Before I came to know you, I had never heard about enlightenment. But I was searching for something. Now, after years of living in a commune, I feel further away from reaching somewhere than ever before. I’m grateful to be here and to feel your friendship and compassion. Is enlightenment still the goal? Is there any goal at all?
This is a troublesome question.
Enlightenment has never been the goal. Its very nature prohibits making it a goal. The goal is always in the future somewhere; and enlightenment is always now and here. Enlightenment is an experience in the present.
But this is one of the troubles of the mind, that it makes goals out of everything. If you love the idea of enlightenment, then immediately the mechanism of the mind makes it a goal: you have to achieve it – and that’s where you go on the wrong path.
Enlightenment is a by-product of the understanding that to live in the past is foolish, because it is simply memory. But millions of people are wasting their time in memories. Millions of others are living in the future. You cannot live in the future; it is making castles in the air.
To understand that past and future are both nonexistential… all that you have got is a very small moment: this very moment. You don’t even get two moments together. When one moment is gone, you get another moment. You always have only one moment in your hands; and it is so small and so fleeting, that if you are thinking of the past and the future, you will miss it. And that is the only life and the only reality there is.
Understanding this whole process, one thing becomes certain: why the mind avoids the present, which is the real, and why it tries to get involved with past and future, which are not real. As one tries to understand that, one thing becomes clear: that in the present moment, mind cannot exist.
Mind is simply a collection of memories of the past, and – out of those memories – imagination about the future.
Mind does not know three tenses. It knows only two: past and future.
Present is nonexistential to the mind. The existential is nonexistential to the mind; and the non-existentials are existential to the mind. Hence the whole effort is how to get out of the mind, how to get out of the non-existentials and to stand in the middle – where existence is.
How to be in the present? – That is the whole knack of meditation. And the moment you are in the present, enlightenment is its by-product.
Don’t give it to the mind – the mind will immediately make it a goal. Mind cannot do anything else. It cannot put it in the past because you have never experienced it, so the past is closed. You have yet to experience it; naturally, it has to be put somewhere in the future. And it always happens in the present.
So forget about enlightenment. It is a by-product; you cannot do anything about it. This is the beauty of by-products: you have to do something else, and the by-product comes in. You have to learn to be in the present more and more. In other words: you have to learn to be in a state of no-mind more and more.
It was for a certain reason that mystics called meditation “no-mind”: if you call it meditation, again the mind makes a goal out of it. Then you have to achieve meditation. So it makes no difference whether the goal is enlightenment or meditation, the goal remains, the future remains, and goes on destroying the present.
The mystics time changed from meditation to no-mind for the first time had a tremendous insight. Now no-mind cannot be made a goal: mind cannot make it a goal. It is simply absurd – how can mind make a goal of no-mind? It will simply say it is not possible; mind is all, there is no no-mind.
This was a strategy not to allow you to make it a goal. Very few people have understood the strategy, that that’s why they have called it no-mind – to prevent the mind from making it a goal.
So be more and more in a state of no-mind. Just go on removing memories, imagination, to clean and clear the present moment. And as it deepens, as you become more and more capable of no-mind, enlightenment comes of its own accord.
Enlightenment is simply recognizing your being, recognizing the eternity of your being, recognizing that there has been no death before, nor is there any death to come – that death is a fiction. Seeing your being in its utter nakedness, in its absolute beauty, its grandeur, its silence, its blissfulness, its ecstasy – all that is involved in the word “enlightenment.”
Once you have experienced that juice, mind starts losing its grip on you because you have found something which is qualitatively so high, so fulfilling, such a tremendous contentment, that mind feels its function is finished. It looks ugly, because it has only given you misery, worries, anxiety. What has been its contribution to you? Its grip loosens; it starts hiding in the shadows, and by and by it falls away.
You continue to live, but now your living is moment to moment; and what you have got as a by-product in that small gap of no-mind goes on growing. There is no end to that growth.
Enlightenment only begins, it never ends.
Nobody has said this before. They have all said that it is perfect – but perfection means it cannot grow. It has happened once, and all growth, all evolution, is finished.
But as far as my experience is concerned, I can say very authoritatively that anything that you are stuck with permanently cannot remain ecstatic, cannot remain blissful. You will start taking it for granted.
It was ecstatic because you had lived in agony; compared to that agony it was ecstatic. You have lived in pain, in wounds; against that, it was contentment, fulfillment. But now, day after day, month after month, year after year, life after life, you have forgotten agony, the taste of pain. And with that forgetfulness, your enlightenment will become just ordinary – something that you take for granted, dull and dead. The ecstasy is the same but you cannot feel it the same. There has come a full stop, and life knows no full stop.
But why have all these mystics insisted that it is perfect? – Because they were afraid. Logically they were not able to face the philosophers, the critics… because if you say it is imperfect, that means something more has to happen. You have not attained the goal – something is still missing. So it is partial, what you have attained. If it is not perfect, it is partial.
