Ultimate State of Consciousness (Enlightenment)
By Dr. Tan Kheng Khoo
Enlightenment “entails casting of the bonds of concept (veils of ignorance) in order to perceive directly the inexpressible nature of undifferentiated reality.”
(From “The Dancing Wu Li Masters” by Gary Lukav)
“Enlightenment is any experience of expanding our consciousness beyond its present limits. We could also say that perfect enlightenment is realisation that we have no limits at all.”
(From “The Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment” by Thaddeus Golas)
“The Ultimate State of Consciousness is universally described in mystical literature as union with the Absolute, where the Absolute is known not as many but one without a second. Further, it is specified that to know the absolute is to be the absolute. It follows that the Ultimate State of Consciousness is itself the Absolute, and thus the ultimate state is not a state of consciousness set apart from other states, not one state among many, but rather one state without a second ----that is to say, absolutely all-inclusive. Hence, the Ultimate State of Consciousness is not an altered state of consciousness, for there is no alternative.”
(From “Eye to Eye” by Ken Wilber)
‘Are you a God?’ they wondered.
‘No’ replied the Buddha.
‘Are you an angel?’
‘Then what are you?’ they asked.
‘I am awake’
(From “The Religions of Man” by Huston Smith)
All the above quotations are about the final stage of enlightenment, but most of us are far from that state. Most of the spiritual books on the subject speak of either a gradual method or a sudden one. The latter is never an instant recipe. It is almost certainly a culmination of numerous life times of serious practice. This final incarnation is merely the last one. Theravada Buddhism, Hindu yogas, and Western mysticism are some of the gradual methods. However, Zen Buddhism, Vajrayana Buddhism and Islamic Mysticism claim that one can be enlightened in this incarnation, if one practises hard enough.
Take the example of the gradual practice in Theravada Buddhism. It is almost wholly based on the Four Noble Truths, including the Noble Eight-fold Path (the 4th Noble Truth).
The First Noble Truth: The First Noble Truth of Suffering
· Birth is suffering;
· Ageing, illness and death are suffering;
· Sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and tribulation are suffering;
· Association with what one dislikes is suffering;
· Separation from what one likes is suffering;
· Not to get what one wants it suffering.
Second Noble Truth:
The Noble Truth Of The Origin Of Suffering
· If it is unpleasant, one is repelled.
· In enjoying the pleasure one grows attached to it.
· This desire causes clinging.
· We suffer because we want.
The Third Noble Truth: Cessation Of Suffering Is Not To Crave
· The complete fading away and extinction of craving, forsaking it and giving it up;
· The liberation and detachment from it.
This is called the noble truth of the cessation of suffering.
The Fourth Noble Truth:
Noble Eight-fold Path Leading To The Cessation To Suffering
Following the above Eight-fold Path, the foibles of the yogin can then be transformed:
· Craving, lust and desire are transformed to altruism and charity.
· Anger and resentment are turned to compassion.
· Selfishness is changed to selflessness.
· Ignorance becomes wisdom.
Of course, for the above processes to work themselves through would need decades if not life times. Once a breakthrough to an Aryan (Saintly) Path is made, four progressive stages had been recognised and repeatedly mentioned by the Buddha in his teachings. They are:
The above table needs some explanation. In order to enter the stream, one has to let go of the superstitious practices of rites and rituals: these are quite useless in the acquisition of enlightenment. One must also believe that there was a historical Buddha, namely Sakyamuni, who was born a human and not a God. By his own efforts, he was enlightened. This fact alone gives us great encouragement. However, the most important fetter is to realise that our physical body, our emotions and mind are not ourselves. This is the meaning of ‘there is no essence in the five heaps’. The five heaps are composed of the body (rupa) and the mind. The four heaps of the mind are: thoughts or mental formation (sankhara), perception (sanna), sensation (vedana) and consciousness (vinnana). As for the 6th fetter, a subtle form means insubstantial forms like ghosts and spirit guides, which are seen only by few people. Formless realms in the 7th fetter mean the realms beyond that, where there are no forms at all even to the clairvoyant. These two realms are attained by meditators when they reach the first four Jhanas (the 6th fetter) and the 5th to the 8th Jhana (the 7th fetter). Therefore from the above slow and gradual practice, one can see that many life times could be consumed before one arrives at the Ultimate State of Consciousness. In fact, there is hardly any Saint (Arahant) that has graduated through the Theravada tradition in the present era. The other gradual practices to be described take just as long.
