THE ABCs OF ENLIGHTENMENT Week 05: ENLIGHTENMENT

If you have been reading these essays from the beginning then you already know that in the East they believe that God…

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ENLIGHTENMENT

 

God and His Heavenly Kingdom Are Within You

If you have been reading these essays from the beginning then you already know that in the East they believe that God and His Heavenly Kingdom are within you and discoverable. If, however, you started reading here, believing that, being the title chapter, it would be, like, the best part ever, then I wish to tell you that in the East they believe that God and His Heavenly Kingdom are within you and discoverable and in order for you to find out whether the “best part ever” thing is true, you will have to read a little more. Sorry.

When we think of enlightenment, we immediately think of the Buddha, or maybe Keanu Reeves, who portrayed him in 1993’s Little Buddha, and that would be unfortunate. For while both the movie and he, of course, looked good; steeped in the cadence of surf speak, of “Dude, that’s totally gnarly,” Keanu’s performance was sort of bogus. So much so that on the night I went, when he delivered the line “Come my disciples, eat my rice,” it reached critical mass and the entire theater just cracked up, for suddenly we were watching Ted ‘Theodore’ Logan (his signature role in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure) Under the Bodhi Tree. But if you thought that his portrayal was, like, okay, the most amped ever, then I apologize and all right, the crowd that night was, like, okay, a bunch of squid-lips and stuff.

Eternally Self-Transcending

Anyway, one commonality in the movie and the Buddha’s legend, if you are at all familiar with it, is the presence of numerous sadhus (“ascetics”) sometimes naked (try not to look down), who, when they aren’t being total dweebs, are meditating.

In Essay #3, Consciousness, we learned that 5000 years ago the Rishis in the Indus Valley discovered meditation and employed it for self-discovery. It’s important to note, however, that they did not just sit down, go deep within, and immediately arrive at their own highest height. (Or, in truth, ever absolutely arrive, this ultimate goal being eternally self-transcending. Whoa! Epic, Dude!)

Still, there are landmarks along the way and enlightenment is one such signpost and depending upon whom you talk to, perhaps even the most advanced. Though some will say that enlightenment is a misnomer; that when Prince Siddhartha became the Buddha it was God-realization that he attained because enlightenment is more like a higher state of illumination and, as such, actually lower than complete God-consciousness. And those persons are probably those same naked sadhus who, unable to meditate twenty-four hours a day, argue about things like this mostly, I suppose, just to pass the time or maybe to try and take their minds off the fact that they are so freakin’, tired, hungry, and cold.

Higher States of Consciousness

But for our purposes and those of newbies everywhere, we will simply construct two categories: higher states of consciousness that you can descend from and those from which you cannot descend. When Siddhartha, seated at the foot of the Bodhi tree in Sri Chinmoy’s play, Siddhartha Becomes the Buddha, declares, “Here I shall realize the Truth. Until I put an end to sorrow, I shall not move from this spot,” it is this latter condition that he seeks.

In our popular song “Amazing Grace,” we find the line, “I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind but now I see,” and also “to save a wretch like me,” and as a song about redemption and the beautiful and rarefied experience of God’s grace, it reverberates to our very core. But we also know that even if we are lucky enough to have this experience, it’s still also pretty easy to fall from grace; to “wretch” once more, so to speak. Which is why this experience of becoming aware of God’s compassionate presence within one’s self is considered, in mystical circles, an “awakening” and thought of as a first step. Not in any disparaging or condescending way (sadhus take note), for mysticism, like the religions, also recognizes that the inspiration to set forth on our quest, the source of this grace, is God Himself.

We are lost. We are blind. We are deaf and dumb, too.

We are lost. We are blind. We are deaf and dumb, too. Then God touches our hearts with His Grace and suddenly we wake up and begin seeking Him—an absolutely profound and totally essential experience, for if God does not call us to Him we would remain lost; wandering in the desert. But because mysticism believes that He is calling us in order that we might begin the process of reuniting ourselves with Him, finally and absolutely, it feels that this awakening is not the end; not the fruit at the top of the tree, but the seed that inspires the seeker to begin their journey back to a permanent state of God-consciousness. (Did you know that the giant Sequoia, 300 feet tall and 100 feet in circumference and therefore the largest by volume of any tree on Earth, begins as a seed smaller than a flake of oatmeal? Also, that its germ can only be released by fire? I shudder!)

