Having a transformational experience was what the est Training offered. It was not enlightenment per se but it could precondition a person and lead to that … maybe.
It’s my own personal view that going above the line between unconscious and conscious awareness into that state of natural knowing is as much as we can do by our own efforts. Enlightenment is not within our power to “achieve.” For me, it’s a gift of God or more particularly a gift of the angels from God. It’s the angels that enlighten humanity. Here are examples of that:
Isaiah: In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple … and one [seraphim] cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.
Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:
Caedmon: Caedmon was an illiterate herdsman, who did not even know the alphabet. One night he had a vision of an angel, and by that angel’s grace his poetic faculty came to life. Caedmon composed extemporaneously and even recited his hymns and poems in public. (4)
Mohammed: I swear by all that you can see, and all that is hidden from your view, that this is the utterance of a noble messenger [Gabriel]. It is no poet’s speech: scant is your faith! It is no soothsayer’s divination: how little you reflect! It is a revelation from the Lord of all creatures. (5)
He does not speak out of his own fancy. This is an inspired revelation. He is taught by one who is powerful and mighty. (6)
We go above the line between unconscious and conscious awareness by truth-telling, by an act of will (standing forth as the Self), by sourcing our vasanas and getting the insight that lies at the heart of them, etc.
I personally don’t consider beings strong enough to somehow “win” enlightenment for themselves. I suspect that hearing that may rankle some people. But I think we can at best only ever cover a fraction of the distance that we’d need to to enlighten ourselves and then God reaches out to us and pulls us in.
I think this is precisely what Bernadette Roberts was pointing to when she said: “At a certain point, when we have done all we can [to bring about an abiding union with the divine], the divine steps in and takes over.” (7)
Moreover, I don’t think we need to bother ourselves as to when we should be exerting effort and when not. I agree with Sri Nisargadatta:
“When effort is needed, effort will appear. When effortlessness becomes essential, it will assert itself. You need not push life about. Just flow with it and give yourself completely to the task of this present moment, which is to die now to the Now. For living is dying. Without death, life cannot be.” (8)
In a sense all we can do, as far as I can see, is love, tell the truth, stand forth against injustice, and be like the offering that Gibran spoke of, the sacred bread being baked for God’s sacred feast. But at the point when one leaves the chatter of the mind, life offers more that makes the journey bearable. Anxiety and worry are dropped and in their place is a feeling of deep satisfaction that makes the journey pleasant.
(1) See est Dictionary at http://goldenageofgaia.com/spiritual-essays/the-path-of-awareness/est-dictionary/
(2) Exodus 3:2.
(3) Isaiah 6:1 + 5-7.
(4) Swami Chetanananda, They Lived with God. Life Stories of Some Devotees of Sri Ramakrishna. St. Louis: Vedanta Society of St. Louis, 1989, 373.
(5) Koran, 61.
(6) Koran, 112.
(7) Bernadette Roberts, “The Path to No-Self” in Stephan Bodian, ed. Timeless Visions, Healing Voices. Freedom, CA: Crossing Press, 1991, 131.
(8) Nisargadatta Maharaj in video Awaken to the Eternal.