beyond his control: he is merely the instrument for the Absolute to act through. Therefore, enlightenment does not make that individual perfect. He simply becomes whole and awake. With understanding, he is peaceful, blissful and tranquil.
Lack of motivation and consistency
As the thinking mind is absent, there is no motivation for his action, which is spontaneous, not judgmental and not confusing. His actions may also not be reasonable or consistent. If before enlightenment, the individual is full of love and compassion, then the transformed jnani will also be full of love and compassion. If these are not his qualities before enlightenment, then he may not manifest them too readily after enlightenment. However, agape, compassion and wisdom are usually the basic qualities of the Absolute. Totality is unadulterated, unconditional love!
Moral Issues concerning a Jnani
Is a jnani virtuous? Having destroyed the thinking mind he is now merely a psychosomatic organism. He is absolutely without self-interest. Everything he does is for the benefit of others, who are not treated as separate. He knows that he and the rest of the universe are charged by the same electricity or impersonal Consciousness: there is no difference between him and others. Therefore he needs not go about to be virtuous. He simply acts. Selflessness and humility are now part of his normal character. He does not have to be selfless or humble. He simply is. This is in contrast to the hypocritically, assumed virtue and humility of the so-called pious people and clergy. In them, there is no spontaneity or naturalness. The altruism of the rich is always overtly seen and advertised. The false humility of the powerful is often too obvious. They try too hard, whereas the jnani does not have to pretend. He just simply is what he is. He knows what Jesus said: ‘I and my father are one. The kingdom of God is within.’
Every unenlightened or enlightened being has a unique psychosomatic organism, a body-mind complex. Every form in the universe is charged by the same Cosmic Consciousness. This Consciousness is impersonal until it inhabits a psychosomatic organism, when it becomes personal. The jnani knows that every one on earth is propelled by the same Consciousness, but the ajnani is veiled by ignorance and believes that he is separate from others. In this way he thinks that he controls his own life, and all his activities will either fail or succeed by his efforts. His ego consists of his body, emotions and mind. His mind is notionally divided into thinking and working mind. The thinking mind is the one that makes him suffer. All negativities, fear, and anxiety arise form the thinking mind, which always regrets the past and fears the future. In the jnani, the thinking mind is totally destroyed, and he knows that he is selfless. The jnani knows that Cosmic Consciousness acts through his organism and he has no control over it. So he flows with the Tao. He cannot explain the Tao to his unenlightened friends, because the Tao that is named is not the Tao. The jnani in all probability will not be reborn again when he dies, unless he wants to come back as a Bodhisattva. The psychosomatic organism has its own inherent characteristics, which are derived from its samskaras and genetics. When the organism is born angry, he may remain angry throughout life whether enlightened or not. However, he does not carry the anger over even to the next second. He is very natural and spontaneous. There is no pretension at all. He does not have to put up an image of being saintly or virtuous. In fact he is as imperfect as before enlightenment, but he is whole. Generally, he is healthier, because there is no fear, anxiety or worry due the absence of the thinking mind. However, if a major illness is in his G-plan, he will suffer that illness. All his actions are for the benefit of others, whom he deems as part and parcel of Self (Cosmic Consciousness). Love and compassion are accentuated if they are there before. He is characteristically wise because it is the wisdom of Totality that shines through him.
1) Ramesh S. Balsekar. Consciousness Speaks. Advaita Press. 1992.
2) Sri Ramana Maharshi. Be As You Are. Edited by David Godman. Arkana. 1985.
3) Tony Parsons. The Open Secret. Open Secret Publishing. 1995, 1998, 1999 and 2000.
4) Tony Parsons. As It Is. Open Secret Publishing. 2000.