Throughout the years there were many philosophers seeking enlightenment. What is it exactly? And did they find it?
According to the Oxford dictionary, enlightenment is “knowledge about and understanding of something; the process of understanding something or making somebody understand it.”
The Age of Enlightenment was established during the late 17th and early 18th century, when philosophers, writers, thinkers and scientists, for example Francis Bacon, Johannes Kepler, Rene Descartes, Immanuel Kant, Sir Isaac Newton, Voltaire, Thomas Jefferson, and others, began to argue that science and reason were more important than religion and tradition. During this period there was a decline in the power of absolute monarchies, a rise of modern political ideologies (e.g. liberalism, republicanism and independence of thought). These ideals had an impact on the American and French Revolutions.
In this post, I want to delve deeper into enlightenment (mindfulness, as it is called by many today), with regards to ourselves, our journey, and our spiritual growth.
In an interview with Sri Sri Ravishankar, enlightenment is “the journey from the head back to the heart.” It is a time when people, in the past and today, are moving ahead or toward a spiritual path, rather than a religious path. When asked what it really means, Sri Sri Ravishankar answered “it is a joke! It is like a fish in the ocean searching for the ocean!”
He explained by telling the story of a school of fish who wanted to know who, in fact, saw the ocean. Not one; until one fish said he thinks his great grandfather did. In the end, a statue was built in honour of this great grandfather who, they thought, saw the ocean!
According to Sri Sri Ravishankar, enlightenment is the very nucleus of our being. It is diving deep into the core of our self and living our life from there. He said, “When we were born, we came into this world gifted with innocence, but as we grew up and became more intelligent, we lost our innocence.” We were born in silence and lived in our hearts, in touch with our inner voice (or as some people say Spirit), but as we grew up, the silence was filled with words and we moved into our heads. Thus, enlightenment is the journey from the head, back to the heart, back to silence and the regaining of our innocence, getting in touch with our spirit or inner voice, without losing our intelligence.
Another lesson (level) of enlightenment is to be in a state of being that is unshakeable regardless of the circumstances. It is a state of being where nothing and nobody can rob your heart from its smile! Yes, this is the tricky part – not something that is easily achieved. As humans we let the ego take over; we cry, we argue, we fight, we get depressed, and so forth.
Nothing bad or wrong about it – we are human after all and we have feelings. The trick is to not let these emotions take over and “rule” your decisions and consume your mind, heart, body and soul to such an extent that you lose touch with your inner self. Balance between the chatter in the mind and the feelings in the heart, is key.
Sri Sri Ravishankar said that one should try and get to a state of non-judgment, of looking at everything around us and believing that everything belongs to everyone, because every person belongs to the divine. Every human being, every animal, every plant, everything in creation, belongs to the divine (the creator), who created many different places, people, animals, universes, and so forth.
It is a rare combination – the combination of innocence and intelligence, having words for expression and the ability to be silent. When you can achieve this; the mind will be fully present in the moment / in the now. When you can be still and connect with spirit by listening to your heart, you can allow nature’s song to flow through you!
In the modern world we talk about mindfulness, which is similar to enlightenment. When we are mindful, we are in the present moment, we don’t dwell on the past and we don’t worry about the future. When we “go within” and become still, we open our hearts and connect with our Source / our Creator / Divinity, which is within each and every one of us.
So – why not give it a try! Next time your gut feelings surface, don’t ignore it or push it away. Stop, breathe and listen. Become aware that there is more to you than just the chatter in your head; more than just a physical body. There is a soul, a spirit within, that wants to connect with you and help you on your earthly journey.
(Info and interview with Sri Sri Ravishankar in the magazine Complete Yoga)