Sunday, January 18, 2009

What is the Enlightenment Principle?

Enlightenment is defined as- the action or state of attaining or having attained spiritual knowledge or insight.

And a principle can be defined as (although we will go into other definitions in greater detail)- a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning.

So in short, the Enlightenment Principle is the fundamental truth that shows us the way to attain spiritual knowledge. Combining the great spiritual teachings of human history and the discoveries in the modern arts and sciences we can obtain a clear awareness that points the way to Enlightenment, or freedom from the suffering of the mind.

However, this is only one approach. There is no true path that supersedes other paths. The mind attaches to a concept and needs to make it absolute. But this is an illusion, a game of the mind. For example let us examine the Zen story “Finger pointing at the Moon”

The nun Wu Jincang asked the Sixth Patriarch Huineng-
"I have studied the Mahaparinirvana sutra for many years, yet there are many areas I do not quite understand. Please enlighten me."

The patriarch responded-

"I am illiterate. Please read out the characters to me and perhaps I will be able to explain the meaning."

Said the nun-
"You cannot even recognize the characters. How are you able then to understand the meaning?"

"Truth has nothing to do with words. Truth can be likened to the bright moon in the sky. Words, in this case, can be likened to a finger. The finger can point to the moon's location. However, the finger is not the moon. To look at the moon, it is necessary to gaze beyond the finger, right?"

So we expend our energy discussing the nature of the different fingers pointing the way and never see the moon. The finger (insert Guru, Religion, workshop, ect..) said the way is _________. Whatever is inserted in the blank may or may not get you to see the moon. Practice is the only way, the application of wisdom, and the experience of truth. One cannot obverse or quantify Enlightenment.

There is a story about Gautama Buddha after he attained enlightenment under the Bo (Wisdom) Tree. It is said that the Buddha passed a man on the road who was struck by the Buddha's extraordinary radiance and peaceful presence. The man stopped and asked,

"My friend, what are you?
Are you a celestial being, or a god?"

"No," said the Buddha.

"Well, then, are you some kind of magician, or wizard?"

Again the Buddha answered,


"Are you a man?"


"Well, my friend, then what are you?"

The Buddha replied,

"I am awake.”

So enlightenment is simply awaking to the true nature of Self. The total realization of what IS, not in an academic or intellectual way, but in a total embodiment of this understanding that is beyond names and forms. This understanding cannot be spoken, for words do not convey the truth. This brings about an obvious and fundamental problem that I will cover in detail in the next chapter.

Therefore, all we have left is words, concepts, art and other tools to convey this enlightened truth. So what are the principles that humanity has discovered that point the way to this truth? I have spent my life working to understand them, however in all my searching they never revealed their insight to me. I had given up, as there seemed to be no truth that was correct for all people at all times in all situations.

That is until the experience of my own life, showed them to me. It was if every book, every idea, every theory suddenly merged into one. And for the first time all the pieces fit. It was always there staring me in the face but my level of understanding didn’t allow me to see the order in the apparent chaos. I have continued to experiment with this understanding and not a day goes by that anything can happen that does not fit into this awareness. Every moment is a confirmation and brings greater bliss and peace.

However, this does not belong to me alone, but it is the birthright of us all. Many greater than myself have transcended and embodied enlightened awareness. As Sir Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” I had the good fortune (karma) to be born into a family that demanded I engage in philosophical discourse. I was raised with several religions and allowed to consider them on their own merits. I then spent the time to research, explore and obtain direct experience by crossing our planet several times over to observe humanity in it’s various forms. And in the end it still required a strike of personal suffering to bring it all into focus. In the same way a Zen master will strike their students during meditation, a severe blow to my personal ego was required to reveal what my mind had obscured after all my training.

Still I was unsure if I should join the fray. Why add my voice to the countless calling for the masses to awaken? However once you understand the nature of the all-is-one reality, there is no other choice but to participate in the collective. So I offer my journey, my piece to the puzzle as a prayer for us all.

May all beings achieve enlightenment, and may my suffering be for the benefit of all sentient beings. May we all awaken to our unity, and may infinite love become our way of life.

Elias Arjan
January 2009.

P.S. This installment has a distinctly Buddhist flavor, as the concept of Enlightenment comes to us from Buddhism with it’s roots in the Vedic teachings. However many other wisdom traditions and scientific theories will be covered in the blogs to come.

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