In this episode, The Bearded Mystic Podcast offers clarity on the differences between an awakening and enlightenment. Sometimes, we mistakenly declare enlightenment when we really we had just had an awakening experience. Listen to this episode and introspect where you are.
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Hello and welcome to the 16th episode of The Bearded Mystic Podcast and I'm your host Rahul N Singh. Thank you for taking out the time today and joining me in either watching or listening to this podcast. Today in this episode, we're going to be discussing the differences between awakening and enlightenment and how we can recognize the difference between the two and why they are very different and we shouldn't use them interchangeably. Let's establish first what is an awakening? Awakening are short episodes, I would say that lead to enlightenment, it cannot be described as enlightenment, but they're little steps. They're like signs that show us that we're going towards the right direction. Most of us would like to believe we've had an enlightening experience, but really it's just been an awakening. We've had a short stint of an insight and we claim that that is now everything. The danger there is that we stop learning and that's why it's very important that we recognize what is in the awakening and what is enlightenment. A lot of spiritual aspirants have had awakenings that last a few days, maybe even a month. But what we find is that eventually the experience of oneness or bliss or joy or ecstasy, those feelings tend to disappear and they tend to dissolve away with time and it's not like we can go back to those experiences. Actually, if you start finding that you're hankering after those experiences again, consider you had an awakening because with enlightenment, you will be able to go back to that base level of joy, wisdom, bliss, happiness, ecstasy. Those will be accessible for you all the time, but with awakening, they're not accessible all the time and that's what the key difference is. We have to recognize also when we get back to the feeling of the ego self. The best way to show or highlight where we are back to the ego is how we get disturbed so quickly. How we get irritated so quickly and like I mentioned, when we're hankering a previous experience, it normally is the ego. The ego will be saying, we want this experience again. Let's go for it. Now, it'll want to continue that experience because it is an awakening and it recognizes that is short lived. It will not tell you to go towards enlightenment where you can eradicate the ego or the hold of the ego for a much longer time. In fact time doesn't exist there. But with awakening, the ego knows that you can go round and round in circles and be trapped. Awakenings are still great. I would like to emphasize the importance of having awakenings and why awakenings are still important. It's Important because they allow ourselves to stabilize in this truth, in this reality. For example, if I have this insight that Brahman is my background awareness. Yes. Now I can have that awakening and that understanding. What will happen is eventually the more I remember Brahman, I will stabilize in that energy, in that flow. But if I don't and I just suddenly start saying, I'm enlightened. I'm not allowing my body and mind to connect. Now what can happen, and I don't know how true this is, but a lot of people say that if you do get enlightened, that you would die. I'm not too sure whether I agree with that or not, I don't know. But I do find that awakenings are a great way where our body and mind is able to stabilize with the eventual enlightenment experience. If you are having awakening experiences, don't feel disheartened. In fact, use this as a way to know that you're going towards the right direction and you've got to go deeper. You've got to learn more. You got to study more. Awakenings, the great thing also about them is that if you are sensitive enough, you will notice a subtle difference or separation between Brahman and the Jiva. Now the Jiva is the individual soul, the soul that is the same as Brahman, but with an honest introspection, we're able to understand the subtle separation. We still find the self or the soul as our existence. We still have not been able to acclimatize ourselves to the Eternal Reality, the Absolute Reality, this Brahman, this Ultimate Reality. When the seeker understands that subtle difference, they won't claim enlightenment. And this is very important because no real seeker will prematurely announce their enlightenment. They will go with the flow of the awakening experiences. So this is one big way to find out who is a real seeker and who isn't because if one just claims to be enlightened that they know everything now, chances are they probably have not introspected. If you have introspected and got to that, they will be able to describe everything to you and have an honest conversation about it, and they will be able to answer any question you have. Even if you may not agree with them, you will still go back and say, they're genuine. So that's the way you can tell, even if you don't agree with their experience, but