In Appearance, I link to Tom’s post and the discussion on “What do Enlightened Guys Look Like?” The discussion is quite useful. I got a little verbose over there and thought it useful to summarize the points here.
I’m with Tom on the terminology front. (Enlightenment vs Awakening) Partly because awakening better describes it, and partly because one of the last barriers to enlightenment is often our ideas of it. They are ALWAYS wrong. This is simply because enlightenment has nothing to do with the mind. It is a change in our perception of who we are, as Tom observes.
The difference between an experience of Self and awakening is a becoming. In awakening we become That. Very, very simple and normal. Not usually flashy.
It’s also very important to understand that awakening is a process, not a goal. There is a shift in being but then some time is required for integration. Then that inner being begins to move forward into the world. The heart is absorbed, then the lower centers. The Oneness within becomes the Oneness without. All is One, even the dust. That is the dawning of full enlightenment.
But even that never ends – there is always greater refinement, greater expansion possible. Many get stuck at the first waking, thinking they are “there”. This is why it’s important to know there is more. If you think unassailable bliss is good, it is only the beginning.
Andrea observes that only a handful of people have achieved full enlightenment in a long time. This has been true. In the middle of the last century, they had waited almost 150 years for a qualified Shankaracharya of the North in India. But times are changing. People are not only waking with much greater frequency but numbers of people reaching complete Oneness have begun to climb now too. There was 2 on a small retreat I was just on. Certainly further integration required, but the change has happened.
I fully agree with Tom on the looks like. Awakening has nothing to do with appearance. I know an awake bus driver, shoe salesman, grannie, and day care operator. I’ve seen people wake with a broken arm and a serious neurological disorder.
Not only is appearance not a barrier, but neither is pain, nor stupid ideas. That’s why waking can be so funny.
Its also worthwhile to point out that awakening does not make you a good teacher. The vast majority who wake up continue their lives as before, but from an entirely new perspective. Teaching is a different skill set.
Judging the Awake
There is a common statement is spiritual circles. The statement that anyone who says they are awake isn’t. This first arose with Yogananda in an interview. This is tricky territory as those in the mind are very quick to judge.
While its true that any “I” statements are prone to indicate ego, there are terminology variations. For example, I know a teacher who uses “me” for ego self and “I” for cosmic Self. So it’s less about words and more about context and where they speak from. There are some very big spiritualized ego’s around that are best taken with lots of salt. Placing oneself above others is not a good sign. And there are some with very big personalities who are quite awake. Taste in clothes has nothing to do with awakeness. Same with food, relationships, work, etc etc.
It’s also true that people who awake often no longer consider “enlightenment” a good word, mainly because it’s a concept and concepts are all wrong for anything beyond mind. They speak ‘around’ the subject to reduce engaging the mind. They are not avoiding speaking of their experience but rather avoiding engaging the mind and making new concepts. They are working to speak directly with Self.
That said, you have to ask yourself how anyone can describe their awakening experience in an environment where people make such blanket judgments. The newly awake can feel gentle about it. I know some who refuse. A few are more brave. I’ve seen people hammered by their friends – the ’spiritual’ can be harsh with ‘competition’.
Enlightenment is not a mental thing. You will likely find that how someone “feels” is a better gauge. Until you are that, you cannot know. Once you are fully that, everyone appears as awake as that is the deeper reality. It is only for us to discover it.
So be nice and be open. You may be surprised by what is around.