You said that existence is a wholeness, that everything is related, that things are melting into each other, that the tree cannot be without the sun and the sun also cannot exist without the tree. In reference to the above, please explain how ignorance and enlightenment are related to each other.
They are related. Enlightenment and ignorance are two polar opposites. Enlightenment can exist only because there is ignorance. If ignorance disappeared from the world, enlightenment would disappear simultaneously. But because of our dualistic thinking we always think that opposites are opposites. They are complementary, they are not really opposite. They are complementary because one cannot exist without the other. So they are not enemies. Birth and death are not enemies because death cannot exist if there is no birth. Birth creates the base for death to exist but if there were no death, birth could not exist.
Death creates the base – so whenever someone is dying, someone else is being born. At one point there is death, at the next point immediately there is birth. They look opposite, they work in opposition as far as the surface is concerned, but deep down they are friends helping each other. It is easy to understand about ignorance and enlightenment because we think that when a man becomes enlightened, ignorance has disappeared completely. This is the ordinary standpoint about enlightenment – that ignorance has disappeared completely. No. That is not right. Rather, on the contrary, when a person becomes enlightened, enlightenment and ignorance have both disappeared. Because if one is there the other is bound to be there; one cannot exist without the other. They exist together or they disappear together. They are aspects of one thing, two faces of one coin. You cannot make one face of the coin disappear and retain the other.
So when a person becomes a Buddha, really, at that moment both have disappeared – ignorance and enlightenment both. Just consciousness is left, pure being is left, and the conflicting, opposing, helping opposites have disappeared. That is why when Buddha is asked what happens to an enlightened man, he remains silent many times. He says, “Don’t ask this because whatsoever I say will be untrue. Whatsoever I say will be untrue. If I say that he has become silent it means the opposite of silence must exist there, otherwise how can you feel silence? If I say he has become blissful, then anguish must exist side by side. How can you feel bliss without anguish?” Buddha says, “Whatsoever I say will be untrue.” So he remains consistently silent about the state of an enlightened person, because all our terms are dual. If you say light, and if someone insists, “Define it,” how are you going to define it? You will have to bring darkness in, only then can you define it. You will say that light is where darkness is not – or something like that.
One of the greatest thinkers of the world, Voltaire, used to say that you can communicate only if you define your terms first. But that is impossible. If you have to define light, you will have to bring darkness in. And then if it is asked what darkness is, you will have to define it by light, which is undefined. All definitions are circular. They used to say, “What is mind?” and the definition was, “Not matter.” And, “What is matter?” and the definition was, “Not mind.” Both terms are undefined and you are playing a trick with yourself. You define one term by another term which itself needs definition. The whole language is circular and the opposite is necessary.
So Buddha says, “I will not even say that the enlightened person exists.” Because existence is possible only if non-existence is also present. So, he will not even say that you exist after enlightenment, because existence has to be defined by non-existence. Nothing can be said then because all language consists of the polar opposite. That is why in the Upanishads it is said that if someone says that he is enlightened, know well that he is not. Because how can he feel that he is enlightened? Some ignorance must have remained because a contrast is needed.
If you write on a blackboard with white chalk – the blacker the board the whiter will be the writing. You cannot write on a white board with white chalk. If you do, there will be no writing. The contrast is needed. If you feel that you are enlightened that shows that the blackboard is right there – only then could you feel it. If the blackboard has really disappeared, the writing would have also disappeared. It happens simultaneously. So a Buddha is neither ignorant nor wise, he simply is. You cannot put him on any pole of any duality. Both the poles have disappeared.
When they disappear how does it happen? When both poles meet they negate each other and disappear. In another way you can say Buddha is both the most ignorant person and the most enlightened. The polarity has come to its extreme point, there has been a meeting, and the meeting has cancelled both. The minus and plus have come together. Now there is neither minus nor plus, because they cancel each other. The minus has cancelled the plus and the plus has cancelled the minus, they have both disappeared and a pure being, an innocent being is left. You cannot say it is wise, you cannot say it is ignorant – or, you can say it is both.
Enlightenment means the point from where you take a jump into the non-dual. Before that point is duality. Everything is divided.
Someone asked Buddha, “Who are you?” He laughed and said, “It is difficult to say.” But the man insisted. He said something can be said because you are. Something meaningful can be asserted because you are. But Buddha said, “Nothing can be said. I am, but even to say this leads me into untruth.” Then the man took another route. He asked “Are you a man or a woman?” Buddha said, “It is difficult to say. Once I was a man, but then my whole being was attracted towards women. When I was a man, my mind was filled with women, and when women disappeared from my mind, my man also disappeared with them. Now I cannot say. I don’t know who I am and it is difficult to define.”
When duality is no more, nothing can be defined. So if you are aware that you have become wise it means that foolishness persists. If you think that you have become blissful, it means that you are still in the world, in the realm of anguish. If you say that you feel a very deep well-being, a health, that means that disease is still possible. The opposite will follow you; if you carry one the other will follow. You have to drop both. And the dropping happens when both meet. So the basic science of all religion is how to allow your inner opposites to meet so that they disappear and not a trace is left. You will disappear with the disappearance of the opposite. You as you are will no longer be there and something totally new and unknown, something unimaginable, will come into being. That something is called Brahma, you can call it God. Buddha prefers the term “nirvana”. The word “nirvana” simply means cessation of all that was, total cessation of the past. And you cannot use your past experience and knowledge to define this new. This new is indefinable.
Ignorance and enlightenment are also part of duality. For us Buddha looks enlightened because we are in ignorance. For Buddha himself he is neither. It is impossible for him to think in terms of duality.
From The Book of Secrets, Discourse #76, Q2
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