you can still tell if someone is genuine or not. I do feel that in our gut, we always know when someone is real or not, and honest and genuine. Awakenings will eventually lead us to enlightenment. We just have to be patient. We just have to keep working towards it and we have to keep striving towards it. There's no point giving up. The awakenings are a sign that we are working towards the right direction. We're going towards the right direction. This steady progress actually helps us to understand Brahman more. I really feel this because when we are connected to Brahman, when we're connected to the Ultimate Reality, when we have it as our background awareness, when we are stabilizing ourselves in that formlessness, that emptiness in terms of content, the more we're able to understand the nature of Brahman and the more we are able to discover it. And the more we allow it to be in the background awareness, eventually we will see that there's only this that is available to us. This Brahman, nothing more, nothing less. What will happen if we prematurely announce enlightenment, we will find that we are going to go back into egoic thinking and we will have false sense of humility and all this, you can tell these people from a mile away, there's still something in those eyes that you look at. You know when you see someone who pretends that they are in some spiritual awakening, you can just tell in their eyes, whether there are being real or false. Be mindful when you're having an awakening. A lot of us do prematurely announce our enlightenment. We go halfway up the mountain and we suddenly feel that we need to announce that we've reached the peak. When we haven't, we have to work towards the peak. We have to work towards that. We have to strive towards it. For example, when we're working towards a PhD or a degree of any kind, bachelor's master's whatever, or where we have to complete a course. If you leave it prematurely, can you say you hold that degree or you hold that certification? No, you have to go through the whole process. The same thing with enlightenment. You have to go through the whole process. The awakenings are your signposts. They are your markers. They are the ones that tell you that you're going towards the right direction, but don't stop your spiritual progress in the middle because a lot of us do and we have to avoid this trapping. Now, I didn't want to go too much into this in the beginning, but now, I will enter into this discussion where we will talk about how enlightenment is when there's absolute oneness between Brahman and the Jeeva or the soul. Now, the Jeeva is something that is within each and every one of us. The Jeeva is basically the soul, which houses our body and our mind. And with the mind it's conditionings, it's memories, it's habits from previous lifetimes is stored and collected. So our karma is collected in the mind and the mind is contained in the Jeeva and then the Jeeva is contained in Brahman. What enlightenment really is, is there is this continuous awareness. This awareness that doesn't stop at any time. It continues to grow and develop. It's just there in the background. When I say it's continuously growing and developing, even in enlightenment, there is still a refinement that is happening. That's why it's very hard to tell the difference between awakening and enlightenment. But you know the difference, you know, when it's the ego telling you it's enlightenment and you know as Brahman, that this is who you really are. Now, what tends to happen is, you'll see that there's only Brahman, but the phenomena around, this transactional reality, you neither define it as real nor unreal. The reason for this is and I give the example of having a dream. Now, when you're in the dream, the dream feels. Yeah. It's sometimes, have you ever woken up from a dream where you're sweating and your heart is beating fast because you've been running away from something? While you were in the dream, it felt real. But when you woke up, you realized, oh, I was just in a dream. Similarly that's like Maya or what we term as Maya or what we term as this phenomena around us, this world around us, this universe. That yes it's subject to change and modification, but while we're in this body, this universe is real. But when we leave this body, when we have this awareness that we are not just the body, in that moment, we understand that this world is unreal, like the dream. It's very important that we understand that when we are functioning as the body, that this world is real. But when we are in awareness, in the awareness of Brahman, in that wisdom of Brahman, understanding as Brahman, then the world is unreal. This is why it's very important to see this transactional reality, this Maya as neither unreal nor real. We have to continuously work on understanding this Underlying Ultimate Reality - Brahman, this formlessness, this emptiness, this contentless consciousness. We have to continuously abide by it, continuously work within it, as much time as we get remembering it mindfully. Fully aware of what Brahman is. That is what enlightenment brings, that state of continuously going back to that awareness. It's