Sunday, May 1, 2011

Tolle and Adyashanti: What is Enlightenment?

The man or woman seeking meaning in their life is bound at some time to hear of enlightenment. But what is enlightenment, really? And where are we to find it? At the feet of a guru? Perhaps? At the top of a mountain? Maybe. In a corner bar, a bottle of pills, a love affair or a new car?  Highly, highly unlikely.

Andrew Cohen, Editor-in-chief,
of EnlightenNext magazine.
The enlightened spiritual teacher, Andrew Cohen, wrote an entire book called "Enlightenment is a Secret." In it, he remarked:
"Enlightenment is a secret that very few people know about and even fewer understand. Why is it a secret? Because Enlightenment does not exist in time. That why it's a secret and that's why it will always be a secret. Enlightenment is a vision that cannot be held or grasped in any way. Beyond this world it's a mystery that is exploding. A fire that is burning. It's a fire that a person is either going to jump into or run away from. This fire burns beyond the mind. No-time is the place where this secret abides. Realize that and you realize the Self you are when there's no mind and no time. Realize that and cling to that alone as your own Self.
The  great Sufi poet and teacher, Rumi, asked us to judge the moth by the worthiness of the candle it immolates itself in. "Enlightenment is not far away," Cohen insists. "It does not need to take time."

Below, two modern enlightened teachers, best-selling author of "The Power of Now," Eckhart Tolle and the neo-Buddhist teacher and author, Adyashanti, tackle the question of just what enlightenment is.

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Eckhart Tolle
Enlightenment, or the egoless state, "cannot be achieved in the future, or in time," Eckhart Tolle notes. "It is only by looking through it now, that the egoless state is here, now."

"A state that you want to achieve is a mental concept that is endowed with self," he observes. "And, as such, you can never reach it because it is an abstract concept of 'who I want to be,' not realizing you are it already."

"So the egoless state does not lie in the future. It has nothing to do with the future," he says. "You cannot make it into a goal. You cannot make - whether you call it the egoless state, or whether you call it enlightenment - you cannot make it into a goal. 'Goal' implies future," he observes, and "the very entry point into the egoless state or enlightenment is the present moment."

"If you make (enlightenment) into a goal you want to achieve," says Tolle, "you miss the entry point, because you are looking to the future."

"That is the dilemna of all spiritual seekers," he observes. "Because they listen to a spiritual talk or read a spiritual book and say, 'There is such a thing as the egoless state, or the enlightened state, and perhaps I can achieve it too.' And immediately they make it into a goal (and) project it away. It becomes mind, a mental image of 'who' I want to 'be' (in the) future. And (they do) not realize that their very search to actualize that image prevents them from being it, now. Because the entry point is here, (in) this moment only. The ego can only be transcended through accessing the power of the present moment." There is, he says, "no other way."

"Enlightenment is only in the power of the present moment," Tolle notes, "nowhere else. It is only humans who give up the search who realize it is already here. So you have to, one way or another - either because you are totally frustrated with the spiritual search, or because you suddenly see the truth of it -  give up the  search, as if (enlightenment) is in the future."

"Enlightenment," says Adyashanti, "is simply not perceiving through ego. It's not seeing life or any thing - self, others, your tennis shoes, your cat, your dog, your livelihood, anything - it's just not seeing the world, not seeing everything through the distortion called the egoic state of consciousness. "

"That is why," he observes, "(enlightenment) is likened to the natural state. Natural, meaning its not an alternative distorting lens, it's just perception without a lens, without a distortion. Ultimately, that is what enlightenment is. It is perception without distortion."

Cautioning his audience that enlightenment is not an unending blissful experience of what Zen Buddhists call satori, Adyashanti observes that, "in the end enlightenment has very little to do with enlightenment experiences. It is simply not perceiving through the lens of ego."

'There is no doubt, he says, "that it is pretty good not perceiving through the lens of ego, it's happiness, it's peace, it's the end of your search. Not that you find anything, except sanity. Not that you attain anything, except seeing things as they actually are. And that's what nirvana is, seeing things as they actually are."

"Enlightenment," says Adyashanti, "is the unaltered state of consciousness. Consciousness needs no alteration to see that everything is one. Since everything is one, you don't need an unaltered state of consciousness to perceive that everything is one. You need an altered state of consciousness to see that everything is not one."

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