In the Hindu tradition, there are many types of yoga practices: hatha (physical), bakti (devotional), karma (social or charitable activity), nana (knowledge) and raja (meditation). Seeing that this is a treatise mainly on meditation practice, raja yoga would be used as a comparative study. The methodology is principally that of one-pointed concentration using breath, mantra or visualisation or any other method. Before proper meditation can get started, a long period of withdrawal from extraneous distractions must be practised (dyana). After decades of diligent practice one may progress through the following stages:
SAVIKALPA: After many years of meditation, the aspirant (sadhaka) may arrive at this stage of altered human consciousness, which is in another realm, where time and space are totally different. For this period of time in samadhi (1-2 hours) all the millions of desires are sublimated: all the things are done. There are still thoughts & ideas but they do not affect one. They are in a faint backdrop. There are four levels of savikalpa samadhi: all of them require effort to sustain. Savikalpa samadhi is compared to a waveless ocean whose waters are still and placid. In this Savikalpa samadhi, the yogin has come to the background screen on which all the pictures and words are projected onto it. He has transcended body-consciousness and he is acting as a mirror witnessing. He is holding on to the empty screen with or without any thoughts arising. If thoughts appear, they are relegated to the background. Without thoughts he can descend deeper and deeper into this emptiness until he reaches the Void, which is Nirvikalpa Samadhi. In this descent he has to use effort. There is no spontaneity. From this samadhi, he has to return to normal consciousness.
The aspirant or sadhak is still bound by his sanskaric desires and wishes of the past. This is spiritual bondage. He is still engrossed in sense objects and relationships, although he is trying his best to disillusion himself from them. Right up to the end of Salvikalpa Samadhi, he still needs effort and is not spontaneous. The culminating point of this Savikalpa Samadhi looks similar to that of Nirvikalpa Samadhi, but it is a world apart. He is still engulfed in ignorance and wisdom is nowhere in sight. Although there is pleasure in this path the pleasure is conditional and transient, as there is still an individual mind. This last must be totally destroyed before Nirvana can be enjoyed. Before Nirvikalpa Samadhi is achieved, the individual mind is still tied to sanskaric ties and interests. This is bondage. That is why the sadhak’s meditation is still deliberate and has to be with effort, until the individual self is swallowed in Nirvikalpa with the annihilation of the mind. The sadhak’s trance-meditation state may also be dependent on attractions of the subtle realms of light, smells, colours and sounds. This dependence is not self-sustaining. Only when he finally can eradicate the individual mind and enter into Nirvikalpa Samadhi that it is self-sustaining. Then true tranquillity and bliss become the norm.
In this higher state, the sadhak’s consciousness is not yet with his soul. This happens only when the individual mind merges with the Absolute. After this then he can become a Siddha. This is what Jesus meant: “I and my Father are one”. Nirvikalpa is in the God state. Before arriving at this state the sadhak has to transcend the body, energy and the mind states. In the worldly body state he lives entirely for the satisfaction of the wants and desires of the body: eating, sleeping, drinking and having sex. This physical realm is composed purely of forms.
After transcending the body, he now enters the sphere of energy. The energy state is a purer state of existence and is free of the world of forms. He is now very sensitive to all forms of energy vibration. He is now able to feel the movement of Qi within his body and the oscillations of prana outside the body. He can also see other peoples’ auras. He can produce light in the dark, and live only on energy for a long time. Even at this stage he has not yet achieved perfection.
The next stage is to transcend this energy state and enter into the mind state. This constitutes advancement towards the God State of Nirvikalpa. Energy is an expression of the mind and transcending the energy state is not that difficult. Consciousness is now directly linked to the mind state, which is not synonymous with the brain. In the mind state, he can read and control other peoples’ mind. Nonetheless, this mind state is still in illusion and within the domain of duality. The mind also has to be transcended for the soul’s union with God. Form is consolidated energy; energy is and expression of mind; mind is the covered mirror of Cosmic Consciousness, which is Truth masked by the mind. To get rid of the mind, one has to use the mind and that is not easy. One must have infinite patience longing for the union with God. This may last millions of years. Thus it is a slow method. So there must be many lives of balancing infinite patience and infinite longing before piercing the veil of Maya (ignorance) can be attained.
