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Defending Your Enlightenment

March 25, 2013

Anyone who makes some spiritual attainment has to deal with other people’s criticism. They often do not want to see us make advancement or improve our lives. The ‘crabs in a basket‘ syndrome makes them want to drag us back down to their level. This leads to the necessity to protect and defend our enlightenment.

Recently we published some posts on the method of our degeneration from godlike spiritual beings to ordinary humans. It is interesting to note that the means of falling into our current condition mainly manifest through our communication and relations with other people. We have been dragged down by going into agreement with external value systems, especially those containing negative emotion, evaluation, invalidation and stress.

These same factors can influence us to give up spiritual gains we have made, and revert to previous lower states of consciousness. Generally, people feel themselves to be in competition with others. When they see someone make a big improvement, it threatens them—they feel unable to compete. So out of fear and envy, they try to drag that person back down to their level.

This can happen to anyone who is different. You could think of it as a form of bullying, but it is especially dangerous when it happens around spiritual advancement or even enlightenment. Let me tell you a story.

I lived for some time in Portland, Oregon, working as a technical writing contractor. After my project was finished, I had some time remaining on the lease of my apartment and nothing to do. I had been studying Taoism and especially, The Secret of the Golden Flower, an esoteric text on meditation. My apartment was very quiet. I had the time and the place to do some nice meditation.

So I took several months off and simply sat, starting with about 3-4 hours a day. I have always had trouble with my legs falling asleep while sitting. So I would sit for 20-30 minutes at a time, get up and walk around for a few minutes, and sit down again. I made a very comfortable sitting place with a raised seat, which helped me stay sitting longer.

What did I do? Nothing. I sat and waited. I watched my breath, my mind and my heart, and my energy. Soon I realized that even without doing anything, even without thinking, there is a lot going on. There is no need for TV, no need to be bored, ever. Inside of us there is a very entertaining display of energy and motion. All we have to do is sit down, shut up and watch.

I sat every day like that for 10 weeks or so, gradually working my way up to 12–18 hours daily. Then on December 21, 1984 I sat for the morning as usual, then had some whole-wheat ramen noodles for lunch. After lunch I rested for a few minutes, then got up and prepared to sit again. Suddenly I felt that someone else was in the room—a distinctly feminine presence. After meditating so much, I had become very sensitive to people’s energy. I looked around the apartment but nobody was there.

Then I felt a soft tap on my forehead.

Energy rushed up my spine and out the top of my head. Suddenly I was overwhelmed by a spiritual vision. I could see conscious spiritual energy everywhere, in everything. I felt totally ecstatic. I saw the same thing everywhere I looked: luminous, conscious spiritual energy pulsing and coursing through everything, like an all-pervading ocean of milk.

The experience lasted for hours. After four hours of unrelenting bliss, I decided to take a reality check; I visited a local tea house. As I walked in, the potted plants greeted me happily—but the humans ignored me completely. They were so dead they may as well have been cardboard cut-outs. At first, I got in the line like everyone else. After some time of being completely ignored, I decided to test the boundaries.

I cut through the line, grabbed a cup, filled it with hot water, dumped in a tea bag and some honey. Looking around, everyone was still studiously ignoring me. Pushing it to the limit, I took my hot cup of tea, sauntered towards the door and walked out without paying.

Silence. No response at all. This experience revealed an interesting aspect of the mass hallucination in which most humans live. They hate happiness and avoid ecstasy so much that if someone is truly happy or ecstatic, they behave as if he isn’t there. Denial is a powerful drug.

In the days and weeks that followed, all I had to do to repeat the ecstatic experience was sit down and take a deep breath. More experiments with people showed beyond a doubt that whenever I was in an ecstatic state, I was effectively invisible. It was in all ways a classic enlightenment experience.

Now the interesting and germane thing here is that none of my friends acknowledged my enlightenment experience. In fact, even though I had an extraordinary spiritual experience, they all treated me exactly the same as before. None of them wanted to learn from me how I had attained it. In fact, none of them wanted to know anything about it. My amazing and important attainment was simply thrown into the well of denial. In short, it was invalidated.

Over time, I stopped believing in my own enlightenment. The ecstasy gradually faded. I became an ordinary personal again, full of anxieties and uncertainty. I didn’t see myself as having solved a major problem in life.

I lost all that I had attained, because I went into agreement with people who were envious of my attainment. They would not acknowledge my experience or support my new state of being. And so I gradually degenerated until I became like them.

This has happened to all of us—many, many times over many lifetimes. The aberrations that make us small, unenlightened and inauthentic are covering our real nature, our authentic self. As soon as we remove them, we recover our original state and abilities. But then others will act to restore our covering of aberration as soon as possible, to protect their own aberrations and spiritual disabilities.

The conclusion is that if we have made any spiritual advancement, we must protect and defend our enlightenment to prevent losing it again. Simply being aware of the situation is a good beginning. You also may have to disconnect from certain people in your life, to protect your gains.

  1. peaceandwisdom2013 permalink

    In light of your current level and understanding, how do you view this experience of the past?

