Friday, June 19, 2015

What is Enlightenment?

What is Enlightenment?

When we see an object, say a tree in the yard, or hear the sounds, say when a teacher speaks, or taste or touch a thing, we gain knowledge. In general, we obtain knowledge by perceiving an object using any of our five senses. This process is called Direct Perception. We may also obtain knowledge using our mind without making a direct contact with the object concerned. Such a process is called Inference. That is how knowledge in the empirical world is usually accumulated by us. But brahman or Self-Knowledge, which is non-accumulative, cannot be understood either through Direct Perception or Inference. It can only be realized without any medium being involved.

Swami Kaivalyananda of Panmana Ashram, Kerala, India recently explained very lucidly the subtle difference between Direct Perception and Immediated Knowledge in a couple of articles published at the Advaita Academy. I am presenting below a few excerpts from the articles:

“Delusion as of now exists and all sAdhana-s like prANAyAma etc. are done on the supposition that one has to attain the Consciousness. [] the unconditioned Consciousness being our essential SELF, It needs to be only known that we are always free of delusion. Though we speak about aparokshata, or Atma sAkshatkAra, it is spoken as a courtesy. Just as delusion is a specific action of Consciousness, discrimination is another. The shruti guides us to the subtlest form of discrimination and helps us to negate all that veils the Pure Consciousness which is also called as brahman or Atman.”

The Swami Ji further explained how Shankara defined the word aparokshata (im-mediacy) giving an example. He says:

“The knowing of an object, book or table is sa-upAdika i.e. through various mediums. Therefore, it cannot be aparoksha or im-mediate knowledge. Pure knowing or pure knowledge is without depending on any mediums. To perceive a book, we need eyes (akshi), the mental mode (chitta), and the object (viShaya) like the book etc. And above all this, we need the knowledge. The knowledge of an object such as the book in this instance is gathered with the help of various mediums, inhibited by conditionings, such as space, time, instrument of perception (karaNa), the distortion of the mind-stuff (chitta) and the very object itself. Therefore, knowing or knowledge in the ordinary sense is never aparoksha (im-mediate).

However, knowledge or Consciousness in its essential nature is pure knowing, without being conditioned, fragmented or constricted by the various mediums. In the normal knowing, [what is involved] is chitta-vritti or thought or chitta-pariNAma (modification of the mind-stuff). All the knowledge of objects (viShaya-s) is a transformation of the chaitanyavat-chitta or mental stuff plus Consciousness. This is what is ordinarily called knowledge, a knowledge which is dependent on, or channeled through various mediums, vikshepa-s (projections) and vikalpa-s (distortions). However, in and through all this, there is definitely the sphuraNa or illumination of pure knowledge i.e., Consciousness, because Consciousness in its absolute nature is aparoksha (IM-MEDIATE).

There is such a thing as upAdirahita i.e., pure knowing without any of the mediums and that indeed is aparokshatva or im-mediate knowing.”

IMHO, Enlightenment is that im-mediate Knowing.