Nirvikalpa Samadhi: With this union with God, the soul now knows itself not through the mind, but through itself. The soul is now beyond mind. He experiences Being God all the time through his intuition. This self-knowledge of the soul is Self-realisation, which does not come and go. It is permanent. He is enlightened forever. He has at last broken the veil of ignorance—Maya is finally defeated. There are now no limits! This state of God-consciousness is infinite and characterised by understanding, love and happiness. He has entered Eternity!
Now there are no more thoughts or ideas. There is only peace and bliss. The knower and the known (soul or atman) have become one. This divine bliss is all pervading. This is the highest samadhi and can be achieved only after self- realisation (identified with the soul). The yogin has merged with Reality or his soul and is completely unaware of the external world. The mind is immersed into the light of the Self. It is compared to a flame that burns quiet and steady, unaffected by the external breeze. With or without the help of a perfect master, the sadhak has entered spontaneously into Nirvikalpa, after experiencing Nirvana. He can achieve that only after he has relinquished his sanskaric ties and worldly interests. He has already given up all his worldly fetters (c/f the 10 fetters of the Theravada Aryan). There are now no obstacles to overcome or objects to achieve and therefore no effort is needed. The transition is very spontaneous. His individual mind has been annihilated and his consciousness has now merged with the Absolute. He has attained final emancipation through breaking the veils of Maya. He is now a Siddha (God-realised being) himself. However, once he comes out of this Nirvikalpa State, the movement of the body, his perceptions including sight and sound, and the arising of the mind will bring him back to the phenomenal world. This Nirvikalpa Samadhi State is said to have a limit of 21 days, but actually there is no time limit. After returning to normal consciousness he has to relearn the ways of the world again. At first, the Siddha forgets his name and age, after returning to normal consciousness. He really does not want to come back to the world at all. But some are given the grace to come back---primarily to teach or to lead.
Sahaja Samadhi: This is the highest consciousness. It is divinity in action and is experienced only by the Sadguru. It is preceded by Nirvana and Nirvikalpa Samadhi. This state is beyond mind as consciousness is entirely withdrawn from physical forms, subtle forms and the formless realms. There is no thought except the ‘I am’ consciousness. He is already in the Ultimate State of Consciousness all the time. And yet the yogin is still working in the gross physical world at the same time. He uses the body, emotions and mind as instruments, but there is no identification with them. Throughout his waking hours he is a Siddha in Nirvikalpa Samadhi. He has transcended the three instruments and is totally absorbed in God. He is in Nirvana and the experience of the world leaves him uninvolved. He is now God-conscious and has no individuality. When in this state of Nirvana he is experiencing unlimited individuality. The yogin has already realised his soul and is with Reality throughout the remainder of his life. He is able to use his body-mind organism in the worldly activities. Externally, he is like any ordinary man, but internally, he is with the Absolute. The thinking mind is dead and he is immersed into the Self throughout. It is now only impersonal Consciousness that is acting out the remaining portion of his life. It is like a river discharging into the ocean and its identity is lost. He remains in this state of bliss and happiness without effort. He only uses the working (not the thinking) mind. Out of the not too many Siddhas, very, very few of them may descend down from the 7th plane of consciousness after achieving Sahaja Samadhi. These very few Sadgurus become Avatars. Here they live a life of God and experience God everywhere. The small and menial jobs that they perform are never too little for them. Only very few Masters had reached this state of Sahaja Samadhi. Some examples are: Sakyamuni (Gautama Buddha), Jesus Christ, Mohamed and Lao Tse.
Evelyn Underhill was one of the greatest mystics of our times. She died in 1941. She had written many books, and was a great teacher. Her definition of Mysticism is that it is the art of union with Reality (in this essay Reality is equated with the Ultimate State of Consciousness). The mystic is a person who has attained that union in greater or lesser degree, or who aims at and believes in such attainment. Evelyn Underhill distinguishes five stages of ascension to the Absolute or Cosmic Consciousness:
(1) Awakening or conversion,
(2) Purification of the Self,
(4) The Dark Night of the Soul,
(5) Union or Unitive life.
