Are You Enlightened?

Recently, a colleague and fellow Kriya Yoga teacher asked how I responded to the question, “Are you enlightened?” At first, I laughed. I’ve been asked this question more times than I can keep track. My normal response is usually, “If I am enlightened and you are not, it’s not likely you’ll be able to come to a dependable conclusion. If I am not enlightened and neither are you, your conclusion could go either way, no matter what I say. If I am not enlightened, and you are, you wouldn’t be asking the question. If I am enlightened, and you are too, you wouldn’t be asking the question.”

Since I understood the intention and motivation behind my colleague’s inquiry, I felt it important to go into a bit more detail. While he has been a dedicated meditator, yogi and authorized teacher for many years, he has only recently begun more openly sharing the path of Kriya Yoga. And so, here we go.

Are you enlightened?

This question cannot be answered. Here is why.

Clearer states of consciousness cannot generally be recognized by cloudier states of consciousness.  There is no frame of reference. If I am unsure of what enlightenment is, and I am trying to determine if someone else is enlightened, how can I know what is true? Maybe I see a good actor, and I judge this person by their outward activity.  If I am not discerning and cannot see through their acting skills, I may, in fact, consider the person enlightened.  Maybe I meet a true saint, yet his mind is silent, and his state of consciousness incomprehensible to me. Will I truly be able to recognize his clarity? Discernment and grace help in this regard. Yet, it is still not possible to be 100% certain, unless I myself find a way to clarify my own consciousness and see for myself what that clarity is like.

On the other hand, if my own state of consciousness was pristinely enlightened, I would see enlightenment everywhere. I would see through the personalities, traumas, quirks, attachments, aversions to the essence of each being.  In that essence I would see the one, eternal, enlightened soul. How can this be explained to anyone?   How can it be understood except through direct experience?  Can a sentence in response to a question make this known?

If you are already enlightened, you would not ask this question, because you would experience it directly, everywhere, in everyone. If you are not enlightened, you cannot really know what is true, until your own direct experience dawns.

In a few cases, people ask this question of others to be tricky. They ask a teacher, are you enlightened. If the teacher responds in affirmation, maybe that will be the end of it. Although, it may also be that if the teacher responds in affirmation, it can then be said they are deluded, or full of egoism to claim such a lofty status. It is true, it may be that one is playing a role and claiming to be something they are not for personal gain.

However, the problem is turning enlightenment into a lofty status. It is the innate nature of everyone and everything! Humans are meant to grow into spiritual maturity, which IS enlightenment. That is our purpose here.  If we are not one of those rare beings who has a spontaneous break through and manages to maintain that state of consciousness (and those are fewer than the internet and good marketers lead you to believe), what are we to do?  The answer, however unpopular, is simple.  We work towards it.

This is why we have the systems of Yoga, and similar paths. Their purpose is cultivating spiritual maturity. These practices are older than our current recorded history. Yet they have persevered through time.  Why?  Because they are the key to the purpose of human life. They will continue to remain in our consciousness, even if only on the periphery for as long as humans exist.  Even Ramana Maharshi advised the practices of Yoga for those who could not spontaneously hold their consciousness in a pristinely clear state.

These systems seem only fit for the strongest of people, and so it is easy to self-sabotage. If only strong souls can work through the system, then who do we think we area to even try? And so we never do. It is not that they are hard, it is simply that the majority of the human population really doesn’t care to try.  Those who do try often walk a solitary path.  Most humans can’t stand isolation, and so they remain common. The system is really very easy. It is standing a part from what everyone else does or finds important that is the hardest thing.

Going back to the tricky question. Let’s say a teacher is asked if he is enlightened.  He responds negatively. Many will then decide the teacher is not worthy and move on. While the teacher may not yet be enlightened, it may be that the teacher’s experience and knowledge could be valuable. Maybe the teacher has mastered certain techniques, and even learned how to experience certain states of Samadhi. Or maybe the teacher has simply lived long enough to see the realities of life, and can share ways of navigating those experiences with poise. That is very useful information for one who has no experience in these areas. Like all of us, a teacher is a traveler on this spiritual road. A traveler may not have yet reached the destination, but a traveler may have mapped a lot of territory along the way.

Also, we must remember that the vast infinite consciousness of which we are all a part, and many call God, can speak through any vessel to the receptive student. (Here is an example of that in my own life… The more sincere our intentions to wake up, and the more consistently we do our best to embody what we know to be supportive of our spiritual path, the more support and useful information will come our way.  And this support and information can come our way in an array of forms.  Then to keep the flow of grace, we have to adapt and grow into what we learn.  Once we become established there, then we have to be ready to adapt and outgrow and grow into even clearer states.  This continues and continues, so long as we are identified with the realm of Nature.

My first teachers were books. Then I experimented with what I learned.  Then I met human teachers.  They were not enlightened as far as my teenage mind could tell, and it didn’t matter.  They taught me how to meditate and do yoga.  They taught techniques and procedures from an established yoga tradition. That information worked very well for me. I then did what I was taught. I continued to practice and learn from books. Eventually I met my Kriya Yoga teacher Roy Eugene Davis, a direct student of Paramahansa Yogananda. The thought never occurred to me to ask if he was enlightened.  I paid attention to how he lived, what he said, and his integrity. I applied what he taught me. I remained devoted yet discerning. As the years passed, I experienced my own consciousness slowly creeping to clearer states. I noticed my meditations were growing deeper and more illuminating.  I could feel the experience happening.  This has been enough for me.

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