Enlightenment: Fact or Fiction?
Posted by: anatta ()
Date: July 14, 2009 07:58AM

(Conversation has been continued from this thread)


we would need to agree on a clear definition of both 'spirituality' and 'enlightenment'

I believe it was clearly implied in my post that I define enlightenment as a permanent, unshakable state of peace or bliss. In other words, what the Hindu yogis claimed to have achieved. And the Buddha. And Christian mystics like Meister Eckhart. And Muslim mystics like Rumi. And secular mystics like certain philosophers.

For many thousands of years, mystics have claimed that there is a permanent state of peace that is entirely absent of negative emotions such as depression, stress, anxiety, anger, fear, craving, and so on. Perhaps enlightenment is simply an ancient myth. Or maybe not. Until I see definitive evidence one way or the other, I won't pretend I know the answer when I don't.

It's actually a bit ironic that your username is "Stoic." The Stoics, as you probably know, were essentially Greek mystics. One of the core premises of Stoicism is that it's possible to alleviate suffering through spiritual disciplines, and through the radical acceptance of reality (what Byron Katie calls "loving what is").

I agree with you that we need "corroborative evidence" for the existence of enlightenment. Indeed, that was one of the central points of my post. The exciting thing about brain science is that it promises us an objective snapshot of subjective experience. If someone says they experience perpetual peace, then it ought to be easy enough to prove or disprove the claim.

Again, let me reiterate that I am not making any truth claims whatsoever about the existence or non-existence of enlightenment. What I am saying is that we ought to be able to study it scientifically, which has not been done. Again, I am not the one making truth claims here. You are when you insist that enlightenment is not possible (an assumption based on zero scientific evidence).

He is enough of a scientist, however, to make no claims at all concerning spirituality or enlightenment.

Austin does indeed state that he believes enlightenment is possible. If not in his own book, then in interviews elsewhere. In fact, he apparently experienced a brief satori after practicing Zen meditation in Japan. But you are correct that he does not claim to know for certain that full-blown enlightenment exists. Nor do I make any such claim.

My problem with BK is that she also makes no such direct claims, at least not in any public forum where she might be challenged

She states very clearly that questioning your thoughts leads to the end of suffering. I think she tries not to place a lot of emphasis on a future state of enlightenment because she knows that for many people, especially beginner students, this would be a source of confusion. As you probably know from your Zen training, it is said that an attachment to the concept of enlightenment is itself an obstacle to enlightenment. It's a paradox that can take time for people to grasp. By shifting the focus away from the issue of enlightenment, BK is able to keep The Work simple and help people stay present in the here and now.

True meditation is watching what is 'really' happening, moment by moment. True meditation is truly boring, so much more entertaining to chase some mystical pipe-dream.

I completely agree. Meditation is simply being mindful of the present moment. But as the Buddha and countless others have suggested, this simple act of awareness, if practiced rigorously for many years, may lead to a profound awakening -- the end of suffering. That's their claim anyway, and I think it's a hypothesis that deserves to be carefully studied, rather than casually dismissed.

there are no permanent states, the only permanent state you will ever attain will be when you are dead.

In a sense, you are correct. I said "permanent state of uninterrupted bliss" for simplicity's sake. It would be more precise to say "a permanent absence of negative states." You say it's not possible. We'll see. What we need are some case studies. If Byron Katie (or anyone claiming enlightenment) truly lives without negative emotional states, then we ought to be able to see evidence of this in brain imaging tests, etc.

I do have a problem when one person's personal beliefs are foistered on others by devious means, or used to provide a millionaire lifestyle for a select few by bleeding cash from 'lesser' mortals, or used as vicious nonsense to build a power-base by exploiting other humans

On this point, we are in complete agreement. However, I encourage you to avoid the faulty logic which says that a spiritual concept must be false simply because a guru has abused the concept. Just because a concept like enlightenment has been used in underhanded ways to harm people, that does not mean the concept is invalid. For example, people have used the concept of biological evolution to justify eugenics and other horrible things, but that clearly does not mean the concept of evolution is incorrect.

Re: Enlightenment: Fact or Fiction?
Posted by: Stoic ()
Date: July 14, 2009 07:06PM

' However, I encourage you to avoid the faulty logic which says that a spiritual concept must be false simply because a guru has abused the concept. Just because a concept like enlightenment has been used in underhanded ways to harm people, that does not mean the concept is invalid. For example, people have used the concept of biological evolution to justify eugenics and other horrible things, but that clearly does not mean the concept of evolution is incorrect.'