(1) Awakening or conversion starts with introversion. Introversion means withdrawing from the external world and concentrating inwards towards God. Introversion begins with what she calls recollection, which is similar to one-pointed concentration meditation. This recollection (samatha) practice will bring the mystic to a state of silence and stillness, and there is an attempt at merging of one’s consciousness with God. This is the one-pointed meditation reaching absorption states, when the meditator and the object of meditation becomes one. The stillness and silence are labelled as Quiet. This is a very intense breakthrough. Mostly the awakening is abrupt, and rarely it is gradual. Sometimes a gradual lucidity admixed with pain and sadness may accompany the awakening. The typical case is St. Paul on his way to Damascus. This conversion gives a glimpse of God, which is transcendent and immanent, eternal and temporal, Being and Becoming. He has now seen the ineffable vision of the next realm, and he has therefore to change to participate in the transcendent life. This awakened state is characterised as nothingness or emptiness, which is the absorption state of Buddhist concentration (Jhana). It is equivalent to the Hindu Savikalpa Samadhi when the aspirant is called a sadhak. The knowledge of the things seen and heard of the Absolute world has a noietic quality and is ineffable. It is also transient, and while the mystic is in that trance state he is powerless to utilise his body-mind faculties.
(2) Purgation or Purification of the Self. This newly awakened person (mystic) has to embark on a slow spiritual path of transcendence and transformation of character in order to reach higher levels of consciousness of Reality. The path to union with God is to eradicate the false self and the false beliefs of this world. That means erasing evil, illusion and all imperfections of character, which are not in harmony with Reality. Having realised that our superficial consciousness is finite, we have to aspire to the infinite --- Reality. Although virtue is not specifically named, the acquisition of goodness must be made a prerequisite to the spiritual marriage with God, the only Reality. That means purging of all ‘sins’ like lust, pride, sloth, anger, gluttony, envy and avarice. Humility, charity, selflessness, meekness and calmness should replace these seven ‘sins’. For purgation to be complete pain and suffering must be endured as a pleasure and not a chore.
In other words, Purgation is self-simplification. Purgation is the cleansing of the part that is to remain and stripping of that part to be done with. 1) The Negative aspect is the purging away of the superfluous, unreal, and harmful things, which dissipate the precious energies of the self. This is the process of Detachment or Poverty. 2) The Positive aspect is the raising of the remaining permanent elements of character to the highest or purest state. This is Mortification, a deliberate recourse to painful experiences and difficult tasks.
Detachment: The Catholic Church spells out the essence of detachment as voluntary Poverty, which is the stripping and casting off of material and immaterial wealth, from all finite things. The next element is Chastity, which means the total cleansing of the soul of all personal desire. Lastly, Obedience is the abnegation of selfhood and the mortification of the will leading to a holy indifference to the flow of the Tao. This act of inward poverty leads us to destroy our selfhood, which in the past has individual desires and rights. Now the self is merely an insignificant drop of seawater in the ocean. Detachment and purity (detachment of the heart) will lead to that humble spirit of obedience, which expresses detachment of the will. So these three aspects are manifestations of one thing --- Inward Poverty. In other words, God being pure Good can only merge with a pure soul. The mystic must deprive himself of all material things and fellow creatures, even though the latter are themselves pure. All these detract the mind from the silence and emptiness of contemplation.
Mortification. This is part of purification. It is the positive side of it. The processes here are to erase the elements of the old character, which were subservient to the needs and desires of the old self. The object here is to kill the attachments and self-interests of the former self. The new being must have its character built up to face the challenges of the transcendent self. In order to forge the new path, the old personality must be totally sublimated. This process must be repeated until the old habits and tendencies have faded and died. Mortification can only stop when the new self is wholly pursuing the challenges of transcendent life. The consequence of mortification is not death of the person, but death of the old attachments. All the physical and mental tortures are required to release the personality from its inclination to human pleasure and satisfaction. Once the self is completely emptied of these cravings, then the mortification can stop.
The mystic must now always be willing to serve others rather than to attend to his own needs. This portion of the spiritual path is akin to Insight meditation of the Buddhist, in which one arrives at silence, stillness and emptiness of thoughts. One is left with pure awareness, which is the true Self. The union of the Self with God is the essence of Mysticism. This union starts with brief visitations as intervals between two thoughts and end up as long periods of glorious mingling with God. All the yogins cannot put into words that state with God. All superlatives are used to describe an indescribable situation.
