Enlightened Spirituality

"There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world" (John 1:6-9).

 

The term 'enlightened spirituality' is not a Christian term. You are more likely to hear about enlightenment connected with Buddhists and nirvana, or the Hindu Advaita Vendanta teaching about coming into self-realization, or the practice of Samkhya-yoga and its four steps to enlightenment.

Enlightenment means 'the state of being enlightened'. And to be enlightened we receive instruction and knowledge. Spiritual enlightenment would then mean that one receives 'spiritual' instruction from the spiritual light. How does a Christian become spirituality enlightened? And why would a Christian need to be enlightened?

Paths of Enlightenment
For a Zen Buddhist, or a practicing Hindu, enlightenment means transcending philosophy. In Advaita Vendanta there is nothing but Self, everything is Brahman. Brahman is an infinite, self-luminous (self-aware) consciousness that transcends the subject-object duality. There is nothing outside of Brahman. Atman, the true Self, is said to be one with this Brahman.  One does not attain or merge with this Brahman; one merely realizes that one has always been Brahman. To realize the whole universe as the Self is the means of getting rid of bondage. When one realizes Brahman there is no more particular or dualistic consciousness.

Buddhism teaches that there is no 'self' (anatta) at all. The Buddha emphasized that one should not identify anything as the self. Nirvana supposedly is attained after the realization that there is no self, although what that means -- what there is that realizes this -- is unclear. The Buddha did not elaborate on what Nirvana is. His attitude was if you want to know what nirvana is, then attain it.

The world of multiplicity and change is maya, illusion. To Buddhists maya is a spiritual concept connoting "that which exists, but is constantly changing and thus is spiritually unreal". Maya therefore conceals the true character of spiritual reality. In some schools of Hinduism, God, as the Lord of the visible and invisible universe undertakes five different functions, namely, Creator, Preserver, Destroyer, Concealer and Bestower of grace. In His role as Concealer, He unleashes the power of maya, through Prakriti, to conceal Himself from what He creates and delude all the living beings into thinking that what they experience through their senses is true and that they are independent of the objects and other beings they perceive through their senses. The end result is that maya causes human beings to be ignorant and through their ignorance the notion of duality is perpetuated. This ignorance is then responsible for human bondage and mortality upon earth.

The point that there is nothing to attain to is especially significant to the Yogi and Buddhism. In Buddism one's self (or Buddhanature) is to be pure and unstained. The Yogic cosmic Self (purusha) is an indifferent seer which was always merely observing, unaffected by pain or pleasure. In Buddhism, there never was a self; it was always just an illusion. Thus both goals are to return to the original higher Self or escape unreality and return to pure nothingness. In Hinduism God is not separate from His creation. His creation is an extension of Himself. While God realizes His creation is unreal and illusory, through mankind's objective and sensory experience beingness is very much real and tangible to them.

Thus the main goal to these three major philosophies is to let go of this illusion (duality) and return to oneness with Self, or with Buddhists the not Self. Buddhists do not have a personal God, but seek this place of nirvana, a place of perfect happiness free of karma, suffering and desires. In Samkhya-Yoga, Buddhism, and Advaita, the goal is to reach complete non-attachment. One should not identify with any physical or mental phenomenon; in other words, one learns to relax and "let go" of literally everything and lose the 'self' to find the 'Self' or find anatta, the 'no-self'. Interestingly when the Buddha was asked point-blank whether or not there was a self, he refused to answer. When later asked why, he said that to hold either that there is a self or that there is no self is to fall into extreme forms of a wrong view that make the path of Buddhist practice impossible. 

Christian Enlightenment
Jesus becomes the Christian means of enlightenment. During his three-year ministry he taught, he healed and he performed miracles. In St. Matthew we read, "And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people" (Matt. 4:23). Jesus was teaching the Laws of God and the gospel of the kingdom. He spoke of the kingdom of God he was at hand; or the good news in respect to the coming of the Messiah and the nature of his kingdom. But was this kingdom still to come or was Jesus declaring the kingdom was here in the now? The kingdom of God is not like an earthly kingdom, although it is not hard to put the same connotations of an earthly kingdom on God's kingdom since we live in the world and see things from within that viewpoint. Yet is not the goal to reach beyond the five senses and find God, the real God, rather than the images of God man has created? Is not that reaching enlightenment?

Psalms 103:19 states, “The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.” God's kingdom rules or reigns over all because He is the creator over all things. Jesus is teaching and preaching by grace we may enter the kingdom of heaven and some Christians believe when the Christ returns he will establish the kingdom of God on earth. Yet we can also understand that by following God's laws now, we can also be that kingdom of God in the here and now. By becoming pure in heart we will resonate with the purity of God's kingdom in heaven. The way to purity is to walk in Jesus' footsteps and follow God's laws.

In order to help people find this kingdom within them Jesus also healed. He cast out demons that cause illness, both mental and physical, and helped people see the cause of their illnesses was often the result of sinning. In order to stop sinning we have God's laws that Jesus taught to strengthen our will to do good rather than to fall into evil ways whereby we are trapped by the devil.

