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Eastern Philosophy, Enlightenment, God, Meditation, Reflections

There is no enlightenment

Many people throughout the world are on an earnest search for spiritual enlightenment.  I myself spent many years obsessed with the idea that I might somehow become enlightened.  I now believe the whole idea is a hoax, and I will try to explain why.

I used to spend my days meditating.  I would focus on my breathing, and attempt to simply observe, without any effort, what was going on in my body and in my mind.  This was a regular practise for a few years, and I sometimes experienced feelings of peace and calmness.  On one occasion, I had a deep spiritual experience, and I witnessed my bodily form dissolve into a feeling of bliss.  The feeling only lasted a few seconds, before I came back “down to earth” and began reflecting on what I had experienced.  I don’t know whether meditation gets much deeper than that.

I was definitely trying to get somewhere with my meditation practise.  I was desperate for peace.  In a sense, I was trying to escape.  It wasn’t until, after years of struggling, I finally decided to give psychotherapy a try, that I began to realise what I was trying to escape from.

No doubt, I was a mess when I began attending psychotherapy.  My mother had passed away after a terrible illness, and I was still merged with my mother in the way that children tend to be merged with their parents.  I had loved my mother dearly, and been obsessive about looking after her, but in the meantime I had lost a great deal of myself.  What psychotherapy did was begin to put me back in touch with myself.

As I explored my frustrations, fears, anger, and suffering, I began to find words to convey to my psychotherapist the deep loneliness that I had felt for many years.  With frequent tearful outbursts, I began to talk through emotions that had been repressed, and I began to be much more self aware.  A big part of being an adult is simply finding words to express emotions.  This is something I never learned how to do as a child, and it was liberating to learn how to do so as an adult.

The more I attended psychotherapy, the less interested I was in meditation and enlightenment.  This is because I was finding the peace that I had been seeking through meditation by being able to express myself openly and be in touch with my feelings.  It surprised me that the enlightenment I had been striving so hard to attain became relatively unimportant.  All I had really needed was to explore what my fear of not being enlightened meant, in terms of my past, and my present emotions.

When God began to reveal Himself to me in my mid-twenties, this brought a whole new dimension to my life.  The reality of God puts the idea of meditation in a completely different perspective.  I became aware that the supreme reality was not just a feeling of bliss, it was an active God.  I realised that God is in control of everything, from the movement of thoughts to the movement of bodies.

What troubles me about meditation is that it tends to neglect God as doer, as it focuses so intently on what can be personally achieved.  I also believe it can be an attempt to escape from emotional states that we are afraid of.

It bothers me that there are people who consider themselves to be spiritual gurus, who have supposedly attained enlightenment, because I can clearly see now that there is no such thing.  Having doubts, frustrations, and fears is simply part of life – there is no magical state where we are free from these things.  We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t experience these emotions.

There is no supreme peace in this life, because we are all in touch with other people, who have their problems, and we have to deal with them.  Even if you sit under a tree for decades and meditate, you are still 100% dependent on God for any peace of mind that you experience.  God can bring or take away your peace in any moment, so no one has ever really attained stable peace or enlightenment.

If anyone claims to you that they are enlightened, alarm bells should ring in your mind, and you should ask that person to explain precisely what they mean.  If it doesn’t make sense to you, on your terms, then you must reject the idea.  It is quite probable that the supposedly enlightened person is deluded.

There is a culture in India where those who are supposedly more enlightened gain devotees and win the respect of many people.  This is analogous to the pop stars of the West.  But please realise that the so-called enlightened one has absolutely nothing to offer you.  Don’t think that they are great.  Don’t think that they are special.  In the same way that the guru is a child of God, so are you.  The guru has nothing that you don’t have!

There is no enlightenment.  Give up the search, and realise that your happiness or sadness in this eternal moment is totally dependent upon the will of your creator and sustainer, almighty God.

About Steven Colborne

Philosopher and author from Oxford, England.

Discussion

11 thoughts on “There is no enlightenment

  1. Thanks Steven. Best wishes to you.

    Posted by oneanna65 | April 27, 2012, 6:32 pm
  2. This will require a thoughtful response. I will get back to you.

    Posted by bluebutterfliesandme | June 23, 2012, 10:18 pm
    • Sure thing :-)

      Posted by Steven | June 23, 2012, 10:20 pm
      • Your post was thought provoking. I can relate as I lost my best friend, soul mate, two years ago. He was gay and we were not lovers, but he was the world to me. I really lost it, despite all the spiritual knowledge and training. At the time I was not in a good financial way or I would have sought out a psychotherapist. I knew some and spoke with them casually. Instead I escaped, I think psychotherapy is a really great thing. We all need someone to help us with these emotions. Indeed very helpful. However one to me doesn’t negate the benefits of the other, meditation. Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. (lol)

        I know what you mean about people saying they are enlightened, which they are not, in my opinion. I bet there are a few fully self-aware human beings. I guess I should explain what enlightenment means to me. A person incorporating much more of their Source Self than their Psychological ego. Those fears and angers are to be observed and learned from. One of my favorites is “Man Know Thyself,” for me that about sums it up. I believe it is important to know you aren’t the body but that life force that animates it. Just my personal belief, not trying to convince anybody else. I spent years in classes on meditation and my mind/ego just wasn’t having any of it, so I daydreamed and occasionally tried to still the mind.