(3) Illumination manifesting as Ecstasy and Rapture. This state appears to be the continuation of Introversion. The Buddhist equivalent is at least the 3rd Jhana of one-pointed concentration. Most of the mystic in illumination range from the 3rd to the 8th Jhana. The mystic is like a block of wood. The body does not feel, the eyes do not see, the ears do not hear and the tongue does not speak. The Western mystic is caught up with God and is solely with God. Externally he is in a trance, mentally he is unified in consciousness and mystically it is an exalted act of perception. The ecstasy is this identification with God. This unity of consciousness excludes all conceptual and analytical thought. In fact all mental, emotional and physical faculties are suspended in this ecstasy. He is merged with the Absolute, which he cannot discern as an object of thought. It is not self-conscious. It is intuitive. Rapture comes more suddenly. It is a violent and uncontrollable expression of genius for the Absolute. In arts it yields results of great splendour and value for life. Rapture comes swiftly and transports one to higher reaches of the Majestic realms. The Hindu equivalent is Salvikalpa working towards Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Here the yogin is absorbed with its own atman (soul), and he is totally insensitive to anything external to his body-mind complex while in a trance. When he descends down to normal life again, he becomes normal as before the samadhi. The Buddhist equivalent is the formless Jhanas.
The Consciousness of the Absolute. The Western mystic has a consciousness that is full of joy and pleasure, punctuated by an occasional period of purgation and suffering. He is certain of going towards God, as the sense of God is more real than seeing or touching. However he is still separate from God unlike in the Unitive State where he is totally merged with the Absolute. This illumination is accompanied by a radiance that grows brighter all the time as he progresses towards the Divine Light.
The Illuminated Vision of the World. The mystic’s eye sees God in everything he perceives. All trees, mountains, streams and animals are imbued with divinity. Being able to see God in a flower means great advancement.
Having achieved the first part of the Mystic Life, we have to go through the Mystic Death---The Dark Night of the Soul.
(4) The Dark Night of the Soul. After going through the last three stages the self is exhausted and needs to withdraw from the ecstasy and rapture and its visitations with the Absolute. It is also the threshold of the next stage, the Unitive Life. The feeling is like the Absolute has abandoned the mystic who is left to fend for himself with normal earthly equipment and no extraordinary powers. He has now all the weaknesses and fears of a novice. Psychologically it is merely a phase between the Illuminative and the Unitive life. That is all. It is like the anguish of a lover who has lost its loved one. St John of the Cross states that he is in passive purification in a state of helpless misery and the self does nothing. This feeling of abandonment by God is like being cast into darkness in the shadow of death with the pains and torments of hell. As long as the subject feels that he is somewhat a separate self, he has not annihilated his selfhood. The dark will remain. It can lasts for months or years.
At the beginning the pendulum swings from ecstasy to sadness. Then as days pass, the pendulum stays more and more on the dark side, until there is now only despair, depression and desolatedness. He is alone without friends or spiritual guides, as if he is abandoned by God. Everything he does is a failure. There is no relief. He is constantly down and out. His motto is now: ‘I am nothing, I have nothing, I desire nothing’. This is the final purification where complete and utter humility is established and total destruction of the ego has transpired. He is in despair and deprivation. Few of them even suffer visions of demons and attacks of satanic acts. The latter cases truly are in hell! The mystic merely has to wait and surrender to what comes. Grace will decide when he can enter the next stage of the Unitive life.
The Eastern equivalent of this state is the Non-Returner of the Theravada path in his penultimate stage. The mystic at this point suffers from restlessness and still has remnants of ego-conceit together with ignorance. He has to drop these three fetters before he can be enlightened. In Hindu terms, he is in the penultimate stage of Salvikalpa Samadhi.
(5) The Unitive Life. The Unitive Life is the Ultimate State of Consciousness-----enlightenment. The mystic has at last come to full realisation of Reality. This transcendent experience allows him to live in this world and yet not of this world. He breathes a rarefied air which normal beings cannot enjoy. These mystics are ambassadors of the Absolute. He vindicates that communion with Reality is achievable. The mystic refers his attainment of the Absolute as deification (the utter transmission of the self in God). He also refers to his communion with Reality as the Spiritual Marriage of his soul with God. These terms are subjective temperamental language. Deification means transmutation of self by God so that from now onwards his life is divine: God is acting through him. The individual soul is likened to a piece of black and dark iron, which has been heated up by Deity to white and red-hot proportions. It is still the same iron, but it is now a different piece of metal. It is now hot and red-white and yet malleable to perform its task. Finally it turns liquid into an entirely different being altogether. The fire here is the divine Uncreated Light of God. He forgets himself, and he is no longer conscious of his selfhood; he disappears and loses himself in God, and becomes one spirit with Him, as a drop of water, which is drowned in a great quantity of wine. All human desires are taken away from him and his is immersed in the Divine Will. His being remains, but in another form, in another glory and in another power. Utter renouncement means stripping the mystic of the ‘I’ the ‘me’, and the ‘mine’. This “self-naughting” to the direction of the larger Will is an imperative condition for the attainment of the Unitive Life. "To eat and be eaten! This is the Union”. In the language of the Spiritual Marriage it is said: “Thou art in me and I in Thee, glued together as one and the selfsame thing, which henceforth and forever cannot be divided”.