Jesus also showed us that we can resist the devil as he did when he went into the wilderness and fasted forty days and nights. (Matthew 4:1-11) The devil tempted Jesus three times. With the third temptation the devil tempts Jesus with saying he will give him the kingdoms of the world to rule if he will only worship him (the devil). Jesus basically says, "No, thanks, depart from me!" He only accepts the kingdom of God and worships God only, not the gods of the earthly kingdoms. Remember, this is during the Roman times where emperors are to be worshiped as gods. In 27 B.C., the emperor Octavian was honored by the Roman Senate with the title ‘Augustus’, meaning ‘revered’ or ‘more than human’.

Wherever Christ went, he confirmed his Divine mission by performing miracles, which were signs of the healing power of his doctrine, and the influences of the Spirit which accompanied it. He healed every sickness or disease. Especially mentioned in the Bible is his healing of palsy, which is a great weakness of the body with uncontrolled body movements and paralysis; healing Lunatics, which is the greatest malady of the mind as well as sometimes caused by possession; and possessions by the devil, which is the greatest misery and affects both the body, mind and soul. Christ healed all, and by thus curing bodily diseases, he showed that the steps to finding the true kingdom of God must begin with clearing the body and mind of spiritual maladies. Ultimately, sin is the cause of sickness, disease, and torment of the soul (unless a soul asked to be a sacrificial soul for others). Christ came to forgive sin, to heal souls and guide the children of God back to wholeness and purity.

Jesus became the example for all prophets, preachers, healers and exorcists to follow. All who seek to help their fellow man to heal and find salvation and spiritual enlightenment should not dictate the doctrine of men who wallow in their own conceits, but rather dictate to them the things important to the salvation of souls, the doctrine of the kingdom of heaven, just as Jesus taught and was the example. Christ confirmed his doctrine, and Divine mission, by his miraculous events not for the purpose of making himself great, but to give all glory to God.

Steps to Spiritual Enlightenment
Through the Father, Son and Holy Spirit souls may find spiritual enlightenment. We should not so much seek to escape this world and the duality consciousness, as some other philosophies teach, but rather raise up our mind and heart to the level of the purity of Christ. We should not seek to escape suffering, as suffering is not always proof of the presence of evil and in many ways can be a powerful means of transformation in self-enlightenment as well as making reparation for the sin of others. The saints teach us that suffering is of great merit. If we can believe the words Saint Faustina received from Jesus, he reveals to her that suffering can be of greater service than external works such as preaching, writing, or even working miracles. He said, "You will save more souls through prayer and suffering than will a missionary through his teachings and sermons alone."

When we ask God via the Holy Spirit or Jesus Christ to enlighten us, our prayers will be answered. Reading and studying the Bible, when done in the purity of heart to receive God's truth and not make the word fit our own paradigms, can help lead us to enlightenment through the Light of the Holy Spirit and Light of Christ truth. Yet before we can obtain spiritual enlightenment we must free our minds and souls from the sinning consciousness and any attachments to the ways of the devil and his temptations. This means a total change of lifestyle to separate ourselves from the ways of the world. It means no discos, bar hopping, promiscuity and indulging in the many addictive and destructive habits.

Is obtaining spiritual enlightenment, which ultimately leads to finding the kingdom of God more important than gratifying the senses? The choice is yours. It takes love to find the truth, and not a human love but the love of Christ, which is the love of God. We are never separate from God and His protection. We separate ourselves from God through our own free will, and thus his spiritual protection when we choose to participate in the things of this world that have nothing to do with God Reality. Why would we give up the pleasures of this world for some future kingdom of God (in heaven or on earth) when that reality seems so far away from us in our present states of consciousness?

That question can only be answered by yourself. All the beauty of this world that God created for our growth and enlightenment is there to find. Yet standing between that beauty and wonderment of God is evil. Whether you believe that this world is real or all an illusion, what would be the point of coming into this world just to escape it? If you change your focus rather to live and serve in this world for the glory of God, not attempting to avoid suffering or see this world as unreality and a place we must escape, but rather see everything that enters our world as an opportunity to grow in spiritual awareness, especially when we always turn to God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit for answers, the door to spiritual enlightenment will widen.

"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33). We must balance our care of ourselves with the physical needs as well as spiritual. Too much worldly care Jesus warns his disciples to avoid. Too much spiritual care separates us completely from the reality of living in this world. The balance is to take no thought for your life. Let God bring what he pleases, whether He brings the comforts of life or the sorrows and losses. He can provide all our needs and just what we need for our next lesson in life. If we take care about our souls first, we may leave it to God to provide for our basic needs as we place our trust in God, that is seeking first the kingdom of God. By our daily prayers we may gain strength to bear us up under our daily troubles, and to arm us against the temptations that will surely come at us, yet not letting any of these things move us. That is seeking His righteousness, the right use of the laws of God and through faith in Christ we may be redeemed.