Recently, a spiritual seeker asked a question, “How many people do you know that are enlightened in the Art of Living?” For a moment, I remained silent. I was not sure of what to reply, and even if I replied, I wondered if this person would even want to listen or understand.
I was reminded of a story that Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar shared. “Once upon a time there was a congregation of fishes. One asked, “Who has seen the ocean?” Nobody said, “I have seen the ocean.” Then one of them said, “I think my great grandfather had seen the ocean.” Someone else agreed and seconded the opinion, “Yes, yes I have also heard about it.” And a third one said a little later, ”Yes, yes certainly! His great grandfather had seen the ocean.” So they built a nice, big temple and a made a statue of the great grandfather.
This is a great story that breaks the concepts that we have about enlightenment.
Enlightenment to many is something that cannot be achieved living a normal life. There are people who assume that if one is enlightened, then they will be carrying a water pot (kamandal) or walking barely clothed all the time.
If you keep looking for books to read about enlightenment and just stop there, your mind will only be filled with concepts. Unless we have a guide, a spiritual master, there is a high possibility that we can get stuck and not move an inch towards our true self. Concepts on enlightenment can veil you from knowing who you really are since you will want to have that same experience to believe that you or anyone around you is enlightened.
Gurudev says, “Enlightenment is the very core of our being, our life. We go into the very core of the Self and live from there. We are all gifted with that innocence. We came to the world with innocence. But then gradually we lose innocence. We were born with silence. As we grew up, we lost the silence and words entered our heads. We were born with heart. We lived in our heart but as time went by we moved to our head. The reversal of this journey is enlightenment. Journey from the head back to the heart; from the words back to the silence; getting back to our innocent nature in spite of our intelligence; maintaining the word, at the same time not losing the silence, is a great achievement though it is very simple.”
He says, “Enlightenment is a natural state that becomes so concrete, mature and unshakable by any circumstance; come what may, nothing can shake the smile from your face and also from your heart. Feeling one with everyone; not identifying oneself as ‘I am just this’ or ‘only this belongs to me,’ ‘I am from this country’, or ‘I am from this region.’ No! Break all the barriers and boundaries and feel, “all that exists in the universe belongs to me.” Feel that ownership of the universe.
Thinking only this belongs to me; I am from this part of America, or San Francisco or just because I am from this place, which is why it is special. I am a Hindu so Hinduism is a great religion. I am a Muslim so Islam is the greatest religion. You think that your country or religion or culture or whatever civilization is very great not for what it is, but because you are from that. This is ‘un-enlightenment’.”