A great number of the Western mystics who had attained the Unitive life had a dual character of superabundant creative energy to carry out the work of God and at the same time had the calmness and repose of saints. St. Paul, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Joan of Arc, St Ignatius of Loyola, St. Theresa of Avila and St. Catherine of Siena are few such examples. The character of their work and the abundant energy put into it was certainly super human. It was like a divine power transmitted into these enlightened mystics who had to carry out the work of God. And yet there was tranquillity and peace about them. They even created music and poetry whilst some commune with birds and nature. These personalities are behaving as if they are in another realm. So they are!
In that final state, which is the true goal of the mystic quest, “the Absolute life is not merely perceived and enjoyed by the self, as in illumination but is one with it”. Ignorance of spiritual laws is bondage; knowledge of spiritual laws is freedom; application of spiritual laws is wisdom. The full fruition of spirituality----wise, dedicated, and loving service that aims to elevate human consciousness---- is “The Unitive Life”.
The mystical ascent to the Godhead (Ultimate State of Consciousness) is categorised thus:
(1) Meditation Recollection: Samatha or Dyana: This concentration withdraws you from the external distraction until one day you get a first glimpse of your true Self. Samatha is the Buddhist one-pointed concentration towards the 8th Jhana or absorption. Dyana is the early stages of the Hindu spiritual path where withdrawal from external objects is the main discipline. The Hindu also embarks on the preliminary practice of one-pointed concentration.
(2) Simplification, Purification & Non-Attachment must be practised concurrently with dispassion and desirelessness and detachment during one’s daily routine. It is a total withdrawal in and outside of meditation. Resignations from all committees are mandatory. There should be no more acquisitions of properties and money. There should not be any attempt at climbing up any corporate or other institutional ladder. Life has to be overly simplified.
(3) Contemplation I - Vipassana (Stream-Enterer). Savikalpa Samadhi (Hindu): To know your emotional & intellectual self with painful memories of the subconscious & unconscious. To know that every thing in the world is connected to you and each and every item is essential and beautiful (vegetation, animal & mineral). “Not a drop of water is ever lost in the universe”. This is the realisation of interconnectedness of the universe.
(4) Contemplation II – Vipassana (Once-Returner). Advanced stage of Savikalpa Samadhi: To come to know the true Self concretely and undoubtedly, and that this Satchit-ananda (soul or true Self) is never born and will never die. This same element of unity manifests in multiplicity as diverse “Things” in the world. You have come home to realise who you are. You are able to achieve Silence, Emptiness, Awareness & Stillness every day. This pure awareness is your true Self or soul (Atman), but you have not yet merged with God.
(5) Contemplation III – Vipassana (Non-Returner). Approaching Nirvikalpa Samadhi. The Dark Night of the Soul: You are in total darkness, silence and alone. Helpless, you must not strive anymore. You just surrender and wait for Grace to engulf you. When will it come is not known. It could be weeks, months or years. Then when it happens, utter bliss and joy will be your lot and then you begin to live in the world and yet out of this world. You are transmuted into One-with-the-Universe. The power of love manifest as light or heat and it is very healing.
(6) The Unitive Life of Enlightenment Arahant. Nirvikalpa Samadhi (Very, very few come down as in Sahaja Samadhi) Back to the world to service the world: Everything you touch will turn to gold - i.e. mended and healed within the karmic credit of the recipient. You are now a beacon to your community, country and the Universe! In this state of ultimate reality, there is no division as inner and outer. They are only differing aspects of the One without a second. The God-realised person sees the seamless garment of Being and, seeing it, quite naturally brings his or her activities more and more in alignment with that awareness. Amid the diversity of activities they may pursue, there is unity because he sees that all is Cosmic Consciousness and there is only Consciousness.
