(Continued from Part 7.)
States and Stages of Enlightenment – 1
All of us starseeds, apparently, have experienced enlightenment in other lifetimes but (perhaps) not in this.
The assignment of this lifetime for starseeds, as I understand it, is to rise gradually with the general population and not get ahead of it. Archangel Michael once put it as a need to remain in touch with people and ascend alongside of the majority of the population as the leaven in the loaf.
I personally have not experienced enlightenment but no subject appeals to me more to discuss.
I can only discuss it from my studies and not from experience and I’d like to be clear about that. Let’s look first at enlightenment and then, in a later post, at what the levels of reality are that we experience in enlightenment.
Enlightenment is a Liberating Discontinuity in Knowledge and Experience
To my way of understanding, enlightenment is a discontinuity in knowledge and experience that results in a liberation of energies and a tremendous expansion in awareness and understanding.
But, more to the point, enlightenment is not simply a singular event. As an unfolding process, it also isn’t simply a repetition of the same event (although some experiences of enlightenment can be repeated).
As I understand it, it’s a progressive unfoldment that, in the Third Dimension at least, follows the progress of the kundalini or spiritual energy up the spine from chakra to chakra.
Hindus envision this as Shakti (which means “energy”) moving up the spiritual circuit of the spine to the Sahasrara or Crown Chakra (and, later, beyond) where it meets and unites with Shiva.
Sri Ramakrishna describes what happens when the kundalini reaches the Fourth, Heart or Anahata Chakra (not the same as the spiritual heart or hridayam).
“The Kundalini, when awakened, passes through the lower centres and comes to the [Fourth Chakra or] Anahata, which is at the heart.” (1)
“Spiritual awakening comes when the mind rises to this center. At this stage man has a spiritual vision of the Divine Light and is struck with wonder at its beauty and glory.” (2)
“He feels the awakening of Divine Consciousness and sees Light. In mute wonder he sees that radiance and cries out: ‘What is this? What is this?’” (3)
“At such times he swims in an ocean of joy. It is like suddenly meeting a dear relative.” (4)
“At that time the mind of the aspirant is withdrawn from the three lower centres.” (5)
“His mind then no longer runs after worldly pleasures.” (6)
Sri Ramakrishna calls this stage of enlightenment “spiritual awakening.” Buddhists call it “stream entering.” The Light that the aspirant sees is the light of the soul, Atman or Christ. I’ve tended to call this the “Child of God,” one member of the Trinity of Father, Mother and Child. (7)
If I vary the order, many will recognize the Christian Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost; others the Hindu trinity of Brahman, Atman and Shakti.
So the kundalini reaching the Fourth or Anahata Chakra causes the first enlightenment experience, which usually is the seeing of a discrete and brilliant Light.
When the kundalini reaches the Sixth, Brow, or Ajna Chakra, the aspirant may see a Light infusing all of creation or a particular form of God and this is a second, discrete enlightenment experience. The Light infusing all creation is God in the form of the Mother. Moreover, all forms of the personal God are really the Mother as well.
Sri Ramakrishna describes that experience here:
“Then comes the sixth plane, corresponding to the centre known as Ajna. This centre is located between the eyebrows and it has a lotus with two petals.” (8)
“When the mind reaches it, the aspirant sees the form of God day and night. But even then a little trace of ego remains. At the sight of that incomparable beauty of God’s form, one becomes intoxicated and rushes forth to touch and embrace it. But one doesn’t succeed. It is like the light inside a lantern. One feels as if one could touch the light, but one cannot on account of the pane of glass.” (9)
Here is Sri Ramakrishna experiencing the Mother as billowing clouds of consciousness.
“‘I felt as if my heart were being squeezed like a wet towel. I was overpowered with a great restlessness and a fear that it might not be my lot to realize Her in this life. I could not bear the separation from Her any longer. Life seemed to be not worth living. Suddenly my glance fell on the sword that was kept in the Mother’s temple. I determined to put an end to my life. When I jumped up like a madman and seized it, suddenly the blessed Mother revealed Herself.
