Why is attaining enlightenment so difficult?
The first reason “enlightenment” is so difficult, is sheer confusion. Almost no one that seeks it has an accurate preconception of what it means or entails.
There are so many spiritual teachers and teachings today, that reflect many different models of spirituality, and levels of attainment in spirituality, all speaking at the same time on the Internet, or in written books, with very little commonality in terms of definition, goals, experiential states defined, or what enlightenment really is.
There are so many “spiritual” teachers now that identify “enlightenment” that define enlightenment as the recognition of a “divinity” within, and that “within” is not experientially defined.
So many spiritual teachers talk about internal energies, kundalini, Shakti, Chi, life-force, prana, etc. that define “enlightenment” as having accessed these energies in our awareness, and perhaps having obtained some mastery in the guiding or use of such energies for whatever purpose, as enlightenment.
So many of these teachers fall into the feminist “goddess” meme, as realization of the spirit within, and having an innate existence in every human being, but which is often labeled as the “divine feminine” within, with so-called “wild” energies of creation, sexuality, creativity, healing powers, and disruption.
There are so, so many such energy oriented teachers who talk about incarnational spirituality, that is of the energies that arise from and during the existence of the body. They recognize that the body is not consciousness, but consciousness is of the spiritual dimension, and those are most closely identified with Shakti, kundalini, the life-force within.
However, for Robert Adams, Nisargadatta, Ramana, and the Advaita tradition as a whole, this definition of enlightenment is not even a halfway measure of what enlightenment means for them.
For example, take Robert Adams, who began every Satsang with a statement such as: you do not exist; you are not real; the world is not real; the world is like an optical illusion having no independent existence of its own; the world is a projection of one’s own self; your body does not exist; you have no body, no mind, and are not a thing.
Nisargadatta on the other hand emphasize that your identification of you as a body, is entirely a mistake. You, the “I-am” is experiential, and it is the experience of being alive, that you exist, that you love to persist in existing, and enlightenment is attained by this identifying with your body, to re-identifying with your sense of existence, which has three elements: your body, which is in the form of a material-world host; the life force that the other teachers mentioned above take as being a real nature; and consciousness, the totality of which is the universe of experience within which our attention wanders and becomes randomly aware of the totality of what we find within consciousness, as consciousness illumines self and the world.
From Robert’s point of view, from Nisargadatta’s point of view, your fundamental identity lies completely outside the normal humans identification with their body, or with their minds. For both these teachers, one’s identity first should be with the IM sense itself, which is a combination of consciousness and the life force, or Chit, or consciousness, and Shiva/life force. The two operate together, the life force, and the awareness of the Lifeforce, result in the experience of the world, one’s own body, and all the activities of that apparent body within the world.
However, for these two teachers, there is no individuality. Once you realize that the body comes into being purely spontaneously as the interaction within and between the elements of nature creating the physical body, its genome structure, its potentials, and the Lifeforce, which is specific for that body in space and time, you recognize that the identification with the body as an individual presents, itself is an error, is illusion or Maya.
In spiritual evolution from the Advaita point of view, one must disidentify with the illusion, or Maya, identification with the body as being an insignificant existence within a much larger external world, and take on a new identity as the totality of the Lifeforce and consciousness, with the individual instantiation as a local identity with the particular body mind.
As an analogy, it is a recognition that I am not a cup of water separated from all other cups of water in the world, but my essential nature is not the form of a cup holding the water, but with water itself, and water itself is the same everywhere, whether in the ocean, in another cup of water, or as rain or ice. Water is a universal concept so to speak, and not just the water attached to one specific form such as a glass or bottle. As such, water stands in here as an analogy for a new understanding of consciousness, as being the same everywhere.
The individual consciousness is an instance of, or and instantiation of the universal consciousness, which is the awareness of the manifest world including one’s own sense of existence, everywhere at once. That is, I am no longer an individual soul operating within a body within the world, but I give up that narrow identity to realize that I, as consciousness, partake of the universal characteristics of a universal consciousness, with the wandering awareness, working in conjunction with the life force. You realize that you are the totality of the manifest universe that you are aware of, and not a limited awareness attached to a specific body, but that body itself that you perceive, is only an appearance within your awareness, within your consciousness, and is no longer your identity. You become free to become identified with limitless consciousness. This is the first stage of enlightenment for the invite and’s and for the two teachers I mentioned.