not like you have to work to go back to it. It just tends to happen automatically. Another thing that I want to mention is it may be that when we see sages or masters, the spiritual teachers, we may find that they had some behavioral issues afterwards. This tends to be a big thing in spirituality that we find out that no master was perfect. Well, we have to understand that while they're in this body and mind, they still have their vrittis, their conditioning and that is still going to play a part in the whole of existence. There's still have karma that has not been exhausted. It's very important for us to educate ourselves in understanding that not to expect perfection when it comes to spiritual enlightenment. Remember spiritual enlightement is a state of being, it is not behavior, but one should be alert enough to know when something is going against the benefit of society. When an act is causing more harm. That's the thing with Hinduism, which I really love in terms of its understanding of actions. We got to commit to that action, which does less harm. It doesn't say no harm, but less harm. We always got to pick that path, which causes less harm. So an enlightened being will always do that. That implies that there may be harm because remember we interpret things very differently. What is good for one person may be bad for another. So an enlightened being understands this, and that's why enlightened beings have always interpreted actions as one that does less harm. Enlightenment is the end point and yet the beginning point, we have always been this we've always been Brahman. We have never escaped that understanding, or let's say we've never escaped that awareness. But we've misunderstood ourselves as this body and mind. Therefore, we subject ourselves to birth and death or modification of form and we think we are changing, but realistically, when we understand what Brahman really is. We understand that we've never changed. This awareness has never aged. This awareness will never grow older. It will never go big or small. It will never be defined in numbers. It cannot be defined in language. This awareness remains as it is, indefinable. It cannot be moved. It cannot be caught on fire. You cannot disturb it. You cannot cut it. It remains itself pure and untouched. This is our awareness that we always have, even if we don't know it right now, but that is what we always are and always have been and always will be. We can play this game of cat and mouse and pretend that we haven't got there. And this is a whole beauty of the journey is playing that game. In enlightenment, there is no beginning nor end and it's like going full circle. You realize, oh, I was always here. I thought I had to achieve some thing but it's been here always. Enlightenment gets rid of that false sense of self. It just dissolves away. It just goes away. We no longer are in the clutches of the ego. That doesn't mean that the ego will not come in and play its game again. It will. We will be able to allow it to dissolve away. If it arises, we know that it will depart. We are strong enough to allow that to happen. Even in awakening experiences, one can do this. If one is alert enough and experienced enough in terms of awakening experiences. And also when we have the help of a spiritual master and a spiritual guide, they're able to also help us in settling ourselves in the awakening experiences so we can go towards enlightenment. If you notice a spiritual master will always guide you towards enlightenment and there will also make sure that you fully understand that awakening experience. Awakening and enlightenment are not always blissful experiences. It's a very immature way of thinking to perceive that enlightenment or awakening is always blissful. If one thinks that, they're misunderstanding the whole point. Now it's not always that you're going to feel love, joy, bliss, peace, acceptance, compassion all the time when you're going through these experiences of awakenings and when you go through that experience of enlightenment. It can actually be very painful and heart wrenching and gut wrenching because you're working on those aspects of yourself, which need to be worked upon. Memories will come up, which have disturbed you, which you never thought disturbed you before, those experiences will come up and you have to deal with them. You have to analyze them, introspect on them. That's why having a Master is very important. When I say a Master, a Master has to be personally involved in your enlightenment, not with you as a person, but in your enlightenment, they have to guide you personally on this. It's very important to have that. Awakenings are a great way. And again, if we're with a Master, it is better. Or if we're with a therapist or a counselor, it is better, that we can then introspect into our trauma and deal with the trauma and explore it, and then close that trauma forever. It's very important that if we do not have counselors or we do not have a therapist, when we're having awakenings to go and approach the counselor. If not, try and get a spiritual master that can work with you personally on this and be with you and be there to stabilize