Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Semantics of Enlightenment

When someone wakes up, we say they are awakened, or realized, or enlightened. How can we tell a friend to go see that person if there is no one there? We are speaking here of the awakened teacher's stance that there is no one here, only "awakeness."

Despite what the teacher says, he says it from a body. And what he says isn't heard out of the mouth of others. If you want to know what he has to say, you have to go to him. Although the guru experiences no separateness, and says that his condition is impersonal, it is very personal to seekers and students.

Obviously words are not adequate. There is a body-mind out of which wise sayings, paradoxical statements may come, but the teacher says, there is no one here. In fact, that may be the teacher's experience. "The eye with which I see God, is the same eye through which God sees me," said Meister Eckart.

And yet, there are other teachers who willingly acknowledge that they are enlightened. Why the difference?

Valid teachers take both positions. Ramesh Balsekar for one, willingly admits that he is enlightened. But his teachings are certainly non dual, and his stance in the Impersonal is clear and profound. Karl Renz is another.

Valid teachers speak both ways, some claiming there is no enlightened person, and the others claiming they are enlightened. Tony Parsons is a good example of the no teacher, no student, type, yet the truth of the non dual reality shines through his apparent self very well.

The student goes to the teacher to hear this wisdom because he can't get it from his neighbor. Surely this points to the fact that enlightenment exists in some body-minds, and not others. Or better said, Awareness reveals itself more through one form than another. Still, the students will flock to the teacher with more Awareness.

Saying that everyone is enlightened misses the mark. Everyone is, ultimately, awareness Itself. But Awareness manifests the multiple, and the multiple is separate in body, needs, temperament, etc. So it does little good to speak of "Everyone's already enlightened," and forget any other teaching.

We in enlightenment circles have got ourselves in a semantic quagmire, and for the sake of students, we need to dig ourselves out. We speak of "apparent" persons, "apparent" teachers, and saying "There is no teacher, and no student."

On the level of Awareness, this is correct. But in normal experience, and for the average person, ignoring their perspective, their reference points, is of little help.

Of course the frustration of some students might catapult them into understanding. But these would be few. The majority of seekers will be simply lost. They won't be helped, They won't get understanding.

Do we want to increase confusion? Or do we want to attempt clarity. What is wrong with standing up and saying, "I am a teacher. I know something." Why not be a teacher? And why not let the student be a student?

At some point the student may understand that there is neither student or teacher, but do we start out teaching from there? In Nisargadatta's later years he got picky, saying that his teaching was only for advanced students. This was great discernment on his part.

Many are being lost in enlightened semantics. This may be why Jesus spoke in parables. A parable steps beyond words into a story. If you get the meaning, the truth of it, without words, you've got more than if you read a thousand books.

If you teach so as to confuse, to cause a break in the seeker's mind, go ahead and confuse. But the seeker isn't coming for more confusion, he's coming for clarity. Clarity from the position he sees, stepping stones to greater understanding. If you can't acknowledge where the student is, why are you teaching?

Speaking from the Impersonal Absolute may be fine for the advanced student, but for the majority of students, speaking only from the absolute perspective doesn't help. You need to point from where they are.

The awakened one can shout from the rooftop all day long that "There is no one here," but who will believe him? There is obviously someone up on the roof shouting. One has to conclude that there is certainly a different point of view coming from observers on the ground, and the one shouting from the roof.


Eric Putkonen said...

Great post. Yes, many are lost in semantics...and many who 'know' argue for their own way of phrasing things (with seekers and other teachers)...and thereby being very inflexible to the needs of the questioner/seeker. Having a personal, in-depth conversation with a teacher is the best way.

"The student goes to the teacher to hear this wisdom because he can't get it from his neighbor. Surely this points to the fact that enlightenment exists in some body-minds, and not others."

I do disagree with this portion. What this points to is the fact that ignorance (of the Self) exists in some and not others. It is the removal of ignorance that occurs, there is nothing gained and so no enlightenment to gain or exist in some but not others.

Maury said...

Eric, glad you enjoyed the post. Yes, we need to be aware of political correctness when it comes to speaking of this. At the same time, clarity of definition and the usage of words is important.

It almost seems like different teachers, schools, use different languages. Wish it were simpler, but wishful thinking doesn't do much. That's why I put it out there.

Where you disagree, I can only say that when the ignorance is removed, the suffering stops for who?

Do I need to be politically correct and say for the "apparent" self?

The self that no longer suffers, feels the gain.

Nisargadatta repeatedly said, "Come look from where I am. Then you will know." He also repeatedly told students, "I am speaking from absolute, not the person.

All I was really trying to get to was that enlightenment comes to some and not others. That ultimately there is no difference, doesn't change that fact.

My ability with words, may not be adequate to address this. I find myself falling outside of words into that empty space.

Enjoyed your comment, Eric. Write again.

Anonymous said...

what is there to teach, what is there to learn.
when there is everything to teach and everything to learn.
without me, there is nothing.
and I am only playing a game with myself.