LEVEKUNST art of life sent Erling Jensen to ask five questions to Sri Mooji.
We are privileged to present his replies about the nature of enlightenment, experience, restlessness, ignorance and guarantees.
1. Mooji, how do you define the state of enlightenment?
To put it in simple terms, enlightenment means to awaken to the complete Truth of who we are. It is not an intellectual, theoretical or mental understanding of Truth—it is not something we can acquire. It is a recognition or discovery that we are Truth itself and have always been. The term enlightenment means to expose and thus remove what is seemingly blocking the Truth so that we come back into the natural recognition of our true nature. So when we use the term enlightenment, it really means to return to one’s natural being, one’s original mind, one’s natural state—that which is already ever-present and timelessly here.
Most human beings are carrying a false perception of life and of themselves, primarily holding a limited identity of being mere ‘persons’. But we are much more than what the term ‘person’ implies. We are consciousness, which though formless, manifests as myriad forms, including this present body-mind with all its acquired conditioning, thoughts, emotions, concepts and projections. The consciousness somehow gets temporarily identified with the body and the conditioning that arose in the body, and then believes this limited body-mind construct to be itself. This is called ignorance, and gives rise to delusion because it brings in a very limited notion of consciousness, when in fact consciousness is infinitely broader than any construct. Therefore, recognizing the error and ‘waking up’ from this state of limitation into our original, unbound state is called enlightenment.
2. Is everyone presently able to enter the wisdom path, if no, why not? If yes, why are there so few?
It is good to clarify that when we say ‘wisdom path’ we mean the path of true Self-knowledge, which is to know what one’s self truly is. What the wisdom path leads to is what is already there in us; it is our innermost being—the sole Reality. All genuine seekers of Truth must become aware that we are already that which we are presently seeking, that the Truth is inside us as one undivided Reality. This, in my view, is the most important search in the human kingdom: the search for our ultimate understanding leading to the end of all suffering.
You ask, ‘Is everyone presently able to enter the wisdom path?’ I say not everyone at once. This is because we are at varying stages of maturity towards the recognition of our complete Self. Although essentially we are already perfectly whole as consciousness, we appear to have forgotten this and have somehow been compelled to live as a self-portrait, you could say, as a person. The person-sense is also consciousness, but it is a very contracted and limited form of the whole. As long as consciousness remains deeply attached to and invested in the life of its personal self-image, it will not find the direct path of wisdom to self-recognition attractive. It will, for a time, be more attracted to sense objects and the material manifestation because it takes the body to be itself. Thereafter, whatever this body wants in order to sustain itself, and what the mind wants in order to enjoy or experience through the body will become the main drive and focus of attention. Initially, the so-called ‘person’, being impermanent by nature, will mainly be drawn towards the fleeting joys of perishable manifestation. This is a field where it endeavors to manipulate phenomena in the hope that it will attain some form of stability and satisfaction there.
However, in every case it eventually turns out to be a field of frustrations due to the fact that all things which manifest are impermanent by nature. For a time, this impulse or play is unavoidable for all sentient beings until they attain a certain level of inner maturity whereby they become attracted to higher states of consciousness.
The question continues: why are there so few awakened beings? There are always more than we think. Not all awakened beings are teachers or somehow noticeable in this world. But still, why so few beings? Somehow the human expression of consciousness is very deeply attracted to the physicality of the universe and to its own sense of personal existence or materiality. The senses feel very strong and the invitation to pursue sensory pleasures will be very strong as well. The mind and its capacity to create, invent and imagine is also very strong when consciousness imagines itself to be a person. But when consciousness is beginning to wake up to the Truth—which is infinitely broader than the mode of personhood—it will begin to love that state of true being. It will experience a widening, a deepening, a heightening of its own potential, and become increasingly compelled to recognize and merge with the complete Truth.