“‘The buildings with their different parts, the temple, and everything else vanished from my sight, leaving no trace whatsoever, and in their stead I saw a limitless, infinite, effulgent Ocean of Consciousness. As far as the eye could see, the shining billows were madly rushing at me from all sides with a terrific noise, to swallow me up! I was panting for breath. I was caught in the rush and collapsed, unconscious. What was happening in the outside world I did not know; but within me there was a steady flow of undiluted bliss, altogether new, and I felt the presence of the Divine Mother.’ On his lips when he regained consciousness of the world was the word ‘Mother.'” (10)
This level of enlightenment does not see the ego or the vasanas burned to a crisp. The ego regroups. The vasanas persist through one more level of enlightenment (Brahmajnana) and are consumed in the second (sahaja).
This experience can take the form of seeing a Light in all creation, billowing clouds of consciousness, etc. It’s called savikalpa samadhi and is, in Swami Prabhavananda’s terms, “the first stage of transcendental consciousness, in which the distinction between subject and object persists. In this state the spiritual aspirant may have a mystic vision of the Personal God, with or without form.” (11) But there remains a barrier between subject (the aspirant) and object (God). It is thus still a dualistic experience.
I call this enlightenment at the level of the Mother; some call it baptism by the Holy Spirit and cosmic consciousness.
When the kundalini reaches the Seventh, Crown or Sahasrara Chakra, we have a fuller transcendental experience of enlightenment, which Sri Ramakrishna describes.
“Last of all is the seventh plane, which, according to Tantra, is the centre of the thousand-petalled lotus. When the Kundalini arrives there, the aspirant goes into samadhi. In that lotus dwells Satchidananda (12) Siva, the Absolute. There Kundalini, the awakened Power, unites with Siva. This is known as the union of Siva and Sakti.” (13)
“The individual soul and the Supreme Soul become one. The aspirant goes into samadhi. His consciousness of the body disappears. He loses the knowledge of the outer world. He does not see the manifold any more. His reasoning comes to a stop.” (14)
“What happens when the mind reaches the seventh plane cannot be described.” (15)
This experience can take the form of seeing a Light that transcends creation. It is had in a state of unknowing, the senses ceasing to function for the time of the experience. I call this the first experience of the Father.
Seventh-chakra enlightenment is by no means the end of the journey. It isn’t even the end of Third Dimensionality. This experience, which is usually called Brahmajnana or God-Realization and nirvikalpa samadhi, is only a temporary heart opening. Next, let’s look at the last level of enlightenment which ushers the aspirant out of Third Dimensionality and into Fifth.
(Continued in Part 9. Readers are welcome to read ahead.)
(1) Paramahansa Ramakrishna in Swami Nikhilananda, trans., The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1978; c1942, 499. [Hereafter GSR.]
(2) Paramahansa Ramakrishna in Brahmacharini Usha, A Ramakrishna-Vedanta Wordbook. Hollywood: Vedanta Press, 1971; c1962, 25. [Hereafter RVW.]
(3) Paramahansa Ramakrishna in GSR, 499.
(4) Ibid., 392-3.
(5) Ibid., 499.
(6) Paramahansa Ramakrishna in RVW, 25.
(7) White Cloud also used this terminology: “The goal of man’s life [is] the reunion with the Holy Family, or the blessed Trinity of Father, Mother and Child. (White Eagle, Wisdom from White Eagle. Liss: White Eagle Publishing Trust, 1983., 23.)
(8) Paramahansa Ramakrishna in GSR, 499-500.
(9) Ibid., 151.
(10) Ibid., 14.
(11) Swami Prabhavananda, The Eternal Companion. Brahmananda. Hollywood: Vedanta Press, 1970; c1944, 299.
(12) Paramahansa Ramakrishna in GSR, 499.
(13) Sat-Chit-Ananada = Truth, Existence, Bliss Absolute.
(14) Ibid., 245.
(15) Ibid., 170. It is unknowable and is achieved in a state of unknowing.