That's the question a friend asked me on Sunday. She wondered if I'd be willing to discuss enlightenment with her and another friend, with whom she was having a disagreement. "Uh, no" was my immediate response. I can discuss plenty of things based on my experience. But since I have yet to experience enlightenment, I didn't feel it made sense to argue over what it is or isn't. How do I know? All I know is what I've read. And I have read A LOT on enlightenment. But that's like three blind people arguing over what the color red looks like, after someone who can see has described it to them. Until they can see for themselves, how can they possibly know?
But as I talked with my friend, I realized that she thought that enlightenment was bullshit. It didn't exist. It was simply us gradually becoming more aware and conscious. And that's where I would disagree. Even though I have yet to experience enlightenment, there is a knowing from deep within me that this stage of evolution exists, and is a quantum leap from our current consciousness. I have seen it in the fathomless, still eyes of spiritual teachers and saints. I have received transmissions of clarity and heart energy not only from live teachers but even from pictures of Ramana Maharshi and Yogananda that came to life and glowed with light. I know there is a state of being at one with everything, experiencing oneself as boundless love, that represents a huge shift in human evolution. People like Eckart Tolle, Byron Katie, Leslie Temple Thurston, Ammachi, are part of a different species of human--one into which we are all evolving.
So yes, there is such a thing as gradual awakening--becoming more conscious and more aware. And I can talk about that, as I am more awake now then I was 20 years ago, 10 years ago, or even last week. I have experienced many shifts over the years: I do not betray myself; I tell the truth; I am committed to freedom above all else. As a result, my life has improved tremendously. Twenty years ago I could not imagine living in such a beautiful area, having work that I enjoy so much, having such beautiful friends. I've changed and my outer circumstances have changed.
But that quantum leap of being enlightened has yet to happen. The work I have done on myself has ripened the fruit on the tree. But when the fruit finally falls off the tree depends on Grace. I can't do anything to rush that. A spiritual teacher once said that you would know when the shift happens. It would be as if you were in a dark closet and all of a sudden the light bulb went on. I look forward to that time.
In the meantime, I appreciate how far I have come. I am no longer blind. I've started seeing shadows which are getting clearer and clearer. My reality isn't in full living color yet, but it will be. It will be.