    • It was a release. I discovered something wonderful, more or less by accident or due to circumstances. I had attained such a deep silence, such a pure harmony with existence, that I faded out of view of people on the egoistic platform.

      If I had known what I know now, I would have radically altered my lifestyle, let go of my relationships and moved somewhere peaceful where I could have continued my practice. Instead, I tried to help others experience something similar, and in the process lost or buried my attainment.

      The interesting thing is that as soon as I began meditating according to the Buddha’s teaching about a year ago, everything that I had lost came back.

  2. peaceandwisdom2013 permalink

    I agree, this is very interesting. I shall keep this blog post in mind.

    • The experience was instructive, that’s why I wrote it up. The mind is malleable, and people around us can influence us, perhaps more than we would like to admit. Especially if we are associated with people who invalidate or ignore our spiritual attainments, who desire power over us or want to influence our decisions for their own benefit, we can lose our attainments. This is why it’s risky to try to live in family life and pursue enlightenment. You may make some progress on retreat, but then it can easily get lost in the crush of responsibility, activity and being exposed to different values and points of view.

  3. peaceandwisdom2013 permalink

    I agree with you, although I have not had any significant meditative experience.

    When considering that the Buddha’s teaching is literally opposite of society (but perfectly in line with nature), those who have not studied the Suttas will simply oppose- especially notions of not-self.

    “You may make some progress on retreat, but then it can easily get lost in the crush of responsibility, activity and being exposed to different values and points of view.”- This is true. I think serious practice of Buddha’s teachings will only work in good association in a monastery setting.
    New but related topic:
    On a side note, the only thing I felt one time during meditation was a pressure on my head and forehead area! However, the environment I am in right now and my current mindset are simply not conducive to meditation. As a college student, there is so much planning/ organizing/worry (that I don’t have interest in) going on in my head, that meditation is unfortunately not possible. I think I have the requisite understanding of meditation practice and the strong motivation to pursue it seriously but it is just not possible now. Truthfully, I don’t want to meditate right now because my goal is serious meditative practice, in which I would like to do it in an optimal environment and for a long period of time. When I have a goal, I would like to do it straight through without interruption, not in pieces here and there.

    I always ask questions and gather information because that is the next best option since meditation is not optimal right now. I intend to gather all the information from my studies of the Suttas and these blog posts, make thorough sense of them one day, and realize them. Soon, I hope, the time will come when I can practice seriously.

    • Yes. Ironically, one of the best ways to judge the efficacy of your practice is by how many people are unsupportive or even against you. Non-self just doesn’t sell in the egoistic West, yet it is the core and the most powerfully active ingredient of the Buddha’s teaching. That’s one reason this blog and related videos aren’t more popular; we recognize the central importance of non-self from the beginning.

      I feel it’s out of integrity to sell the Buddha’s teaching on any other basis. It’s a bait-and-switch tactic, which I find reprehensible. “Oh, now that you have the XYZ initiation/attainment/club membership, we can tell you the secret teaching.” The Mahāyāna school uses this tactic, and that’s why I rejected it decades ago. No thank you.

      The feeling of pressure is energy trying to move but being blocked. T’ai Chi or Chi K’ung practices can benefit that condition, without the dangers of opening yourself up with meditation in an unsupportive or even dangerous environment. That would help you to get off the mental platform too. Then when you finally get into the right conditions for deep meditation, things will go very quickly. Back in the ’80s I studied Chi K’ung with an 80-year-old Chinese lady who could whip a roomful of young martial artists without even touching them.

      Another very good preparation for deep meditation is cultivation of mettā and generation of good karma by gifts of charity. It’s not the cost of the gift but the purity of intention that determines its kammic value. For example, back when I was involved with the Vedic path, I performed literally thousands of ceremonies where nice offerings were made and shared with everyone. I raised millions of Rupees for food relief in India. All that good work has come back to me now.

      It is not that the Buddha was against religion and worship; he just pointed out its limitations. If you generate some good kamma and then spend it on material things, you’re wasting your time. But if you do good kamma with the intention of preparing your path to enlightenment later on, your road becomes much smoother. So take advantage of local temples to build up your kammic virtue.

      • peaceandwisdom2013 permalink

        Thank you. This was very helpful.

        Yes, I can definitely begin implementing mettā practice right now. The giving of gifts is also something I can do. In fact, I have already started doing a little bit of both.

        Now I understand what you mean by “a doctor with a bag full of medicines.”

  4. This is a very helpful discussion. Thank you both. I’m in a similar situation. I shouldn’t worry about by lost attainments. I know meditation works and that I can do it but I wasn’t realistic about some things: for example that my mind is not so strong and that I can’t heal everybody. Good luck Tim!

    • Yes Marino, as soon as the kamma blocking your previous attainments is finished, they will be restored. Still, you should think about what caused you to lose them, so it doesn’t happen again.

  5. peaceandwisdom2013 permalink

    Thanks Marino. Yes, I agree, this information is useful. If you like, join in on this discussion.
    I wish you well on your journey.

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