        I have found meditations that work for me now, not complicated and no rules, just awareness.

        I know those mere seconds we achieve that connection don’t seem worth it, but for me they were the only times I got to experience MY TRUE BEING. I was doing a very simple mantra one day recently….I AM and really just focusing and I had one of those few seconds of knowing who I AM.

        So? Like Ram Das said “Be Here Now” that moment to moment, second by second awareness. We can meditate as walk, eat, brush our teeth or row a boat.

        I believe we need to be aware when we sleep and dream. I believe that human existence or consciousness is just a drop of an individualized segment of Source, the All-ONESS; Omnipresent, Omnipotent, Alpha, Omega, Zeta, Everything and Nothing at the same time.

        I believe the physical body is a vehicle, like a car, the heart, an engine and the brain/mind the computerized electric system. (lol) The ego inhabits the brain. My I AM has no fear, my ego/mind has many fears, angers, resentments and so on. My Being does not experience these things, but it choose to allow a tiny segment of itself to drive this car in this density, and in this game of dualism. So I think it all boils down to I AM A SELF-SOVERIGN Being. I AM responsible, but the love of others helps a lot.

        Posted by bluebutterfliesandme | June 23, 2012, 10:56 pm
  3. Thanks so much Sindy for writing such an in depth and thoughtful reply, I read it with a great deal of interest. I’m not sure what to say in response. I think we have quite different views on meditation, God, and awareness. The most important thing I think is that you are at peace, not struggling, striving, and stressing (and I know from experience that meditation can include all these things!). In my opinion, any peace we do experience comes directly from God acting in our lives – there’s nothing we can do to achieve it! Good luck with everything and stay in touch. S x

    Posted by Steven | June 24, 2012, 10:44 am
    • I think we all interpret these concepts in our own paradigm. I do not think I am right and anyone else is wrong, because no one of us knows for sure what truth is. So I think everyone has their own idea of truth and so it is. It is my great pleasure to make your acquaintance. I hope you are having a super day! Thank you for your response.

      Posted by bluebutterfliesandme | June 24, 2012, 5:15 pm
  4. Hi Steven!

    I think you made the mistake to search for enlightenment. So you created a huge attachment to this idea. I practice Zazen – for no purpose. I just do it, I don’t follow a purpose.
    If I may quote Shunryu Suzuki:
    “Our effort in our practice should be directed from achievement to non-achievement. […]
    So just to do
    something without any particular effort is enough. When
    you make some special effort to achieve something, some
    excessive quality, some extra element is involved in it. You
    should get rid of excessive things. If your practice is good,
    without being aware of it you will become proud of your
    practice. That pride is extra. What you do is good, but
    something more is added to it. So you should get rid of that
    something which is extra.”

    I don’t seek enlightenment which I define as actually feeling/realising one’s true nature compared to the mere philosophical concept of “Oneness”.
    But well, I come from the “Zen/Taoism corner”, and even there you can find all sorts of different opinions. ;-)

    I think you would definitely be interested in the following blog post by Brad Warner which caused quite a commotion in the “Zen community”:

    http://hardcorezen.blogspot.de/2010/08/done-at-great-sky-next-stop-tassajara.html

    Be patient, the beginning is casual, but he gets to the point. And the comments showed me one thing: lots of attachment… ;-)

    Interestingly, according to the famous Zen master Dōgen practice itself is already enlightenment…

    Sorry for this long comment…

    Cheers,

    Timo

    Posted by fotografzahl | June 27, 2012, 1:45 am
  5. Hi Timo!

    Many thanks for your comment. I read it thoroughly, and I read some of the article by Brad Warner that you linked to.

    I agree that I made the mistake of searching for enlightenment, but this is what thousands of people are doing, so I wanted to publish a blog post that highlights that there is no such thing. People shouldn’t adopt the position of guru or spiritual teacher because they give a false impression that they have attained something.

    If enlightenment is anything, it is realising that God is in control of everything. That is an insight that is revealed by God, when God chooses. But that is not the way spiritual teachers tend to talk about enlightenment.

