“We are already enlightened”
This statement seems overused in many spiritual circles and is in serious danger of creating concept fatigue. It’s been placed up on the spirituality pedestal as something teachers, gurus and seekers alike say but for many it has become an abstract ideal to aim to understand but never truly a reality to reach. So what use it is other than to dangle a carrot and perpetuate the seemingly endless cycle of seeking?
Don’t be tempted to throw the baby out with the bathwater just yet; what is being pointing to is the fact that our inherent or primordial nature is one of open awareness (consciousness). Within this arises the sensory phenomena of experience – thoughts, feelings, sensations (body/world). Included in that are all those beliefs, views, conditioning, embodied memories, traumas and concepts – everything that we experience and call ‘life’.
The Aim of Spiritual Growth
So the aim of any spiritual growth, introspection (self inquiry), meditation practice or any other technique – whatever that looks like for you – is to help dissolve the tightly held identifications, such as “I am the body, I am these thoughts, I am these feelings”. In other words, the limited self-view or Ego that is based in the phenomenal experience and is only ever a partial view of open awareness (Self). Spiritual practice therefore aims to reveal one’s essential nature.
A bit like seeing through the clouds to reveal the crystal clear sky, but you were always the sky you just couldn’t see it through all the clouds/weather. So that’s the ‘already enlightened’ bit, you are and always will be the sky (awareness/consciousness) but you’re believing yourself to be the clouds (phenomena) that are contained within the sky. It doesn’t matter whether clouds or weather are there or not, those clouds/weather inevitably change (as clouds do). The suffering comes when we try so hard to hold onto these ‘clouds’ because we believe them to be the fundamental attributes of who we are. We try to hold on to the ‘good’ clouds and get rid of the ‘bad’ clouds, all the while failing to see the futility of this exercise.
The noticing, recognition and confirmation of the transient nature of phenomenality, all experienced in the unchanging ground of our awareness is what comes with awakening, in particular abiding (or stabilized) awakening. It’s not something you can think yourself into, it’s a dawning recognition that comes about. You can’t (only) understand it in the mind/intellect, it’s something recognised and seen as your own direct experience.
I’ll say it again, awakening is just the recognition of what you already ARE, not an adding to or fundamentally changing of WHAT you are, hence – “YOU ARE ALREADY ENLIGHTENED”! En-light-ened – to enlighten, shed light or light up that which was in the dark. The recognition of your fundamental nature was hidden through all the layers of beliefs, conditioning, ego – or whatever phenomenal experience you’d like to call it.
Popping The Expectation Bubble
This can be a surprise and (more often than not) a disappointment for people who’s expectations of awakening is of some flashy experience, some dramatic change in who they fundamentally are, some ‘other state of awareness’, some superhuman powers and abilities, some perfect image of a divine human being. [Spoiler alert: you are ALREADY divine, but no more (or less) divine than anyone or anything else!!]
Don’t get me wrong, flashy ‘spiritual’ experiences can be lovely, but we’re having experiences of one kind or another all day long. So why do we put certain values on some over others rather than give over to the reality that ALL experiences from the mundane to the flashy are a spectacular and mystical part of life. By assigning arbitrary values we automatically set ourselves up for disappointment. It then becomes about meeting our expectations and chasing those ‘good’ or ‘flashy’ experiences or avoiding those ‘mundane’ or ‘bad’ experiences and you’re once again thrown into the chasing of clouds and weather rather than seeing that you’re the sky experiencing those clouds and weather.
You Get My Drift…..
So yes “you are already enlightened” is akin to saying “you are already the sky”, it’s not something special, it doesn’t make you ‘divine/god’ any more than all of this is ‘divine/god’. But the ah-ha moment of realising you are and always were the sky can be pretty spectacular and mind blowing – quite literally!
What am I saying (or dare I say … recommending)? Stop putting so much value on flashy spiritual experiences, they don’t amount to a hill of beans. Go earnestly digging for your fundamental experience of life, by whatever means, until the truth of your existence as open-awareness becomes so blatant, so obvious that you see the absurdity in trying to ‘fix’ or banish the ‘ego’. Forget about ‘good’ or ‘bad’ experiences (thoughts, feeling or anything) and focus on seeing that YOU are EXPERIENCING it ALL, ever present, ever awake, ever here.