you in awakening experiences because there will be feelings of intense pain. There will be feelings of suffering and many mystics have gone through that. If you read the biography of J Krishnamurti, they are times they say in the night where he is in complete panic, sometimes complete anger comes up. Sometimes he's crying like a child and speaking like a child. What he used to tell the people was, just be with him when he's going through this. And sometimes he used to be on the floor crawling in pain, led up in pain. In that moment, he used to just tell people not to disturb him, but to be there with him. Mystics have gone through this and not everyone will have this. So for example, now that I said that J Krishnamurti went through this, doesn't mean that everyone will go through what he's gone through. It may be that yours is more pleasant as an experience, but I guarantee that each one of us will have to deal with some sort of pain that we've dealt with in the past, that we feel that we dealt with, but actually now we have to deal with it because it's now blocking our experience of enlightenment or going towards enlightenment. As they say, with every fleeting experience, it shall pass and all this pain and trauma that we have to deal with, it will pass one day. And enlightenment is about the renewing of who we are and it's not renewing in terms of we let go of who we are. No, it's all about understanding that our true state is Brahman. Our true sense of being is Brahman. This Ultimate Reality. Most Mystics have gone through smaller awakenings that led to enlightenment, not everyone just had an enlightening experience. Someone may have studied with a Spiritual Master for many years. Someone may have not gone through a Master and just meditated and they then worked upon it. Some came across it accidentally. There's many avenues and ways, and nobody can say this is the right way. If someone tells you that there's only one way towards enlightenment. They don't know enlightenment at all. Enlightenment can be experienced in many ways. Awakenings can be experienced in many ways, many avenues, many pathways. Mystics have shown this and the mystics tend to have this inner explosive emotions of joy or suffering and yet they remain patient and diligent in their inquiry because they understand enlightenment is not far away. What they also warn us against is that having an awakening, but mistaking it for enlightenment may make someone complacent. It'll make us lazy. We then won't work on ourselves. That's why I find that the path of awakenings is better than the path of enlightenment. We should strive for enlightenment, but we should use awakenings as ways to deal with who we are in terms of the false self or the false sense of self. Awakenings are a better way to get rid of it or the clutch of it. According to other enlightened beings, they have a sense of knowing everything and yet have a childlike approach for learning. So humility is key here. Be careful of pseudo humility. A lot of people can claim to be humble, but you can sense that humility in who they are. They have this childlike sense of awareness, they want to learn more and they will pretend that they don't know anything. This is their beauty and we have to recognize that humility is big here. Even if you get to that samadhi, which ends conditioning and ends the ego, ends every false sense of self and completely makes us abide in Brahman as Brahman, where we can say 'Aham Brahmasmi' with full confidence, even then there will still be this sense of learning from everybody and being kind, being gentle and being understanding. Just to recap this episode, awakenings are temporary and enlightenment is a permanent state. Awakening and enlightenment may not always be a lovely, beautiful state. It can be painful. It can have suffering. It can make us deal with our trauma that we didn't think we have. It will bring everything up, if needed to be. If anything is blocking your way towards enlightenment or to further development in spirituality, your awakenings will show you that and they will help you go through it. Approach a master, approach a spiritual being, approach a counselor or therapist, when you're having these traumatic experiences. Enlightenment doesn't happen to the person, a realization just occurs that there is only Brahman. This is the key. Enlightenment never happens to the person because there is no me and there is no you. There is no separate God. There's nothing like that. There's only this reality, that only is. Thank you for listening to this episode of The Bearded Mystic Podcast, please do remember to follow or subscribe to this channel and do leave a review for this podcast. I'd really appreciate knowing what you think. You can follow me on social media and I will leave the links below to each of those accounts. I do share small clips on there that you can share with friends and family. And if you feel that anyone in your friends and family circle would love this podcast do share it with them. A new episode is uploaded every Sunday and Thursday until next time, take care. See you again soon.
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