It is pointless discussing the 'concept of enlightenment' since the non-dual worldview, another concept, is a means to explore what is beneath thought, beneath concepts, beneath worldviews, beneath rational discourse and beneath logic whether faulty or otherwise.

All these things, thoughts, concepts, logical systems, are mental constructs, constructed by man over millennia and passed on. They are ideas but over time and familiarity become solidified, 'concrete' and each of us constructs our identity and personhood by means of the spurious concreteness of these passing ideas.

The non dual worldview is an attempt to access what comes before all of these. It is subjective and cannot be otherwise. It is a risky undertaking for it puts at risk everything that I think I am, and everything that my mind can conceive of.

Because it is subjective, it is faulty logic on your part to read other peoples descriptions of this nebulous state and to project your fantasies of what it might be onto what you are reading.
In a subjective experience, by definition, no other persons testimony has any bearing at all.

There is only one way to have a subjective experience and that is to subjectively experience it.
You are doing this right now. You cannot ever do anything else.
When you can do this while discounting the erroneous fantasies of such as Byron Katie and all other 'speakers not doers,' you will know what Ramana Maharshi was pointing at, what Sri Nisargadatta taught, what Marcus Aurelius also found out, and what UG Krishnamurti called the mistake, not mystique, of enlightenment-----none of them in a permanent state of bliss--- but people reduced to the basic functioning of a full true human being, before concepts, without all the nonsense peddled by fraudulent gurus.

Your 'Enlightenment' is not a higher state, it is a BASIC state from which you can then go forward and live as an autonomous person, still with all the human limitations but with a firm grasp on your own mind and all its trickery.

I would advise you to try it but it is risky, it will cost you everything and you may end up like one of the countless crazy, holy fools that wander India today. Or maybe not.

One thing I am sure of, following Byron Katie's teachings and thinking her to have any authentic knowledge of the nondual, will only lead you into despair and confusion and an empty bank balance.
But hey, it will be your subjective experience, why listen to me?

Discussing such a nebulous concept is an utter waste of time. Either do it or leave it alone. The choice is yours.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/14/2009 07:17PM by Stoic.

Re: Enlightenment: Fact or Fiction?
Posted by: anatta ()
Date: July 14, 2009 08:23PM

I think we're getting tangled up in words a little bit. You seem to be more interested in disapproving of how someone says something rather than taking the time to really listen to what it is they're trying to say. You're looking at the finger instead of the moon, the words instead of the spirit of the words. Which is probably why you don't perceive Katie's compatibility with Ramana Maharshi and Sri Nisargadatta. The fact that you don't see this also indicates that you don't understand Maharshi and Nisargadatta nearly as well as you think you do.

One thing you're right about is that this discussion is a waste of time. I will not be checking back for a response. I will, however, leave you with a quote. Apparently, the idea of bliss is not at odds with Maharshi's teachings after all.

Ramana Maharshi
Bliss is not something to be got.
On the other hand you are always Bliss.
This desire [for Bliss] is born of the sense of incompleteness.
To whom is this sense of incompleteness?
Enquire. In deep sleep you were blissful.
Now you are not so.
What has interposed between that Bliss and this non-bliss?
It is the ego.
Seek its source and find you are Bliss.

Re: Enlightenment: Fact or Fiction?
Posted by: rrmoderator ()
Date: July 14, 2009 10:20PM


When people don't agree with you it doesn't mean they "don't understand" and/or have not taken "the time to really listen," but rather that they may think you are wrong.

Dismissing people with condescending remarks the way you do comes across badly and seems to indicate your unwillingness for any meaningful discussion or exchange of ideas here.

Re: Enlightenment: Fact or Fiction?
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: July 15, 2009 12:34AM

If you want to talk about enlightenment, go to venues where that is the topic of discussion, such as non duality salon.

We are not equipped to discuss enlightenment on RR.com. What RR.com is set up for is to investigate ego driven activities such as concealing methods of covert influence and high pressure sales are the language of enlightenment, that is, to say, poisoning a well.

We dont talk about the well, we talk about people slipping American style marketing and covert influence and high pressure sales into the water.

Again, if you want to discuss the water of enlightenment, RR.com is not the place. Go to nonduality salon or your ashram for that.

Talking about enlightenment is a distraction from the deceitful practice of slipping covert influence and marketing into a domain where both of these ego driven activities do not belong.

One cannot address the issue of enlightenment by going to RR.com, anymore than one can expect to purchase a chainsaw from Saks Fifth Avenue.