As Meher Baba said in his ‘Life at its Best’:
“You are the eternal condition behind all conditions----The Ancient One----- which was never born and which never dies and from which all creation springs. The essence of all creation---God--- is as much within us as it is within trees, mountains, stars, and the cosmic void.”
More properly speaking, you are within it. Enlightenment is simply waking up from the dream of conventional life generated by the ego-based sense of a separate self. And in the enlightened state, all apparently separate forms of life and conditions of existence are seen to be masks of God--- things in which the divine source of all worlds and beings chooses to hide a part of itself. When you realise that, you see that God is One without a second. Some religions say there are many gods, some say there is one god. The enlightened, however, knows that in Reality, there is only God, the great being, the Ancient One, the Cosmic Person---and “thou art that”. It is not so much that you are within the cosmos as that the cosmos is within you.
Thus when one has reached the Ultimate State of Consciousness, one knows with full clarity that one is connected to and is also part of God, and is also connected to everything existing in the universe. This web of interconnectedness is God, One without a second. In this ultimate enlightened state, the individual realises he is God and at the same time, he is in the human form. He also knows that he has three instruments for his usage: physical body, emotions and intellectual mind. These are merely his tools to service mankind and the earth.
Now one can answer the eternal question:
‘Who am I?’ It is simply; ‘I am God!’ Ken Wilber states in his ‘Eye to Eye’:
In the Chandogya Upanishad, Brahman----the absolute Reality, the Ultimate State of Consciousness-----is described in glaringly simple and straightforward terms: the Absolute is “One without a second” That inspired Upanishadic text does not describe the ultimate as the creator, controller, ruler, or lord of a second. The Absolute, in other words, is that which has nothing outside It, nothing apart from It, a fact expressed in Isaiah as “I am the Lord, and there is none else.” All of which means that there is really nothing outside Brahman, nothing outside the Absolute.
In the words of an old Zen master:
“All the Buddhas and all sentient beings are nothing but the One Mind, beside which nothing exists. Above, below and around you, all is spontaneously existing, for there is nowhere which is outside the Buddha-Mind”
Most of the above describes the slow gradual methods. The ‘sudden’ methods really began with Hui Neng, the 6th Patriarch from China. From thence onwards, most Zen masters and the Tibetan, Vajrayana sects proclaim that enlightenment can be obtained in this one life. Of course, most of us who have been practising for many years believe that it is merely the final life of numerous lives of practice. Islamic Sufis, modern Hindus and contemporary teachers like Krishnamurthi and Da Avabhasa (The Bright) and others believe you can do it in one life.
I believe that most of us on the path have practised in the past to a greater or lesser extent. Some of us could have been doing it for thousand of years. It is almost certain that every single person has his or her unique path. No two paths are alike. Be that as it may, it is important that the knowledge of what we are looking must be realised. We must realise that we are looking for something, which we already are. Our ‘Self’ has always been with us and it is part of God. Every sentient being, animal, vegetable and mineral possess this consciousness, which is interconnected by cosmic strands, and everything bar none is part of God. God is even more than that. It includes everything and nothing and the space in between.
Zen has mainly two sects: Soto and Rinzai. The former is very similar to Theravada Buddhism, except its final method of practice is Shikantaza. This last technique is ‘merely sitting’. One just sits with no object of meditation, until one’s mind becomes empty. At this point, the emptiness and pure awareness could return us to one’s original mind. The Rinzai method uses a Koan, which is a riddle that cannot be resolved by our rational or logical mind. One repeats this Koan over and over again for days, months or years until one gets rid of all rational thought, and ‘throws the baby out with the basin of water.’ This means he eradicates the ego completely (the ego is the baby). Again, the meditator arrives at no-mind. At this point, if he is lucky, he may obtain a glimpse of the Ultimate State of Consciousness, which is always there in the background. From this state of calmness, we arrive back to our original state of voidness. This void is our ground base, the Ultimate State of Consciousness, from which arise all other states of consciousness. It embraces and includes all ‘higher’ or altered or super states of consciousness. Whatever state you attained is within the embrace of the ultimate state. You already are, all the time, since you are born, in that ultimate state without your realising it. Therefore no technique, method or practice can bring you to that ultimate state, which is and always has been with you. You cannot work to enter or leave that state, because you are already in that state from the time you left the Source at the Big Bang.
