If you’re traveling the spiritual path, you might want your goal to be enlightenment. But what does this really mean? You may think enlightenment is being in continual bliss, but you will likely be disappointed. You might think the goal of the journey is to become like Buddha, Jesus, or some enlightened being, when it’s to become your unique expression of the Radiant All, whatever that might be. Rabbi Susya said: “In the world to come, I will not be asked why I was not Moses, I will be asked why I was not Susya.” Good point. The goal of the journey is to merge with and become a unique expression of the Radiant All. This doesn’t mean you won’t experience challenges, upsets, and hardships, but they are seen from the perspective of the All and there’s no story around these events that so often cause suffering.
Anthony de Mello, S.J. defines enlightenment as “absolute cooperation with the inevitable.” I love this statement. Resisting what’s happening in the moment means your ego is still operating, wanting its own way, wanting things to be different from the way they are. A related Zen saying identifies a quality of the awakened state as being, “without anxiety about imperfection.” When sharing this with others, I find they always smile, because such a statement shatters the belief that you have to be perfect to be enlightened. The problem is not imperfection, but wanting perfection. Wanting something different means you’re not accepting Reality as it is occurring in the moment—imperfections and all.
From the egoic point of view, enlightenment means surrender. It means giving up your wants, desires, control, stories, beliefs and self-identities so you can merge with the Radiant All. This is an arduous task. Have you noticed how quickly your ego becomes childish when reacting against a situation that goes against its desires? I became very grumpy when my husband was recovering from surgery and I had to take on more domestic chores instead of writing my book. I fought against the inevitable as if that would change anything. It’s a long process to be able to let go of all your egoic desires, but it has its rewards. Surrender enables you to enjoy life more fully because attachments and distractions no longer divert your attention away from relishing life as it is.
Your true nature sees this process as enlightenment whereas your ego sees it as surrender. When seeking enlightenment, you might want to focus on what you need to surrender. This will inevitably lead you to your desired goal.