A short time ago you said that spring has come and many sannyasins are ready to flower. Do “flowering,” “awakening” and “self-realization” all mean enlightenment, the ultimate truth? Or is there a difference? And can a person, after attaining, fall back into identification with the mind?
Mukto, there is a difference between flowering, awakening, self-realization, and enlightenment. Enlightenment is the ultimate truth—the seeker disappears but the truth is found. The pilgrim disappears but God is found. It is important to understand the differences…
From enlightenment there is no possibility of falling back, because you are no longer there to fall back. As long as you are, there is a possibility.
Only your absence is the guarantee that you cannot fall back.
Flowering is just the beginning of entering within yourself—just as you enter into a garden. It is immensely important, because without entering you are never going to reach to the center. But in flowering, for the first time you recognize your potential, your possibility. In flowering is the transition period, from human to divine. But one can fall back, because the flowering is so new and so fragile and your past is so old and so strong—it can pull you back; it is still there.
Awakening is getting very close to your center. And as you get closer to the center, falling back becomes more and more difficult because your new experience is gathering power, strength, experience, and the old is losing. But the old is still there; it has not disappeared. Ordinarily people don’t fall from awakening, but the possibility remains: one can fall.
Self-realization is reaching to your center. Many religions have believed that self-realization is the end—for example, Jainism—you have come to your ultimate truth. It is not true. Self-realization is only a dewdrop which has become aware, alert, contented, fulfilled. It is almost impossible to fall back from self-realization—but I am saying almost impossible, not absolutely impossible, because the self can deceive you; it can bring your ego back.
The self and the ego are very similar. The self is the natural thing and the ego is the synthetic, so it happens sometimes that a self-realized man becomes a pious egoist. His egoism is not going to harm anyone, but it certainly prevents him from dropping into the ocean and disappearing completely.
Enlightenment is the dewdrop slipping from the lotus leaf into the vast, infinite ocean. Once the dewdrop has fallen into the ocean, now there is no way even to find it. The question of turning back does not arise.
Enlightenment, hence, is the ultimate truth. What begins as flowering moves on the path of awakening, reaches to self-realization. Then one quantum leap more—disappearing into the eternal, into the infinite.
You are no more, only existence is.
I have told you about Kabir, India’s greatest mystic. When he was young, he became self-realized and he wrote a small couplet:
Herat, herat he sakhi
Rahya, Kabir, herai
“Searching and searching and searching, oh my friend, the searcher is lost. Seeking and seeking and seeking, the seeker is lost.”
Bund samani samund mein
“The dewdrop has slipped into the ocean; now there is no way to get it back.”
But it was too early to say that. The dewdrop was still there, slipping towards the ocean, but it had not yet fallen into the ocean.
When Kabir was dying, he became enlightened. He called his son Kamaal and told him, “I have written something wrong. At that moment, that was my feeling—that I had come to the ultimate. Before I die, you write this down, and change it.”
The change is very small in words, but in experience it is tremendous. He has used again the same words:
Herat, herat he sakhi
“Oh beloved, seeking and searching, the seeker is lost.”
Samund samund bund mein
“And the ocean has fallen into the dewdrop; now it is impossible to find it.”
Just a little difference in the words… “The dewdrop has fallen into the ocean” – something of the self has remained in it. But “the ocean has fallen into the dewdrop”… that is the tremendous experience and explosion of enlightenment. The first statement was about self-realization; the second statement is about enlightenment.
From enlightenment, falling is simply impossible. You are gone—and gone forever; not even a shadow or a trace of you is left behind.
Up to self-realization the possibility remains—it becomes less and less, but it remains.
You can start being egoistic about your self-realization: “I have known, I am a realized person.
I am a saint, I have encountered God’—but that “I” is there, howsoever pious. Even its shadow is dangerous; it can pull you back.
I have heard a very beautiful story about Jesus…
Jesus was walking through Jerusalem when he saw an angry crowd shouting and screaming at a woman. He came closer and heard the mob accusing the woman of adultery. Jesus strode to the front of the mob, held up his arms and said, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”
The crowd fell silent, but one little old lady pushed to the front, picked up a huge rock, and hurled it at the sobbing woman. Jesus gently took the old lady by the arm and said quietly,
“Mother, why do you always embarrass me?”
Jesus’ mother! She is a virtuous woman—so virtuous that she has given birth to Jesus without any contact with another human being. She stands alone in the whole of history with the claim—even after the birth of the son, of being the VIRGIN Mary. That idea must have got into the old woman’s mind too much. Her virtue, her piousness—God has chosen her to be the mother of His only begotten son-has become a subtle ego in her. The others were not pious. The moment Jesus said, “The first stone has to be hurled by one who is virtuous,” the mob stopped. They were all in the same boat.
And you can see it in your saints… a strange but very subtle ego. Spirituality has become their achievement. Somebody has all the riches of the world, somebody is the most beautiful person, somebody is the strongest, and somebody is the most pious. The question is not what it is by which the ego can get nourished—any idea can make you fall.
One has not to stop until he has reached the point when he is not: when there is no claimer, when one has moved the full circle and has come back to the world, just nobody. Perhaps people may not recognize him as a great saint… and this is my understanding, that the greatest of saints have remained unrecognized, because you understand only the language of the ego. You don’t understand the language of egolessness.
The greatest sage will appear to you just an ordinary man, nothing special, with no claim for any talent, for any possession, for any power, for any genius, for any knowledge – no claim at all. He has become absolutely a zero. But the zero is not negative, it is full of godliness, overflowing with godliness.
From The Hidden Splendor, chapter 16
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