First of all a brief summary of what enlightenment, nibbana, moksha actually means:
The most important aspect to remember is that the personal self no longer exists once this realisation or change occurs. Not wishing to split hairs but strictly speaking even calling it a realisation is inaccurate – there’s no-one to realise, and also change – it’s the way it’s always been in reality so in one sense nothing changes. But the ‘sense’ or belief in a personal self disappears and with it consciousness operating through that ‘mode’ no longer occurs.
The main problem when trying to communicate this is that it’s virtually impossible not to use some sort of personal pronoun in sentence construction, ‘I’, ‘me’ or possive pronouns, ‘mine’ etc. but if you remember this is a convention of language rather than the way it is you’ll get the idea.
Following on from this, with no personal self there are no longer any personal desires. There is, simply put, no-one to do the desiring. That can and does manifest in a lack of goals or motivation at one end of the scale, up to lack of desire for personal gratification or anything the consumer culture in which we in live has to offer. Such things are now meaningless.
With no desire comes no emotions. There is nothing to feel happy or sad about. If you think about it you’ll realise emotion and desire are basically linked: I get what I want, avoid what I don’t want = happy, fulfilled, content; I don’t get what I want, get what I don’t want = sad, frustrated, upset. Personal praise or blame, worldly achievement, sensual gratification – none of these will bring pleasure or happiness and their lack will not bring unhappiness. There is no-one to feel happy or unhappy at any outer circumstance.
The thinking mind is unaffected and rattles on much as it always did. It won’t become smarter or less intelligent, though for myself I find I’m a little more absent minded. I put this down in part to living without the matrix of daily desires which formerly were part of the structure of my life.
Ona a more abstruse note, the ‘higher’ or abstract mind seems to be completely gone. That part of my former self seems now to have ‘opened up’ to the universe and all speculation drifts off into silence or space. At some point the ‘answer’ to speculative enquiry arrives back in my rational mind as if from nowhere. I would suggest that this change is strongly linked to it being said that after enlightenment there are no further incarnations or re-births, but more of that if anyone would like further discussion on that point.
Now while it might be true to say that there is no path that can lead ‘Directly’ to this thing termed enlightenment, I would suggest care should be taken in understanding this further. There are a nuumber of Western ‘Gurus’, some of whom seem to me by their writings to be enlightened (and some who I belive are not) who are less than clear on this point. At least a couple of them go out of their way to state that ‘there is no path’.
While it might be said there is no ‘direct’ path to take you all the way, so to speak, there are a number of paths that, figuratively speaking, lead to the edge. There have been a significant number of Buddhist practitioners that have achieved enlightnment and I’m sure the followers of Yoga and Advaita Vedanta would claim the same. It’s true, you might not ‘need’ such practices to facilitate Awakening, but it is simply not true to say that such practices can’t greatly benefit the individual and lead one close.
It seems to me that part of the issue lies in the person who is enlightened. Sometimes they seem to come at it from a perspective of, ‘my way is the only way’, sometimes from the perspective of, ‘there is no way’. The latter is very confusing for anyone who feels they are on a spiritual path. The main point I’d urge you to remember is that whatever your tradition or cultural background, this path or journey is yours and yours alone and you must take full responsibilty for it, not abdicate that responsibility to a teacher or spiritual tradition. It is very much a mistake to think: ‘this practice will lead me there’ or ‘this teacher’s words will lead me there’. They won’t, although they might be very useful signposts.
So it’s about holding the teachings and offerings of others in the right way. If they seem to be useful, take it on board for consideration. If they don’t make sense and don’t strike a chord with you, then for now, just put it on a shelf.
For myself, I’m certainly not offering these thoughts as the ‘only way’ and they may not even constitute anything like a ‘path’. These are merely thoughts and refelctions for your consideration and are offered as such. I hope you might find them of use.