So knowing that awakening is an exceptional condition, not only to receive but especially to maintain, that “what comes up has to come down,” and believing that a permanent state of God-consciousness is possible, mystics employ meditation to “limit their downside potential,” to borrow a phrase from the business world. Still, meditation is not the actual experience but the tool; not the signal, let us say, which comes from God, but more like the tuner on a radio that must be carefully adjusted until it hones in on the proper frequency.

You Will Need Complete Self-Mastery

Science estimates the number of human beings who have ever lived to be roughly 100 billion, give or take 25 billion or so. (The number depends upon when you consider modern man to have first appeared.) And I’m about to take an even greater statistical leap and guess that the number of humans who have ever found themselves in Prince Siddhartha’s exact psychic condition, to be truly crying for reunification with the Highest, to be only a few hundred or so. Then really jump off the numerical cliff and say that even among those, the number able to complete their journey and become enlightened, permanently God-realized, is perhaps a few dozen at best.

This is because, as illustrated in the film, the play and the legend, you will need complete self-mastery as you are drawn up through the higher realms in order to remain one-pointedly focused on your goal. For the energies that occupy the various realities within you and around you will create every imaginable disruption, just as you might encounter in one of your weirdest and most disturbing dreams. Therefore, it is difficult beyond compare. And many sadhus and others who have practiced spiritual disciplines for decades, when at last they have begun their true ascent, for want of this indomitable inner will, have failed to attain a permanent higher consciousness and have had to descend again. But I’ll never say, “Serves them right” (maybe the other sadhus will), for what they have undertaken is, by far and away, the most difficult thing imaginable.

Mount_Everest

Pic via Wikipedia

The Highest Mountain

The highest mountain in the world at 29,035 feet is Mt. Everest, “discovered” in 1853 and named in 1865 in honor of the British surveyor general of India, even though for centuries it had been known in Nepal as Sagarmatha and in Tibet as Chomolungma, “Goddess Mother of the World”—much in the same way that Columbus “discovered” America in 1492, to the surprise, and later, chagrin of the Native Americans who must have been hard-pressed to try and figure out exactly where they had been living for tens of thousands of years. (In North America we liked most of their place names enough to keep them, anyway. More than half our states and thousands of our cities, counties, and other divisions in America have such ancient names. Connecticut is Mohegan from Quinnehtukqut meaning “beside the long tidal river.” Manhattan is Algonquian, and means “isolated by water.” There are thousands of other examples.)

Many people have been inspired to climb Everest, while the rest of humanity will ask, “What on Earth would make anyone want to do that?” To which George Mallory, who lost his life in 1924 on his third attempt to be the first to summit, famously answered, “Because it is there.” And this is perhaps the closest parallel to the pursuit of enlightenment that we have. Except that if you are successful in your inner climb, if you become enlightened, then you can stay at the peak, can remain eternally God-conscious and never have to descend.

Look for the next topic, Faith, next week! Can’t wait to until then to read more? Order The ABCs ofThe ABCs of Enlightenment cover Enlightenment: A Mystical Primer today.

 

Jeffrey BakerJeffrey Baker was a student for more than forty years of Sri Chinmoy, who named him Kalatit (Kal, time; atit, beyond). Called “our preeminent humorist” by his teacher, he was a frequent contributor to publications and events in his spiritual community and elsewhere. A card-carrying Baby Boomer, he attended the Woodstock Festival, performed in various rock-and-roll ensembles, and has a degree in ecology from The University of Connecticut. He’s been a gardener for the Rockefellers in Pocantico Hills, New York, and “the piano tuner to the stars” working with artists such as Billy Joel, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Richard Goode and Andre Previn. He has composed more than one hundred works in the classical as well as the theatrical genres. (https://www.reverbnation.com/jeffreybaker) His The Music of the Zodiac, has had more than 40,000 downloads. His corpus of philosophical treatises, Eat My Dust, Martin Luther, as well as a collection of epigrams, 1000 Pearls of Wisdom, and a group of essays on contemporary subjects, Blah, Blah, Blah, are available as e-books (Amazon) and in paperback (Createspace).

