a few thoughts about enlightenment...
from another online exchange about spirituality:
"There are spiritual perspectives that claim that one should “do nothing.” This points to the question, is there really anything we can do to arrange or set the conditions toward “realization”? Could it be that the “work” that we do only obstructs from that which we desire? Therefore, if we no longer desire this “state of mind,” and thus abstain from the “work,” would that facilitate its happening more fortuitously? Chiefly because we no longer “desire” it?
Bhagavan Sri Ramana is reputed to have attained realization at age 16 (I think that was the age)." - M.S.
these are great questions. here's my response --
well, yes, and this is one of my major beefs with most spirituality movements in America – in the West, we want to have our enlightenment super-easily and if someone comes along promising us that there's 'no work to do' – wowee! jackpot! and we all get to be smug and go home from the workshops feeling warm fuzzies.
but. how long does that last? & what do we really mean by 'enlightenment'?
(and if I'm already enlightened, how come I don't ACT like it?)
spiritual work needs to be done for 99.9% of the people who are interested in real spirituality and enlightenment stages. there's really no way around that.
even Sri Ramana Maharshi, whom you mentioned, had to do some hard work internally – yes, he got an experience of his enlightenment at 16 years old BUT he had a guru who helped him re-open his energy channels he'd already gained by hard work in some other lifetime.
nor did his enlightenment stages STOP at 16 years old. he kept learning, growing, dwelling in his internal channels, as do all saints of that caliber, throughout his entire life.
for example, most people don't even realize that he worshipped the Divine Mother, the Shakti. he kept a Sri Chakra Yantra on top of his mountain (his guru) Arunachala, and did ritual to it every day.
people like to point to Ramana as an example of someone who 'just woke up' and then 'didn't do anything' but inhabit the silence – but that's a wishful thinking and naive understanding of the complexity of who and what he was, and what he really did.
and – if it's really in the cards for humanity at large to have those kinds of experiences, ie, to 'just wake up' out of the clear blue – why hasn't it happened in MASS numbers? there are oh-so-many spiritual seekers who'd love to have those experiences. if it's so easy – why hasn't it happened?
my response to my own questions – *grinning* – is that hard work IS part of spiritual enlightenment. surrender and ego-subduing is part of that hard work. understanding where we really came from, where the soul originated, is part of that hard work. standing still and open-hearted while our karmas are being burned off and transformed – not running away when the going gets tough – is some really hard work.
finding a spiritual master or guide who actually HAS that kind of understanding and enlightenment and who is willing to help someone else along (many masters aren't that willing because of the karmas involved) – is part of that hard work. even if that guru is a mountain, like in the case of Ramana Maharshi. of course, he didn't see the mountain Arunachala as a mountain, he saw that it was Lord Shiva.
simply put, the reason we don't act enlightened (even if we really are, underneath) is the mountain of karma each of us is carrying, and the negative qualities reinforced from that karmic mountain.
burning off that karma starts freeing our inner self to express itself more clearly and openly and purely. and that's a pretty hard work, at least, in my experience and the tradition that I've dedicated the last 9 years of my life to pursuing – because it goes way beyond normal 'emotional processing' and superficial psychological or behavioral changes.
and, no, I don't think the work itself obscures the enlightenment experience or 'attainment' (which is a funny word, but you know what I mean). in my experience, the work only crystalizes the focus, the divine desire to get enlightened – it hones that yearning for god, and for the inner realization that each of us is That.
also, doing the work keeps us really humble and connected – because at a certain point, you realize there's an endless amount of 'work' to do, and the development of the internal consciousness, of the soul, really never ends no matter how 'enlightened' we are or become.