On Spiritual Awakening or How did it all begin anyway.
An Ontogeny! It must have all started with Someone. The Upanishads surely did not arise out of thin air’. It seems to me that the phenomenon of spontaneous awakening/ realisation enlightenment has always been with us. Ramana Maharshi, Byron Katie, UG, Stephen Jourdaine and other recent folk who were never a part of any formal lineage are examples of this phenomenon.
Of course there may be gross disagreements by sophisticated learned observers as the extent, quality, and depth of these individuals awakening, but the facts
By realisation I would refer here to a sudden (or perhaps more gradual)
realisation that all that the person had hitherto espoused about themselves and
the world of their daily life as being real, was illusory, full of suffering,
dreamlike and that to them, others appeared as if living their lives totally
embedded in this dream.
I do not wish to specify the content of any realisation but instead to outline
the rough boundaries of what such experiences entail.
How might this be recognised?
1 By themselves?
To the person themselves it might be as outlined above. It is likely to be seen
as great shake-up in their former world-view.
2 By others?
It is likely that after such an experience they would be seen as speaking and
acting with a great understanding of the lives of many around them, and
furthermore they would behave in such ways that others recognised their
experience as being a superlative or wise understanding of what troubled them.
It is also likely that they would be seen as being wise and would invariably
attract others as potential students whether or not they wanted to do so or not.
Plagued by such questions the individual would have no recourse but to recount
their own experiences of what had happened to them, in the context in which it
happened when they had had their particular experiences.
As a consequence they would be seen as being a teacher or enlightened master.
If they had been meditating, contemplating a sunset, taking drugs, singing
dancing then it would seem as if it was these particular doings were in some way
responsible for their realisations.
Such activities might be seen to have something at least in common to do with
the gravity of their realisations.
Potential students, wishing to have such realisations themselves would either be
faced with either attempting to duplicate what the master did, or attempting to
understand what the master said in order to become awakened or realised
Duplicating what the master did might entail meditating for long periods at a
stretch, becoming celibate, dancing, singing, praying or worshipping, doing good
works or whatever the originator held to account for his or her own
This could be likened to attempting to invent the wheel for the first time twice
Understanding the teachings of the Master could be likened to attempting to
savour a delicious meal by understanding the menu.
In other words such attempts would seemed to be invariably be doomed to failure
simply because the realisation was spontaneous to begin with.
It is very easy to see how such failures could invariably be accounted for by
claiming that the pupil’s attempts lacked a genuine property of commitment,
dedication, grace or purity, of the original teacher and that more teaching was
required in order to produce results.
This failure would guarantee a persistent (probably growing body) of
unsuccessful students around the teacher or enlightened one, over time and a
lineage would begin to be established. (unsuccessful because if say all who
were taught immediately became enlightened or realised, they would ignite the
realisation of their neighbours and the notion of there being an enlightened
master from whom one might receive the message would become superfluous as
everyone got the message. )
Yet if no one became enlightened in the student body then the lineage would
eventually collapse when they all died of old age along with their teacher.
Many of the spontaneous experiences recounted by folk who have awakened have
virtually nothing in common, let alone being related to the receiving any
teaching or instruction. For example some folk have had enlightening experiences
when hearing the name of a mountain one had never seen or heard of spoken by
one’s Uncle, being in a Mental Health Halfway House and having a cockroach crawl
over one’s leg, reading Descartes in depth when an adolescent, trying to catch a
bus in Paris, or being unwillingly given a huge dose of opiates in a foreign
How therefore, is one to account for the persistence of lineages over hundreds
It is almost certain that, among the student body of an established early
lineage, spontaneous realisation will occur. And, furthermore it is very likely
that this will invariably be seen as a validation of the teachings of the master
who, if he or she accepts it, may hand on his or her robe and bowl.
Yet at the same time there are many accounts of folk who have had such
awakenings within a lineage who subsequently disown all such teachings as having
any bearing whatsoever in their own awakening. Some have actually claimed that
such teachings were actually a hindrance to their own realisation.
In such cases if the established teacher does not either recognise the
legitimacy of the students experience as being genuine, or takes exception to
what could be seen as a challenge to his or her leadership he or she is likely
to undermine it as being mistaken, inconsequential, or partial, thereby
maintaining his or her power, and at the same time preserving the integrity of
the teachings on which the viability of the rest of the community depends.
Accordingly, it seems to me that whilst the spiritual experience as a
spontaneous awakening or realisation in the first person singular cannot be
denied, there are many unanswered questions about whether such teachings can
hand on realisation in the third person plural.
There seems to be considerable doubt about whether such teachings are
legitimate or whether or not, however revered, they amount to empty rhetoric.
A hundred years teaching science has resulted in an ever changing technology to
which we are all privy simply by picking up a book and or watching TV, or
posting to this list.
The same cannot necessarily be said about religion and spirituality it seems to
Just a few thoughts to pass the time.