Sri Ramana Maharshi said:
“There is no reaching the Self. If Self were to be reached, it would mean that the Self is not here and now but it has yet to be obtained. What is got afresh will also be lost. So it will be impermanent. What is impermanent is not worth striving for. I say the Self is not reached. You are the Self; you are already That.”
The present belief of the advaitists is: There is only Consciousness, and all phenomenal existence is illusion, maya.
The Ultimate State is not an altered state or a higher state after prolonged meditation. It is an all-inclusive state; it includes all states, from the lowest to the highest. It is our original face, our ground substance. It is our true Self even before we are born. Trying to see our original face or trying to reach the Ultimate State of Consciousness is like an eye trying to see itself, or the knife trying to cut itself. It is impossible. The best chance of realising one’s true Self is to withdraw from everything external, and remain still, silent while emptying all thoughts and come to that pristine awareness. This Awareness is your true Self. It is the One who knows: who sees, hears, thinks and acts etc. This true Self is never born and never dies. It is part of God.
Therefore, when we are able to return to this pristine awareness in our still and silent Self, we truly have come home to this Emptiness, which is our primordial background. It is from this Emptiness that everything arises. Every thought, every seeing, every hearing and every action comes out from this Emptiness. It is from this infinite, spaceless, timeless ground substance that every mineral, vegetable, animal and human being is manifested. Without this infinite Emptiness nothing can come about. Thus, Ultimate State of Consciousness is ineffable and indescribable, because it is non-dual. Everything is One. The Self cannot see the Self (the eye cannot see the eye). God (our true Self) can never be seen or visualised, cannot be felt or heard. Lastly, it also means our True Self will never die. It is always with us, whether we are in incarnation or in spirit. The Ultimate State of Consciousness and God (our true Self) are One and the same. This Emptiness is completely non-dual.
“When a person rediscovers that his Nature is one with the All, he is relieved of the burdens of time or worry; he is released from the chains of alienation and separate self-existence. Seeing that self and other are one, he is released from fear of life; seeing that being and non-being are one, he is delivered from fear of death” From “Up from Eden” by Ken Wilber.
When a person enters Cosmic Consciousness, he knows without learning certain things e.g. (1) that the universe is not dead but a living presence; (2) that in its essence and tendency it is infinitely good; (3) that individual existence continues beyond death.
An enlightened being, is one who is in touch with his deepest unconscious, which is sacred, and is the bottom line of our selfhood (the region of the soul). When we arrive at this level it is as if the doors of perception were cleansed and every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite. For this deepest layer is no layer, it isn’t there. He lives in the presence of the numinous. He does not necessarily get overly excited or manic. He can be happy and he can be sad. He usually has no fear. There is peace. He isn’t incessantly cheerful. The enlightened person does not flood the room with sunlight as he enters. He can be angry and indignant. He does things appropriately. His sanctity shows up as radiance. The enlightened being performs his task meticulously and strenuously. Happiness is associated with his activities. He is not forever sweet and full of light; neither is he emitting energy all the time. We find his presence very soothing and not draining. This calm and relaxed person always command attention. He can lead or he can follow. He does not mind being a teacher but he also does not need students to prop up his ego.
What he does is to do away with features of his finite temporal self and work towards an impersonal sacred unconscious.
As Coomaraswamy said:
“Blessed is the man on whose tomb can be written ‘here lies no one’.
1. Evelyn Underhill. Mysticism. Oneworld Publications Ltd. 1993. Mysticism itself was published in 1911.
2. Edited by John White. What is Enlightenment? The Aquarian Press.1984.
3. Meher Baba. God to Man and Man to God. Sheriar Press. 1975.
4. Meher Baba. Discourses. Sheriar Foundation. 1995.
5. William James. The Varieties of Religious Experience. Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. 1961.
6. Ken Wilber. Eye to Eye. Shambala 1996.
7. Ken Wilber. Up From Eden. Quest Books. 1996.
8. Edited by David Godman. Be as You Are. The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi. Arkana 1985.
9. Gary Zukav. The Dancing Wu Li Masters. Bantam Books. 1980.
10. Conscious Immortality, Conversations with Ramana Maharshi. Sri Ramanasramam Tiruvannamalai. 1998.