“No one else has the answer.
No other place will be better.
And it has already turned out.
At the center of your being you have the answer;
you know who you are and you know what you want.
There is no need to run outside for better seeing.
Nor to peer from a window.
Rather abide at the center of your being;
For the more you leave it, the less you learn.”
Enlightenment is more than a word, more than a challenging concept to be understood. In fact, there’s really no way to explain it through words or diagrams, but I’ll try to point at it through the primary tool I have available right now: the English language.
[First, a disclaimer: I am by no means a fully enlightened being! I have, however, experienced brief glimpses of illumination at various points on the path.]
“Enlightenment,” also known as samadhi or nirvana, is perhaps best translated for our purposes here as Self-realization. Self-realization is not a linear, religious or 12-step program. It is a process that is alive, ever in flux and different for everyone. It is a matter of uncovering and remembering our true nature, also known as Buddha nature, highest Self, pure being or ultimate consciousness, rather than “attaining” anything special that resides outside of us.
In the Mahayana Buddhist tradition, our original and true nature is described as prajnaparamita, the heart of perfect wisdom… the Mother of all Buddhas, ‘the one who shows the world as it is.’ According to Tara Brach, Buddhist teacher, therapist and author, “When we are in touch with our true nature, we are completely free of the trance. No longer afraid or contracted, we know our deepest essence as the pure, wakeful awareness that beholds, with love, all of creation.”
At some point in history, spirituality and schooling divorced. Education became all about acquiring knowledge. Wisdom and facts were transmitted from the superior and authoritative teacher to the lowly and ignorant student. Self-knowledge was mostly thrown out the window in favor of other types of knowledge deemed more important and more essential to churning out good citizens who would work and be productive in the existing society with its capitalist economic system.
Now, that is changing. Can you feel the shift? It’s slow but steady. Mindfulness and yoga in school is becoming mainstream. Several progressive education models have been established over the last few decades, and learners in those communities are taking back their innate right: the right to pursue Self-knowledge and to learn throughout life by understanding and pursuing their own interests, passions and strengths.
In a paper they wrote twenty years ago on the educational philosophy and practice of the great modern yogi, Maharishi, James D. Grant and Christopher H. Jones point out, “Maharishi explains that in the highest state of enlightenment, ‘the total creative intelligence of the Self is fully awake on all levels of life—intellect, mind, senses, body, behavior, environment, and to the individual’s relationship with the entire cosmic life.’” And furthermore, “with the knowledge of pure consciousness integrated into the educational system, the potential harvest is rich indeed—a new era for humankind, the dawning of Heaven on Earth.”
OK, so I realize that’s a pretty lofty, utopian ideal. But we can move in that direction. We can move toward more complete education and more conscious learning. Life is not a multiple-choice test. It is not a list of statements to be labeled True or False. It is complex, complicated, simple, confusing, sad and delightful at once.
In conclusion, please remember: everything you need is already within you. Abide in that truth. You are not lacking anything. You are life expressing itself in this precious gem that is the present moment.
“Happiness cannot be found through great effort and will power,
But is already there, in relaxation and letting-go.
Don’t strain yourself, there is nothing to do…
Only our search for happiness prevents us from seeing it…
Don’t believe the reality of good and bad experiences;
They are like rainbows.
Wanting to grasp the ungraspable,
you exhaust yourself in vain.
As soon as you relax this grasping,
space is there — open, inviting, and comfortable.
So, make use of it. All is yours already.
Don’t search any further…
Nothing to do.
Nothing to force,
Nothing to want,
–and everything happens by itself.” ~ Lama Gendun Rinpoche