Re: Enlightenment: Fact or Fiction?
Posted by: yasmin ()
Date: July 15, 2009 12:37AM

I do come from a perspective that does not really believe in the idea of someone being enlightened in the sense of perfect in every way.though I may be wrong.

Its reasonably easy to pass on words of wisdom, say the right thing, look wise and talk about how much you love anybody,(particularly if you never have to do anything to prove it) but its been my experience that people who can do this,quite often, if a major crisis actually hits their own lives, don't seem to handle it in a way that makes me particularly convinced that they are enlightened.

Saying you love someone is pleasant and easy, but it is actions that are interesting.Will you hold someone you say you love when they are weeping ( outside of a seminar?) When their car breaks on the side of the road, will you go and get someone to help them, or will you leave them stranded?If they are giving birth, will you watch their other children for them?

Admit to also being particularly cynical about groups where money equates to spirituality/enlightenment.
If it costs money to get God, and costs more money to get more God, then I suppose that is okay, as long as you believe that God is for sale.

Anyone who explains they love the whole world, and has a way to cure everyones pain, but does not regularly give free seminars, but instead only actually caters to the pain or spiritual needs of rich people; and only gives "one on one" individual time to those who can pay for it; well if that is what enlightenment looks like , it does not seem particularly impressive.
I'd rather have a good down to earth friend, flaws and all, who gets grouchy on a bad day, doesn't pretend to be superior to me, but has real practical kindness and help when an emergency happens.And who knows I will give the same help back when they need it too.
Again, purely my opinion, but floating around in a fluffy, dissociated state, surrounded by people who tell each other how wonderful you are, is of questionable spiritual value.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/15/2009 12:44AM by yasmin.

Re: Enlightenment: Fact or Fiction? or moneymaking scam?
Posted by: The Anticult ()
Date: July 15, 2009 03:17AM

There is a lot of evidence from contemporary psychology, that seeking for "enlightenment" is a pathology.
Its a delusion to think there is some exhalted state, where the human condition doesn't apply, and seeking it, leads to disappointment and depression.

In cognitive psychology, they have what is called Unconditional Self-Acceptance. (USA).
That is not self-esteem, it is simply just accepting one's own humanity, and strengths, and fallibilities.
If a person wants some peace of mind, that is a far better way to go.

Seeking for "enlightenment" is a recipe for unhappiness.

And worse, is the Enlightenment Salespeople. The Enlightenment Guru's, who for a mere $5,000 promise to teach you enlightenment in an LGAT seminar, or "coaching", or books, DVD's, CD's, and anything thing else they can $ELL.

What a fraud. Literally, a fraud.

They are just preying on human unhappiness, and wishful thinking, to make money. And they make millions.
So Enlightenment For Sale is a FRAUD.

So far, we have Fiction and Fraud.

If there are ways to live with more happiness and peace, its not going to be found from one of these rip-off enlightenment salespeople.
They are simply very aggressive entrepreneurs, who use "enlightenment" as a fig-leaf.
They know humans are motivated by PAIN-PLEASURE.
So they promise supreme pleasure, if you give them your money, and your mind.

Its accurate to say, any Guru or Anti-Guru who is running an expensive LGAT enlightenment seminar, is a fraud. That is, its about BUSINESS and making money. That's it, not too fancy.

Re: Enlightenment: Fact or Fiction?
Date: July 15, 2009 01:39PM

Even though Christian, years ago, I was exposed to nonduality, enlightenment mainly through Hindu nonduality teachings Advaita Vedanta. (which I find compatable with my own interpretations of the New Testement) The spiritual teacher/guru I correspond with still has focused mainly on happiness being within. ("which accords with the Kingdom of Heaven being within you") I was very insecure, had autism related issues and was not doing well socially, a continual focus was on seeking the source of happiness which is within.

I've been doing this and the practice of Self-inquiry (mentioned in anatta's Ramana Maharshi quote) for a while. I can't say all my problems have up and vanished, but I have definitely experienced much deeper states of contentment, and that contentment makes it so much easier to interact with others when I'm not objectifying them or myself, and what I want. For all these reasons, I think that spiritual practice if done correctly is entirely benificial. Before that teacher had focused on the source of happiness with me. When I practiced Self-inquiry it was fighting off desire and fear, which not only did not work, it caused headaches, could make functioning a little more difficult. But suddenly using that method as well, I've tapped into a really deep resevoir of peace. Before I was exposed to this teacher, not BK, I had very negative impressions of the idea of gurus, and was very cynical.