It is not so important to understand why not so many people are awake, though I can understand the curiosity of this question. More important is to understand that the complete and authentic awakening is so powerful that when those beings awaken, the light in them is so bright that it will become a light for many, many beings. Whoever is drawn or has the attraction for Truth will find that light, and it will guide them inward, homeward, within, until they find that light completely for themselves, or somehow raise the level of their consciousness to the highest ground. In the presence of an awakened being, all beings benefit, even if they initially feel resistance or run away. The light will bless and inspire them and also reveal whatever remains worthy of exposure. The sage’s presence always works for the good of all, but in the case of true seekers it guides them towards the inner light within themselves.
3. What is, in your experience, the main cause of inner restlessness?
Inner restlessness will be there because there is a seed planted deeply in us, an impulse to search for the Truth. This divine seed, once sprouted, brings us everlasting peace, silence, stillness, joy and love, but its greatest gift is to awaken us to the Real. However, while we are in the mode of personhood the sense of peace will not be constant; it will only be a visitor because it is based on gratification within the phenomenal realm. Something will always seem to be missing. The human being will feel an enormous range of possibilities and choices in front of him, but no matter what he gets, he will not be completely satisfied. Satisfaction will finally come when he wakes up to the Truth of his real nature. As long as he is living in misunderstanding of his fundamental nature, he will not have complete joy. In the bigger picture, this restlessness is only a kind of stimulant, a probing, an encouragement, ultimately, to go deeper. He will not be able to appreciate this restlessness until he finds that which puts his restlessness to an end, and that will only be when he finds the Truth within himself.
We often come to realize that states which the person initially experiences as being unpleasant actually help him to find his true nature. If you were able to find peace through your false nature, you would never be able to find your true nature. But thankfully you will not find lasting peace in your false nature; it just doesn’t work that way. You will have momentary peace, momentary joy, but not final or ultimate joy, because everything in the realm of the mind and the person is on the clock of duality. It is all temporary, it is all passing. None of it is eternal. This life of the body-mind is not permanent, nor is this role we play here in daily life permanent. However, while this body is still warm, you must make the most of this auspicious opportunity to find that which is not in time, that which is not passing.
4. Why does a moment of being natural and free disappear again?
Good question! Because the one who is pure and eternal consciousness in his original nature believes he is a man in time and in an impermanent state. As I said previously, he will have moments of that deep joy and peace. And naturally you ask the question: why only momentarily? Why does a moment of being natural and free disappear again? Because actually, though the man himself is consciousness, he believes himself to be a person, and so in that state of personhood, which is inherently changeful, he doesn’t have the ability to make anything stable. Whatever he holds on to will one day go. For a while he is groping in the darkness of ignorance to see if he will find something that will stay and bring him lasting satisfaction. But by himself he cannot even do this. It is grace that manifests these moments of natural being, lightness and freedom to encourage his being to search for what is permanent.
A moment of being natural and free comes and kisses him from within, just to somehow introduce and give him a glimpse of the infinite being, to stimulate the appetite for the eternal Truth. So it is good that it comes only for a while. It awakens in him the aspiration for a lasting peace that he cannot have while he retains the knot of himself as a person. Personhood is a very restless state, not constant, not permanent—troubled by so much desire that he cannot fulfill, and yet wanting something that will fulfill him but that he cannot find.
From that deeper space, from the God realm, these energies, these gifts, these waves of joy, of deep silence, touch his heart and he recognizes them intuitively. He needs to be touched by them to remind him of their reality and their power. When he feels them, he spontaneously recognizes, ‘This is me, this is true.’ But if he stays in his fleshly nature, he will not be able to maintain a continuous connection with these moments. Only when he searches more deeply within himself—to the extent that he finds that he is not merely this person, but he is this consciousness—will he attain the lasting state of joy and freedom.
5. What guarantee do we have that ignorance will not re-assert itself after enlightenment? After all, it happened before.
Actually we have no guarantee. And it is good that we have no guarantee because we don’t do well when we have guarantees. If we have a guarantee we become lazy; we think we don’t have to do anything. I would like you to listen to this: what will happen is that as you are discovering the Truth, the attraction for going deeper into it grows inside. As you grow more fully back into your original nature, the worry that you may lose this disappears at an appropriate time. As you put it very beautifully, what guarantee do we have that ignorance will not re-assert itself after enlightenment? Even being told that we have no guarantee, what choice do you have? Truth is the highest choice you have: you must go for it and secure it.
