A Course In Awakening: An Academic Approach To Enlightenment

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The poll results may also reflect a deep confusion about what enlightenment is—after all, sages and scholars have been debating the definition for millennia. Or both. It is freedom from feelings or the freedom to feel fully without identifying with those feelings. It is unconditional bliss and love, or it is a state devoid of feelings as we know them. It is a shattering of the sense of a separate self, a transcendent experience of unity, a radical freedom available only to the few who are ready to give up everything and surrender the ego to pure awareness.

Buddhists and yogis tend to agree that in a sense we are already enlightened; we are already there. To understand how the concept of enlightenment is framed by today's Western ambassadors of the yoga tradition, YJ interviewed five prominent teachers whose practices in yoga and meditation collectively total years and span many traditions. The teachers agreed, and their own stories reflect, that our intentions often start with ourselves—we want to soften our stiffness, dampen our anger, quell our fear—but widen and deepen organically in the alchemy of practice.

And this is a good thing. When asked how they hold the goal of enlightenment in their own spiritual practices, not surprisingly, they each had unique ways of relating to liberation. And like most precious gifts, it remains a mystery until we receive it, until our hearts open and do not close.

Sounds True - A.H. Almaas Invites You to Experience Endless Enlightenment

Cope measures his progress on the path by how well his practice attenuates greed, hatred, and delusion—the three defilements in Buddhism that are reflected in the five kleshas of the yoga tradition : ignorance, egotism, attraction, aversion, and clinging to life. Is it softening hatred and delusion? If it's not, you've probably gone off track somewhere. Whether or not we seek enlightenment, yoga practice can take us beyond pairs of opposites to acceptance of all that is. That's why I talk about spiritual maturity instead of enlightenment—because it's a really mature and difficult thing to drop our romantic ideas and just be with what is.

Cope does believe that yoga is a path of liberation. The goal of freedom from clinging to greed, hatred, and delusion is a very ambitious goal. And any moment in which the mind is not craving or pushing experience away, when we're capable of being fully present, that's a moment of liberation. Looking around at his peers in the Buddhist and yoga communities, Cope acknowledges that no one he knows would claim to be enlightened, including himself.

Encounters with practitioners who are "really transformed" are inspiring and rare. He lives a quiet, scholarly life. Has a girlfriend, drives a car. He does not have disciples. He's just like the rest of us, except that his mind is less driven by greed, hatred, and delusion. Being in his presence helps me to soften, and I'm sure that's the closest I'm going to get to enlightenment.

In June of , she moved out of the ashram in South Fallsburg, New York, and reclaimed her original name because she felt "the need to test [her] practice and teaching in the context of life as most people experience it" and because she wanted to work with students who might not be drawn to an ashram. When I met Muktananda, I was blown away by his expansion, freedom, love, mastery, and joy.

He just generated electricity and made spiritual life incredibly attractive, as does Gurumayi.

It was understood that of course you were on the path to enlightenment What else would you be doing? I don't know what it's like to study with someone who doesn't hold enlightenment as the implicit goal. Kempton comes from a generation of spiritual seekers who threw themselves into the romance of renunciation. Of course that view was somewhat illusory, but it was certainly inspiring. When Kempton first started studying with Swami Muktananda, she knew fairly quickly that she would commit her life to practice.

Spiritual maturation for her has entailed realizing that the journey is long and it's "not about getting somewhere or winning something. It involves a deep cellular transformation that takes time—often the rest of your life. Kempton has known teachers in states of enlightenment, described in her tradition as siddhahood, a mode of being characterized by complete mastery of the mind and senses, a steady experience of unity, and "a kind of ecstatic, all-embracing love.

Though in Kempton's lineage "a true state of enlightenment comes through grace," it is also true that " practice is utterly necessary. She does hatha yoga. She recites mantras and chants. Kempton notes that even Ramana Maharshi, who was spontaneously enlightened at the age of 16, argued for the importance of practice. Though having teachers is critical, she emphasizes that it's not necessary to leave home, quit your job, and abandon all earthly pursuits to have a spiritual practice.

Practice ultimately has to be done inside the context of your life and your karma. And if you re doing your practice with some consistency, there is inevitably going to be transformation. When you have a strong practice, there is no moment in life that is not juicy. Though enlightenment, or freedom, is our birthright, says Walden, whether we reach it or not depends on our karma, our discipline, and how burning our desire is. Yoga teacher Patricia Walden is well known internationally for her Practice for Beginners video and her focus on yoga for women and for depression.

She studies annually with B.

Iyengar and his daughter, Geeta, in India, and is one of only two teachers awarded the title of advanced senior teacher by Iyengar. The Hindus say it's fullness, and then the Buddhists say it's emptiness," says Walden. Maybe we're born with it, but as we grow older, we have more experiences, and it's obscured.

By the time we become seriously interested or aspire to enlightenment, there's this veil of avidya [ignorance , the root of suffering]—and a lot of work to do to peel away the layers. Walden began her yoga practice in her 20s. She thought if she practiced asana and meditated daily, she would be enlightened in no time. Iyengar, he dealt with more practical things, and I let go of that aspiration," she says. It wasn't that Iyengar didn't esteem liberation as the goal of practice, notes Walden: "He reinforced that you have to have tremendous strength, concentration, and willpower to get there.

Undivided experience

From his point of view, we go from the skin to the soul. And that has worked beautifully for me, since I was so disembodied and scattered and wanting instant gratification. In Walden s experience, newcomers to yoga and younger students tend to have practical goals—they want to be free of anxiety, anger, or pain. Seasoned practitioners may not use the word enlightenment to describe their intentions, but they definitely want transformation. That's an important stage because it builds will and discipline.

It teaches you how to concentrate and relax deeply.

Spiritual Enlightenment – Truths & Paths

But as you move out of your adolescence, you ripen, and you understand that you need perseverance to use your body as a vehicle to a deeper state of consciousness. No matter how fierce our commitment or clear our intention, however, we all experience setbacks on the path, explains Walden: " Alabdha bhumikatva , failure to maintain the ground achieved, is one of the nine obstacles Patanjali talks about in the Yoga Sutra [1.

For Walden, they are reminders to be humble and to continually approach the practice anew. I can ask myself 'Who am I? When asked to define enlightenment, Boorstein comments that her years of practice have left her with less of a need to know. When Sylvia Boorstein began her mindfulness practice in the 70s, meditation and yoga were interesting to her for their mind-altering potential.

These days, many new yogis and meditators enter their practice with a similar expectation—that they will find abundant and perpetual peace, a sort of plastic bubble of tranquility that suffering cannot penetrate. It is a shattering of the sense of a separate self, a transcendent experience of unity, a radical freedom available only to the few who are ready to give up everything and surrender the ego to pure awareness.

Buddhists and yogis tend to agree that in a sense we are already enlightened; we are already there. To understand how the concept of enlightenment is framed by today's Western ambassadors of the yoga tradition, YJ interviewed five prominent teachers whose practices in yoga and meditation collectively total years and span many traditions. The teachers agreed, and their own stories reflect, that our intentions often start with ourselves—we want to soften our stiffness, dampen our anger, quell our fear—but widen and deepen organically in the alchemy of practice. And this is a good thing. When asked how they hold the goal of enlightenment in their own spiritual practices, not surprisingly, they each had unique ways of relating to liberation.

And like most precious gifts, it remains a mystery until we receive it, until our hearts open and do not close.