Shock and Awe of Enlightenment

To help you think through the problem you raise, try using this analogy. Something, let us call it ‘daffodil’, fascinates us. Let us also assume that a great deal of concern and interest is expressed about it. Consider two scenarios now, each of which testifies to our fascination.

The first scenario is this. There is versification (call it ‘poetry’) and ‘embodiment’ (paintings and sculptures) of ‘daffodil’; imaginative eulogies (novels) and intimidating discourses (‘philosophy’) about ‘daffodil’ abound, etc. These classifications are based on our understanding of what art, poetry, philosophy etc. are. There are also many collations of fragmentary sentences that appear to violate metres of poetry or styles of prose. They are revered as revolutionary breakthroughs (made by the heroes of the ‘masses’ transgressing such elitist notions like ‘grammar’, ‘style’, etc.) that are ‘blinding in their beauty’. In short, there is a huge collection of material about ‘daffodil’.

The second scenario merely adds the following group to it: knowledge about the ‘daffodil’. That is, there are books about flowers, including the ‘daffodil’, manuals about growing and gardening it, ideas about top-soil, environment and manure required to grow it, etc. Because of this, the above scenario gets transformed: the nature of the earlier classification itself changes dramatically. The ‘daffodil poetry’ is more enjoyable now because we know that it does not give us ‘knowledge’ about them (in the previous scenario such poems imparted ‘poetic-knowledge’ about ‘daffodil’, which nobody understood but simply nodded wisely with ‘deep understanding’ ) but does something entirely different instead. In fact, we can now say that some of what was called ‘revolutionary poetry’ is simply awful and it was, indeed, ‘eye-blinding’ because it does blind, if presented as ‘knowledge’. And so on. That is, this knowledge not only helps answer questions about having or acquiring of ‘daffodil’ but also allows us to separate wheat from chaff. It is easier to group items now. Even if there are disagreements of this or that item ( a poem, a painting) and whether it should be considered as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ exemplar, we can do what was impossible before earlier: at least speak about trash and rubbish, attempt a useful and intelligible classification and go about growing daffodils. We know which weed stifles daffodils and which non-daffodil item (say manure, for example) nourishes its growth.

Substitute ‘enlightenment’ for ‘daffodil’, only after the previous scenarios have sunk in. There is much stuff about enlightenment: from bad poetry (which we dare not call ‘bad’ because the ‘enlightened’ are alleged to have spoken it) that gives you absolutely no ‘adhyatmic knowledge’ through the world-renown Sadhakas instructing us in endless, time-consuming, ‘till-death-do-us-part’ Sadhanas to turgid prose that even the writer himself cannot understand. We all want ‘enlightenment’ but we do not even have a clue whether it is a feeling, an emotion, a state of mind or a set of sentences (the ‘mahavakyas’, for instance) or an utterly mysterious boon that extra-terrestrial creatures gift only to their followers. Are the Upanishadic texts something like the general theory of relativity or more akin to Maxwell’s equations in Thermodynamics? is the Gita an advanced text book like Feynman’s Lectures on Physics or is it a primer in mathematical operations like addition, multiplication and division? Are the dialogues of the Buddha oral instructions about how to fix a leaking tap or an impenetrable Sartrean discourse about ‘Nothingness’…? Etc., etc., etc. The ‘learned’, the ‘wise’ and the ‘enlightened’ hold forth endlessly, the way they do in the first scenario. But these do not help ordinary mortals, do they, excepting those who write bullshit.

You say you desire ‘daffodil’. May I have it? You ask. Yes, you may. However, know the nature of the top soil, the required environment, and how to grow it, if that is what you desire. Know that there are daffodil seeds and that daffodil is a flower (not Bordeaux wine, for instance). True, beautiful daffodils are seen in different regions. If it cannot be grown in your region, you might have to set up a botanical shed. However, you cannot get what you desire by not knowing what a daffodil is and merely (diligently, piously and with great dedication) reading bad ‘eye-blinding poetry’ as beautiful ‘poetic-knowledge’ about daffodils.

What is it that you seek, when you ask whether a Christian can be enlightened? The answer is evident: yes, anybody can have daffodil. Does this answer help? If it does not, know that your question can elicit only this answer, in so far as you want that answer to be intelligible.