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Enlightenment Isn't Personal
By Martin LeFevre
Aug 23, 2022, 5:21pm

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It's noon and the temperature is already near 100 at the northeastern corner of California's Central Valley. I carry a lawn chair the couple hundred meters from the car to the meditation place on the creek, wade in and place it in the shallow stream.

The cool, gentle current ripples just above my ankles, and I soon forget about the heat. Gazing downstream, the sight of the light and color reflecting off the surface, and the sound of cascading water over rocks behind me, are soothing beyond words.

Time passes until I'm unaware of its passage. With the spontaneous quieting of the mind as thought in passive awareness, attention gathers unseen and grows into and intense flame, ending psychological time.

Listening to everything without interpreting or labeling, everything is imbued with intrinsic meaning. The sounds of the softly rushing water, the seen and unseen birds, even the dog barking in the distance - all things have their own language, even inanimate things.

Large swallowtail butterflies, which feed on the nectar of white, spiky balls overhanging the creek, begin to form pairs and engage in elaborate dances above the water. Their movements are at once exquisitely beautiful and inexplicably random.

Sunlight shimmers in long swaths of achingly brilliant green on the water. Residues of experience in memory dissolve unseen, and a feeling of impersonal, all-inclusive love comes into one.

After an hour sitting in the stream, I move to the bank. A question arises: What is the relationship between individual awakening and illumination, and human consciousness, the world and psychological revolution?

Personal enlightenment is an oxymoron. Enlightenment is the temporary or irreversible ending of the 'me' at the center of existence, the 'I' that chooses and thereby loses life.

Invited to participate in an online sangha out of Melbourne, someone declares in replying to my question, "I think there is one revolution only...that is one person at a time."

He continued, "I am reminded of a beautiful quote by Chogyam Trungpa: "It is easier to put on a pair of shoes than to cover the whole Earth with carpet." Meditation and seeking is the process of putting on the pair of shoes, while revolution is a process of putting the carpet on Earth."

That sounds lovely but it's meaningless, intended to comfort the individual in his or her self-centered seeking. Revolution in consciousness begins with the individual, and so it may make poetic sense to speak about a revolution of one. But it makes no social sense, and 'my enlightenment' certainly doesn't have any effect on course of man.

This sangha is led by one of the innumerable self-styled gurus that have sprung up in the West in the last 30 years. Besides selling their own supposed enlightenment, they sell books, CDs, and everything except T-shirts, and perhaps them as well.

My question about the relationship between individual awakening and a revolution in consciousness that manifests in the world isn't taken up. Instead one of the guru's followers wrote about how "cozy two hours with Rajiv is."

For his part, the guru, standing on high, completely missed the intent of mutual exploration in my question. He replied, "Please be patient with your questions. I can't answer all questions immediately as I get a huge number of questions and requests. Happy to answer all your queries in the next satsang." My, my, my.

Though the escape-to-enlightenment crowd and their leader won't hear the truth, awakening and doing one's own spadework is a given, and "one person at a time" means man is doomed. It's no revolution, and it guarantees that humanity will run out of time and space.

Meanwhile, in the world as it actually is, the Wall Street Journal reported today, "In the biggest war between European countries since World War II, the death and destruction have no end in sight. Six months after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, signs are accumulating that the balance on the military and economic battlefields is tilting the way of Kyiv and its Western backers."

Do you think for a second Putin and Russia are going to admit defeat and slither back to Moscow? As for Ukrainians, a frontline volunteer, Seva, reports, "I was talking to many people about nuclear attacks, and people say, 'We don't care. Let them bomb us. Let them kill us but we don't want to be Russians.'"

Such a mentality is applauded by politicians and commentators in the West, while the navel gazers don't believe it has anything to do with them and their individualistic journeys of enlightenment.

As a person who meditates every day and has been prone to so-called mystical experiences since my teens, I have no affinity for either die-hard nationalists or self-enclosed 'seekers.'

Psychological revolution, if and when it occurs, isn't a matter of some future time, and has nothing to do with violence or "others suffering." We are the others, and psychological revolution means the end of violence as given in human relationship.

What is the question? Not for me or anyone else to answer, but to hold and follow thread of mutual inquiry as it unspools into shared insight.

If enough people set aside their opinions and beliefs, and begin questioning together, would that ignite, at the core of human consciousness within all us, the psychological revolution that finally changes the disastrous course of man?


Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He welcomes dialogue.

Published with permission of the author. All copyright remains with the author.

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