To avoid calling it partial, they said that it is perfect. But they forgot that someday somebody can raise a question against perfection. It has not been raised yet, but I am raising it: perfection is going to be dead; it cannot be living, because nothing is going to happen. It will be the same tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, for eternity.
You will get utterly bored with your ecstasy, with your contentment, and there is no going back. You cannot find that agony again, those moments of misery again, because all that has fallen out of your being. There is no way back, and in the future, for as far as you can see, it will remain the same.
I deny perfection. Enlightenment appears perfect because nothing seems to be missing at the moment. All that you have ever dreamed – it is much more than that. All that you could have ever conceived – it is much more than that. So it appears absolute, perfect, ultimate; but this is a fallacy. It will grow, it will become vast. New qualities will be added to it; and each time it is going to be a surprise because you have never thought about this quality.
So I want it to be clearly understood by my people, that enlightenment is only a beginning, the beginning of tremendous evolution, that has no limits. Only then can you remain dancing, singing. And you can remain thrilled every moment, because one never knows what the next moment is going to bring – new insights, new visions, new experiences.
And there is no limitation to it. There never comes a point when you can say the journey has ended. The journey only begins, it never ends.
Other mystics have not said it because they were afraid that if you say to people that the journey only begins and never ends, they will never begin it. What is the point of a journey that begins and never ends? Then do something else. Why waste your life in such a journey, where nowhere you will find a place where you can say, ”I have come home”?
But I want to be absolutely truthful about enlightenment. And I want it to be an excitement that it does not end. It is not something against it, it is something favorable about it – that everything goes on expanding, everything goes on growing, everything goes on getting higher; and still the infinite sky is there, the infinite universe is there.
And if the universe can be infinite, which is inconceivable for the mind… you cannot conceive the universe as infinite. Mind cannot conceive infinity, for the simple reason that mind functions through logic. It will say, “It may be far away, but somewhere it has to end. How can it go on and on and on? We may never reach the end; we may never find the boundary line where the universe ends – that is possible because we are limited – but that does not mean that the universe is unlimited.
Logic cannot conceive it, thinking cannot have any justification for it. And if you start thinking, you cannot believe it. You can push on the boundary as far as you can but the boundary remains.
But the truth is, the boundary cannot be there, because a boundary always needs two things: one on this side and one on the other side. You cannot make a boundary with only one side. You have a fence around your house because there is a neighbor’s house. Your fence is not the end – it is simply the beginning of another house.
So if sometime logic forces you to conclude there must be a boundary, it has to be asked: What will be beyond the boundary? There must be something. Even though it is going to be nothing, that nothing will also be part of the universe. Why are you creating a boundary? That emptiness will also be the universe.
Once you understand that every boundary needs two things – something that it closes and something that it opens – then you can have some idea that a finite universe is impossible. Only an infinite universe is possible.
But for the infinite universe you need an infinity of growth, because if you come to a point where you think you have become perfect, you fall out of tune with the universe.
The same logic has to be understood about evolution. It has to be forever and forever – because again there is the question of a boundary.
You cannot make any boundaries in existence.
Boundaries do not belong to reality.
One of my professors, Doctor S.S. Roy, had written a doctoral thesis on Bradley and Shankara – both are absolutists, both believe in perfection. And his doctoral thesis was accepted, he got the Ph.D.
But I told him, “You may have got the Ph.D., but if I had been one of the examiners of your thesis, you would not have got it, because Shankara and Bradley are preaching – and you are trying to make a comparative study, that they are saying the same thing – that there is a boundary at perfection. And you are saying it with so much emphasis that it seems you also believe in it.”
He said, “Yes, I have been studying Shankara and Bradley my whole life, and they have left an immense impact on me. They both are the greatest philosophers in the world.”
But I said, “They are just childish, that both believe there is a boundary at perfection. Then there is no growth possible. Perfection is death and life is growth.”
And I asked him directly, “Would you like to be perfect and dead, or imperfect and alive? That is the choice.”
He said, “I have never thought about it – that perfection means death, and imperfection means growth. But when you say it, it sounds correct.”
And I said, “You just think: For how long has existence been there? It has not yet reached perfection. Growth has not stopped, evolution has not stopped, and existence has been for eternity. So what reason can there be to think that tomorrow it will be perfect?
“The whole of eternity in the past has failed to make it perfect. What reason is there to think that just one day more is needed, or a few days, or a few years? We are always in the middle.” I told him, “We are always in the middle. We will never know the beginning because there has never been one, and we will never know the end because there is not going to be any.”
We are always in the middle, growing. It is eternal growth, in all the dimensions.
And the same applies to enlightenment.
From Light on the Path, Discourse #36
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