“The real meaning of enlightenment
is to gaze with undimmed eyes on darkness.”
~ Nikos Kazantzakis
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We can be drawn to the light and ever remain a planet, or we can become the sun for our world.
There’s a story about a man in a mental institution who spent all night every night beside his window with a bucket, frantically scooping at the air and finally collapsing at sunrise with a relieved sigh: “I finally got all the darkness out of this room.”
Are we any less crazy? How much faith do we have in sunrise? So many of us object to the darkness – in whatever form it comes – and feel we must act to get rid of it. We can take issue with other’s sexual orientation, their politics, their lifestyles. And we can champion alternatives, sure that we know what’s best for them. Do we?
This reminds me of the story about a boy scout who retuned to headquarters battered and bruised, with his clothes torn. “What happened to you?” asked his scout master?
“I helped an old lady across the street,” he replied.
“But what happened?”
“She didn’t want to go!”
That’s what happens when we impose our will on others, even with the best of intentions. And why do we do that? Because we decide that something is wrong and we know how to fix it. In other words, the way things are right now needs to change. For spiritual seekers, it means that this could never be enlightenment.
Author and blogger Roy Biancalana writes, “… any practice, method or teacher that promises some future result, some future realization should be avoided. By holding out the “carrot of promise,” that one day you’ll go to heaven, they actually keep you from it. You are turned into a Greyhound dog chasing the rabbit at the dog track. You keep chasing the damn thing and you can never catch it. But if you stop chasing, if you stop seeking, the rabbit will come all the way around and hit you right in the ass! “It” finds you when you stop seeking “It.” 1
There is no finish line for enlightenment, regardless of what any religious program may promise. To conceive of enlightenment as a result is to fundamentally misunderstand what it is. True enlightenment is well described in the opening quote: “The real meaning of enlightenment is to gaze with undimmed eyes on darkness.”
One is enlightened when one is shining. “Be the light!” could be the best spiritual advice available. Of course, to be the light we need to be lit up and no one can do that disconnected from the source of light. We are transmitters of light but the transmission doesn’t start with ourselves. Something gives us life, moment by moment, and that is what we can transmit.
Something is beating your heart. Something is steering the stars. Something is ensuring that billions of simultaneous activities everywhere in the cosmos somehow coordinate together to give us the stability we depend on to simply function. We can call it what we want to and disagree on words and beliefs but the reality remains. And we have faith in “it.” We don’t worry that we’ll wake up one morning and fall off the earth.
Since humans began to think we’ve wondered about our place in all this. Of course, the search for answers, the quest for personal meaning and a more understanding of the purpose of life will never end. The path is endless and it doesn’t proceed in a straight line. We can acknowledge our human birth and death as beginning and ending points for this human experience, but the deeper we explore the path of awakening the less constrained we feel between those two book ends. As we sense more of a kinship with life itself, the life that informs our bodies, we begin to transcend those limitations.
Our basic understanding of self begins to transform and it leads to this liberating realization: “I will never be enlightened.”
You may become “enlightening,” that is, you may develop into someone who brings light into the circumstances of your life. You may evolve your understanding and experience in ways that mark you as an advanced human but not through what you believe or think or say or even do, but because of the bright revelation of who you are, moment by moment.
And, darkness wouldn’t scare you. Think about it: where is light needed most? Where there’s lots of light already present or where there’s darkness to dispel? Not with a bucket, struggling to right a wrong, but with the natural rising of the sun, the arrival of one’s own shining presence.
During this series of blogs we’ve explored what is and what isn’t spiritual progress. Now, here in the last one, we can expose the big lie about enlightenment. Yes, there will be more “progress” to make – for the rest of our lives! But this is the moment to shine.
You are already “it.”