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Yoga Sutras – Om

When I meditate I always begin and end my practice by chanting Om…

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When I meditate I always begin and end my practice by chanting Om. It’s like stepping through a portal. I usually chant it several times until I really feel a strong connection/punctuation… I chant it externally. Then I chant it internally. The vibration in my throat stops but the vibration in my heart-universe continues.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, expounded upon by Swami Vivekananda (also see) in his book, Raja-Yoga, particularly addresses the use of the syllable Om in aphorism 27 (The word that manifests Him is Om.) and 28 (The repetition of this (Om) and meditating on its meaning [is the way]).

Tom on Harmonium

What is God’s name?

I find it interesting that try as we might, it is impossible to put a definitive name to ‘God.’ Every thought in the mind has a corresponding word, a symbol. Thought and word are inseparable. If the symbol (word) corresponds to the thing signified then we are assured that there is a valid relationship: the symbol can then conger the thought. However, many symbols, many words can represent the same thought.

Vivekananda posits that there might be hundreds of words for ‘God’ across the globe. But there must be some underlying generalization that can be distilled from all these names. There must be some common ground in all these names. That common name would then best represent them all.

Patanjali suggests the common ground is Om.

Notice a variety of ‘God’-names: God, Yahweh, Jehovah, Allah, Brahma, Shiva, Buddha… notice that each name contains the syllable, ‘Ah,’ closely corresponding to the first part of the pronunciation of the syllable Om (or AUM, Ahh-Ooo-Mmm). Speculating that someone from England might not recognize the Pakistani or Japanese word for ‘God,’ for example, never-the-less both might be familiar with Om and would recognize the underlying thought. It’s interesting to note that many ‘God’-names are preceded by adjectives to qualify them, like Personal God, Absolute God, Christian God, etc., limiters. Yet Om requires no qualifiers, having around it all significances.

PYO

Repetition of Om and Meditation on its Meaning

Whether vocalized or silent, repetition of Om creates vibrational energy in our bodies, minds and in the universe. As we have already determined Om to be divine, Vivekananda equates chanting Om to be, “…keeping good company with the mind.” And he suggest that, “One moment of company with the holy builds a ship to cross this ocean of life: such is the power of association.” So we repeat Om and meditate on its meaning. Om is the foundational expression for ‘God’ in this context. It is an utterance without qualification. The more it is repeated, the more it is considered, the greater the association and, “Thus light will come to you; the Self will become manifest.”

Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda (Image via Wikipedia)

Vivekananda really pushes the idea of keeping good company, specifically, good company with the purity of ‘God’ by virtue of repetition and meditation. We all have the old scars and wounds. We each have within us the potential for the greatest good or the greatest evil. Keeping evil company (thought, word, deed, associations, etc.) is like picking an open wound. It will manifest as a festering lesion. Repetition and meditation on the meaning of Om will bring to the surface those perhaps latent good impressions and qualities and build a strong foundation for introspection and the destruction of obstacles, those negative qualities which hinder our spiritual growth.

Chanting Om is as foundational as is breath. Ujjayi breathing is simply chanting Om using only the breath, foregoing vibrating the vocal chords.

When I first began my yoga life I truly thought the breath work was kind of trivial and silly; such a simple, almost inconsequential thing. I really didn’t see any real practicality about it. Most studios I frequented rarely chanted Om at the beginning and ending of a class. It was only that I was a singer that it finally dawned on me that breath control was so vital a part of the practice. My ‘home’ studio, Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga Studio in San Diego, CA (my  employer) has always chanted Om at the beginning and ending of each class, one of several practices that endeared me to the studio.

Make the practice of chanting Om a daily endeavor.

Consider it’s meaning. Om is the unqualified expression of the divine. Let it spring forth from your heart as the first, the only and the last vibration… Be Om.

 

 

Featured image by MAMJODH, license.

 

 

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