Kundalini Splendor

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Friday, June 12, 2015

Enlightenment vs. Liberation--Some Tentative Reflections 

Recently, a friend who is well grounded in Yogic lore explained to me that the word "Enlightenment" is mainly a western term to describe the end of the spiritual process and that quite another view is offered in the East, which prefers the term "Liberation."  I think this observation deserves much consideration.  "Enlightenment" suggests a state in which the seeker has arrived at an ultimate ending of the spiritual journey, and that she/he is now perfect in all ways.  An "enlightened" master is presumably one who has conquered all fears, arrived at a state of exalted intelligence, and thus is worthy of unquestioned respect and obedience from the rest of us less evolved souls.

When I remarked that I did not think such elevated beings actually existed in today's world, she pointed out that Eastern practitioners do not use this translation of the
Sanskrit term, but rather interpret it as "Liberation."

Now what, we may ask, is liberation?  What are we to be liberated from?

i suggest that there are many stages of liberation and that these are available to all of us, in one degree or another, according to own own level of consciousness.

For example, one of the first stages is liberation from the cultural trance.  This "trance state" includes the many societal and religious imperatives inculcated in us from childhood, including the belief that our goal in life is mainly to marry, produce offspring, make money, live in a fine house, drive a spiffy car, and accumulate as much material wealth and goods as possible to maintain our life style.  Many never challenge these assumptions, though often they find that something is terribly missing from their lives.

The second trance state is that imposed by religious or spiritual belief systems that offer seeming alternatives to the materialistic vision.  Institutions such as churches, ashrams, certain New Age groups often impose such limiting thinking on their followers.  Most of us have met people who are either bound to these imposed belief systems or else are "in recovery" from notions instilled in them from childhood.  The latter are often delighted to discover that "spirituality" and "religion" are not synonyms, and that they may have a rich inner "spiritual" life outside the traditional forms.

The third trance is that occurring when a seeming spiritual "savior" (guru, supposedly spiritual teacher, popular hero) arrives and gathers a large group of followers who hang on his/her every word and become their devoted pupils.  In earlier times, it was posited that the guru was the supreme authority, never to be questioned as to word or deed.  Alas, we have too often discovered that such self proclaimed "infallible" authorities frequently have fallen far short of the ideal, and have proved to be more "rascals" than loving leaders of their flocks.

A forth trance is that which occurs when the naive student discovers some system or philosophy which appears to offer a coherent view of human society or spiritual reality and adopts it as "the answer" to all questions.  Such adherents often try to proselytize others to accept their chosen belief system, without pausing to investigate alternative and seemingly comprehensive approaches, from other sources.  Some advocate a "one interpretation fits all" approach.  Others tout the wonders of science and the strictly rational view as the path to universal truth.  All of these fail to recognize that "there are many paths up the mountain" and that all converge at the top.

A fifth source of trance is the entrenched belief that we are each separate beings, with little connection with the rest of humanity or the non physical orders that reign above us
(the realm of the divine).  Such limited views fail to recognize that we are each enmeshed in a universal web of sentient and perhaps even non sentient beings, that we are bound by invisible threads to one another in a common experience, in the great field of love and cosmic energies that flow through the entire universe.

Finally, there is the trance of belief that we ourselves exist as fully formed independent beings, apart from the ultimate cosmic energies that create and empower the world and all of creation.

I believe that "enlightenment' is the discovery of that we do not exist in the way we suppose, a realization which is itself something to be experienced to be understood.  Some people get very upset when they "learn" that they do not exist as independent beings, but rather are infinitesimal particles in a vast cosmic energy that swirls through the universe and is far beyond our capacity to comprehend.  We are embedded in mystery always and each seeming "discover" about the nature of our universe constantly give way to a new "discovery."  "Man can embody truth, but never know it."  (Yeats)

Through Kundalini we experience a"taste" of that cosmic force (stepped down to our own capacity for reception), but it is a mystery that we will never fully unravel.

In Indian religions moksha (Sanskrit: मोक्ष mokṣa; liberation) or mukti (Sanskrit: मुक्ति; release —both from the root muc "to let loose, let go") is the final extrication of the soul or consciousness (purusha) from samsara and the bringing to an end of all the suffering involved in being subject to the cycle of repeated death and rebirth (reincarnation).
(from Wiipedia--"Enlightenment, Spiritual)

Hindu thought offers various interpretations of moksha, with some suggesting that such liberation can occur in this lifetime, and others insisting that final freedom can occur only after death.  They seem to agree that moksha does bring the discovery of one's true identity, the self that is real.

It was through me the Creator himself gained liberating knowledge,
I am being, consciousness, bliss, eternal freedom: unsullied, unlimited, unending.
My perfect consciousness shines your world, like a beautiful face in a soiled mirror,
Seeing that reflection I wish myself you, an individual soul, as if I could be finite!

A finite soul, an infinite Goddess - these are false concepts,
in the minds of those unacquainted with truth,
No space, my loving devotee, exists between your self and my self,
Know this and you are free. This is the secret wisdom.
—Sarasvati Rahasya Upanishad, Translated by Linda Johnsen

(Fortunately, much information on these topics is available on the internet, simply by googling various key words. We are indeed lucky that we no longer have to seek out a guru to receive such information, nor research arcane information in libraries of the occult.  Knowledge is readily available on the internet, whatever our interest.)

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