    Best wishes,

    Steven

    Posted by Steven | June 27, 2012, 12:30 pm
  6. Hi! I don’t know how I stumbled across the page, but here are my “two-cents” after years of researching ancient cultures, religions, and practicing meditation; etc. To say meditation leads to God is, in my opinion (and I stress, these are all opinion as no one can truly know the finite answer) both correct and incorrect in your assessment. I will try to abstain from quoting the Tao Te Ching (Lao Tzu), Buddha, and other such people. My “religious” beliefs have come from an understanding/cross-connection/similarities throughout different religions of the centuries.

    If we speak of the Christian God (as I assume you are), I personally cannot believe that “He” is an outside “Being” watching over us. The claim of omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience leads me to view “God” as a universal energy, of sorts, which aptly connects all people and all things (Lift a rock and ye shall find me, and so forth). In this way, as well as the common argument by anti-theists/atheists “If God exists and knows all/is everywhere at once; why does He allow persons die of famine, pestilence, neglect, war, etc without intervening?” I don’t see God as a “Man in the Sky” whom can point a finger and cure/destroy any sort of thing/instance. So I move on.

    The Bible (what remains of it, as through mistranslations and omissions of Books by the Roman Catholic Church to keep “The People” under control of The Church) says, loosely, “God lives within us; our body is His temple, etc.” Now, if we think in those terms and terms of an invisible energy, no divine intervention, et al ad infinitum, this tends to start making a bit more sense. God, in a general sense, does not dictate our lives from “on-High” but, rather, from within.

    (My son is running about and I am going to have to cut this short but will be happy to answer any questions/continue as soon as I am able to get back online)

    Basically, I believe meditation IS seeking and, eventually, finding God within ourselves. Enlightenment isn’t something one can strive to attain because, the thought of “striving to attain” is a selfish thought. To meditate is to become entirely introspective and, as such, forgetting the Self (the sense of I/mine/possession; the Id, Ego and Super-Ego if you will) and finding peace without influence…

    I hate having to cut this short at this particular moment, but now my son is playing with the microwave, lol. I also don’t want to keep writing if this is a dead-thread and no one will see/respond to it. Again, any questions/comments I will address if asked before I have a chance to come back and finish.

    Here’s one from the book of Tao Te Ching: “Knowing others is wisdom; Knowing the self is enlightenment; Mastering others requires force; Mastering the self needs strength” -Lao Tzu

    Posted by Mox Rad | January 27, 2013, 4:22 pm
  7. This was very interesting and thought provoking (not something I usually appreciate – thought, heheh) – thanks! I feel compelled to say a few things. I agree there are no gurus, per say. At least not ones who claim they are. Anything/one can be your guru, if you allow it. I agree exploration of ones emotions is a wonderful gateway. And I agree meditation is not the be-all-end-all. In fact, I’ve never meditated, done yoga, etc. However, enlightenment does exist – it just may not be what you think it is. Bliss is not enlightenment, for in and of itself, “bliss” is an attachment to a particular feeling or thought process. The feeling of bliss comes and goes as all things do. The “bliss” or “peace” that comes from enlightenment is not a sense of being happy all of the time. It’s not a magical state where life becomes free of anything…. except resistance. Enlightenment is complete clarity, being present always, and allowing what is. That means whatever comes up, you allow it to be. You feel it and experience it without denial, you say yes to it. There is no seeking for anything. Life simply happens and you sit with it. When you are in denial of what’s happening or buy into an opinion or thought about it, it takes you out of the present moment, into the future where you are hoping for a different moment. THAT is where lack of peace is. Lack of peace does not come from people or situations, it comes from being in denial of what is. The “peace” that presence creates is not something that can be defined (not as bliss, joy or anything else), it can only be experienced.

    Posted by naturallogic | August 1, 2014, 8:12 pm
  8. Meditation is clearly not for everyone. An enlightenment is an unfortunate word…and a poor attempt at languaging that which really cannot be languaged.

    What I always come to is that there are as many paths to experiencing reality as their are human beings and to impose our experience on others, in my mind, is a form of violence. I would not, for example, call someone else’s experience a hoax just because it doesn’t work for me for that reason. We can learn about the nature of reality in a myriad number of ways.

    A very common misunderstanding about meditation that often leads to discouragement is that it’s supposed to be all bliss and roses. That is simply not the case on the ground, so to speak. Sometimes meditation is about being with the dark and ugly and anxious parts of our being too. Meditation is about being with the whole spectrum of human psyche and emotion. We cannot know ourselves without becoming intimate with those parts too. That means it’s just not always fun or peaceful or calm to practice meditation. Though it can lead to all those things in time. It can help us learn to live more skillfully in general.

    There are also, clearly, times in which it’s not appropriate to practice sitting meditation. Yoga or other body based practices may be safer at some junctures and in fact are critically important for many people in conjunction with sitting meditation. I actually think that movement meditations may be the missing piece for many when there are problems with sitting meditation. The body needs to be included in the process.

    Posted by Monica Cassani | December 5, 2014, 1:25 am

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