by Shai Tubali: Spiritual Enlightenment is a process – and a very long one…
In fact, enlightenment is a full-time job until the rest of one’s life. Surely, after its establishment in an individual it is a job done quite effortlessly, but still it is an unfolding that knows no end.
Whoever thinks enlightenment is one moment that changes everything forever, understands only one fragment within a huge picture. It is true, of course, that there are moments which are clearly life-changing and consciousness-altering turning points – moments so powerful that essential components at the core of one’s personality come to a striking end. But without the process “before” and “after”, even they might lack the much-needed foundation on which they could meaningfully take root and expand.
We are, after all, half human half divine, and so at least a half of us requires long processes. That which is discovered in awakening is definitely not a process; it is our inherent all-encompassing divinity which is forever behind and beyond all processes. It is the unchangeable truth of that which was, is and will be, the One that abides in all – and the recognition that you, who awakens to this truth, is this one. Nonetheless, grounding in this truth and enabling it to spread over one’s body, personality, brain, emotion and human relationships are a demanding and complex process of transformation.
Spiritual Enlightenment is a process – and a very long one.
When I was 23, after an intense chain of mind-shattering experiences, an awakening took place in this spark of consciousness that had formerly known itself as “Shai”. The separate self which had governed the core of this consciousness literally exploded and was replaced by the dominion of an all-encompassing oneness.
It took me a long speechless year to “get used” to this new reality. Silently I watched the coming apart of the most basic structures of thought and feeling, time and space. My spiritual teacher at that time, to whom I conveyed this mysterious happening, recognized this awakening, acknowledged it as the first steps of a Buddha and encouraged me to teach – and others to spend time in my presence.
But honestly, though the heart of spirituality and mysticism was revealed to me constantly – a revelation followed by a powerful energy field and a spontaneous flow of spiritual wisdom – in actuality, this was far from the Buddha state. Seeds of Karma, personal longings and central conflicts were not fundamentally uprooted.
After awakening, the fire of truth starts burning up the remainings of the sense of “I” and its implications.
This stage is what I define as “Awakening”: the personal core has been replaced, yet the person is still not unified with the truth. In Awakening you know all that you should know, but you are not able to fully live up to it. The energy field evoked around you and the Charisma of the enlightened one are very high; your spiritual insight is penetrating and contagious; you find it very easy to enter profound spiritual states; you understand the ancient scriptures from within; you have a constant still presence at the center of your being. But in actuality, there is still too much of the person, as the seed of “I am” is still alive and kicking.
I did get hints to this. Three truly liberated teachers who I met throughout the years of awakening recognized that this had been a “profound experience”. I could not tell the exact difference, not until I met at the age of 26 an American Yogi and entered a seven-year cycle of studying and initiating by him. This teacher awoke in me the sense of long fructification when explaining that in his tradition, after awakening one must ripen throughout a cycle of 21 years before one is allowed to teach. Currently I am 17 years after this turning point, and fully acknowledge how necessary these processes of fructification are.
The separate self which had governed the core of this consciousness literally exploded and was replaced by the dominion of an all-encompassing oneness.
What exactly is this fructification process? It is the slow and gradual process along which that which was revealed at the core of consciousness reaches the surface of one’s personality and begins to unify with the body, thought, emotion, life experience and relationships.
This is what we call “integration”, as spiritual integration is the process that makes what we know inside and what we show outside one and the same.
Along the fructification process one must be cautious, since the combination of the exhilarating sense of complete freedom and the fact that the seeds of Karma are yet to be uprooted is quite dangerous. The fire of life that can inflame one’s desires still burns inside. It takes time for the other fire, the fire of truth which began to flare at the moment of awakening, to consume the seeds of Karma and the remnants of desire.
After awakening, the fire of truth starts burning up the remainings of the sense of “I” and its implications. It also burns up the leftovers of the personality’s central conflicts. Not less important, it gradually nullifies the gap between the experiencer of truth and truth itself. In other words, it brings to an end the sense of experience and the different states of consciousness.
This process culminates in yet another major turning point, which is known as “liberation” (Jivamukti = a liberated soul) or “Enlightenment”. In Enlightenment, life’s fire dies out. One no longer desires worldly objects such as food or sex. Spiritual experiences and heightened states of consciousness are no longer alluring and instead, one abides in the unchanging being; nothing is “more” or “less”. The very process of personal development is concluded. There are still inevitable Karmic implications, the result of past actions, yet the Karma-producing engine ceases to function. One is endowed with an ancient, all-inclusive wisdom of life as a whole, and naturally serves humanity from morning till night.
Is liberation the end then? No. There is truly no ending to this maturation. That is why the images left from spiritual teachers are almost always their oldest version. Perhaps when they were younger they emanated more ecstasy and power, but the grown-up teacher embodies the closest vision to the completeness of consciousness within a human form.