Is Spiritual Enlightenment Real?

Thinking about people (you, me, him/her, them) exercises your egoic mental states. Your “identity” creates a sense of separateness in your mind in order to form a personal perception of how you relate to one-another and use it in our interactions. It is a compelling, but false mental construct that is learnt and maintained through social interactions.

Most people never realize that it is an illusion, because they have never been alone long enough to realize it. When we are alone for short periods of time, our automatic thinking continuously reinforces our self-image. The mental process of “self” construction is so subtle and powerful that even a momentary glance from a stranger is enough to reinforce a very “real” sense of self. Imagine you just woke up and are taking out the trash in the morning very mechanically, when someone just passes you in the hallway briefly glancing at you. You are suddenly aware of your dishevelled hair and unkempt appearance. A “self”-image appears in your mind in response to another’s glance. This image is a product of much cultural conditioning, rather than an objective fact of who you are. Then who are you when you are free of this social conditioning?

If one disconnects from the world and curiously, unemotionally contemplates present facts, truths and processes in the universe as they really are outside of human perception (without any automatically running commentary on past / future beliefs, attitudes, values, attachments, judgments, opinions, fears, resentments, regrets, desires or aversions), such thinking is the essence of science as well as spirituality.

A search for spirituality can easily misguide you, but staying true to the deepest principles of science and critical thinking will inevitably align you with the truth even in spiritual terms. We don’t usually allow ourselves to do this. We have much to protect psychologically. Our beliefs, attitudes, values, desires and fears are important to us, and very valid and true as far as we are concerned. We are fiercely protective of our egos, while it keeps us diminished, fearful and away from our true potentials, nature and awareness of our oneness with the whole of existence.

With his thinking purely logical and not using the “self” construct (ego) in any way, the individual will become utmost genuine, or, as often said in contemplative traditions– ‘one with the truth’. Most of our sufferings in life are only ‘thoughts’. The mind that lives in the present has no ego, and is in a perpetual state of compassion, joy and gratitude, without a capacity for ego-centric emotions like pride, shame, fear, envy or judgment. The resulting state of mind is known by many names such as self-transcendence, self-realization, ego-transcendence, liberation, spiritual enlightenment, nirvana, cessation of the self, etc. and is central to some religions.

Such chance realization, if it happens in one’s lifetime, can be so transformative that the person will forever divide his life into before and after that singular moment. Because that is the moment when he spontaneously ceased to exist as a separate being and for the first time, had the experience of being one with the universe. The first moment of this shift in consciousness will never be forgotten, because after this realization, his perceptions will never be the same. Unfortunately, such breakthroughs are so rare that scientific literature on such mental states are sparse and the only explanation available to this person to interpret his experience is in ill-founded mystical terms. Unfortunately, this gives rise to many superstitions about the nature of the universe and human consciousness. In truth, losing your ‘identity’ is entirely possible. Omnipotence, as far as we know, is not. A true scientist would recognize that however compelling these experiences, they say nothing about the universe factually. Nevertheless, these rarely attained potential states of the normal human consciousness do make our perceptions closer approximate objective reality, and are powerfully compelling, desirable and worthy pursuits, if anything is in life.

Some people spontaneously stumble upon this unique state of mind because of genetic or circumstantial causes, while some actively seek it in isolation. In either case, some of the people who achieve such shifts in consciousness stay with society and attempt to bring this wisdom to the world, while others choose the far end of the spectrum and walk away into a reclusive existence, leaving the world behind. This is seemingly a crazy decision to most. But while this drastic course is nothing to be widely advocated, it can surely be understood. No one in our current society could understand or communicate with someone living in that plane, and he wouldn’t want to adopt a lesser quality of mind just to belong with society. Those who attain this shift in consciousness prefer to shun themselves away in caves or forests rather than live in our “civilized” world. In a world where most people are misaligned with the sacred natural reality and are suffering the consequences for it, we must either align ourselves with reality and walk a lonely path, align with the crowd and suffer with them (unless we have the skills to influence, heal and grow them) or choose a point on the spectrum.

If a self-transcended person wants to bring his genuine insights to the world with the noblest of intentions, the people who surround him would view and communicate with him, for no fault of theirs, based on assumptions that are limiting to his transformed consciousness (treating him as a separate “self” to whom praise, criticisms or worldly incentives might mean something). Slowly, his mind would construct a ‘self’ in response to their communications and now he will really start to be affected by this practiced illusion. He could be looked upon with admiration, for instance, and the power bestowed upon him could eventually corrupt his motivations and turn him into a small-minded egotist, leaving his “enlightened” phase only a memory. Thus, you can go from stupid to intelligent to coward to brave to enlightened to unenlightened and back to stupid again, all depending on your associations. Your mind is only as good as the minds that you associate with and pay attention to. It may be possible to remain in an ignorant crowd and not have your mind messed up if at all it is possible to be a very charismatic personality who is also emotionally detached, because ideas, attitudes and values always seem to flow consciously and sub-consciously from stronger to weaker personalities (regardless of their truth or virtue). So if you don’t want to be (mis)led, be a leader.

Most people consider self-transcendence a myth or an undesirable state of mind. But it is perfectly within the capacities of the human mind to lose its ego (or ‘self’) and truly feel one with the universe. Also, there are unfathomable benefits to cultivating such a state of mind compared to the potential costs, and this is true for all human beings the same way that peace is more universally desirable than fear. There is very little that you can do about the pain that the world gives you. But the extent of your suffering is in your hands. Not all have similar thresholds for pain, be it physical or psychological. The nature of your experience is determined by the quality of your mind. It is within your power to cultivate higher emotional resilience. I’m not talking about resisting or tolerating pain, but about developing immunity to it. A calmer, clearer mind is far more energy-efficient and will allow you to think and manage your circumstances better. There are things you can do with your mind that give you rock hard stability, such that no circumstances can rattle your peace. Another thing you need to do is to understand the potency of other people’s opinions on your self-image and diminish their importance. Detach yourself emotionally and form your own personal identity. You do this by looking inward and examining the contents of your mind more often, instead of being continually spell-bound by the outer world. Your mind is all that you really have. Everything that you are flows to and from your mind. Protect and nurture it.

Develop awareness of your thoughts. Ask yourself every moment– how is this thought useful to me? Aim for emotional balance, not happiness. Happiness and sorrow are two sides of the same coin. The absence of that which makes you happy will cause you emotional discomfort. Why crave and cling when nothing is really yours forever? Constantly changing circumstances are insufficient bases for lasting happiness. You will know peace when you detach yourself from everything; and being without fear of loss, you will find even more strength to work towards the best.

Meditation is neither mysticism nor a worthless lie. Scientists are already scanning the brains of long-term meditators and learning new capacities about the remarkable human mind. I’m sure that it is only a matter of time before you hear my words corroborated by more credible sources. Or if you choose to, you can know these truths by your own experience.

Mail me at azura@azurathoughtproject.com to know how I can help you nurture your mind.

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