Sometimes, even without much effort, we might experience a state of egoic absence and be fully in joy, but then find that the mind creeps in, and in a short time we identify with it again. But now if after some insight the mind returns to a lower state in which ignorance seems to have regained some power, the ignorance cannot fully delude your mind. This is because you have actually experienced your real state and you now know that ignorance does not exist as a fact. And grace provides enormous support to release you from the illusory grip of the psychological mind. As you say, ‘After all it happened before,’ it will keep happening. But you have tasted that highest joy and so the deep desire, urge and fire for freedom will never go out completely until you are fully cured of this delusion of personhood.
What often happens is that as the ‘personal’ mind-set reappears, it becomes so distasteful that it will not be easily accepted by you. Whereas in the old state we tolerated it for long periods of time, now it becomes unbearable. Before the awakening, we didn’t know the difference. Now that you have experienced the depth of your being, the shallow waters of personhood will not be attractive to you. Our attention may come in and out of focus for a short time. Sometimes you feel some worldly ambition returning or some desires growing but after a short while, you come back into the heart and realize that only the Self is worth pursuing. This drifting, this oscillation, might go on for a while, but eventually it will fade out and you find you are just naturally and spontaneously here in presence as presence itself. It is beautifully indescribable.
6. Does it ever annoy you that students don’t listen, and don’t practice even when they understand?[Gentle laughter] Some annoyance comes occasionally, but it is not deep because I understand, remember and know that while we are gripped by this state of delusion, while we are in the middle of it, it feels totally real. Whatever state you are identified with will feel totally real until you come out of it or, you could say, go beyond it. I see that we are so identified with the sense of being someone personal, that even though it often brings such confusion, instability and suffering, like some strange reflex we hold to a kind of loyalty, or even neediness, to this state.
Any annoyance is superficial even though sometimes I have to drive something in very forcefully. It is not that by being forceful people hear better, but somehow being very clear does not give any room for escape or excuse, and means that one really faces what one needs to face. Sometimes without that drive, that push, we don’t squeeze out the apathy that is inside our body-mind programming. We are just too comfortable with it.
Sometimes life by itself puts you in an intense experience—you lose your job or have an accident or someone very close to you passes away. These are very powerful experiences that help to turn our attention towards the heart, towards the deeper understanding. We will not ask for them voluntarily, but when life sends them to us, if we are smart we will say, ‘Yes, thank you for this. It is not a choice I would make unforced, but when the cold, clear water of true seeing comes, I’m deeply grateful for that. Because of this seeing I have the chance to save my life.’ So it is very, very good.
As people become more comfortable with the pointings, if they feel that they have been guaranteed a certain space of safety, the old mind tendencies start to creep back in. As human beings we sometimes need to live on the tip of our toes. We can’t always be sitting nice and comfortable, for like this we don’t grow; we just go to sleep. Sometimes life has to slap and kick and push. It is not what the mind likes, but it is what is sometimes required to raise us out of sleep.
Many people cannot get up without an alarm clock—some people still cannot get up even with an alarm clock. Some people, even if you shake them and kick them, they still don’t get up. You have to throw them off the bed, and then they wake up. So if you have to wake up, life will use one of these methods—whichever is appropriate and whichever works—to wake you up. You are never going to say ‘thank you’ in the moment you are thrown off your bed. Only when you wake up and see that it has brought you back to true life, with hindsight you will say, ‘Thank you for being ruthless and not being too kind, because when you are too kind, I remain asleep.’
This approach is sometimes the most loving way, because when we are so familiar with words—even powerful words that point to a deep and profound understanding—the next minute we are back to the same trivial nonsense. So sometimes you have to put blinkers on, look somebody in the eye, the ‘I’, and say, ‘Wake up!’ Sometimes even that approach doesn’t work—I cannot say that there is a standard technique. It is better to say that my approach comes spontaneously from the depth of my being. Like this it is totally appropriate and goes much deeper than any momentary experience—it enters into the heart directly and brings you back to everlasting Life.
More information about Mooji. Photos by Mooji Media.
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