But the thing that I wasn't aware of, is that there really are enlightened sages out there such as that teacher I write, and I cannot tell you how I have benefited as far as happiness. The reason enlightenment strikes me as common sensical, is because it's not something to achieve. It's not adding on. In Advaita what is gained will be lost. The teaching focuses on how, the formless existence which is Blissful has never been altered. Often deep sleep is used as an example, because we seek out sleep because it's a state where we have no worries or cares, and we not only don't exist, no one else does either which in nonduality teachings is the truth. There are no individuals, no one was born, consciousness was never altered, never divided itself into forms.

The enlightened state, is supposedly a state without the worries and cares which supposedly result from objectifying ourself and the world, and projecting our hpapiness on situations so that we believe objects, people, situations are the source of happiness rather then it being our essential nature. A true guru, is someone who no longer has anything added on so to speak from that blissful formless existence and is that. In the Ribhu Gita it says, "Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of a concept, in that itself, as that itself". Yes, there are charlatans out there. But with sincerity, they are easily distinguished. Because a true guru, it feels like talking to myself, there is not someone else there, and the responses are only coming from what I veil with my rationalizations.

Self-inquiry focuses on questioning the existence of the individual, the self, the I, and all the concepts of who I think I am. For any thought or experience, asking "For whom is this?" The teacher I write has focused on also as well as the source of happiness, only treating as what is eternal as real. Since all names and forms are perishable. Treating all names and forms of self, other, world as unreal, and what is left over which is the formless Blissful consciousness as real. All these allow for a graceful detachment from day to day life, which makes performing duties, jobs, school work (I just got my bac in physics) much, much easier.

So for me, enlightenment is an experiential reality. I'm not fully there, all the time, but that non-contingent bliss, and the sheer power of functioning it affords in the world are very, very real, and have drawn me deeper into the practice. I should add, in contrast to what Anticult says, it has been entirely free. I have bought books here and there, but even that I could have probably gotten away without doing. Since it is what really exists, and true spiritual teachers are egoless, the teachings are free, they are the nature of existence.

Anticult, what you describe as Uncondtional Self-acceptance, when natural and effortless is enlightenment. Infact in sanskrit it is described as sahaja samadhi (natural absorption in one's own nature) Seeking enlightenment is not seeking something objective, it's seeking to question the unenlightened tendencies, the habitual and useless thought patterns, the false and prideful egoic notions, etc.

Re: Enlightenment: Fact or Fiction?
Posted by: rrmoderator ()
Date: July 16, 2009 12:16AM


You say that "enlightenment is an experiential reality."

But a subjective experience is not objective reality.

Many neo-eastern groups use meditation to achieve what they would consider spiritual experiences.

Much of this meditation can be seen as little more than trance induction or self-hypnosis.

People become very suggestible and malleable in such altered states of consciousness.

For example, a devotee may experience something subjectively the group labels as "enlightenment."

This last post of yours doesn't come across as skeptical, but rather more like a true believer.

It seems like both you and your son, who you claim is interested in Byron Katie, are not that far apart.

Re: Enlightenment: Fact or Fiction?
Posted by: Stoic ()
Date: July 16, 2009 01:45AM

I did have a live one-to-one teacher for several years who I found to be of great benefit to me.
Had there been at the time a pool of professional psychologists specialising in PTSD or combat-stress I believe I would have been at least as well served by such a professional. I took what was available over 30 years ago.

The teacher I went to had a reputation, being an ex-military man, at being well-versed in handling what is now known as PTSD. Sufferers of combat-stress were the first people I encountered who seemed to have the same problems that I had.

'But a subjective experience is not objective reality.'

'Much of this meditation can be seen as little more than trance induction or self-hypnosis.'

The above statements are in my experience very important to remember, as what is experienced is in the context of the belief system in which these experiences are interpreted. Christian mystics see Jesus, Buddhists see Guatama, Muslims presumably see the prophet although with the taboo on pictorial representations, maybe not. The content is not important, you essentially see what you want or are most desperate to see.

'For example, a devotee may experience something subjectively the group labels as "enlightenment."'

There still is not much point in discussing the nebulous concept, its about as illuminating as endlessly recounting your dreams over the breakfast table.

My live teacher died about 10 years ago, I've since decided that I prefer my gurus long dead and buried, at least then they are not going to start with the LGAT entrapment process. Besides, reading old books that have stood the test of time at least gives you space to concentrate on the principles taught rather than the personality and enough time to mull the stuff over and examine it critically.

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