The second stage of enlightenment, is to recognize even after this dis-identification with the body, and a re-identification with the totality of consciousness itself or universal consciousness, as well as with the life force operating therein, that you as an individual do not exist, because the Lifeforce is universal even though it is operational within your “so-called” body. As such you have transcended your human identification. You have transcended your status as a body’s incarnational status, of being a divine expression of the universal consciousness. Instead, because of the universal nature both of consciousness and of the Lifeforce, you, as an individual does not exist. This consciousness is purely impersonal as is the life force. It is activities have nothing to do with any specific form with names such as Robin, Ed, Frank, Max, Janet, Deborah, or any other human name. No individual form exists except as appearance within the play of consciousness which itself is entirely impersonal and not individuated in any way.
Within this expanded identification, you have no place as an owner, or as a door, as it act door, but it is a play of the forms within consciousness within space and time, within which your personal identity no longer exists. How many are willing to give up their individual nature to attain misunderstanding?
What happens at this level however, is the attaining of complete peace, and rest. There are no individual needs at this level. One does not feel that one wants anything, even though the body continues to operate on its own as it always has to feed itself and they take care of daily duties, but no longer with a sense of ought, a sense of should, or a sense of I want. The individual is dead, and now there is merely the play of an impersonal consciousness and impersonal life force.
This in itself, is a very difficult attainment in understanding, and usually requires a whole series of events or experiences that allow for progressive or even a sudden, total reorientation of one’s identification away from the body to that of reidentification with the totality of consciousness or the manifest universal consciousness. But this is just the first stage of enlightenment from the invite point of view, from the Robert Adams point of view, from the Nisargadatta point of view.
The next stage is to recognize either through multiple experiences of dis-identification, or multiple deep recognitions and shifts in one’s understanding of one’s identity away from identification with universal consciousness in a recognition that what you are is in fact deeper than consciousness, then one sense of presence even. What you are is entirely beyond consciousness of the life force which is the play of consciousness.
One now enters a new stage where one views oneself as a part from one’s body, from one’s mind, as the witness, which itself has no identity, no characteristic, no appearance, and no experience, but you do experience yourself, whatever you are, as a part in separate from consciousness and the life force.
This separate “witness” itself has no characteristic whatsoever, has no appearance whatsoever, has no mind, no touch, no taste, no sound, no smell, and thus the last resort because one has nothing one can say about it, can only call it nothingness, but it is really beyond nothingness or something this altogether, and as such no words can point to it, no thoughts can think about it, nor can one have a vision of it. This “witness” is the “true” you, but itself is beyond description, beyond words, beyond experience. Your only experience at this point is of utter peace, utter rest, utter lack of need, and being separate entirely from existence and eternal rest, and this experience of utter peace and utter rest is itself an experience that is not you, but sort of is the final “perfume” residual of your past existence as the manifest universal consciousness which are no longer identify with it which no longer exists for you. You are entirely beyond that, even though your body continues to operate within the my butt no longer with your awareness.
This is why Nisargadatta says the essence of the knowledge he is conveying be apprehended by more than 1/10,000,000. At other times he says not more out of 100 million. Robert says the true Jnani is the rarest of things, the number in the entire world can be counted on the fingers of the hands.
Thus I have tried to explain the difficulty of obtaining “enlightenment” from the Advaitic point of view. From this point of view you transcended your humanness, then transcended consciousness itself, to become something which might be called a witness that lies entirely beyond experience or understanding, and is sometimes described as Nothingness itself.
Yet, this enlightenment is not an obtaining. It is really a progressive dis-identification with first the body and mind, then with consciousness and the life force, to a reidentification with that which is Nothing. The Jnani then looks upon death as the final liberation with that apparent body and apparent mind, allowing him to rest in nothingness. How many “seekers” could possibly identify with this in without first having tasted the perfume of Nothingness, the utter peace beyond understanding, the state of having no need and no awareness of the world first? To the seeker who is not even dis-identified with his own body, how can such a goal be taken as real or possible, let alone as something to be desired, when in fact it is beyond all desire altogether?
This is why enlightenment is so difficult. It is utterly beyond conception, beyond understanding, and even beyond attainment, because there is no individual to obtain it. The individual is long-lost after absorption into the universal consciousness, and does not exist at all In Nothingness.