Ask Parvati 28: Enlightenment and Emotions – Part 1: What Is Enlightenment?

BY Parvati

Dear Parvati,
When a person is enlightened do they still respond to human emotions the same way that, lets say, the average person would?
Thank you for this question. It is an important question in that there are many misconceptions about enlightenment, mostly because most of us are not yet fully enlightened. If we are lucky, we may have glimpses. But enlightenment is something most of us actually know very little about from personal experience.
They say that only the enlightened can recognize an enlightened being. So not yet being fully realized myself, I can only imagine what the end “goal” would be and how a fully realized being would respond to emotions. I have a sense based on what I have experienced and through learning from great masters.
Due to this, I feel it appropriate to talk about emotions and enlightenment in this blog referring to the body of experience that I can offer and in drawing upon to wisdom of the great masters that guide our way.
Unlike book learning, wisdom that comes from experience resonates in complete understanding through our entire being. There have been periods in my life of blissful flow and oneness, but not in a permanent way. I also experience states of division, separation and suffering. My journey is not yet complete. So we rely on the guidance of the great masters such as the Buddha and Christ to provide us with the tools and roadmaps to direct our journey to enlightenment.
So what is enlightenment? I understand enlightenment to be part of every human being’s destiny. We each are called to this state, to reach the “goal” (as some traditions call it) at some point through our many incarnations. In truth, we are one with pure consciousness. The process of our soul’s evolution involves a purification of our distorted perceptions so that we may realize our true, divine nature. This process is of personal benefit, and also of benefit to all beings, as we are all connected.
In the Hindu tradition, there is an understanding of four primary goals of human existence: dharma (righteousness), artha (wealth), kama (desire) and moksha (liberation). It is said that of these, the highest dharma is moksha, the experience of full realization.
There are various stages of enlightenment. In the early stages, we begin to awaken and realize that there is more to life than wanting and our perceptions. We start to question the nature of the mind and the grip of the ego. Then there are various stages of purification of the mind as the ego dissolves and we feel more interconnection. As we evolve, the ego holds less power and we slowly merge back to the One. Finally, we reside in a permanent state of oneness with pure, divine consciousness and feel a unity with all that is. In this final stage, we are no longer identified with the body or the mind. We have transcended even death itself.
The fully realized being, my guru, Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, lovingly known as Amma or Mother, speaks eloquently of the dissolution of the ego:
“Within the bud of the ego, it is dark and narrow. When the bud gives way and the flower emerges, everything becomes beautiful and pervaded by the most glorious light. You come out of the dark into radiant light, from imprisonment to freedom, from ignorance to true knowledge. This world of diversity is transformed into perfect oneness. It happens within you, not externally.”
It is my understanding that when we return to the One, the final stage of enlightenment, we see all that is as a reflection of pure consciousness. All that is, is divine. In this state, we don’t have emotional reactions but still have the capacity for emotion, while abiding in the equanimous state of pure compassion.
This is a very sophisticated state of being, one very few know, one that is true mastery. Such a state involves the absolute dissolution of the ego, of any notion of duality or separation and the complete merging into the flow of pure consciousness. When we are in the One, it is my understanding that we are in a permanent state of unity with the world, with the universe and with all of creation.
Amma speaks of this state of being with first hand experience:
“As the realization that everything is pervaded with Divine Consciousness dawns within you, you also see that every human being, everything in creation, is already Divine. The only difference is that you know that you and they are one with Divinity, but they do not. It is only a question of uncovering the truth.”
In the Bhagavad Gita, the sacred Hindu text, Krishna tells Arjuna that an enlightened being sees all things equally and loves all things equally. This passage expresses some of this notion:
“By seeing the Ultimate Consciousness equally everywhere, impartially situated, one does not degrade the embodied self, by the self; therefore reaching the supreme goal.” (Bhagavad Gita, 13:29)
So then how do we embody such a sophisticated state of equanimity and balance? The masters tell us, the answers lie right here, in the eternal now.
(Continued tomorrow with Enlightenment Now)