From Darkness to Light
Ed. Steve Beckow
The cross-cultural dictionary of enlightenment that follows draws on the words of saints and sages from all centuries and paths. It demonstrates that, while they may use different terms, all the masters of enlightenment are talking about the same thing. Behind all religions and spiritual paths is a perennial philosophy or ancient wisdom that reflects the Divine Plan for life, discussed in these pages.
Three themes are pursued here. The first is that enlightenment is the purpose of life. All the masters cited here agree that, if we do a hundred things in life and do not realize God, it is as if we had done nothing. Realizing God, knowing our own true nature, liberating ourselves from the cycle of birth and death are all ways of speaking about the same thing – enlightenment, the goal and purpose of life.
The second theme is that there are three levels of reality that we are to know or realize fully to complete this human round of existence. They are known to different religions by different names. Christians call them the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Hindus call them Brahman, Atman, and Shakti. (1) They could be described as the Transcendental, the Transcendental in the Phenomenal, and the Phenomenal.
We are to scale the ladder of realization from knowledge of the Child of God, as I prefer to call It, to knowledge of God the Mother, to knowledge of God the Father. But we must know the Father in two senses, the second sense being of further reach than the first. The first sense is to know that "I am God" (Kevalya Nirvikalpa Samadhi, Brahmajnana). The second sense is to know that "God is everything" (Sahaja [or permanent] Nirvikalpa Samadhi, Vijnana). Upon reaching Sahaja, and not before, the heart (or hridayam) opens permanently and we are liberated from the physical round of birth and death.
The third theme is that enlightenment goes on so far down the road, taking us to domains higher than the human, that we may as well say that enlightenment is endless. It is certainly endless as far as we are capable of seeing. While some years ago, I considered Brahmajnana to be full and complete enlightenment, I am now aware of so many levels beyond it that my mind cannot form a picture of what beings are like who have scaled the loftier peaks. It may be more useful to speak about Sahaja Nirvikalpa Samadhi as a goal and to take another look from there.
The fact that enlightenment is virtually endless can lead to some difficulties in communication. Some writers will use the same word "enlightenment" to refer to events located at different places on the spectrum of illumination. Some may call "spiritual awakening" enlightenment; some may use the term to refer to "baptism by the Holy Ghost"; some to Brahmajnana; others to Sahaja or to the higher level of Nirvana. The one word is used to fit all events, a practice that is not accurate and blurs useful distinctions.
As an unenlightened being, I am not in a place to edit the texts of the masters so as to favour one overall representational scheme of enlightenment. But leaving their teachings as they are does run the risk of causing some confusion on the reader's part. Until an enlightened sage or company of sages standardizes the use of terms in this area of spirituality, I am obliged to risk confusion and favour fidelity.
A second difficulty is that some may refer to the same event by different names. I suspect, though I do not know for certain, that the following names all refer to the same stage of enlightenment: Sahaja Nirvikalpa Samadhi, Vijnana, Turiyatita, and the experience of No-Self. Only a sage could clarify the situation. I invite the large number of sages incarnated on the Earth at the present time to turn their attention to the subject of the levels of enlightenment and assist us to obtain consistency in the area.
All abbreviations of titles are fully cited in the Bibliography.
You are welcome to borrow from these pages freely. No attribution is necessary. My only aim here is to have enlightenment be understood. If you take this material and write your own book with it, I am happy.
(1) Note that the Christian Trinity is not equivalent to the Hindu Trimurthy of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, which is a personification of the gunas of rajas, sattwa, and thamas and, hence, a subset of Shakti. See Swami Ramakrishnananda, God and Divine Incarnations. Madras: Sri Ramakrishna Math, 1986, 107. See also "Religious Reunification, at http://goldenageofgaia.com/spiritual-essays/cross-cultural-spirituality/religious-reunification/