I have long been skeptical of metaphysical teachers of the “You’re already enlightened, you just don’t know it” school of thinking. This kind of concept smacks too much of the “fast, easy, no work” mentality preyed upon by so many marketing schemes, particularly for weight loss and make money bizops. Indeed, there now seem to be an abundance of the “quick and easy” weekend spiritual seminars promoting “Instant Enlightenment” and the like. Hence, the skepticism is justified in the sense that empty words and promises are easy to generate, but substantiating them is another matter altogether.
Nevertheless, the idea that Enlightenment/Realization is not something to work towards, but instead is a part of our ultimate nature is a completely valid one. The problem is that in our dualistic mode of habitual thinking, that which is our Real Nature is forever invisible to our direct senses. It is like the sun obscured by thick clouds; ever-present but unseen.
Traditional approaches to achieving Enlightenment are gradual. They invariably involve renunciation, moral and ethical improvement of the individual, and the promise of eventual Liberation from the sufferings of our conventional Samsaric existence at some distant rebirth in the future. This is, for the most part, the conventional approach. Moreover, it is appropriate for the majority of people, since most people’s capacity for spiritual realization is relatively limited.
However, there exists an accelerated path to achieve Enlightenment rapidly, even within a single lifetime. If you think about it, this has to be the case since according to written accounts, many of the Buddha’s own disciples did precisely that. Yet, the accounts do not detail how this was achieved.
There are a number of things to be said about this matter…
Firstly, there is a lineage involved; meaning that you won’t find this in a weekend “Enlightenment Intensive” seminar by some Johnny-come-lately TV-friendly marketing savvy so-called spiritual guru. This sort of authentic path is available by direct energetic transmission from one spiritual master to the next within an established spiritual tradition that may be hundreds or even thousands of years old. You are tapping into the power of a long-established line of spiritual masters to enable you to awaken in this rapid manner.
For example, in Tibetan Buddhism, the system is called Dzogchen; considered to be one of the most advanced teachings within this tradition. It has been something of a guarded secret but is being more openly taught these days; most notably in the West by Dzogchen Master Chogyal Namkhai Norbu.
Secondly, although the emphasis of the teaching is to achieve direct introduction to your Real Nature, and the processes taught are relatively simple, nobody should be under the illusion that they just need to do these simple practices a few times, and Realization is achieved once and for all. This is more like an awakening process that grows over time, as you progressively involve yourself in the practice and shed off your massive karmic burdens, obstacles and obscurations. Yes, you get immediate access to the Enlightened Nature during your meditative practice, but this may initially be momentary before you revert back to conventional dualistic vision. Hence, the focus of the practice is to persist until what is momentary and fleeting initially becomes permanent and lasting eventually.
Nevertheless, you need to beware of this “instant Enlightenment” stuff as taught by too many Western practitioners, who have sprung up overnight through the power of skilled marketing, and who possess no lineage whatsoever. Be cautious about anyone who claims to be already Enlightened or uses phrases that imply this (e.g. I can think of at least one famous Personal Growth teacher who says things like “Since I became Enlightened…” Please note that NO highly advanced Tibetan Buddhist practitioner, not even the Dalai Lama himself, would remotely have the audacity to say such a thing!).
In conclusion, our perfected nature needs no improving or gradual process of attainment. It is there from the very beginning, 100% perfected. However, like clouds covering the sun, our karmic obstacles and impediments prevent us from experiencing our perfected reality, and so we live in the illusion of Samsaric conventional reality. There exist processes for realizing our Real Nature, even for just a moment, as well as methods for regularly clearing our karmic blockages. However, these are not so readily available. As they say, when the pupil is ready, the teacher will appear.
If you have the capacity and interest to pursue such approaches, then you may wish to seek them out. If not, then the gradual and progressive methods are the best for you to stay with. Each according to his/her spiritual capacity.
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- Jennifer D. Fox: Buddhist Samaya and The Making of ‘My Reincarnation’ (huffingtonpost.com)
- Buddhist Quotations (rudyh.org)
- The Psychology of the Enlightened Mind (ignoranceandwisdom.wordpress.com)
- My Reincarnation (neozen888.wordpress.com)