On the path to ‘enlightenment,’ be careful you don’t become a ‘follower’
The is the third part of an extended series of explorations on “enlightenment” as a human experience. The first and second entries in this series may be found in the archives.
At the conclusion of Part One I said that the danger of this business of enlightenment is two-fold. The first danger is thinking that there is something specific that you have to do in order go get there. And that if you don’t do that, you can’t get there. The second danger is thinking that your way to get there is the fastest, the best way to do it.
At the conclusion of Part Two I wrote of when Paramahansa Yogananda, or Master, as he was called, came to America bringing a technique for “self-realization” — which was his phrase meaning “enlightenment.” Self-realization declares that when you realize who the Self is, you become enlightened. And Master described himself as having been enlightened. And, by the way, he was enlightened. He was enlightened because he said that he was and, I hate to break the spell that someone may be under, but to be enlightened is to say that you are. It is quite as simple as that.
People heard Paramahansa Yogananda give his talks and explain his technique for enlightenment, which involved a process that included, among other things, deep meditation for many minutes and sometimes many hours, every day. And the process was one that Paramahansa Yogananda taught to his students, and that his students taught to their students, and their students taught to their students, on and on, until a very large number of people all over the United States and around the world were involved in this Self-Realization Fellowship, which to this day continues to function and has now many, certainly hundreds of thousands of, followers.
And if you talk to some of the followers and some of the members of the Self-Realization Fellowship, they will tell you, “This is the way. This is the path. Master has shown us the path. There are many other paths, this is not the only path, and this may not be the best path, but it is the fastest path that we know of, and so come and join the Self-Realization Fellowship.”
In even more contemporary times a wonderful man named Maharishi surfaced on the earth and Maharishi invented yet another path to enlightenment. His path was called Transcendental Meditation — or, for short, “TM.”
Maharishi began teaching around the world and became very popular and began creating temples and meditation centers all over the place. He established huge universities. There is a university in Fairfield, Iowa right now, called the Maharishi International University. And there are other universities that he established around the world. And many, many so-called TM centers.
Now, I learned Transcendental Meditation and I learned it from other students who learned it from other students who learned it from other students who learned it from other students, who learned it from the Master. And there is a gentle sense of urgency on the part of some of the people who are in this movement, because they will tell you that Transcendental Meditation is a tool that can bring you to enlightenment in a very short period of time.
And they, like the students of Paramahansa Yogananda, like the participants in the est program, turn a large part of their lives over to this program. They see their job as enrolling as many people as they can in their movement, because it changes peoples lives. And when you have a life-changing technology you naturally want to share it with as many people as you can. And there is nothing wrong with that. That is very exciting and it is very wonderful. But it can be difficult if you are not careful, if you allow yourself to become so urgently wrapped up in it that nothing else matters to you in your life. Then it can become not enlightenment, but dis-empowering to you.
Now there are many other programs as well. Like Maharishi and Transcendental Meditation, like Paramahansa Yogananda and the Self-Realization Fellowship, like Werner Erhard and the est program. There are many programs. Many approaches, many paths developed by many masters. There was a book written called Many Lives, Many Masters, written by my friend Brian Weiss, and he talks about the fact that there are many ways to reach the mountaintop.
Which way, then, should we recommend? Which way, then, should we encourage others to take? Or should we simply encourage others to investigate for themselves the many paths that there are, and empower them to know that inside their heart and soul they will pick the right path if their intention is pure and if their desire is true.
God says, “No one calls to me without being answered.” And each of us will be answered by that which we call divine, in the way which most effectively responds to the vibration that we hold and create from the center of our being.
That is, to put it another way, God or Divinity or Enlightenment, if you please, appears in a form in the lives of every person that is most appropriate to their background, their culture, their level of understanding, the level of their desire, and their willingness. And there are many disciplines: physical disciplines, mental disciplines, spiritual disciplines, and some disciplines that involve all three—the body, the mind and the spirit.
In our next entry here, we’ll look at the path that was taken by the Buddha. In the meantime, what path are you taking? Have you found “enlightenment” yet?