* SIGNS OF ENLIGHTENMENT *
The realization that a particular person is "enlightened" seeps in with a slow deliberation. It comes not with advance advertising that a new guru is coming to town, and not with a tip-off from a friend who admires, for instance, a Deepak Chopra-type or a Maharishi. No, recognition of "an enlightened one" enters the observer's mind through the peaceful sense of amazement felt in the presence of such a person, or in reading their words. The enlightened one reveals himself almost casually, triggered by one's own ongoing experience of their essence as revealed by... their essence!
The concept of "personal enlightenment" was first introduced to many of us by the "Spiritual New Age" movement of the 1960's, which brought forth the idea of personal empowerment gleaned from Eastern philosophies, such as Buddhism, Taoism, and Hinduism. Seeking such "enlightenment" became an almost full-time job. It ranked high up there on the hierarchy of "Love" and "Peace." Attaining personal enlightenment, it was hoped, would end war, assure equality for all people of every color, gender, and lifestyle, and bring inner peace and power to "the enlightened."
We still want that. We still anticipate the arrival of a gifted guru who will show us "the way." But how will we recognize this person? The Bhagavad-Gita says there are no outward signs of enlightenment. The good-humored and confident quietude of the enlightened one, especially regarding her own priceless and private enlightenment, would seem bound to keep her unknown to the seeker. She doesn't announce her own ship's arrival to the world because she is not attracted to self-aggrandizement.
This suggests enlightenment is evidenced more by what it does not physically exhibit than by what it does. Certain voids in the enlightened one's behavior serve as the "signs" that the highest levels of awareness and understanding have been achieved. Some of these signs are:
* the absence of judgmental attitude toward others, hence...
* the absence of bigotry, prejudice, jealousy
* the absence of fear, worry, envy, competitive attitude
* the absence of disrespect
* the absence of pride, one-upmanship, gloating, "pushiness"
* the absence of urgency
* the absence of demands, requirements, and rules
Well then, would these "absences" indicate that the most aware and understanding among us are devoid of values, devoid of discernment, devoid of pleasures the rest of us hold and enjoy? NOT AT ALL! It means, rather, that this person understands, deeply, "all that happens, happens" and "life is good anyway."
Enlightenment is a state of balance, a "centeredness," as some have called it, that honors each moment of life as it occurs. The enlightened one has been said to "go with the flow," to be "in" each moment like a leaf floating down a mountain stream, enjoying the view, glad for the ride, and ready for more even when caught up along the way in a whirlpool or temporarily wedged against a rock.
This state of lifelong grace is accessible to anyone. But anyone who wants it has some shedding to do. Oddly enough, the relaxation of grueling demands for perfection in life, in others, and in oneself, is the very thing that achieves the perfection of wisdom called "enlightenment."