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Hindus/Enlightenment not permanent?


Dear Brother William,

I come across this notion from time to time from reading spiritual books and things I find on the internet about enlightenment, once attained, will not last forever. It is as though everybody is their own embodiment of the four yugas. I find this notion absurd. Once samsara is finished, why would anybody want to go through all the delusion again?
I know that enlightenment is a loose word. It has many levels of attainment and one simply keeps learning and discovering deeper avenues of joy of Truth/Shiva/Shakti/Self, etc. while being Self-realized, embodied or not, throughout eternity. I remember reading that Ramakrishna Paramahansa said that one reaches the point of no return when the Ajna chakra is fully awakened. But I have also read in Autobiography Of A Yogi, when Swami Yukteswar asked Paramahansa Yogananda's help if he would ever fall back into delusion.
 So there could be something to this notion of the possibility of a Self-realized person 'falling from grace'. But is there a level of attainment that falling from grace is impossible, like Brahman/Unity consciousness, or nirvikapa samadhi?
Thank you for your time and help. Take care.

Dear Stephen,

Thank you for your question. As you point out, the word "enlightenment" is used differently in different traditions to mean different things. It may be more accurate to speak of enlightenments instead. What is clear is that there is a threshold experience, a breakthrough in Self-awareness that is quite distinct from other states of consciousness. Beyond this experience one may encounter a variety of trans-egoic states, and I do not believe there is any end to them.

But if I understand your question correctly, you are asking if there is a state from which one does not return to egoic consciousness. Sri Ramakrishna says some ego is necessary for those who will teach, and he cites Shankaracarya and Sukadeva as examples. He says the ego of Knowledge or ego of Devotion remains like a burnt string that has no harmful effect, but it allows an individual to interact in the world.

The Bhagavad-Gita mentions a place from which there is no return. One term mentioned is Brahma-nirvana. It is unclear if this means no return to normal consciousness, i.e., videha multi, liberation after death, or a form of jivan-mukti, liberation while living. Not all agree on this point.

The Tantras speak of living in the world as Shiva as the state from which there is no return to delusion.

A person who experiences savikalpa samadhi, it is said, will never be reborn except by choice. After death s/he goes to Brahma-loka to finish any subtle desires and then gains liberation from there.

So what does last after samadhi is the insight gained in the trans-egoic state, if not the state itself. Those who come back from samadhi into normal consciousness retain a semblance of ego that enables them to function in the world, but they never "fall from grace," per se, though they may appear to suffer as any individual does. Different individuals manifest different degrees of divine consciousness while living, and so we find differences in the spiritual power of different realized souls. Some are able to liberate only themselves, while others, like giant cruise ships, are able to carry many with them.

I know I have not given a single, clear answer, but to my knowledge there is none. I believe the most common experience is a return to normal consciousness after a threshold enlightenment experience with some lasting effects.

Best wishes,

Brother William  


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William Schindler, a.k.a. Brother William


I can answer questions about Vedanta philosophy, Patanjali Yoga philosophy and practice, Tantra, Bhagavad-Gita, Upanishads, Vivekachudamani (Shankara`s Crest-jewel of Spritual Discrimination), Advaita (non-dualism), the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda tradition, Goddess worship, meditation practice, Hindu monasticism (sannyasa), and Sanskrit.


I've been studying and practicing Vedanta and Tantra since 1969.

I'm the founder and spiritual director of Ashram West, a gay spiritual community based on traditional Hindu Tantra. I have been a member of the Vedanta Society of Southern California since 1969.


I hold a B.A. in Sanskrit (UC Berkeley 1975) and an M.A. in clinical psychology (Antioch University 1986).

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